In time for Christmas, the Monadnock Chorus has recorded a new musical arrangement of “Silent Night,” a composition commissioned by and created specifically for the chorus.
Vocal jazz composer John Stafford II received the commission earlier this year and delivered his original piece to the Monadnock Chorus in October. The all-volunteer chorus worked throughout the fall in limited, small-group rehearsals with masks to learn the challenging harmonies that run through this unique version of the carol. A lullaby-like introduction precedes the familiar melody, which features complex background harmonies.
Artistic Director Dr. Matthew Leese explained the genesis of the commission: “In addition to the pandemic completely upending the Chorus’ year, this summer’s protests and increased awareness of continued racial disparities prompted the Chorus Board to seek to broaden the traditions from which we draw our repertoire. John is a Black composer renowned for vocal jazz styling that draws on the African-American tradition.
“This type of harmonization was new to many Chorus members, and singers put in a lot of individual study and rehearsal to get comfortable with the challenging piece,” Leese continued. “With so many choristers unable to participate this fall and so much disruption to our usual rehearsal schedule, the Chorus’ ability to learn and record this piece was gratifying.”
A recording of this version of “Silent Night” can be accessed through the Monadnock Chorus Facebook page, or by visiting the chorus’ website at www.monadnock-chorus.org.