At our meeting on December 7, our much-revered Director Emeritus Peter Seibert took us though Christmas-themed music from medieval times up through the Renaissance, the Baroque period and on into the present. Throughout the evening, except for our first piece, we were treated to Peter’s own arrangements.

We opened the program and warmed up with the well-known Coventry Carol from 16th Century England. Peter’s conducting brought out the gentle lullaby rhythms of this familiar carol.

Then we moved on to Peter’s arrangement of the Palestrina Hodie Christus natus est. Entering the Renaissance, we left the simplicity of the former piece and moved toward polyphony. Every part was fun and interesting to play, with ascending and descending patterns overlapping each other.

Next we explored two separate settings of Bach’s chorale Vom Himmel hoch. Peter took a moment to explain the importance of church music in Bach’s era. He described the order of the Chorale Cantata in this and noted that this chorale would have been placed at the end of the cantata.  Bach also wrote a chorale prelude on the same melody which could precede the Lutheran worship service.

Nova! Nova! is a cheerful, robust medieval carol tune that Peter arranged for SATB recorders. He noted the triplet patterns of the piece, and as we played it through a few times, we managed to speed up the tempo to good effect.

Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, Op. 6, No. 8 was a special treat for some of us. Corelli’s rich style came through in this gentle Pastorale that feels like a lullaby. Peter pointed out the tonal interest as the piece moves back and forth from G major to D major and then moves to a cadence in B minor before landing back at G major. As we finished that one, Peter gave a broad smile and remarked, “Isn’t that lovely music.” It is, indeed.

We concluded our session with Peter’s arrangement of Winter Wonderland (music by Felix Bernard, lyrics by Richard Bernhard Smit). Before we began playing, Peter shared his own musing about the limits of musical notation. “When a composer begins, he or she starts with an idea, and that idea does not always match up with the limits of musical notation. Sometimes it can be hard to translate that original idea to paper.” Since we were familiar with this tune, we sang it together (without lyrics) so we could notice when NOT to strictly follow the written notation. Basically, he said, “You have to lean into those notes on the beat.” So lean in we did, and it was a delightful musical experience.

It is always a treat for SRS members to experience both Peter’s conducting and his deep knowledge of recorder and music history. The combination of his ability to move us efficiently through several pieces while at the same time imparting interesting tidbits about the music resulted in a most enjoyable evening of music making!