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Reconstructing samuel barber's christmas cantata christmas eve: a trio with solos, or XIII.


Samuel Barber (1910-1981), the composer of major contributions to the vocal canon such as Dover Beach, Hermit Songs, and Vanessa, developed his compositional style as a composer for the voice from an early age. The composer's maternal grandfather, Dr. William Trimble Beatty, was a Presbyterian minister who later founded Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. (1) His father, Samuel Le Roy Barber, a doctor, was president of First Presbyterian Church, West Chester, Pennsylvania, where his mother, Marguerite, was a Sunday school teacher. (2) Dr. Barber took an especially active role in civic life, and it was during his twenty-five-year tenure as chair of the West Chester School Board that the decision was made for student composers to take Fridays off from classes in order to attend concerts of the Philadelphia Orchestra. (3) In addition to Dr. Barber's interest in music, the household was also filled with songs from their housekeeper, Annie Sullivan Brosius, who sang Irish songs, played dances on the accordion, and provided the libretto for Barber's unfinished opera, The Rose Tree, which he wrote at the age of ten. (4)

Despite the exposure to the music of the church and the habitual singing of Brosius, the greatest familial association with the musical community came from the young composer's aunt, the operatic contralto, Louise Homer (1871-1947), and her husband, the composer Sidney Homer (1864-1953). Louise Homer's career was largely centered at the Metropolitan Opera, not least in creating the role of the witch in Englebert Humperdinck's Konigskinder (1910) and the title role in Horatio Parker's Mona (1912). (5) Because Sidney Homer had mentored Barber in his early years, the Homers' visits to their house had most likely resulted in Barber's first quasiprofessional relationship through Louise Homer's performances of his songs. Barber wrote some of his early songs for his sister, Sara Fulton Barber (1913-1961), with whom he was especially close. Sara, who was both a fine young singer and a writer, also sang the role of the heroine in The Rose Tree. (6) Allied to these performing experiences was Barber's precocious compositional prowess in both vocal and keyboard works. According to Barbara Heyman's recently published thematic catalog, Barber's compositional output in these early years consisted of the pieces listed in fig. 1.
Hcyman no.      Title               Medium       Date

H-I        Sad ness      piano                   1917

H-2         Sometime      low voice/piano        1917

H-3         Melody in F   piano                  1917

H-4         Why Not?      low voice/piano        ca. 1917

H-5         Largo         piano                  1918

H-6         War Song      piano                  1918

H-7         In the Fire   low voice/piano        1918

H-8         Isabel        voice/piano            1919

H-9         At Twilight   piano                  1919

H-10        Lullaby       piano                  1919

H-lla       Thy Will fie  contralto/organ        1924

H-llb       The Wandnrr   contralto/organ        1920

H-12        Nursery       low voice/piano        ca. 1918-22

H-13        The Rose      soprano/contralto/     ca. 1920
            Tree          lenor/bass/chorus/ 2
                          vlns/ cornet/
                          piano vln/piano

H-13arr.    dypsy Dances                         1922
            from The
            Hose Tree

H-14        Prayer        voice/piano            1921

H-15        An Old Song   voice /piano           1921

H-16        Hunting       baritone/cornet/       ca. 1921


H-17        Themes        piano                  1923

H-17an.     Minuet        soprano/ con tral to/  ca. 1923

H-18        Christmas     soprano/2 altos/       ca. 1920
            Eve           chorus (SAA)

Fig. 1. Samuel Barber's early compositions, as
listed in Barbara B. Heyman., Samuel Beecher:
A Thematic Catalogue of the Complete Works
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 3-32.

Examining works from a composer's childhood can often provide insights into the creative spirit that supplant the critical question of whether a work typifies the composer's well-known legacy, especially for a composer like Barber whose own style was removed from easy labeling. Although there is certainly the chronological relationship between the early and latter time periods in the compositional output, the traces of innate musical gesture that are observable many years prior to institutional tutelage can offer incalculable benefits to broader studies of the composer. In this instance, these observations of a young mind also raise the question of whether Barber had an easy ability to intuit the styles or genres around him in the societal or domestic setting, or whether his compositions were merely the unaffected creative whims of a talented child. In turn, scholars can begin to understand the measure of aptitude and expertise already discernible in his formative years. In answering these questions, Samuel Barber's Christmas Eve allows us to turn a yet more censuring eye as we consider Barber as a composer who was intimately associated with literary texts throughout his life.


The setting of a work titled Christmas Eve, (7) based on a text that is part scriptural and part scripturally inspired or paraphrased in a cantata style, suggests a piece that was likely intended for performance at a Christmas concert or service. Written around the time Barber was ten years old, the performance venue was probably either First Presbyterian Church in West Chester, or Westminster Presbyterian Church, West Chester, Pennsylvania, where he held a brief tenure as organist. Within the same geographic region, Barber could also have encountered Lutheran and Quaker congregations, each with their robust singing traditions.

Quite where the nonscriptural text of Christmas Eve originated is a matter of conjecture. It may have been conceived or suggested by a member of the family or a church member. While the tone may seem a little romanticized to a twenty-first-century sensibility, there was no shortage of scenic depictions of the Incarnation, replete with florid language, in many of the well-known choral works that Barber could have heard in regular performances (see fig. 2). Nonetheless, it is a significant narrative for a child to assimilate into a cogent musical setting, let alone one that has the suggestion of a dramatic rendering with its inclusion of

Barber Christmas Eve

On the hills of Bethlehem Shepherds watched their flocks by night.

Silent stars shone down on them; clear and bright.

Suddenly there shone a light. An Angel spoke unto them, saying:

Unto you this day in the city of David, is born a Saviour and He shall be your Lord and King!

Luke 2:11

Oh Lord! What are we that thou should send us a Redeemer!

Shepherds, with our sheep! Why should we be saved?

Shepherds!He is your God and ye are his people. Be ye redeemed! Be ye saved

God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoso ever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

Therefore go ye to Bethlehem, and praise your Lord!

Wise men from the East, they came. Plenteous gifts they gave to the Babe. Shepherds knelt in humble praise, and we praise this Christmas Day!

Parker The Holy Child

I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God, and lam sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings. Thou shalt bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.

Luke 1:19, 31. Matthew 1:21

How soft the light on Judah's hills and on her blessed plains, while o'er the shepherds, watching there, unbroken silence reigns!

But see, a light like morn on midnight breaking, and hark, angelic choirs the song awaking!

Fear not! Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people!

Luke 2:10

The Prince of Peace this clay is born, in David's city fair Go bow before His sacred feet, and offer homage there.

Angel hosts in wonder o'er it bend, this new mystery to comprehend. Bright above the portal shines the star, hither guiding wise men from afar Our offerings we give, rich odors, golden treasure, but never can we measure the love that we receive.

Rejoice, 0 heaven and earth and hail the glorious birth! 1 5

Reconstructing Samuel Barber's Christmas Cantata

Buck The Coming of the King

Noej - Prelude for Organ

The People that walked in. darkness have seen. a great light

Isaiah, ix, 2

0 Jerusalem, look about thee toward the East, and behold the joy that cometh to thee from God! Put off the garment of thy mourning! Put on the comeliness of thy glory, which shall be on thy head as a diadem from the Everlasting!

We march through the cool of the night, and we halt when the day fiercely glows

And there were, in that same country, shepherds abiding in. the field keeping watch over their flocks by night. And to! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid: And the angel said unto them:

Fear not! For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto. you this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord Luke 2:8-11

(The Questioning of the Magi)

Come hither, sages from a distant land! What purpose hath led your steps so far? I hear of curious questions that ye ask, as to a ' king,' new-born within our realm! Forget ye not that here King Herod rules alone, and that he questions ye!

We bow down to thee, great king, as least of all thy subjects. But in the East we have seen his star, and have hither come from afar the new-born prince to find....

Adeste fidelis

Fig. 2 continued

Parker The Shepherds' Vision

In a far-off Eastern country, on quiet midnight blue, on wintry fields the Shepherds were keeping vigil true

The sheep were calmv feeding; the staff was laid aside. A wondrous Star, soft shining spread radiance far and wide.

Then to the peaceful Shepherds, amid the glowing light, a vision glad and glorious am peared: an angel bright.

With word and gesture soothing he quiets all their fears; his voice, with magic sweetness, falls softly on their ears.

Fear ye not, 0 earthly children, for I tell a joyful story of the new life now begun. To the poorest of all dwellings comes the Lord of richest glory--born this hour--God's only Son.

Sing Hallelujah to God the Lord, loud o'er the earth let His praise be heard, fullest redemption for man is won, since He sent to the earth His Son. recitatives. However, with a mother who played the piano, a sister who could sing, access to choir members from one or more churches, and visits by celebrated relations from the concert world, the stage was certainly set for the young Barber to compose works with an ambition most prodigies could not readily consider.


The question of who may have performed Christmas Eve--and whether there was more than one performance--remains a partial mystery, as it could have been any number of women, familial or from the community, with whom Barber was acquainted. On the reverse of the manuscripts two names appear for the parts of alto I and alto II, respectively--Anna M. Krauser and M. E. Wolfangle (8)--although the relationship of the two women to Barber remains unclear. The absence of a third name suggests the vocal trio for the piece likely included these two altos, plus an unnamed soprano.

Barber almost certainly performed the organ part himself, as evidenced by a score full of musical shorthand. It also seems undeniable that he was dealing with singers of at least near-professional caliber. The typical amateur would have looked askance at the demand for the vocal technique expected in the final phrase of the piece (fig. 3a, mm. 82-84) if it were to be well executed. However, anyone capable of understanding voice leading as Barber exhibits from the outset with his nimble interweaving of a three-part texture (see fig. 3b, mm. 5-14), must surely have known that such a phrase would require singers with superior technique. The close three-part harmony of the trio material further suggests the need for singers who could also sing keenly in tune.

Because of the quality of vocal writing and voice leading displayed throughout the piece, it is clear that Barber not only knew how to write well for singers, but could already intuit dramatic sentiment with minimal solecisms. The end of the piece (fig. 3a, mm. 82-84) with its resplendent flourish would surely have won the hearts of singer and listener alike. Not yet a teenager, Barber could deduce the necessary aesthetic for a "performance" work with a grand ending, even in a more aesthetically restrictive sacred performance context.

Indeed, the setting of text is neither overly dramatic nor operatic in terms of the solo writing, but rather a sympathetic via media between the sacred and the stage in a similar vein to older contemporary composers, as will be noted. Further, Barber was almost certainly spared the trials of many a composer, young or old, in his optimism for a reasonable performance of the work with his early "professional" associations. By comparison, Dudley Buck (1839-1909), one of the second generation of Boston Classicists, felt compelled to issue the following notice ahead of his cantata for Advent and Christmas-tide The Coming of the King (1895), a work still publically performed in the new century around the time of Barber's Christmas Eve: (9)

It will greatly facilitate the speedy study of this Cantata if separate rehearsals be held with Piano before uniting the voices

with the Organ.

There should be at least one for Tenors and Basses, and one for Sopranos and Altos. In this way vocal independence can readily be secured, which is hardly possible otherwise on account of the treatment of the organ accompaniments in certain places. Much will depend upon judicious handling of the organ. The registration given is only suggestive.

While this work is not designed to be performed in its entirety at a Christmas-Day service, yet various excerpts will suggest themselves, and the author trusts that a consecutive performance may prove useful at "special musical services" during Advent and Christmas-tide.



Although Barber was in a house filled with music, and could attend concerts in nearby Philadelphia, it is difficult to ascertain exactly how much repertoire he would have known ahead of his study at the Curtis Institute, although with his natural curiosity probably a good deal. The Brahmsian influence in Barber's music, often noted in his later Curtis studies as a student of Rosario Scalero, (10) is not readily apparent in Christmas Eve. (11) However, the harmonic language employed in Christmas Eve is nonetheless quite sophisticated for a student some five years or more in advance of conservatory training, not least in his easy employment of chromatic modulations (fig. 3c). and his grasp of the nuances of literary meter. Either Barber, who later developed into a fine singer, instinctively knew how to write for the voice or, fax more likely, quickly assimilated what he heard from church or concert settings. For a boy who already had the sufficient intellectual stamina to compose an opera, and who had developed a command of both French and Italian by the time he entered Curtis a few years later, the latter proposition seems legitimate to consider even if only as a starting point. However, as noted below, this premise takes on a new relevance when Barber's work is compared to the choral works of Horatio Parker (1863-1919) and Dudley Buck--who also composed with English texts in mind (see fig. 2)--that were already in the concert repertory, having been published a few years earlier. (12)


Barber's own performing experience also played a part in his exposure to contrasting styles. On 7 April 1920 he participated in a recital of duets and solo pieces at First Presbyterian Church, West Chester, which included works by Bach, Beethoven, Clemend, Stephen Heller, Tchaikov-sky, and three of his own compositions: At Twilight, Lullaby, and the song Child and Mother for which he was joined by the young soprano, Miss Charlsie Eddins, with whom he also performed piano duets. (13) His ability to assimilate styles will have borne rich rewards if the canonic music he played in concert readily influenced his own compositions alongside the tutoring of Sidney Homer.


To modern aesthetic-liturgical proclivities, Barber's piece may seem maudlin in a sacred setting, with the grandiloquence of its final measures (fig. 3a, mm. 82-84) and other impassioned harmonic and melodic gestures. However, an advertisement for Christmas services in the Evening Ledger (Philadelphia, PA) on 21 December 1918 gives an indication of the enterprising approach some congregations were endorsing. From this advertisement, and many similar to it, there is good reason to suggest that Barber's new work was likely in perfect aesthetic accord with the ecclesiastical setting. This was an age when churches could boast large choirs, and produce performances that would attract many in search of engaging new repertoire.

Bethlehem Presbyterian Church

At the morning service five choirs will sing antiphonally Christmas carols.

Bessie Leonard will sing "Birth [sic] of a King" by Neidlinger.

At the evening service the Bethlehem Quartet, Florence Jones, soprano;

Bessie Leonard, alto; Henri Merriken, tenor, Donald Redding, bass; Professor

Shepard, organist, will give a cantata, "The Holy Child," by Horatio Parker

In the 1890 publication of Neidlinger's Christmas song The Birthday of a King (included in the Bethlehem performance), (14) there are advertisements, with score excerpts, of four other short sacred works: The Three Holy Kings by Werner Josten; The Guiding Star by C. Whitney Coombs; Candlelight by James H. Rogers; Following the Star by John Prindle Scott. All are works that rely on musical simplicity with limited technical demands for performers, and possess a musical language otherwise redolent of works written for domestic use. Barber's work finds a middle ground between these relatively simplistic works and the full-bodied contemporary oratorios of Buck, Parker, and Stainer that were often performed in this period.


The Crucifixion (1887), John Stainer

The Holy ChiM (1893), Horatio Parker

The Coming of the King (1895), Dudley Buck

The Shepherd's 'Vision (1906) , Horatio Parker (15)

By the late nineteenth century, American choral societies had a wealth of works at their disposal beyond the "great" works of the repertoire (Handel's Messiah, Haydn's Creation, Mendelssohn's Elijah) , and Parker's and Buck's larger pieces were consistently performed. A study of Pennsylvania newspapers from 1900 to 1922 (16) revealed that church repertoire across Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic denominations bore a striking consistency. Services filled with solos from baroque and romantic oratorios also included works for large chorus from the same works, or those in a similar aesthetic vein. As such, it was commonplace to see a program that could include Handel and Bach alongside Dubois or Gounod.

The text of Christmas Eve draws on the rich sacred cantata tradition of literary admixture whereby largely poetic texts are interspersed with scriptural quotations. However, each of the cantata--oratorios noted above stand alone, and vary from their counterparts with the musical-textual rationalisation employed to different artistic ends. As such, while each rendering is sympathetic to the text at hand, the music draws un-apologetically on the emotional high and low points of the narrative, and Barber allies himself to this model.

The choral works of Buck and Parker were regularly noted in newspaper listings in New York and Pennsylvania. (17) It is easy to imagine the precocious young Barber inquiring after these distinguished figures, both of whom had studied in Germany (Buck at the Leipzig Conservatorium and Parker with Josef Rheinberger in Munich), as their work drew much attention in the press. With Barber's family connection to Parker, through his aunt's performance in the title role of the opera Mona (1912), this suggestion is all the more apposite. As such, the similarity that can be seen between Barber's text and those utilized by these senior members of the profession in Christmas works that were consistently performed during Barber's early years is especially revealing.

Although the works of Buck and Parker are larger in scale and scope, Barber's ability to discern the cantata--oratorio style is nonetheless impressive for a boy who was not yet a teenager. He employs a natural development of the work, moving between recitative and homophonic trio/choral sections. More importantly, the comparative literary texts (fig. 2) gives pause to the ready critique that Barber's use of text was either too idiosyncratic in terms of scriptural usage or too sentimental in its picturesque innocence. Any suggestion of the latter emanating from the hand of the young composer due to his juvenility is easily assuaged when assessed alongside Alice C. Jennings's translation from the German of Frank Van der Stucken in Parker's work The Shepherds' Vision, who exhibits similar tendencies towards scenic depiction. Rather, Barber adopted the contemporary style in miniature.

As noted above, there is little consistency, let alone narrative demarcation, in the rationale for setting scriptural rather than poetic texts in any of the works cited, excepting Stainer, as will be seen below. Some sections rely on paraphrase whereas others are directly quoted from scripture. In Barber's setting as well, there is also the common misunderstanding of the Wise Men arriving at Christmas, rather than Epiphany.18 This is a point that Barber's text actually reinforces by referring to Christmas and the Wise Men in the same (final) section (fig. 3a). However, even today this chronology of events is sometimes absent without reason with pageants and sometimes services incorporating reference to the Wise Men arriving at Christmas.


One of the most prominent choral works of the era remained John Stainer's (1840-1901) The Crucifixion (1887). (19) The New York Tribune notes on 11 March 1894 that it was already being performed for the fourth time at St. George's Church. (20) The frequency of performances at different New York City parishes continued for the following two decades before it also became an annual fixture to this day at Brick Presbyterian Church, Park Avenue, on Good Friday. Although Barber may have heard a performance in New York City, it is far more likely he would have attended one in Philadelphia, where St. James's Church presented the work on the afternoon of Palm Sunday, 20 March 1920. (21) So far as we know by an analysis of his handwriting, Barber wrote Christmas Eve in 1920 or soon thereafter. However, there is also an important aesthetic relationship between the two works.

Today we associate the text from the gospel of John 3:16 ("God so loved the world") most specifically with Passiontide, even though Stainer's setting of The Crucifixion was first heard the day after Ash Wednesday. However, it is conceivable that Barber, who includes it in Christmas Eve, could have heard reference to the Gospel of John text in preaching during Christmastide. A homiletical narrative that unites the "beginning and the end" is not uncommon. However, Barber's inclusion of the Passiontide text may also have been through a desire to infuse a convincing seriousness, or even gravitas, to the overall work. To demonstrate, or at least suggest, an understanding of Christ's suffering at so tender an age is to exhibit the maturity so often idealized in childhood.

The Stainer connection also extends beyond the adoption of text to the prevailing performance aesthetic of a particular section. The Crucifixion is entirely based on the writings of W. J. Sparrow-Simpson (18591952), excepting the central inclusion of "God so loved the world" from John's gospel. Stainer treats the scriptural text differently to the larger work by setting the piece a cappella. Barber too removes himself from the preceding recitative by setting the text with a stately melodic line in common time, which together with its complaisant chromaticism bears a similarity to many a Victorian hymn (see fig. 3d). As such, in the context of the larger work it is unquestionably removed, much as Stainer's movement also is, from the rest of the work. Thus, the aesthetic impact is much the same.



Because of the influences and assimilations on the young Barber, it has been possible to reconstruct the vocal parts and realize the organ part of Christmas Eve. Barber's manuscript--held at Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, Pennsylvania--affords the reader significant clues towards completion of the score/basso organo part, not least in the prevailing harmonic language.

The manuscript consists of the following single pages, each titled by Barber, except where noted:
I     [Score]          a shorthand score including die marking
                       "Basso Organo" and the figuration for the
                       Angel's solo. The page ends on measure

II    3 parts          choral sections with 3 notes/stave and

III   3 parts          as above with minor differences and the
                       annotation "O.K" in the bottom left

IV    Soprano [a]      annotated "O.K."

V     Soprano [b]      as for [a] with minor differences and the
                       annotation "O.K."

VI    Soprano [c]      as for [a] with minor differences and
                       four lines of sketches on the reverse

VII   1st Alto [a]     annotated "OK"

VIII  1st Alto [b]     as for [a] with minor differences and the
                       name of Anna M. C/Krauscr on the reverse

IX    2nd Alto [a]     annotated "O.K."

X     2nd Alto [b]     annotated "OK" with the name of M. E.
                       Wolfnagle on the reverse. The writing of
                       the name may be Barber's

XI    Solos            one page including all the "solos" and
                       organ interludes

XII   Shepherd's Solo  two lines of sketches t he first of

XIII  Sketches 1       sets the words "Glorv to God in the

XIV   Sketches 2       one line titled "March of the Wise Men"
                       (Fig. 7a)

XV    Sketches 3       eight lines of right hand material not
                       found elsewhere in score

The scores marked "O.K." (or a variation thereof) appear to be the pages prepared especially for performance. Although the differences between the multiple copies are few, the writing is perceptibly neater, as Barber clearly wanted to acquit himself well and present his singers with almost entirely unblemished copies.

It should be noted that whereas the "Shepherd's Solo" (XII) was written out separately, the "Announcement of Angel" and related solos appear only on the page titled "Solos" (XI). Quite possibly after writing out the "Shepherd's Solo," Barber decided it was easy enough to provide one page with all the solos that the singers could pass between them.


The organ part provides essential answers about the performance, and indeed the composer's expectation of the performers, for it is quite ingeniously conceived. Barber begins with a short introduction in which he provides the starting pitches for his singers. In doing so, he obviates the awkwardness of having to provide the three pitches with a chord on the organ. At m. 15, the harmony quickly moves from a major to minor tonality and the tempo increases--an indication that Barber knew early on how to add a dramatic gesture with the simplest of devices. By m. (22) he has modulated with ease back to the home key of E-flat major, the organ having played during the modulations, no doubt to assist with the singers' tuning. It is interesting that Barber consistently writes out transitional segues as if he might otherwise have forgotten them when accompanying, whereas he does not realize the remainder of the "basso organo" noted in his score. Arguably this suggests a combination of hesitancy toward his powers of memory as much as it does the want to recreate the exact modulatory formula that worked most successfully.

Despite the marking "basso organo" (reminiscent of the late-Renaissance and early-baroque basso continuo) there is little, if anything, in the writing to suggest a harmonic language founded upon an earlier era, except the need to provide support to the singers while maintaining a harmonic basis to underscore a fluid melodic line. The nature of the harmonic language is also unambiguous; this is a piece germane to the late-nineteenth-century--early-twentieth-century canon of American sacred music. Indeed, it is a piece of much the same coinage as the works of Buck or Parker previously mentioned, but in this case enveloped in miniature form. Organ interludes are interspersed with alternate sections between the soloists and the trio/chorus, and although there is a sectional aspect to the work, there is cohesion to the style and the overarching structure of the work. This style inherited from Buck and Parker stemmed yet further from the continental church music typified by Charles Gounod that was heard in American churches well into the twentieth century (not least through the presence of Gounod and cantata societies) in English translations that were widely published.

Beyond the textual similarities to the other Christmas works noted above, however, there are also interesting compositional similarities.


The opening of the piece with a solo instrumental line (fig. 3h, mm. 1-4) is similar to the opening measures of Parker's The Shepherds' Vision (fig. 4), and also the beginning of the the second section of Parker's The Holy Child (fig. 5). The use of simple diatonic homophonic harmony at the outset of a work is similarly seen in The Holy Child (fig. 6) which shares additional similarities by being in E-flat major22 and common meter versus the of Barber's setting. The processional nature of the Wise Men is further alluded to in Barber's sketch for the "March of the Wise Men" (fig. 7a) by comparison with Parker's "Procession of the Magi" in The Holy Child (fig. 7b). Although set in different meters, the aesthetic, through use of repetition, is nonetheless the same.






Noting the similarity to the works of older contemporary masters, the harmony we can anticipate Barber employing for the measures without realization can legitimately be newly conceived in the romantic "church" style he employs elsewhere in the piece utilizing modulation, secondary dominants, and diminished seventh chords to aid dramatic nuance. As such, Barber's overall work finds a genesis in the unapologetic emotionalism so prevalent in the music of Buck, Parker, their contemporaries, and indeed Stainer. Because of this, in creating a realization of the measures left without notation, I have employed a degree of germane harmonic nuance where deemed necessary.


The score, coupled with other manuscript pages provide a clear outline of the piece until m. 75. At a midpoint on the score, (I) the accom-panimental figure to the section beginning at m. 68 ("Therefore go ye to Bethlehem"), is marked by an arrow to the vocal part of this text on the final line of the page (figs. 8a and 8b).


In between these two parts of the same section there is a blank stave, save for a treble clef, and key signature, followed by three lines of an ac-companimental figure that is also found on XIV, titled "March of the Wise Men." Meanwhile, the choral music which refers to the Wise Men begins in the Trio music following the solos. Is there a relationship between the two? Indeed, is this brief and incomplete passage merely a sketch, and if not was it intended as an interlude or an accompaniment to the following trio? The possibility of this material serving as an accompaniment to the succeeding section seems remote, not least because it is set in E-flat minor whereas the choral section with the Wise Men is in E-flat major.

As we have seen that Barber leaned toward writing out any of the more advanced modulations, we can feel sure he would have done so here if the material was intended for inclusion, for instance as an introduction to the music written out in the singers parts. However, the descending melodic figure in the sketch also bears no decipherable relation to the melodic/harmonic material of the section that, in turn, is based on the opening trio measures of the piece.

Could this material therefore be an interlude? This also seems improbable. Not only would it break the natural cohesion of the piece, but so little material is provided that the vexed question of how to modulate, except directly and inelegantly, seems unworthy in light of the rest of the work. If Barber had felt obliged to write out a simple modulation, such as mm. 36-41 (fig. Sc), it would seem unarguable that material conceived for performance at almost certain greater velocity would demand the same.

Finally, there is also an additional point that bears consideration along graphological lines. At first glance the line drawn between the accompa-nimental figure and the vocal line for "Therefore go ye to Bethlehem" appears to be nothing more than a curvaceous sweep. But if the final turn is examined more closely, the line has a very clear break (fig. 8b). This suggests that the initial line crossed out the material considered heretofore, and that Barber simply used the space of the final line to write out the vocal material for "Therefore go" to be sung to his accompaniment. As such, the argument that the sketch was merely a creative option separate to the final draft appears strong. These arguments prompt the inclusion of the sketch material in the published edition in reference form only.


The reconstruction of Christmas Eve has been primarily based on the composer's score (1), as it is the only page that offers both an outline and chronology of the various sections as well as the shorthand basso continuo part. The title "Christmas Eve--a Trio with Solos--Op XIII S[amuel] O[smond] Barber" appears on the pages of the Trio (II, III), but not at the head of the score (I) or anywhere else.

The opening chorus has been provided with an accompaniment in the published reconstruction, doubling the vocal parts. Potentially both this section (fig. 3b, mm. 5-14) and the final section (fig. 3a) can be sung a cappella. However, the latter section demands a harmonic foundation not provided in the manuscript to support the harmonies from mm. 82-84. As such, rather than awkwardly adding the organ at the last opportunity (m. 82), it has been included here at the beginning of the section (m. 76), doubling the vocal parts, to provide a convincing musical solution while recreating the most likely performance practice of the premiere with the organ accompanying the voices.

Of the potential textual errors, several have resulted in emendations in the reconstruction. In m. 17, the first alto part resolves to an Ail, but this pitch is held throughout the rest of the measure and thus collides with the Ab in the organ part, resulting in an especially piquant dissonance. There is no easy solution to this, as altering the tonality of either to become the same pitch an octave apart causes problems. However, in examining the scores one is left in no doubt that the organ part is indeed correct. Although Barber's early works did include some unexpected harmonic twists,23 the problem here might be more easily accounted for. This apparent gaucherie is one of the few traits we can see from the young mind of Barber, however facile his intellectual stamina proved, but there is a practical explanation. Although the work incorporates an organ part, there is nothing in the writing to suggest that Barber would have needed to practice any part of the piece on the instrument, for the writing is quite straightforward and does not necessarily employ the pedals. It is more likely that he would have composed the piece at the piano. In this instance, the sound of the F-major chord sung at the beginning of the measure would have largely dissipated, especially if the tempo were moderate and the dynamic likewise modest. Moreover, the dissonance, blatant though it might seem, could well have appeared almost nonappreciable to the young Barber.

To solve this dilemma there are two options: The first, following on from the previous supposition, is to reduce the note values of the vocal parts by half, thus avoiding the propinquity of dissonant intervals, and it is this decision that has been incorporated into the reconstruction. The other option, though a little more invasive, is to add a measure. As such, m. 17 would be sung as written (without the organ part), followed by a new measure in which the organ would play the material currently heard in m. 17 (now m. 18). Measure 18 would then become measure 19, and the piece would continue without further harmonic impediment. As Barber reuses the organ's melodic material in a transposed sequence (mm. 36-41) without voices, the second option might be considered by some equally plausible.

In the score (1), the time signature at m. 60 changes to the incalculable 6/8, despite an adequate number of beats in the measure. As the piece is in 4/4 at this point, we can only assume that he meant to infer a tempo that would require a steadier pace, counting by eighth-notes rather than quarter-notes.

In m. 57, the last note in the solo part has been altered from D to [E.sub.b], so that line becomes [E.sub.b], F, G, [E.sub.b] instead of [E.sub.b], F, G, D, thus resolving the phrase and continuing the use of the E-flat major triad established in the previous measure. As the D appears in only one copy (Score [1]) this seems to be a legitimate error on the composer's part. It is easy to surmise from the writing that he knows very well how to resolve chromatic harmonies, and if the D were correct, one would have expected to see the El, above it in the organ part soon thereafter.

A further textual question does not necessitate an emendation as much as an editorial recommendation. In measures 58-59 the four notes heard in the upper range of the organ are written quite clearly in the "Solos" (XI) manuscript as G--G--Ab--Bb--Bb. However, in the score (I) they appear, in a somewhat unclear hand, as G--G--Ab--D. Aside from the harmonic confusion the second option would engender, there is a stronger case for the first option, which once again reminds us of Barber's adroitness in negotiating his singers. After a period of not singing (or singing in a higher register if the soloist for the preceding section is the first soprano in the succeeding section), the composer kindly presents the starting pitch for the subsequent section, one octave higher.

A final curiosity is Barber's double-underlining in the final phrase on the word "we" (fig. 3a, m. 82), followed by a tenuto marking on "praise" in the second alto part. The question of whether this may be a youthful solecism is valid. "Praise" is already a longer note value, and the tenuto mark seems unnecessary as "we" not only has a marked accent but also a relative melodic accent with the upward leap of all parts. Did Barber really find himself in a quandary in the very last phrase of the piece? I would suggest not. If the last section is performed at a slower pace--a point the three singers would readily acquiesce to, given the floridity of their parts--then the accent is far less pronounced. But perhaps we should not overlook the obvious and recall that Barber was, though undeniably mature beyond his years, still a boy. If we see a glimmer of youthful exuberance in this piece then it is found in the final phrase, albeit at the conclusion of a work that shows maturity beyond his years. However, the contribution of an ambitious shorter vocal work by a future master composer for the voice adds significantly to our understanding of Barber's developing creative process, the talent already in evidence and the artful addition of a work in a genre well established. Through surveying Barber's Christmas Eve we can not only see, in miniature, a window into the aesthetic, creative, compositional, and audience proclivities of the era, but also Barber's early maturation by allying himself with the style of influential figures of his childhood.


Samuel Barber's early cantata for voices and organ, Christmas Eve, is a previously unstudied area of Barber's childhood output. Utilizing the composer's manuscripts from his time as a student of Sidney Homer, the score has been reconstructed. The reconstruction has revealed Barber's considerable ability to intuit and assimilate the styles of contemporary American sacred choral works of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while capturing the essence of dramatic musical gesture. It is a work that demonstrates a creative sophistication far beyond the early years of a young composer. By examining this work we are able to observe the artistic energies of a future master composer, celebrated for his works in the vocal canon, as well as consider afresh the composer-performer-audience relationship of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Fig. 2. Text of Barber's Christmas Eve, and of well-known choral works performed during the same period.

Fig. 3a. Samuel Barber, Christmas Eve, rum. 76-84

Fig. 3b. Samuel Barber, Christmas Eve, mm. 1-14

(1.) Samuel Barber Remembered: A Centenary Tribute. ed. Peter Dickinson, Eastman Studies in Music (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2010), 3.

(2.) Ibid., 4.

(3.) Nathan Broder, Samuel Barber (New York: G. Schirmer, 1954), 12: Barber Remembered,

(4.) 4. Barber Remembered, 6.

(5.) Horatio Parker, Mona: An Opera in Three Acts, poem by Brian Hooker, vocal score (New York: G. Schirmer, 1992), 9.

(6.) Barbara B. Heyman, Samuel Barber: The Composer and his Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 9.

(7.) Samuel Barber, Christmas Eve, reconstructed by lain Quinn (New York: G. Schirmer. 2014).

(8.) A Margaret.. E. Wolfangel was born ca. 1895, and in the 1930 census she is listed as single and working as the secretary to the superintendent of public schools. An Anna M. Krauser is also in the 1930 census. She was single, born about 1890, and worked as a clerk in the office of the county treasurer, who was also her father.

(9.) Dudley Buck, The coming of the King: Cantata for Advent and Christmas-tide (New York: G. Schirmer, 1895). The text quoted, including its layout, is taken from the score's preface.

(10.) Rosario Scalero (1870-1954) had been a student of Eusehip*: Nlaildvrzemki (1857-1929), a close Mend of Brahms.

(11.) See Iain Quinn, "Samuel Barber's Organ Music," Tempo (55, no. 256 (April 2011): 38-51.

(12.) Horatio Parker, The Holy Child; A Cantata for Christmastide, op. 37, the text compiled from Holy Scriptures and composed by Isabella Parker (New York: G. Schirmer, 1893); Parker, The Shepherds' Vision, the words translated from the German of Frank Van der Suicken by Alice C. Jennings (New York: H. W. Gray, 1906; reprint, Huntsville, TX: Recital Publications, 2006); Buck, The Coming of the King (1895).

(13.) Heyman, Barber: The Composer and his Music, 12.

(14.) William Harold Neidlinger, The Birthday a f a King .4 Clsrisimas Song (New York: G. Schirmer, 1890).

(15.) The dates of publication, rather than composition. arc given.

(16.) Chronicling America: Hisiaric American Newspaper% where a search of "music+church" filtered for the state of Pennsylvania and dates 1900-1922 produces 620 results: (accessed 20 November 2013).

(17.) Ibid. A search of "Dudley Buck," filtered for New York State and years 1895-1922 produces 254 results; a search of "Dudley Buck" filtered for Pennsylvania and years 1895-1922 produces 130 results; a search of "Horatio Parker" filtered by New York Slate and years 1895-1922 produces 395 results; a search of "Horatio Parker" filtered by Pennsylvania and years 1895-1922 produces 38 results (all accessed 20 November 2013).

(18.) Noted in figure 2 with continuous lines.

(19.) John Stainer, The Crucifixion: A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer, text written by J, W. Sparrow-Simpson and selected from the New Testament (London; New York: Novello, Ewer, 1-887).

(20.) Chronicling America, a search of "Ski iner+Crucifixion" filtered for New York State and years 1893-1900 produces two results, including this one (accessed 20 November 2013).

(21.) Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia, PA), Sports Extra, 20 March 1920.

(22.) Indeed, all three works center around flat keys.

(23.) Heyman. Samuel Barber: The Composer and his Musk. 13.

lain Quinn (Ph.D., Dunelm) is assistant professor of organ at Florida State University, and previously served on the facility of Western connecticut State University. While a doctoral fellow at Durham University. he was also a visiting fellow at Harvard University. Active as an organist, musicologist, and composer, he has published recent editions of the works of' Barbet Schirmer) and Czerny (A-R Publications), and has recorded extensively on the Chandos, Hyperion, and Raven labels.

I extend my sincere gratitude to Arianne Johnson Quinn, Barbara B. Heyman, Diane P. Rofini (Chester County Historical Society), and Matthew Woulard (Florida State University) for their assistance with this aricle. The first performance of the reconstruction took place at The Memorial Church, Harvard University on December 15, 2013, sung by the Harvard Choir, Edward E. Jones, director.
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