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In the play of timbres and sound colours, in the singers’ specific voices the listener will be able to reveal the secret of the irresistible beauty of musical art. Listen to a Christmas fairy tale as told by the most famous Bulgarian choir on Angels’ Christmas.
Along with the less known tunes of Christmas carols, the choir performs hymns which have become great all-time favourites.
Hardly can anyone imagine the celebration of Christmas without “Silent Night, Holy Night”, the most famous Christmas carol. Performed for the first time 185 years ago at the midnight mass in the church of a little Austrian village, this rather simple melody was spread all over the world and now is being sung in more than 300 languages and dialects. The choir also sings “La Notte di Natale” from Italy and another German Christmas carol, along with a lot of most impressive Bulgarian traditional Christmas songs.
Every year Christians throughout the world celebrate a holy night in expectation of the radiance of true Light. For all of them this is a night of joy and hope.
In the Christian world there exists an amazing variety of musical cultures, including Christmas song cycles that express the most beautiful impulses of the human soul in different musical languages, in different styles, melodies and rhythms.
Similar to the other Balkan and Slavic peoples, in the folk culture of the Bulgarians the traditional carols are sung on Christmas Eve when young men, koledari (carol–singers) dressed in folk costumes, pay ritual visits to all houses in the neighbourhood. They sing different Christmas songs and add further impact to the well-wishing for fertility of the lands, prosperity, health and personal happiness of every member of the family – for the host, for the oldest woman on the house, for the young bachelor, for the children. And finally before leaving the house they sing “we are now going out of this house and God comes in…”
The combination of mythical and Christian images with ritual elements unites pagan and Christian principles contained in the so called “folk Christianity”. As far as the music of the Bulgarian folk Christmas songs is concerned, it is characterized by intonations specific only for this particular cycle of songs and uneven (asymmetrical) measures. Every Bulgarian can unmistakably identify the unique Christmas sonority within the amazingly rich musical palette of Bulgarian folk music. It can also be found in the interpretations of this type of music by both contemporary composers and performers.
Together with the folk Christmas songs, the Bulgarian music contains fascinating samples of church chants from the Eastern Orthodox liturgical practice, which create the sound atmosphere of Christmas celebration. In the course of the nearly twelve-century-old Christian tradition of the Bulgarians there was established a remarkable school of church singing featuring a unique vocal style. Two singing traditions were formed in the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church: Eastern (one-part) and choral (many-part). During the Middle Ages, the Old-Bulgarian religious chants had a strong influence on the musical culture of the other Slavic peoples. Researchers find in them intonations and ornamentation common for the folk song. At the same time, with the development of musical culture in the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century the singing practice was enriched by new many-part liturgical works which combine the melodiousness of the Orthodox chant with the harmonic idiom of west-European music.
If it is possible to describe musical sound in colours, then the choir’s singing in Orthodox chants is like golden light streaming from heaven, and the voices become airy and vibrate in synchrony with the subtlest energies. This is the unmatched style of singing in Bulgarian Orthodoxy. The songs based on folk music are performed with the typical of the folk vocal school manner of sound production – vigorous and energetic, with “tight” throat, hard attack and chest voice. There is a hypothesis about similarities existing between the timbre characteristics of folk and church singing in the remote past. That is probably the reason why the Orthodox chants performed by a folk choir sound in such a specific and unparalleled way – softening the sharp and hard sonorities by means of exquisite dynamic and timbre nuances yet preserving the lively expressive temperament of folk choral singing. Such a sounding is achieved not only owing to technically mastered vocal skills. It is rather the accomplishment of musical thinking directed towards spiritual and emotional purification.
The historical tradition has attached the Bulgarians to the Eastern Orthodox faith. Still, the vicissitudes of the past compelled some of them to adopt Catholicism in the 16th century. Circumstances forced some of their descendants to establish immigration communities in the Austro-Hungarian Banat region. The melodies of some of their chants survived in oral form, and they were brought back to some Bulgarian settlements at the end of the 19th century by the Bulgarian Catholics who returned to their native land.
The original carol of the Banat Bulgarians Hei, pastiri (Hey, shepherds) has served in both the past and present as a brilliant climax to Christmas Day festivities of the inhabitants of Bulgarian villages.
European culture has created and given to the world some of the best vocal masterpieces of Christmas music and poetry. They reach people’s hearts, no matter what their ethnic or cultural belonging, or religion is.
Together with the less known tunes of Christmas carols the multilingual world Christmas choir performs musical hymns which have become great all-time favourites.
Hardly can anyone imagine the celebration of Christmas without “Silent Night, Holy Night”, the most famous Christmas carol. Performed for the first time 185 years ago at the midnight service in the church of a little Austrian village, this rather simple melody was spread all over the world and is now sung in more than 300 languages and dialects.
On Angels’ Christmas the world famous female choir Bulgarian Voices – ANGELITE offers to the listener Christmas music in their excellent interpretation. The variety of styles represented by the music in this release opens new vistas for creativity, for making different musical worlds meet – far apart in time yet close to the spiritual makeup of contemporary man. Each performance introduces new details and nuances to the multicoloured sound picture. In the play of timbres and sound colours, in the singers’ specific voices the listener will be able to reveal the secret of the irresistible beauty of musical art. Listen to a Christmas fairy tale as told by the most famous Bulgarian choir.
Written by: Natalia Rashkova (musicologist)