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From Our Stage

Noël! Noël!

Watch an uplifting excerpt from the Brandenburg's much-loved Christmas concert Noël! Noël! starring soprano Madison Nonoa and the Brandenburg Choir. 

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Ola Gjeilo (1978 – )


Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway, and moved to the United States in 2001 to study at the Juilliard School in New York. ‘The Spheres’ is the first movement in his Sunrise Mass, first performed in Oslo in 2007. Gjeilo wrote:

I wanted the musical evolution of the Mass to go from the most transparent and spacey to something completely earthy and grounded, from heaven to earth, so to speak. So in The Spheres, I used a kind of overlapping fade-in fade-out effect to give a sense of floating in space, in darkness and relative silence, surrounded by stars and planets light-years away.”

Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleison,

Lord, have mercy,
Christ, have mercy.


Traditional arr. Alex Palmer


This song comes from a fourteenth-century Coventry mystery play. It tells the Christmas story and concludes with the ‘Slaughter of the Innocents’ ordered by King Herod when he was told of the birth of a child who would become the most powerful ruler in the world. The song comes at the end of the play and is sung by the mothers of Bethlehem to quieten their children, so Herod’s men will not hear them and murder them.

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters two,
How may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling
For whom we do sing:
‘by, by lully, lullay?’

Herod the King
In his raging
Charged he hath this day
His men of might
In his own sight
All young children to slay.

That woe is me,
Poor child, for thee
And ever morne* and say
For thy parting
Neither say nor sing:
‘By, by, lully, lullay.’

*grieve and sigh


Attr. Luis de Narváez (fl. 1526 – 1549) arr. Tristan Coelho


Narváez was a Spanish composer and player of the vihuela, an early Spanish stringed instrument similar to a guitar. This song was published in his collection of vihuela music in 1538, although it is also found in other song collections from the same period. It was also set by twentieth century Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo as part of his cycle Cuatro madrigales amatorios (Four Madrigals of Love), based on sixteenth-century poems.

¿Con qué la lavaré
la flor de la mi cara?
¿Con qué la lavaré
que vivo mal penada?
Lávanse las casadas
con agua de limones,
lávome yo cuytada
con penas y dolores.

What shall I use
to wash my face?
What shall I use,
I who live so badly afflicted?
The married women bathe themselves
with lemon water;
I am wretched, and bathe myself
with anguish and pain.


Traditional arr. Alex Palmer


This was a wassail song, an English secular carol sung by groups of wassailers who went from door to door, singing in return for something with which to drink to the good health of those they visited. This was not a practice everyone enjoyed: ‘… at the first sound of ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’, Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.’ (in A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens in 1843).


Phillip Jakob Rittler (c. 1637 – 1690)


Rittler was a German composer and violinist who worked primarily in Austria and Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). The ciaccona originated in the late sixteenth century as a dance-song popular amongst servants, slaves and native Americans in the Spanish dominions of the New World. Its driving rhythm and short, powerful pattern of only four basic harmonies made it an ideal ground bass on which to create variations. Rittler’s version dates from 1678 and is for an unusual combination of instruments – two trumpets, four string players, and continuo.


Program Notes and Translations: © Lynne Murray, 2016
Audio courtesy of ABC Classic

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[Madison Nonoa's] exquisitely contained soprano, delicately spun with vibrato, shimmering over the sound of the choir.

New Zealander Madison Nonoa is a recent graduate of the prestigious Guildhall School of Music & Drama Opera Programme where she studied under the tutelage of distinguished Australian Soprano, Yvonne Kenny. Since moving the UK in 2017, Madison has performed numerous operatic roles including Susanna from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Despina in Cosi fan tutte, Tytania in Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Giulietta in Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi; most recently Madison has featured as the soprano soloist in Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust for Glyndebourne Festival Opera. At this year’s festival, Madison has sung as a chorus member and covered the role of First Spirit for the mainstage production of Cendrillon (Massenet); she has also made her operatic debut with the company as First Siren in Handel’s Rinaldo.

In 2020 she will perform the role of Asteria in Handel’s Tamerlano with Cambridge Handel Opera Company. Madison is proud to return to Australia to perform with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra with maestro Paul Dyer. She acknowledges the ongoing support of the Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Dame Malvina Major Foundations.

Biography: Madison Nonoa, 2019

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