Compact Discoveries
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2002 by Fred Flaxman


Program 25
"Christmas Music for Those
Who are Sick and Tired
of Christmas Music"

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt)[Naxos 8.559057, track 1] under the following:

FLAXMAN: Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman.

Call me Scrooge if you want, but at about this time every year I become sick and tired of hearing Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells, Silent Night and the "Hallelujah" chorus from Handel's Messiah everywhere I go! Elevators, stores and radio stations inundate everyone with one Christmas tune after another. When you phone a business and they put you on hold, chances are they'll play Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer for you, whether you like it or not.

So I'm devoting this hour of Compact Discoveries to "Christmas Music for Those Who are Sick and Tired of Christmas Music." Our featured work is called Santa Claus, Christmas Symphony. It is by William Henry Fry, the first native-born American to compose for large symphonic forces. He was born in Philadelphia in 1813 and died in Santa Cruz in the Virgin Islands in 1864.

Fry was the first native-born American to write a grand opera. He was the first music critic for a major newspaper, and the first to insist that Americans support the music of American composers. Fry's Santa Claus Symphony is likely the first use of the newly invented saxophone in a symphony.

What Fry called a symphony is really more of a fantasy or tone poem. Fry called it "the longest instrumental composition ever written on a single subject, with unbroken continuity."

The piece follows a story line from start to finish. In the beginning, the trumpet announces the birth of Christ.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 1)[Naxos 8.559057, track 1]

FLAXMAN: A symphonic chorus plays the part of the celestial host.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 2)

FLAXMAN: The exultation is broken by loud discords as some of the angels fall away in anger. But harmonius triumph concludes the section.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 3)

FLAXMAN: Now a Christmas Eve party with joyous dancing.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 4)

FLAXMAN: A snowstorm arrives

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 5)

FLAXMAN: But the dancing resumes. It becomes quieter at the end of this segment as the party-goers leave for home.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 6)

FLAXMAN: As people start to go to sleep, we hear the Lord's Prayer set to music in the upper strings, followed by Rock-a-by Baby on the soprano saxophone. Muted strings even mimic the baby's breathing.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 7)

FLAXMAN: The snowstorm again comes into view, and in the middle of it is a traveler, played by the solo double bass. Lost and alone, his moans are heard through the wind as he perishes.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 8)

FLAXMAN: This depressing scene shifts as Santa Claus, played by the high bassoon, enters in his horse-drawn sleigh.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 9)

FLAXMAN: Santa Claus slides down the chimney accompanied by flutes. Mixed with the Santa Claus theme, played by the alto saxophone, we hear plucked strings which signify the clicking of toys being dropped into stockings.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 10)

FLAXMAN: The children still sleep. Santa leaves, the sound of hooves and bells receding into the distance.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 11)

FLAXMAN: Up in the sky, high violins portray a chorus of angels singing the familiar Adeste fideles.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 12)

FLAXMAN: The sun rises on Christmas Day. The house awakens to the sounds of "Get up!" on the horn and Little Bo-peep on the trumpets as the children play.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 13)

FLAXMAN: The beginning of the work reappears, as does Adeste fideles, and the Santa Claus Symphony closes in a hymn of praise.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt 14)

FLAXMAN: Well, that introduces you to the Santa Claus Christmas Symphony by William Henry Fry. Kile Smith's program notes for this Naxos compact disc were used as the basis for this musical explanation. We'll hear the whole one-movement piece uninterrupted next, but first I want to remind you that you are listening to "Christmas Music for Those Who are Sick and Tired of Christmas Music" on Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the 57-minute total timing]

FLAXMAN: The Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Tony Rowe now performs Santa Claus, Christmas Symphony by William Henry Fry, from the Naxos American Classics compact disc.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony [Naxos 8.559057, track 1] [26:14]

FLAXMAN: Santa Claus, Christmas Symphony by the American composer William Henry Fry. Tony Rowe conducted the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on a Naxos compact disc.

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus Symphony (excerpt)[Naxos 8.559057, track 1] under the following:

FLAXMAN: I hope you enjoyed this special Compact Discoveries program of "Christmas Music for Those Who are Sick and Tired of Christmas Music," and that I succeeded in introducing you to a major Christmas composition that you had never heard before.

I would greatly appreciate hearing your reaction to this program and to the Compact Discoveries series in general. There are several ways to do that. You can call this station with your comments. You can write me in care of this station. Or you can e-mail me from my website. The website location is www.fredflaxman.com. That's www.fredflaxman.com - all one word. You'll find lots of Compact Discoveries materials there, as well as other writing you might just get a kick out of.

Compact Discoveries is produced, recorded and edited by your host, Fred Flaxman. It is a production of listener-supported public radio station WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

MUSIC: fades out at 57:00


30-Second Promo for Program Number 26
"Neglected Saint-Saëns"

MUSIC: Saint-Saëns: Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (excerpt)[Chandos CHAN 8526]

FLAXMAN: Next time on Compact Discoveries, join me, Fred Flaxman, for "Neglected Saint-Saëns" - when I'll go beyond The Carnival of the Animals to present some of this French romantic composer's most beautiful pieces.

TAG: [Sunday at 7 p.m. on 90.7, WXEL-FM.]

MUSIC: fade out at 30 seconds

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