Composers Datebook®

'Welcome Christmas' Carol Contest

Composers Datebook - 20231206


On today’s date in 1998, two new Christmas carols debuted in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during the “Welcome Christmas” choral concert of VocalEssence conducted by Philip Brunelle.

The two carols, “Sweet Noel,” by Joan Griffith, and “The Virgin’s Cradle Hymn,” by Richard Voorhaar, were the prize-winning submissions entered in a contest arranged by the Plymouth Music Series and the American Composers Forum. The idea was to inspire contemporary composers to create new carols that — who knows? — might turn out to be classics over time.

As Brunelle put it, “The Christmas carols that we love to sing and hear have a timelessness about them wrapped in their music and words. Out of submissions from all across the USA, [we] selected two that we felt captured this feeling.”

Since 1998, the “Welcome Christmas” Carol Contest has continued as an annual tradition, and hundreds of worthy carols have been submitted. Each year, two are selected and premiered in December by Brunelle’s choral ensemble. These “Welcome Christmas” concerts are recorded by American Public Media for both regional broadcast and national distribution.

Music Played in Today's Program

Richard Voorhaar - The Virgin's Cradle Hymn; Vocalessence; Philip Brunelle, cond. Clarion 939

On This Day


  • 1550 - Baptism of Italian composer Orazio Vecchi, in Modena;

  • 1920 - American jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, in Concord, Calif.;

  • 1933 - Polish composer Henryk Górecki, in Czernica;

  • 1955 - Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng, in Shanghai;


  • 1841 - R. Schumann: Symphony No. 4 (as his Symphony No. 2), by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Ferdinand David conducting; Schumann withdrew the score, revised it, and reintroduced it in 1853 with the Düsseldorf Municipal Orchestra as his Symphony No. 4 (his "other" Symphony No. 2 and a Symphony No. 3 have been premiered in the meantime);

  • 1842 - Schumann: Piano Quintet in Eb, Op. 44, at a private concert in the Leipzig home of Carl and Heinrich Voigt; Schumann’s wife, Clara, was to perform, but took ill, and Felix Mendelssohn stepped in for the informal performance, reading the work at sight; Mendelssohn’s critic of the work’s original second movement led Schumann to write a livelier replacement (see also Dec. 8, 1844);

  • 1846 - Berlioz: dramatic legend, "The Damnation of Faust," at the Paris Opéra-Comique, with the composer conducting;

  • 1876 - Tchaikovsky: opera "Vakula the Blacksmith," at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg (Julian date: Nov. 24);

  • 1880 - Tchaikovsky: "Capriccio italien," in Moscow (Gregorian date: Dec. 18);

  • 1890 - Berlioz: opera "La Prise de Troie" (The Capture of Troy), Acts 1 & 2 of "Les Troyens" (The Trojans), first staged performance in Karlsruhe, Germany at the Hoftheater;

  • 1892 - Tchaikovsky: ballet, "The Nutcracker" and opera "Iolanta," in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Dec. 18);

  • 1919 - Stravinsky: symphonic suite, "Le chant du rossignol," in Geneva, Ernest Ansermet conducting;

  • 1929 - Stravinsky: "Capriccio" for Piano and Orchestra, at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, with the Paris Symphony conducted by Ernest Ansermet, with the composer as soloist;

  • 1937 - Boris Blacher: "Concertante Musik," in Berlin;

  • 1940 - Schoenberg: Violin Concerto, by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski, with Louis Krasner the soloist;

  • 1949 - Prokofiev: Cello Sonata, Op. 119, at a private performance in Moscow, at the House of the Union of Composers, by cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and pianist Sviatoslav Richter; This first public performance, with the same artists, took place at the Moscow Conservatory on March 1, 1950;

  • 1957 - Sessions: Symphony No. 3, by the Boston Symphony, Charles Munch conducting;

  • 1974 - Wuorinen: Piano Concerto No. 2, in New York, with the composer as soloist on an amplified piano;

  • 1977 - Corigliano: Clarinet Concerto, in New York;

  • 1997 - Kernis: "Ecstatic Meditations," in Minneapolis, by the Plymouth Music Series, Philip Brunelle, conducting;


  • 1786 - Mozart finishes his Symphony No. 38 in D, K.504 "Prague";

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®