Nina Zanetti | Winter's Light

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Folk: Gentle Holiday: Folk Moods: Spiritual
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Winter's Light

by Nina Zanetti

A gentle celebration of the quiet joys and consolations of the winter season. Selections include several well-known Christmas carols, as well as less familiar tunes, from a wide variety of traditions, among them Shaker music, shape-note tunes, spirituals, a Spanish gypsy carol, and a few tunes that are not strictly Christmas songs, but fit the spirit of the album. The overall theme is not so much “holiday”, as it is about light shining during any dark winter of the soul. All tracks are solo arrangements for Appalachian (mountain) dulcimer , with no overdubbing, and are played finger style on standard or baritone dulcimer.
Genre: Folk: Gentle
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
2:43 $0.99
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2. Rorate Coeli Desuper / Suo Gan
4:41 $0.99
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3. 'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime / The Angel Gabriel
3:17 $0.99
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4. Quem Pastores Medley
4:54 $0.99
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5. What Child Is This?
3:40 $0.99
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6. In the Bleak Midwinter
2:45 $0.99
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7. When Christ Was of a Virgin Born
2:23 $0.99
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8. Once in Royal David's City
5:02 $0.99
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9. Rise Up, Shepherd, And Follow / Go Tell It on the Mountain
3:17 $0.99
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10. The Friendly Beasts
3:01 $0.99
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11. Three European Carols
3:59 $0.99
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12. Tu Scendi Dalle Stella
3:15 $0.99
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13. Shape-Note Christmas Tunes
4:58 $0.99
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14. Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head
4:28 $0.99
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15. En Belen Tocan a Fuego
2:51 $0.99
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16. Silent Night
3:48 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
1. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. A plainchant melody from at least as far back as the 15th century. The text is even more ancient, perhaps as early as the 8th century, and was sung at Vespers services during Advent. One verse proclaims:

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadow put to flight.

2. Rorate/Suo Gân. This medley begins with a traditional Scottish tune named after an ancient prayer, with opening words “Rorate coeli desuper” (“Heavens, distill your balmy showers! For now is risen the bright day-star”). The second tune, “Suo Gân,” is a traditional Welsh tune that translates as “Lullaby.”

3. ’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime/The Angel Gabriel. The first of these tunes, known as the “Huron Carol,” is Canada’s oldest Christmas hymn. A Jesuit missionary, working in the mid-1600s, wrote the text in Huron; but the melody is likely based on a traditional French tune. “The Angel Gabriel” is a 19th-century Basque traditional song.

’Twas in the moon of wintertime,
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wondering hunters heard the hymn:
“Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria!”

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame:
“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary.
Most highly favored lady!” Gloria!

4. Quem Pastores Medley. Three tunes from disparate times and places—a 14th-century German carol, an 18th-century American folk hymn, and a traditional Scottish tune—seemed to echo each other, almost spontaneously combining into a medley. Rockwell baritone dulcimer, tuned AEA.

The carol “Quem Pastores Laudavere” was so popular in 16th-century Germany that the term “Quempas” was used as a generic term for Christmas songs.

Shepherds sang their praises o’er him
Called by angels to adore him:
“Have no fear, but come before him:
Born is now your glorious King!”


“Charleston” appears in several American shape-note hymnals, with various lyrics. The Boston Camerata has performed it as a Christmas hymn, pairing it with the beautiful lyrics of Isaac Watts’ “Cradle Hymn”:

Hush! My babe, lie still and slumber;
Holy angels guard thy bed!
Heavenly blessings without number
Gently falling on thy head.


5. What Child Is This? A traditional 16th-century English tune (Greensleeves) that was paired with the familiar Christmas text in the mid 19thmid-19th century.

6. In the Bleak Midwinter. Gustav Holst (1874 – 1934) wrote this beautiful tune as the first musical setting of the Christina Rosetti poem.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

7. When Christ Was of a Virgin Born. Although the Shakers wrote over 10,000 hymns, only a relative few were composed specifically for Christmas. This song comes from Watervliet, NY, circa 1840.

When Christ was of a Virgin born the heav’nly hosts did sing.
The watching shepherds they did warn to go and see their King.
They came and found the blessed child, the new creation’s head.
The infant Savior meek and mild was in a manger laid.

8. Once in Royal David’s City. A well-known carol, traditionally sung during the opening procession of the Christmas Eve Festival of Lessons and Carols, as done by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge. My arrangement reframes the tune as a contemplative meditation.

9. Rise up, Shepherd, and Follow/Go Tell It on the Mountain. Two of the relatively small number of spirituals that tell the Christmas story. Rockwell baritone dulcimer, tuned AEA.

10. Ding Dong Merrily on High/Angels We Have Heard on High. These lively French carols seemed meant to go together, because of both having long, florid “Glorias” in their refrains. Blue Lion dulcimer, tuned DAD.

11. The Friendly Beasts. This carol began as a 12th-century Latin chant (“Orientis Partibus”) that was associated with The Donkey’s Festival, a liturgical celebration of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt and of the ass that carried Mary and the infant Jesus. During the mass, it was common for a donkey to be led or ridden into the church! Over the centuries, the chant evolved into a four-part hymn, as well as a more “folksy” version known as “The Friendly Beasts.” How remarkable not only that this hymn tune would have survived for over eight centuries, but also that it would still be associated with lyrics celebrating the contribution of animals to the Christmas story! My arrangement is based on the “folksy” version, flanked by the ancient chant from which it originated.

12. Three European Carols. Despite their varied sources, these carols seemed to want to be played together, perhaps because of their lilting, lullaby-like melodies. The tunes are: “Come All Ye Shepherds” (“Kommet, ihr Hirten”), from Bohemia; “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” (“W Żlobie Leży”), from Poland; and “Children of the Heavenly Father” (“Tryggare kan ingen vara”) from Sweden.

13. Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle. A favorite Italian Christmas carol (also known as “One Cold and Blessed Winter” or “You Come Down from the Stars”), written in 1732 by Saint Alphonsus Maria de' Liguori. It was originally played on the zampogna, an Italian bagpipe.

From starry skies descending,
Thou comest, glorious King,
A manger low Thy bed,
In winter's icy sting;

O my dearest Child most holy,
Shudd'ring, trembling in the cold!
Great God, Thou lovest me!
What suff'ring Thou didst bear,
That I near Thee might be!

14. Shape-note Christmas Tunes. This medley combines three tunes from the shape-note collection The Southern Harmony. Two of them, “The Shepherd’s Star” and “Star in the East” are often sung to these words:

Hail the blest morn, see the great Mediator,
Down from the regions of glory descend!
Shepherds, go worship the babe in the manger,
Lo, for his guard the bright angels attend.

The other tune, a variant of “Restoration,” provides another gentle setting for Watts’ “Cradle Hymn” (above).

15. Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head. A beautiful Appalachian carol, collected by John Jacob Niles. My arrangement is inspired by George Winston’s piano rendition. Blue Lion dulcimer, tuned CFC.

Jesus, Jesus, rest your head.
You has got a manger bed.
All the evil folk on earth
Sleep in feathers at their birth.
Jesus, Jesus, rest your head.
You has got a manger bed.


16. En Belén Tocan a Fuego. A folk carol from Spanish Andalusia. Instead of shepherds bearing humble gifts, the lyrics speak of poor gypsies from distant lands, trudging through the snow, seeking the Christ Child. My arrangement was inspired by a beautiful rendition by the Boston Camerata. Blue Lion dulcimer, tuned CGG#C, capo1.

In Bethlehem a fire begins, in the manger are the flames.
It is a star from heaven, the Lord in a bed of straw.
Poor gypsy, marching through the snow,
Should be walking on roses and carnations.

17. Silent Night. This beloved carol by Franz Gruber (1818) was originally sung to a guitar accompaniment. It therefore seemed well suited to the lower tones of a baritone dulcimer. Rockwell baritone dulcimer, tuned ADA.


All arrangements are by Nina Zanetti and are played on a standard Blue Lion dulcimer tuned CGC, unless otherwise noted.

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M

brilliant, soulful playing...
This mountain dulcimer CD from Nina Zanetti is easily among the most affecting instrumental spiritual CD's I've ever heard, and also among the best instrumental CD's in the "folk" genre, period. I first heard lyrical mountain dulcimer music in Slate's restaurant in Hallowell, Maine, circa 1986, the player being the renowned Pam Weeks. I was amazed at what could be done, melodically and harmonically, on three or four strings, two of which are tuned in an octave. I then discovered Linda Brockinton, Bill Collins and Nina Zanetti. Nina's tremendous skill, glorious phrasing and heart of an a cappella choir member combine to produce music that can reduce one to tears, as I was in listening to the first two tracks. Highly recommended!
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