Eja! Eja! (Joy! Joy!)

A Christmas celebration for timpani, soprano solo, large chorus, and orchestra

Instrumentation
  • small orch: 2201 | 0330 | solo timpani + 2 | harp | S solo + large chorus | strings
  • full orch: 2222 | 4331 | solo timpani + 2 | harp | S solo + large chorus | strings
Duration
c. 8'30"
Listen to a recording
Choral Arts Society of Washington Chorus and Orchestra, Norman Scribner, Artistic Director; Arianna Zukerman, soprano; Freddy Begun, timpani | live performance
Reviews | Comments

The first half was dominated by a world premier of composer James Grant's Eja! Eja!  (Joy! Joy!). Mr. Grant had the unenviable task of creating a "multi-purpose" work to honor several different goals.  It was to be a Christmas work, it was to celebrate the [Choral Arts Society of Washington's] 40th anniversary, and it was to honor the retirement of Fred Begun, frequent timpani player for the Choral Arts Society and the National Symphony.

Given all of this, it is amazing how well Eja! Eja! fulfilled all its goals. The text is from a variety of sources, from Medieval Latin to Alfred Lord Tennyson.  The music is very tonal and accessible, but with very modern rhythms propelling through the work. Soprano solo Arianna Zukerman opened the piece in a quiet, pensive mood, but the work quickly built up a full head of steam in its loud and driving climax (which gave Mr. Begun plenty to do).  It was a great success, well appreciated by the audience, and showed the Choral Arts Society of Washington can do modern as well a Renaissance pieces.

David Cannon
Montgomery County Sentinel

Commissioned by
  • the Choral Arts Society of Washington, Norman Scribner, Artistic Director, on the occasion of its 40th Anniversary
Year of composition
2005
Program note

In the summer of 2004, Norman Scribner commissioned me to compose a “multi-purpose” work for the Choral Arts Society’s 2005 Christmas Music concert at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.  The commission was requested to celebrate the CASW’s 40th Anniversary Season; to honor the retirement of Fred Begun, principal timpanist with the National Symphony Orchestra and longtime friend and timpanist with the CASW Orchestra; and to make full-throttled use of the Choral Arts Society’s 200 voices in a joyful Christmas romp for timpani, soprano solo, chorus, and orchestra.

Eminent scholar and musicologist Wayne Shirley played a key role in the development of Eja! Eja! (Joy! Joy!), for which I am most grateful: he provided me with a cornucopia of Nativity texts, many familiar and some obscure.  From two antiphons, Mirabile mysterium and Hodie Christus natus est, I harvested Latin texts declaring both profound mystery and sublime ecstasy at the birth of Christ; from 18th-century hymnist and student of mysticism John Byrom came two stanzas from his A Hymn for Christmas Day; and from 19th-century English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memorium, XXX, emerged the most simple and elegant of quatrains that begins: “Rise, happy morn, rise holy morn....” What better words than Tennyson’s to begin a musical celebration of the Nativity?

Eja! Eja! is dedicated with thanks and warm affection to the Choral Arts Society of Washington and its music director, Norman Scribner, and to timpanist Fred Begun.

James Grant  |  Toronto, ON 2005

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Text

Rise, happy morn, rise, holy morn,
Draw forth the cheerful day from night:
O Father, touch the east, and light
The light that shone when Hope was born.

                         - from Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam, XXX

Mirabile mysterium declaratur hodie:
Deus homo factus est.
Eja! Eja!*

Christians awake! Salute the happy Morn
Whereon the Saviour of the world was born!
Rise to adore the Mystery of Love,
Which Hosts of angels chanted from above;
With them the joyful Tidings first begun
Of God Incarnate, and the Virgin’s Son.

Mirabile mysterium declaratur hodie:
Deus homo factus est.

Eja! Eja!

Then to the watchful Shepherds it was told,
Who heard th’Angelic Herald’s Voice: “Behold!
I bring good tidings of a Saviour’s Birth
To you and all the Nations upon Earth;
This Day hath God Fulfill’d his promis’d Word;
This Day is born a Saviour, Christ the Lord.

                        - from John Byrom A Hymn for Christmas Day

Mirabile mysterium declaratur hodie:
Deus homo factus est.
Eja! Eja!

Hodie Christus natus est.
Gloria in excelsis Deo, alleluia.**

Deus homo factus est.
Hodie Christus natus est.

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* A wonderful mystery is revealed today;
God has become man.
Oh, Joy! Joy!

—transl. Ron Jeffers
Translations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire, Vol I:  Sacred Latin Texts

** Today, Christ is born.
Glory to God in the highest.  Alleluia.

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