Noel a real Christmas feast


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Sam Hagan’s Noel will be a welcome guest in many homes this Christmas. The much sought-after tenor’s strong, richly authoritative voice is heard to good effect here. The well selected program ranges from Handel’s recitative and aria “Comfort ye, my people/Every valley shall be exalted” from Messiah to latter-day favorites like “I’ll be home for Christmas” and “Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” conjuring up fond memories of Bing Crosby and Judy Garland, respectively.


Other highlights of the program include a number of ever-popular spirituals spirituals, “Rise up, Shepherd, and follow,” “Mary had a baby,” “Sweet little Jesus Boy,” “Jesus, O what a wonderful child,” and “Go, tell it on the mountain.” In these selections, as throughout the program, pianist Harding Epps, Jr., a graduate of Morehouse College , provides yeoman service as accompanist.


Hagan and Epps give a very striking account of 19th century French composer Adolphe Adam’s “O Holy Night.” It comes across as more rhythmical that we are used to hearing it, rather like an arietta with a discretely lilting accompaniment in dance tempo, but that is well in character for a composer who was successful in both opera and ballet.


Other selections that will be certain to fall on receptive ears in the program of popular favorites and traditionals include “The Christmas Song” (first recorded by Nat King Cole), “What Child is this?”, “The First Noel,” a glorious rendition of the Bach/Gounod “Ave, Maria,” and, for an appropriate conclusion but on a more stirring note than we are used to hearing it, “Silent Night.”