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Signum Classics Releases Holiday Album 'Be All Merry'


Album includes three new pieces written for the Choral Scholars as well as arrangements of traditional Irish, Scottish, and English carols and songs.

The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin were in post-production for their latest album, Be All Merry, when the outbreak of COVID-19 transformed the world as we know it, ushering in a new era of masks, social distancing, and travel restrictions. In this "new normal," the warmth, strength, and hope inherent in the music of the holiday season resonate more deeply than ever.

Be All Merry features three new pieces written for the Choral Scholars: the title track, by Irish composer Eoghan Desmond; Timothy Stephens' "The Adoration of the Magi;" and an expansive setting of the Advent plainsong hymn "Christe, Redemptor omnium" by Ivo Antognini, crafted for the Choral Scholars with support from the Swiss Embassy in Dublin.

The Scholars continue to act as ambassadors for the choral tradition of their homeland, with many tracks on the album dedicated to arrangements of traditional Irish carols or texts. These include "Curoo, Curoo," an 18th-century Irish poem set by composer Elaine Agnew in response to a commission by the Irish broadcaster RTE; "The Adoration of the Magi" by American composer Timothy Stephens, a setting of W.B. Yeats' poetry; "Cró na Nollag," a lullaby composed by a father-son duo; an Irish-language setting of the traditional Scottish tune "Suantraí;" and of course, "The Wexford Carol," arranged by founding Artistic Director of the Choral Scholars Desmond Earley. The Irish Chamber Orchestra joins the Choral Scholars for several tracks on the album, including "The Wexford Carol" and Earley's arrangement of "Carol of the Bells."

The Choral Scholars' and Earley's hope is that Be All Merry will serve as a balm during tumultuous times, allowing families who may be separated by physical distance to enjoy the music of the season together. The album ends on a hopeful note, looking forward to a happier new year. In the words of Linda Kachelmeier's "We Toast the Days:" "As we stand on the edge of a bright new year I take your hand in mine / With assurance of the courage we will find and the hope that leads us on."

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