A Composer's Notepad ::

Canticle of St Nicholas so what does the title mean?

It is a canticle of St Nicholas, not in the sense of a prayer attributable to him (such as the Canticle of St Francis), but a musical prayer in his honor. Having said this, it must be pointed out that this has nothing to do with Santa Claus (that generous but wearisomely commercialized soul, who has become identified with Nicholas), but with the bishop of Myra, held in great esteem especially in the Eastern church (some say that in Russia, he is held in veneration just below the Apostles).

When I wrote the original choral sketch, I was thinking especially of the day when I met Maria, a magical day when I first visited the city of Peter the Great, and missed the bus going back to Estonia, and chanced (if it can be called chance) to meet the wonderful woman who is now my wife.

We met on December 19, which is the Feast of St Nicholas by the Russian Orthodox calendar.

I have been very pleased to learn that Nicholas is also held in high esteem in the Netherlands. I sent the piece to a music director in Holland, and to another music director (of Dutch birth) in Australia; and they both sent word about the traditional Feast of St Nicholas in the Netherlands:

In Holland on December the 5th we have a special celebration of the feast of St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas). It is a special event for children, but everybody in Holland is involved. In Holland it is far more important then Santa Claus.

We have a lot of special songs for Sinterklaas and we start some three or four weeks earlier, when he arrives from Spain and then we start buying gifts and sweets. Maybe you have heard of it it is typically Dutch. So in a way your composition rings a bell of recognition with our Sinterklaas.

Karl Henning
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