Hear: Wartburg Choir Performs a Czech's Medieval-style Christmas Dance

Dec 18, 2018

Wartburg choristers
Credit Wartburg Marketing and Communications

A Choral Iowa post: Supermarkets began piping in holiday tunes in November, so you've probably heard all the standards just in the course of buying groceries. But below is a gem for which you need a choral group. Called Estampie Natalis, it reflects two of the enthusiasms of its Czech-born composer, Vaclav Nelhybel.

First, Nelhybel, who immigrated to the US in 1957 and was banned from his homeland until the Velvet Revolution, "relished writing for and working with young people." Second, Nelhybel said that his biggest influence was medieval music, and here he takes inspiration from a thirteenth-century genre called the estampie. That name might derive from an old Provencal word for "stamping dance," or maybe not - the scholarship isn't settled - but this Iowa performance definitely dances. It features the Wartburg Choir, which just last year won the American Prize in Choral Performance. Their rendition of Estampie Natalis, recorded in Waverly in 2012, is led by Wartburg's director of choral activities and Chair in choral conducting, Dr. Lee Nelson, who has won such honors as the American Choral Directors Association's National Conducting Competition. Vaclav Nelhybel once said that he liked performances of his music that have "a touch of personality," performances in which "there is life." This one has plenty!: