For the past six years, the Minneapolis-based choral ensemble VocalEssence, along with the American Composers Forum, have co-sponsored the "Welcome Christmas Carol Contest." The event solicits entries from around the country and the winning carols are premiered at the VocalEssence annual holiday concert.
NPR's Liane Hansen speaks with VocalEssence artistic director Philip Brunelle to find out what makes a great Christmas carol. Brunelle describes the essence of a carol as something tuneful, rhythmic and possessing a simple text, similar to a folk song.
This year's winning carols were "Behold the Dark and Bitter Night" by Thomas Fielding, set to his own text and scored for chorus accompanied by solo harp, and "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Alan Higbee, who combined his music with a poem by Christina Rossetti, accompanied by solo oboe.