What's the Enduring Appeal of The Philadelphia Orchestra's 1962 Glorious Sound of Christmas Album?

Dec 18, 2017

A 1962 record of holiday music by The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Temple University Concert choir "went gold" in 1963 and continues to be sold today. WRTI’s Susan Lewis explores its ongoing appeal with violinist Herb Light, who played on the original recording of The Glorious Sound of Christmas.

I remember when we did the recording. I was overwhelmed by the lush sound of these Christmas carols.

Today, the Orchestra performs an annual Christmas concert in the spirit of this original recording. On Sunday, December 24th at 1 pm on WRTI 90.1, you can hear an archival broadcast of the Orchestra’s 2014 Glorious Sound of Christmas concert, led by guest conductor Bramwell Tovey. 

Music from this concert, and from another in 2015, can also be heard in a new The Glorious Sound of Christmas recording, recently released by The Philadelphia Orchestra with Bramwell Tovey and the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia.  

Radio script:

[Music: Joy to the World, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing]

Susan Lewis: From the celebratory to the reverent—the arrangements of Arthur Harris allow the strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion to take turns telling the stories—all set in a rich texture of what’s called "The Philadelphia Sound."

Herb Light: I remember when we did the recording. I was overwhelmed by the lush sound of these Christmas carols.

SL: Violinist Herb Light joined the orchestra in 1960 and recalls the way Eugene Ormandy, a violinist himself, always demanded more volume from the strings to compensate for the relatively dry acoustics of the Academy of Music.

HL: The strings especially were digging in as much as possible, so this lush sound was created that way in the strings, and it was interesting because that carried over to other venues.   

[Music: Oh come, o come Emmanuel]

The Scottish Rite Temple, also known as "Town Hall" at Broad and Race streets.

SL: They made the recording at the old Town Hall at Broad and Race streets (now the site of a parking garage), where that lush sound infused the carols, one of which is "Oh come, o come Emmanuel."

HL: There is a prime example of the richness and the fullness, and I can just see Ormandy up there really gritting his teeth; more! More sound! More! And it was thrilling. It was really thrilling!

SL: The Temple University Concert choir, then directed by Robert Page, adds its voices to a number of the carols; the overall collection creating a sense of discovery, reflection, celebration and hope.

[Music: Silent Night]