Jon Deak

The Passion of Scrooge, or A Christmas Carol


Jon Deak was born in Hammond, Indiana on April 27, 1943.  He grew up in an artistic environment. His father and mother were sculptors and painters; he himself has worked in sculpture.  But music seized his attention; he studied double bass and composition at Oberlin, Juilliard, the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome, and the University of Illinois.  The greatest influence on his work has come from Salvatore Martirano and John Cage and from the Soho performance art movement of the late 1960s and early 70s.  Since 1970, Deak himself has been a member of the double bass section of the New York Philharmonic.  Spending much of his professional life as a performer has no doubt contributed to his interest in what is known as “performance art” — a creation that involves more than simply the notes on the page, that comes alive only in the person of the executants. 

Of course, all music is really a performance art: the printed score is not the work, but only a blueprint of it.  But Jon Deak’s works, many of which have been performed by the 20th Century Consort, are performance scores in a different sense; the work has a visual and theatrical element that transcends the customary relationship of pitch and rhythm.  They are a kind of “Story Theater,” to borrow the name of a theatrical performing company of the 1970s that produced elaborate versions of fairy tales in which actors began by narrating (as outsiders observing the story), then gradually became the characters they had been describing.  Similarly, in Jon Deak’s many “concert dramas” (the term he has come to prefer for this kind of work), there can be soloists who both narrate and enact the story, and the instrumentalists themselves take part in various ways, both by word and sound.

On several occasions Deak has turned to an old story-whether folktale or, as here, a work of literary fiction.  Other examples in his output include “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Bremen Town Musicians,” and “Lucy and the Count” (based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”).  All partly make use of speech rhythm for the music.  The words of the tale are turned into music, which sometimes takes over the storytelling entirely and sometimes supplies the background to declamation.  The instrumentalists evoke words “woven into the music as a sound event.”  As the composer has explained, he is sometimes “more concerned with the sound event than with the meaning of the words.”

A Christmas Carol is the longest of these musical narratives.  It also took the longest time in composition.  The idea for the project first arose in 1986, partly through the mediation of Christopher Kendall, but was not finished then.  Deak states: “Then Jack and Linda Hoeschler approached Christopher Kendall and me about completing this project.  It turned out to be a big piece — and they have been very patient!  As I worked further on it, my point of view changed.  I started adapting the original libretto, which was by Isaiah Sheffer, and as I continued to work on the piece, I made more and more changes from the first version, so now the libretto is essentially by me, though it retains some of Isaiah’s work, and of course we both based what we did on the Dickens story [1843].  The piece turned out to be a work for baritone and chamber ensemble because I felt that it was best to have just one person up there.  I think it works out perfectly that way because, in this story, all the characters come out of Scrooge’s head — the whole drama takes place within his head.  If we had other characters singing at Scrooge it would be didactic: society putting pressure on him to reform.  But this way it is internal, depicting his own struggle.  That’s why I changed the title to something that sounds rather Dickensian in style: ‘The Passion of Scrooge, or A Christmas Carol’.”

The piece is cast in two acts.  During the first we are introduced to Scrooge and his departed partner Marley, who comes as the first Christmas Eve ghost to warn Scrooge that he must change his grasping, greedy ways.  (Though the instrumentalists in the ensemble become various people, the baritone is both Scrooge and Marley, who at this stage of the story represent a single vice, avarice, in two different bodies.  The second act will introduce the three ghost of Christmas — past, present, and future — who help Scrooge experience his passion and accomplish his transformation.  


Notes: c. 1998 by Steven Ledbetter. All rights reserved.


Roughly the first five minutes of the piece as it now stands were composed in 1986, the next ten minutes in 1996, and the remainder of the score in 1997.  The music of Scrooge and Marley, those outcasts from human warmth and expression, operates with tone rows, or segments of tone rows, while the remaining characters (and, gradually, Scrooge himself) are more tonal, even romantic in character.  Scrooge is constantly testing new self-images, and his music is constantly changing, though it is built out of a half-dozen different motives, some of them interrelated.”

The circumstances surrounding the first performance on December 6, 1997, at the Hirshhorn Museum were extraordinary; for one thing, finishing the work in time was proving to be an agony.  I’d been giving the score piecemeal to Bill Sharp and Christopher Kendall over the course of several months, but due to several unforeseen reasons, they never actually got the complete score until (incredibly) four days before the concert!  Bill was up literally all night for the sixty hours preceding the performance. In addition, I was a real pest, badgering him, questioning with him, working out ideas about how the characters should be conceived, changing notes, tempi, dynamics, hand gestures, facial expressions, and dissolving into confused babbling.  Bill and Christopher were unbelievably calm and supportive throughout, often turning my wild suggestions into something much more effective than I could have conceived. 

I was also a pain-in-the-neck to the performers, since, as the storyteller says at the very beginning: “…and all you musicians are going to play parts in the story.”  Well, I took that seriously. But to expect musicians to embody roles in a story without resorting to costumes, props or fancy (amateurish) gestures is a lot to ask, yet I was never disappointed.  At times the musicians had to react with vocal wind, insidious whispering, actual words, outright laughter or even – singing “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” as if they were roistering carolers.  Indeed, the very opening sound of the entire drama is an intake of human breath sounding perhaps like an ancient wine or fog lifting – my sonic equivalent of a stage curtain rising.

In addition to playing the motives of the various characters, each musician needs to, as I say, embody them, often imitating human speech on the instrument in a technique I refer to as “Sprechspiel,” or “Speak-playing.”  Sara, the flutist, plays such roles as a woman in the London street, echoes of the lost fiancé of Scrooge’s youth, as well as aspects of Scrooge himself.  Loren, on clarinet, is a little boy outside Scrooge’s window on Christmas morning and, on his bass clarinet, Scrooge’s darker feelings.  Ted’s “horn-of-plenty” embodies the Ghost of Christmas Present; Dotian’s harp, that of Christmas Past, — and the baritone soloist actually converses with these characters.  David Salness with his violin plays a gentleman soliciting charity for the poor, Scrooge’s nephew, as well as aspects of Tiny Tim.  Daniel Foster’s viola is Bob Cratchit; David Hardy’s cello, the apparition of Marley; Robery Oppelt enacts Scrooge’s depression with particular vividness on the double bass.  Tom Jones, the Consort’s percussionist, is a one-man stage set and sound-effects man, with imaginary scenery.  He even provides the parrot “squawk” for Robinson Crusoe.  David Salness’s violin later becomes Scrooge’s magical (no other word for it!) ascent from a mean depressed old man to a magnificently reborn soul on Christmas Morning.  That we were able to capture this particular moment of performance artistry on this recording will probably remain one of the great joys of my life.  It is the crux of the entire work and, I admit, my favorite part.

But back to the first performance… Here we have a sleepless Bill Sharp imbued with the responsibility of carrying all this drama on his shoulders.  And there we have myself, the tardy composer, whispering suggestions to him and to Christopher right up to 10 minutes before the concert.  Finally, I settled back in the audience, with my daughter Selena sitting in my lap.  Next to me were Christopher’s wife Susan and, a few seats away, Jack and Linda Hoeschler, Inge Cadle and Bill and Nancy Foster, all of them so helpful at crucial points along the way.  Notably absent was Nancy Foster and Christopher Kendall’s wonderful mother Catherine, who had passed away days before.  We dedicated the first performance to her.  In any case, to say we were all nervous would have been an immense understatement.  But, as Christopher started the overture, I could hear that things were already sparkling. And as Bill Sharp took his breath for his very first entrance, my jaw began to drop: I could tell immediately that he had done it! He was completely in character, right on pitch, and remained in mastery until the very last note.  How did he (and they) do it?  Who knows? I’ve never been so amazed at a performance, and so glad I’d become a composer.

The Washington Post seemed to agree about the success saying:

"Deak's thorough retelling of 'A Christmas Carol' is a marvel of musical was one of the most vivid and memorable concerts I have attended this year.”

"Deak has taken up the story of Scrooge with zest, vigor and the kind of narrative skill that has won him a substantial and devoted audience.  It was, as Deak’s music usually is, technically brilliant and a lot of fun."

"William Sharp rose to the role of Scrooge with magnificent zest and skill."

I did revise the work somewhat, also adding a second violin for subsequent performances.  Then an Aaron Copland Fund grant enabled us to record the work and Curt Wittig, already our engineer, became a co-producer.  As sound designer, Curt is the one responsible for the final sound on this recording, and working with him and with Christopher became just as extraordinary for me as it had been with the performers.  In fact, Curt has been a performer in a sense as well.  The Surround Sound he created is an awesome new experience for me.  His pride is obvious in bringing every aspect of the work to its best realization while retaining the reality of the musicians’ performances.  The numerous “sound effects” (part of the music, really), engineered from acoustic sources because, as Curt says, “Electronically generated effects just aren’t as much fun.”  …And in the end, what matters most? For Scrooge’s Redemption and Rebirth to have lasting effect, it’s got to be fun, too!

Redemption is so precious.  As Tiny Tim says:  “God bless us, God bless us everyone!”

– Jon Deak



The Passion of Scrooge was conceived for concert performance. It isn't a staged work in the sense of employing sets, lights and costumes, and its many characters are all played by a single actor/singer. But when done in front of an audience it contains so many visual elements that help carry the story along, that it was an interesting challenge coming up with a way to translate it into a medium relying on the purely auditory equivalent of the visual dimension. It clearly wasn't a work that could be recorded directly to stereo as we have always done before, but one that needed a different approach.

We recorded the orchestra on its own set of five tracks in Surround Sound, and William Sharp on an additional stereo pair belonging entirely to him. This required him to do his recorded performance not from the stage as he had done for the concerts, but from out in the hall facing the stage in order to keep the instruments out of his microphones. Thus, when he changed character (which he does in performance without benefit of splicing or dubbing!), we could create back in the studio his own "stage" in which he could be freely moved in space, first from the front-and-center storyteller who introduces the piece, and then into several other characters in dialogue with one another. These include Scrooge himself, of course; Scrooge's nephew;  a supplicant who visits the office on Christmas Eve soliciting donations for the poor, all the way to a trio of gravediggers — not to mention Marley, of course, who has plenty to say — plus a few other miscellaneous "walk-on" parts including the voice of a parrot!

The result, through a lot of automated computer audio mixing, has become in the present recording a modern version of an old-fashioned radio play, in which (in addition to several custom-recorded sound effects to supplement those done by our percussionist in the concert performances)

we were able to employ a variety of specially programmed reverberation effects for both the orchestra and the spoken and sung parts. These were all added entirely in the studio for the purpose of replacing the visual cues and dimensionality on which the progress of the work's narrative depends. We think it worked pretty well, and we hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed making this recording.

- Curt Wittig


The Passion of Scrooge

Or, A Christmas Carol.


By Jon Deak


Commissioned by Jack and Linda Hoeschler in honor of Inge Cadle and in memory of Don D. Cadle.




1.  Introduction

Narrator: A Christmas – (ahem) A Christmas Carol! By Charles Dickens.  Patience.  It’s about…well, it’s a ghost story of Christmas.  And you’re all going to help me play the parts, (indicating musicians).

Musicians: (Oh! Wow!)


2. Scene i

Narrator: Once upon a time, of all the good days of the year, on Christmas Eve:

Nephew: And a Merry Christmas to you, my good sir.

(Merry Christmas!)

Nephew:  And to you Madam, the very best wishes to you and your family.

(Thank you!)

Nephew: Yes, a fine holiday it is, I’m sure.  [Enter Scrooge] Hello, Uncle. A…a Merry Christmas to…to y-

Scrooge: Bah Humbug!

Narrator: [mocking Scrooge’s speech] Scrooge…Scroooooge! Hee, hee, hee…Scrooge!  A squeezing, wrenching, grasping; a scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!

Scrooge:  Brr!

Narrator:  The cold within him froze, nipped, shriveled.  [becoming unruly] Brrr! Brrr! Brrr!

Scrooge: Silence!

Narrator: No warmth could warm him, no wind that blew was better than he, no man nor woman nor child would greet him, and even blind men’s dogs would pull away as if to say: No eye at all is better than an evil eye.  But what did Scrooge care? Bah! It was the very thing he liked! (Heh heh heh…)


3. Scene ii

               But as I was saying, once upon a time of all the good days of the year…

Nephew: Now ,Uncle, do come dine with us tomorrow.

Scrooge: Bah! I’ll see you in that extremity first!

Nephew: But Uncle – the children…

Scrooge: Why did you get married?

Nephew:  I-I-I fell in love.

Scrooge:  You fell in looove? Good afternoon!

Nephew:  But Uncle – what reason have you to be dismal?  You’re rich enough.

Scrooge:  What reason have you to be merry?  Ha-ha-ha- You’re poor enough.  Good afternoon!

Nephew: Very well then, Uncle. Still – I wish you a Merry Chri-

Scrooge: Good afternoon!  Good Afternoon! Good Afternoon! Bah!

Nephew:  Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas…

Scrooge:  Out! Upon Merry Christmas!  Merry Christmas, Bah! I’ll retire to Bedlam…

Carolers:  [from a distance] God rest ye, merry gentlemen, let nothing you dis-

Scrooge: OUT! (Now what???)  Yes?

Charity Gentleman: Eh-The firm of Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe?

Scrooge:  State your business.  (I’m suspicious already.)

Gentleman: The charity – the poor people…that is, some of us are… what shall we put you down for, sir?

Scrooge:  Put me down for – NOTHING!

Gentleman: (But, but sir, - I…)

Scrooge: Are there no poorhouses? No workhouses? No prisons?

Gentleman: (Well, uh- yes, but…)

Scrooge: Well, uh- yes, but… NOTHING!! Good afternoon!

Gentleman: (But,…)

Scrooge: Good afternoon!…And as for you, Bob Cratchit, stop that shivering.  Come here!

Cratchit: (If…)

Scrooge: Stop that sniveling! You’ll want all day tomorrow, I suppose.

Cratchit: (If quite convenient.)

Scrooge: Stop that blasted sniveling! It’s not ‘convenient’ and it’s not fair!

Cratchit: (It’s for the children on Christmas.)

Scrooge: Oh, it’s for the children, eh?

Cratchit: (T-Tiny Tim’s not well – and I…)

Scrooge: Ohh.. Tiny Tim’s not well then, is he?

 Cratchit:  (It’s only once a year, sir…)

Scrooge: It’s only once a year, you say? A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!

Cratchit: (Oh, thank you, sir…)

Scrooge: Thank me not! Only be here all the earlier on the next day, or you’ll find yourself without employment!

Cratchit: (Eh, - A merry Christmas… Sir…)


4. Interlude

Scrooge: Bah! Lunatics! (Brrr!)  Time to close the shop and go home.

Scrooge: [unintelligibly] Away, I say, and say again, and say again, and say, they’re all parasitic, muffin-headed, soft in the brain, and they won’t know the value of a good day’s work.  So there! (Hmmm…what was her name? Ehh. It matters little…what is it she said? …matters little.)

              Hmm…Humbug.  Home at last. Light so dim.  What’s this on the door-knocker? AAAAAH! Marley’s face!  Jacob Marley, my business partner – DEAD these seven years.  Marley…hmm. (Bah) It’s just a door-knocker.  Just the imagination… Heh, heh.  Humbug.  Heh, heh.  Nothing over here.  Nothing over there….nothing.  Heh, heh.  Oh well, off to bed.

[Enters bedroom. Hears chain and swinging bells]


5. Scene iii

Scrooge:  What’s going on?

[Enter Ghost of Jacob Marley]

Aaaah! Jacob! But you’re dead! Yes! Yes, you may be something I just ate; a disorder of the stomach… an undigested bit of beef… a fragment of an underdone potato – Yes, that’s it! Ha-ha-ha!  There’s more of gravy than of grave about you.  Ha-ha-ha…that wasn’t funny, was it? That chain you wear, Jacob….tell me why.

Marley:  I wear the chain I forged in life.   I made it link by link, and yard by yard.  But is its pattern strange to you? Or would you know the weight and length of the strong coil you bear! It is a far more ponderous chain!

Scrooge:  It is? Jacob, speak comfort to me, I implore you!
Marley: I have none to give.  I cannot rest.  My spirit – Mark me!  In life my spirit never walked beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole, oh woe! – and now it is condemned to do so after death, and witness what it might have shared on earth turned to happiness!

Scrooge:  Jacob! No more I pray you – STOP!

Marley: Oh captive bound and double-ironed take heed, and know no space of regret can make amends for a life’s opportunity misused!  Yet such was I.  Ahh! Yet such was I!

Scrooge: But Jacob – You were always a good man of business, Jacob!

Marley: Business? Business? Ahhh! My business. Mercy was my business!  Charity, benevolence, kindness…love.  Have mercy, the beauty of all life were all my business! The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!


6. Finale, Act I

Marley: Hear me! My time is nearly gone!

Scrooge: I will Jacob, (though I would rather not).

Marley: Hear me, Ebenezer!  I am here tonight to warn you that you have yet one more chance of escaping my fate.  You will be haunted by three spirits.

Scrooge: I think I’d rather not…but don’t go!

Marley: Expect the first tomorrow at the toll of one.  Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. Expect the third upon the next night at the stroke of twelve.  Take heed and remember what has passed here.

Scrooge: But Jacob, couldn’t we just… now here did he go? Where? The window? Yes! Oh God!  The air all filled with phantoms! And all moaning in despair.”

Voices: [voices overlapping] A scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.  But what does Scrooge care?  It’s only once a year, sir.  It’s for the poor, the charity.  Mercy! Charity! Kindness!…were all, all my business!

Scrooge: STOP! No more!

Voices:  Scrooge!  Take heed! Hear us, Ebenezer!

Scrooge: No more.  Too much. To bed. Ahhhh!!


ACT II- Scrooge and his Ghosts-

7. Introduction

Scrooge:  Huh!? What!? Who’s there?…no one. No…no! What’s going on? No one’s here, just me alone.  Nothing’s come, after all!  No one.

Voices: Ebenee—zer.

Scrooge:  Something is here!


8. [Bell tolls one] Are you the spirit, then, whose coming was foretold to me?

Ghost/Harp: (I am)

Scrooge: Who, and what, are you?  You seem like a child (yet not so like a child) as like an old man.  Such a clear, bright jet of light springs from the crown of your head. 


9. Spirit, if you are indeed, the ghost of Christmas Past, is it long past?

Ghost/Harp: (Your past.)

Scrooge: My past… But spirit, where are you taking me? But the weather and the hour are not suited to pedestrian purposes.  The window? Ah! I am a mortal and liable to fall! [in amazement]….


10.             Passed through the wall…Good Heaven!  I was bred in this place. I was a boy here! The path! I remember every gate, every post, every tree!  Hello there Dick Wilkins! Hello Sally, Edward, helloooooo!- Spirit, they don’t see us.  Oh, but there’s the market-town, and the old school house deserted.  Except for one small boy, solitary boy, neglected boy, lost his mother, rejected by his father.  There he is (I am?) alone at school.  What’s that you’re reading, little boy?  Why its Ali Baba! And The Gate of Damascus! And The Sultan’s Groom, turned upside down by the genii and it served him right! (Th’old scoundrel!!) – And, what’s this?  Oh! It’s Robin Crusoe! “Squawk!” And there’s the parrot! [imitating squawking parrot]  “where have you been, Robin Crusoe?” Yes….where have you been? [aside] You know, the man thought he was dreaming…but he wasn’t. 

              I wish…but it’s too late now. 

              Spirit, let us see another Christmas.  Were all so bleak as this? 


11.             Ah! My sister, little Fan.  Quite a woman, little Fan, yes, and with a boy of her own…look at him.  She died soon after …and the boy –

Nephew/Viola: (Yes Uncle??)

Scrooge: (Why-) My nephew…no! He came to see me just this morning! And I threw him out.  I wish – but it’s too late now.  Spirit!  Show me no more!

              Spirit, where are you taking me?


12.             A fair young girl, in tears.  I remember what she said to me, spirit.  She said,

“It matters little. To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; a golden idol.  I have seen your nobler self fall away to the master passion: Gain.  You care not for a dowerless girl.  You care not for a dowerless girl who loves you.  May you be happy in the life that you have chosen.”

              And then we parted.

              Spirit! Remove me from this place! Haunt me no longer! I cannot bear it! I extinguish your light –THUS!” [falls asleep]


13. Scene ii


Scrooge:  Wonder of wonders! Might you be the ghost of Christmas Present? 

Ghost/Horn: (I am)

Scrooge: You are a giant of a fellow with a horn of plenty!  What’s that! No, I have never seen your like before!  No, never! Why, have you many brothers, spirit?  Yes, many brothers. 

Ghost/Horn: (More than 1999 brothers)

Scrooge: Nineteen-hundred and ninety-nine brothers? Hmm…a tremendous family to provide for!  Spirit! Lead me where you will.


15.         Look, spirit!  It’s the home of Bob Cratchit, my clerk! A wretched hovel, but brave in merriment!  [instruments gossiping] Oh! Spirit! They’re talking badly of me.  Oh, but look!  And here’s Bob Cratchit himself! With Tiny Tim and his little crutch.  Look how the children crowd around Cratchit; hugging, clutching, searching his pockets for presents.  Presents?  There are no presents.  On his salary?  Well, my books, my balances, my profits…my business.  Tiny Tim.  See how Cratchit holds his little withered body close to him as if he feared… Spirit, tell me if Tiny Tim will live!  No, spirit! Say he will be spared! Say it!  Ahhhh! Spirit! Say it’s not too late, I beg you! No! Don’t go! Don’t leave me like this!


16. Scene iii

[Bell tolls]

Scrooge: Who’s there? Where are we going? Spirit — if spirit you are, Ghost of the Future, what is this?  Barren, lifeless…answer me! Why am I shivering so? Spirit, I fear you most of all.


17.         Who are these people?  I know them not.”

Two Gravediggers:

     -Oo was ‘e then?

     -Don’t care. ‘Oo was he?  Now ‘e’s there.

     -Looks rich, that’s sure!

     -Me thinks, rather poor.  Haw! No one even came to ‘is fun’ral!

     -Not a soul?

     -None! They’re glad he’s dead.

     -How so?

     -They made ‘im rich, but still owed ‘im money! Haw!

Scrooge: Spirit!  What man are they talking about?


     -But they fixed ‘im, Jack. They took d’ fun’ral clothes right off his back!

Scrooge:  Spirit!  Who is that man who lies there dead? Dare I lift this shroud?  [afraid to lift it, then distracted] Now where?

Minister: Let us remember Tiny Tim, as he would have blessed us.  Tiny Tim, thy essence was from God.


18. The Passion

Scrooge: Spirit, speak!  Are these the things that will be- or may be only?  A church-yard..why do you point to that tombstone? Who is this man who died so scorned and hated? Answer me! Spirit, I’m afraid!  Men’s courses foreshadow certain ends, yes, but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change!  Say it is thus, Spirit, say it!  I see it!  I see the name upon the tombstone…it is my own.  But Spirit, why show me this, if I am beyond all hope?  Assure me that I might change these shadows by an altered life!  I will honor the spirit of Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.  I will honor the past, the present and the future! Spirit! Mercy!  Have Mercy! No it’s too late, I know, too late…


19. Interlude

20. Scene iv – Dawn, Finale

Scrooge:  What?  Where am I?  Spirit?  That’s not a spirit – that’s my bedpost!  And it’s morning!  And I’m not dead! Ha!  Nor is Tiny Tim, I’ll wager!  The shadows of things that would be, may be dispelled, I know it!  Oh, what a morning!  What a morning!  Ha ha ha!

              What morning!? Ah!  The window!  Oh, boy – BOY!  Yes YOU, my lad!  Over here! What morning is it? Yes!  My fine fellow, what’s today?”

Boy: Oh, it’s Christmas Day!

Scrooge: Of course!  Whoop!  Hallo!  I haven’t missed it!  The spirits have done it all in one night!  Whoop!  I’ll buy a goose for Cratchit!  And I’ll raise his salary!  He won’t know what to do!  I’ll provide for Tiny Tim as a second father.  I’ll surprise my nephew!  I feel quite like a baby!  Ha ha ha!  May this be the father of a long line of laughs!  Let them laugh at my change!  My own heart laughs at it!  And a Merry Christmas to you, Madam!

[gossiping, mocking]: Such a change in th’ old man…

Narrator: And in the words of our dear Tiny Tim:  God bless us!  God bless us, every one!


William Sharp

Baritone William Sharp is a consummate artist possessing the rare combination of vocal beauty, sensitivity and charisma. Praised by The New York Times as a "sensitive and subtle singer" who is able to evoke "the special character of every song that he sings," Mr. Sharp has earned a reputation as a singer of great versatility and continues to garner critical acclaim for his work in concert, recital, opera and recordings.


Mr. Sharp has appeared throughout the United States with major orchestras and music festivals. In recent seasons he has performed with the New York Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, National Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He is a frequent participant in Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Colorado Music Festival and the Marlboro Music Festival. Mr. Sharp also enjoys his work in the performance of baroque and pre-baroque music. He has made numerous appearances with the Bach Aria Group, the Boston Handel and Haydn Society and the Maryland Handel Festival.


A highly respected and sought-after recording artist, William Sharp was nominated for a 1989 Grammy award for Best Classical Vocal Performance for his recording featuring the works of American composers such as Virgil Thomson and Lee Hoiby on the New World Records label. Mr. Sharp can also be heard on the 1990 Grammy award-winning world premiere recording of Leonard Bernstein's Arias and Barcarolles on the Koch International label.


Christopher Kendall and the 20th Century Consort

"Does any audience in the nation enjoy such excellent new music, presented with such talent and care, as do the subscribers of the 20th Century Consort?" wrote Mark Adamo in The Washington Post.  "The choice of music and the performances were brilliant" observed another Post review. Critics in the Nation’s capital praise the Consort for "inspired performance", describing programs as "larger than life", "exhilarating", "perfectly balanced" and "consorting with greatness".  In tandem with the regular critical acclaim are the 20th Century Consort’s full houses season after season at the Smithsonian Institution, "playing, as they always do, a program carefully thought out and performed with virtuosity."  Also in the Post:  "Contemporary composers could wish no more eloquent advocacy than from this fine band of musicians."


Founded in 1975, the 20th Century Consort was established as resident ensemble for contemporary music at the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 1978.  In its annual series at the Hirshhorn, the Consort presents finely balanced concerts frequently related to the museum’s exhibitions, featuring music by living composers — often world premieres — along with 20th century classics.  In 1990 the Consort was awarded the Smithsonian Institution’s Smithson Medal in honor of their long, successful association.


Under the direction of its founder and conductor, Christopher Kendall, the Consort’s artists include principal players from the National Symphony Orchestra, along with other prominent chamber musicians from Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. Christopher Kendall is also founder and lutenist of the Folger Consort, early music ensemble-in-residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library since 1978, was Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony from 1887-1992, Director of the Music Division and Tanglewood Institute of the Boston University School for the Arts from 1993-1996, and since 1996 has been Director of the School of Music at the University of Maryland


In the first years of its Smithsonian residency, the Consort made its New York debut at Alice Tully Hall, performed at Spoleto USA, and mounted special large-scale concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In 1984 the Consort received an Emmy Award for its nationwide PBS television broadcast of an all-Copland concert from the Library of Congress. The Consort has performed at the Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards and the Washington Area Music Awards, at the Library of Congress and in staged performances of important 20th century music-theatre works.  The 20th Century Consort’s national appearances have included concerts and workshops at many colleges and universities. In the last several years the Consort has presented mini-residencies of readings and recording of student compositions at the University of Maryland School of Music. It has performed numerous concerts free to the public at the Washington National Cathedral, and in January, 2000, collaborated with the Folger Consort at the Cathedral in a critically acclaimed concert hailing the new millennium. The ensemble’s recordings can be heard on the innova, Delos, Nonesuch, Centaur, ASV, CRI and Smithsonian Collection labels.


"THE PASSION OF SCROOGE or, A Christmas Carol"

by Jon Deak


William Sharp, baritone

The 20th Century Consort

Christopher Kendall, Director




William Sharp, baritone

Christopher Kendall, conductor

Sara Stern, flute

Loren Kitt, clarinet

Edwin Thayer, French horn

Dotian Levalier, harp

Thomas Jones, percussion

David Salness, Marissa Regni, violins

Daniel Foster, viola

David Hardy, cello

Robert Oppelt, contrabass


Produced by Jon Deak, Christopher Kendall and Curt Wittig


Engineer and Sound Designer: Curt Wittig


Surround reverb by Lexicon 960L, programmed by David Moulton


Original sound effects by David E. Greenspan, with Michael Gales, Ian

Corbett and Thom Paulson


Additional effects provided by Yves Albert Feder Productions

Photo of Christopher Kendall: Mary Noble Ours


Executive Producer (innova), Layout: Philip Blackburn

3-D Artwork: Preston Wright

Text editor: Fred Langenfeld


The recording was supported in part by the Copland Fund for Music Recording Grant.




The stereograms in this booklet were made using Bryce 3D and Poser software.  They are modern interpretations of some of the scenes in the Dickens story, employing an optical phenomenon first seen at the Crystal Palace in 1851.  To view the images in three dimensions (without need of the traditional stereoscope apparatus), hold the page about 14 inches from your face, cross your eyes so that the right eye looks at the left image, and the left eye at the right.  A third image will appear in the middle; stare at this while focusing at infinity.  Relax.  At a certain dramatic moment your brain will interpret the scene as having depth and, as a visual analogue to the Surround Sound technology and the spiritual planes, you will have entered Scrooge’s world for a moment.


See to explore these scenes in Quicktime Virtual Reality.


This performance was recorded and mixed in a form of Surround Sound specially tailored for music reproduction, additionally adapted for drawing the listener more fully into the drama when played on home theater systems capable of surround reproduction through five loudspeakers: Left, center and right speakers in the front and two more in the back, ideally arranged as a stereo pair and facing forward, high enough so that all five loudspeakers can "see" one another unobstructed by furniture or other listeners.


When played on stereo systems, its five channels mix together for normal reproduction on two loudspeakers.