Chorale Prelude on "Sleepers Awake" is an energetic work in five continuous sections set in a traditional 18th century chorale prelude form. The original melody upon which this work is based, frequently recognized as "Wachut Auf," was composed by 16th century composer Phillip Nicolai and harmonized by other composers, including Bach. "Sleepers Awake!" is one of two melodies celebrating the Christmas season attributed to Nicolai, the other being "O bright the Morning Star." In keeping with the technique of the chorale prelude, the melody "Sleepers Awake" is heard either fragmented, embellished, or in variation throughout this composition. The fully harmonized chorale is not stated in its entirety until near the end, beginning in the fifth section of the work, where an optional accompanying organ voice enters and the fully realized chorale is heard in a brilliant tutti. The first four sections offer contrasting settings of the fragmented melody, concluding with a short reference to the beginning of the work before the final chorale statement begins. Commissioned by and dedicated to the Gustavus Adolphus Band of St. Peter, Minnesota, Douglas Nimmo, Conductor, "Chorale Prelude, on Sleepers Awake!" is an optimistic work celebrating the joy and wonder of the Christmas season.
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