I’m a firm believer that nothing you learn really sinks in until you apply it. So, having just completed my first year course in Music Theory, I figured that I really needed to keep working at composition in order to help cement the things I had learned.
Thus, I was excited to be given the opportunity to develop string arrangements for several pieces in the Sacred Music Chorale‘s Fall 2015 concert. Coordinating with our director, I eventually agreed to tackle 5 arrangements:
- Advent Canticle, arranged by Mark Sheppard
- Let Us Adore Him, arranged by Carolyn Hamlin
- God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, arranged by Keith Christopher
- The Angel Gabriel, arranged by Joel Raney
- Tidings of Comfort, arranged by Carl J. Nygard
To be completely honest, none of the arrangements really required too much in the way of creativity: the strings generally doubled the existing piano or voice parts. But it was still a good education. I learned a lot about the ranges of the various instruments, how to assemble it all in Sibelius, how to notate for strings, how to deal with alto clef, etc.
The concerts were held on December 4, 5, and 6, and the middle one was recorded, so once I got the CDs, I was finally able to hear everything together.
Overall, the most complete arrangement was certainly Tidings of Comfort which we ended up performing without the piano entirely, leaving everything up to the strings and flute. Unfortunately the original arrangement is kind of chaotic so it wasn’t quite as pleasing in the concert recording as I would have liked.
I’d say the one that came out best overall was The Angel Gabriel, which has some nice moments of build-up and drama that the strings were really able to enhance. Both that one and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen had a mix of pizzicato and arco, which was fun to play around with as well.
And I’m already signed up for doing some more for our Spring concert. Definitely a fun and rewarding thing to do, and good exercise for some of my music theory education.