Monthly Archives: November 2019

Carol of The Bells

Download brass quartet sheet music: Carol of the Bells.

Here’s what it sounds like when played on a piano:

The Story Behind

Watching “Home Alone” (either 1 or 2, but never both) around Christmas has become a tradition. One of the Christmas songs featured in Home Alone 1 is “Carol of the Bells”.

Here’s why I decided to pick it up next:

  • It’s a tune from a completely different universe, in a sense that it would rarely be sung or played here in Austria. Also, you would not be able to hear it on the radio (no “Last Christmas” status).
  • Still, through “Home Alone” it has found its way into my personal Christmas tradition. Its sound and repetitive ostinato are inevitably linked to Christmas.

As for the arrangement: It starts with a bare-bones version of the tune. As the song was composed by Mykola Leontovych in 1914, it already has a fairly modern feel to it. The repetitive ostinato and the variations with a gradual ascending energy level make the song quite different from the Christmas Carols that I did so far.

With that, I also had to take a different approach for the reharmonization. Harmonics alone would not be enough. – At least not given the four-voice limitation and the need for the ostinato as a continuous reference. Soon I landed on a 7/4 time signature variation of the ostinato as a new anchor. Actually, new harmonies are only introduced from bar 43 onwards. With bar 47 onward offering a new take on the melody, the harmony, and the rhythm. Bar 51 has a Latin feel to it.

In terms of voicings, the idea was to increase the spread, and thus the richness of the cord, towards what I perceive as the climax in bar 55 and to decrease the spread again afterward. The 5/4 bar makes bars 55-58 feel more natural to me, as this can also be heard as barline-defying melody that still fits into two 7/4 bars. After dealing with the nice melody in the 5th mode of the melodic minor scale, the final 3/4 time signature guides back to the original “Dal segno”.

Ottstorfer Buam – March for Concert Band

This weekend we played my first piece for concert band during the annual “Trachtenkapelle Thalheim Herbstkonzert“. I started composing it last winter between Christmas and New Years Eve.

It’s devoted to Martin Roither, the former president of the concert band, who served for 21 (!) years. The march “Ottstorfer Buam” was a surprise for Martin. The title contains a reference to the neighborhood, where Martins coming from: Ottstorf. Here’s a video someone from the audience took, with Martin himself conducting the piece, which is how we ended the concert:

The sheet music can be downloaded here: Ottstorfer Buam.

Christmas Reharmonized, Volume 1

Click here to download Christmas Reharmonized, Volume 1.

I started doing reharmonizations of Christmas tunes for brass quartet (2 trumpets, trombone or baritone, tuba or bass trombone) a couple of years ago. For convenience I’ve decided to publish some of them in one book: This is Christmas Reharmonized, Volume 1. It includes five tunes:

1 – Andachtsjodler – an Austrian Christmas Carol

2 – Alle Jahre Wieder – a German Christmas Carol

3 – Leise Rieselt der Schnee – a German Christmas Carol

4 – Es Wird Scho Glei Dumpa – an Austrian Christmas Carol

5 – Adeste Fideles – O Come, All Ye Faithful

All of the arrangements consist of parts using traditional arranging techniques and of reharmonized parts.

The download includes printable sheet music (pdf) and audio files (mp3) of the tunes played on piano. All of this under a considerate Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License!

Merry Christmas!

Adeste Fideles – O Come, All Ye Faithful

Download brass quartet sheet music: Adeste Fideles – O Come, All Ye Faithful.

Please note that “Adeste Fideles – O Come, All Ye Faithful” is also part of the compilation Christmas Reharmonized, Volume 1.

Here’s what it sounds like when played on a piano:

The Story Behind

So far I only reharmonized Austrian or German Christmas Carols that came to me somewhat naturally. E.g., I knew which song to do next without spending too much time thinking. This time around I went to youtube and spent a whole night browsing interpretations of Christmas Carols. That’s how I stumbled across “O Come, All Ye Faithful”. Which, actually is the favorite Christmas Carol of one of the trumpet players I usually play with on Christmas Eve. I especially enjoyed the version of some musicians of the fabulous WDR big band:

I don’t have such a nice selection of instruments at my disposal. The boundary conditions I work with are:

  • Four instruments: Trumpet 1, Trumpet 2, Trombone/Euphonium, Tuba.
  • I work with avid music hobbyist, who are usually quite challenged by my arrangements and might even discard them as too weird.

I work with what I have. To address the latter condition I usually start my arrangements with a plain, old-school version of the tune. This allows the ensemble to make a decision to skip the reharmonized part, while not entirely discarding the arrangement.

For the reharmonization I did not want to reuse the drop-2 approach from previous arrangements. The first four bars came quite naturally, especially the chord progression. The rhythmic variation of the melody I borrowed from the WDR big band video. After playing around with several options for bar 5, I discovered the use of So-What Voicings. As I only have four voices, one tone is missing for a complete So-What Chord, but it’s close enough. Also rhythmically I borrowed from Miles Davis’ original So What.

From that point on I thought: Hey, let’s deploy some more upper structures and put them at the core of the reharmonization. I don’t know why, but for upper structures I especially like second inversions. So that’s what I used: A triad in second inversion sitting atop of a base note (the four voice limitation does not allow for more). For the chorus I used similar voicings as for the verse.

The last two bars I had to redo multiple times. At the beginning I had a harmonically complex version. However, this lead to a very harsh transition when playing the “Da Capo”. So I went back to a basic II7sus4-V7b9-I cadence, which bridges yet another upper structure cord with a straight major chord.

And that’s all to it.

Leise Rieselt der Schnee – After Halloween is Before Christmas

Download brass quartet sheet music: Leise Rieselt der Schnee.

Please note that “Leise Rieselt der Schnee” is also part of the compilation Christmas Reharmonized, Volume 1.

Here’s what it sounds like when played on a piano:

The Story Behind

Oops, I did it again. Did a reharmonization of another local Christmas carol – actually a German tune: “Leise Rieselt der Schnee” – “Snow is falling Softly”

I tried to stay true to the formula that I had used on some other Christmas tunes (e.g., Alle Jahre Wieder):

  1. First a plain, no-bells-no-whistles version of the song.
  2. Followed by a drop-2 version, that is still not too fancy but already sets the mood.
  3. Third version: That’s where I do whatever I feel like: Harmonically, but also, slight modifications of the melody allowed. For “Leise Rieselt der Schnee” I went with a little more rhythm and less harmonic complications.
  4. A reprise of the original tune.