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”.

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