Tag Archives: Violin

Thanksgiving song arrangement

I got a call from our assistant choir director yesterday who requested a simple arrangement of a song for Thanksgiving: Come, Ye Thankful People. So I guess I’ll make a score for this. The instrumentation is still not completely settled, so I’m wondering how this is going to turn out. But part of the decision making process obviously will be to write in all the melody and harmony that is already there, so it may be ok to just get going anyway.

I’m looking at the notes. I accidentally chose the wrong key, and when thinking about whether that could work, I saw that the setting was pretty low already in F, so going down to D was not going to happen this time. I am considering a key change to A flat major though, which I think would sound beautiful.

After talking again to the assistant choir director, she makes it clear that she does not want any key changes, so I scrap that idea. We settle on the instrumentation guitar, violin, viola, cello.

I write in a cello bass line and then a guitar part. The guitar sounds an octave lower than notated, and will be easy to drown out as it’s pretty soft. I’m thinking maybe to let the violin and viola pluck so they don’t get too loud. I’m listening through it now, and thinking that a piano actually isn’t necessary… I guess we’ll see what they think once we start practicing.

I start on the second verse, letting the guitar take the bass line. I want the violin to play an octave higher than the sopranos, but I am not sure how comfortable our violinist is with the high register, so I write it lower and the octave doubling, and ask the violinist to pick one octave. I add in some more phrase markings for the instruments. It can be hard to guess sometimes as an instrumentalist, unlike for the singers. It’s usually pretty obvious as a singer, because of the lyrics and punctuation.

I’m printing off parts and sending them off.

Calling it good

When God created the heavens and earth… he saw that it was good (see Genesis 1:10). It’s intimidating to turn over your piece to the choir director and saying it is good now, because it is echoing the great Creator. But at the same time, I do think my arrangement is pretty good now, and I’m going to move on to other projects.

I added in a couple of measures for a transition between verses 1 and 2, this time with four instruments (clarinet, alto sax, violin, viola), to help us feel the key change happen, and make it easy for the choir to come in. I have the flute, alto sax, and strings accompanying the second verse, and only letting the piano come in for the refrain. And then I cut out the piano for the repeat. Rude, I know. But I think the choir can hold its own with just clarinet and alto sax, and then let the strings help with the last phrase of that verse.

We’re used to having the piano kind of guide the voices, but I get bored with the same kind of gestures so we’re doing something a little different. This might make it so we’ll have to practice the choir with the all instruments more, but maybe that’s ok.

I’m keeping the piano part pretty simple because I don’t like it when it’s much harder than what everyone else has to do (it’s often the case that the piano part is the most difficult of all). Also, I know I will need to give out parts to our instrumentalists so they can start practicing. I can’t sit on this much longer for that reason too.

I look through the score some more. I add in phrase markings for the piano as well as for the violin. I add in a fortissimo for the last repeat. I like to orchestrate for dynamics, but it’s helpful for the ensemble, in particular for the piano, since it’s probably the most versatile of all the instruments. It can be soft or loud at all the registers, unlike the flute, for example.

And just like that, I’ve sent off the parts. I guess I should print out my part so I can start practicing too.

Angels we have heard on high

Yes, I wrote an arrangement on this song for wind ensemble last year. But it’s a popular Christmas song, and our choir director requested it. So a new arrangement is in the works. I’m writing for flute, clarinet, alto sax, violin, viola, piano, and SATB choir. I like simple, especially for a worship service. I think this will still classify as simple, despite the complication of so many additional instruments.

I’m finding that the deep chalumeau register of the clarinet works very well for doubling the bass voice at times. My software reminds me that the alto sax has a slightly smaller register, and I can’t give it the bass line sometimes. Well, given its name, maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

I used to not like to write for piano. But it is such a ubiquitous instrument, and I’ve therefore included it in my last song (Thou shalt call and the LORD shall answer). It wasn’t just playing the voice parts, and because of that, it was more fun. So as I’m writing the piano part for this arrangement, I’m having more fun with the piano.

When I was in high school, I had a wonderful friend who played the flute. I wrote for my friends, and therefore, some of my early arrangements and compositions also include flute. These days, as a violist in orchestra, I often sit fairly close to the flutes, and I get to hear that glorious sound close by. I’m trying to keep it within not too difficult, and hopefully the flutist will agree when I show it to her.

Key changes. So much more fun when there is some change. I have sometimes written key changes very abruptly, so that the singers will have to create the key change with just them. I’m deciding for the second key change to let the violin and viola handle the transition, and I hope it will be helpful to the singers. I might still let the piano assist with it.

I’m not finishing the arrangement today. I have another concert to play tonight. Woohoo! Timpanogos symphony orchestra together with the Wasatch Chorale, “Halloween at Hogwarts,” second iteration (we played last night too).

Composing every day

I have been working on my first symphony since April. The first movement took about a month to complete. The second went a little bit faster, and I felt so pumped. I started working on the third movement, and I decided to go for a faster tempo, it being subtitled Un-even dance. With the faster tempo, I can fit a lot more notes in! It took about three months to finish. (I also wrote a song for SSA, viola, and piano during that time).

I showed my finished draft to my friend yesterday, and I decided to make a couple of changes after that. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

I also played in a concert last night. One of the pieces was Mjölnir, by Lucas Garner. When I was listening to Tracy Furr playing as the soloist, I realized that I wanted to start off the fourth and concluding movement featuring the timpani. And I also was reflecting on how many notes the violins play in a concert. Thousands, probably. So I decided I wanted to add a lot more notes, to showcase how agile and lovely the violins can sound.

And so it goes on. One treasured comment from a friend, a musical experience, and a dedication to hit the computer even if I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do. I just start writing something, and one thing leads to another… and hopefully before too long the symphony will be completed.