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Topic: Orchestrating Christmas music

  1. #1

    Orchestrating Christmas music

    Hello, I'm new here and I apologize if this is not an appropriate question for this forum, but any guidance or referrals elsewhere would be appreciated.

    I organize a small holiday concert every year, started out as a 20 member choir + piano + some strings. This year I was caught off guard as several new musicians wanted to join -- we now have piano, flutes, clarinets, alto and soprano saxophones, trumpet, trombone, french horn, violins, cello, guitar, mandolin.

    After having several long conversations with each new instrumentalist, I have a pretty good idea of their abillity levels and comfortable ranges.

    My problem is, my only experience in orchestrating a group like this was for purely instrumental music during my college days as a music major. And the type of music was more classical than 'pop' -- i.e., arranging some Bach keyboard music for a chamber ensemble. Although I'm comfortable with songs like Silent Night or Joy to the World, I'm at a loss for how to orchestrate Rudolph or Frosty in a way that complements the choir, instead of competing with it.

    I've thought about 'classical-izing' the arrangements, i.e., keeping the meter but getting rid of that oom-pah feel in the more uptempo songs. But this concert is for an audience of mostly kids and their families, and I want to keep some of the recognizeable toe-tapping elements.

    Does anyone have any advice for orchestrating Rudolph and Frosty and the Dreidel Song, etc., with the type of ensemble I have? Thank you for any guidance.


  2. #2

    Re: Orchestrating Christmas music

    You could make a list of a few combinations of instruments and work from that. I have had to deal with a similar situation where a youth orchestra (jazz ensemble) I work with keeps getting new members and I feel it's like working with a moving target. Back to your situation, keep in mind balance when choosing instrumental combinations and this course here will help you with that, and good luck, I know what you're dealing with!

  3. #3

    Re: Orchestrating Christmas music

    I'd limit the number of parts, regardless of the number of players. Keep things simple. The Salvation Army has Christmas music arrangements for their sidewalk bands. The arrangements are in six parts, but can be used with as few as four played. The six parts are written for a huge number of instruments, so that you could play with two trumpets, French horn, trombone, baritone and tuba or one trumpet, clarinet, tenor sax, alto sax, trombone and baritone sax, just for instance. I've even played these arrangements with two trumpets and two trombones. They still sound good.

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