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Topic: Hymn Arrangement

  1. #1

    Hymn Arrangement

    Okay, so someone asked me to arrange/orchestrate "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" for my church. Orchestrating a hymnal is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Anyway, please give me your critique.


  2. #2

    Re: Hymn Arrangement

    Okay, so here is the response I received from the one who asked me to attempt an orchestration...

    There are some spots that are real gems in this guy.

    A few of my thoughts:

    I love the chorus. The only thing that is kinda hard for me is the diminished chord and some other of the harmonies built on top of a bass note. Sometimes I wand a G/ F# but you wrote a D/ F#. That's probably confusing.

    The intro takes me back until the 2 measures before singing. I thought of my theory teacher playing through the circle of 5ths. :-) I'm really not trying to be overly critical, but I'm not sure the intro creates a doorway for people to start singing confidently; what is the key? I think about the arrangement of O Church, Arise that we used a little while back and how the interlude and the intro didn't sound like the verse/chorus and how that makes it harder to sing confidently on the verse because I'm not sure exactly where I stand tonally in the music. Does that make sense?

    I love that you treated this totally differently than I do.

    I like the middle section because it breaks the "routine" of the hymn.

    I love how you wrote some "breath" into the hymn by throwing in some mixed meter! Way to go on the use of the 2/4 measures!

    Keep working on it and keep me posted. When you feel like you ready to hear what a real (as opposed to computer) orchestra sounds like let me know and let's see if we can find some rehearsal time to give it a run-through.

    Thanks, Foster!
    I know this was a positive response, however I am getting weary... I used traditional voice leading. Overall, I think it's just much harder to write for a vocal part than it is purely instrumental ensembles. Or maybe I'm just kidding myself.

  3. #3

    Re: Hymn Arrangement

    Are we supposed to be hearing what the vocal lines are in this recording? -

    I'm not sure about the entire critique you were given, but I found the intro to begin so abruptly, I thought maybe you'd accidentally left off the first measure - and then, something I agree with in the response you got, the intro doesn't seem to be leading into the hymn itself very smoothly. I can see why he'd say he feels it could make for a less than confident entrance by the choir.

    There are interesting ideas throughout this, it's just not managing to hang together yet. I felt that maybe there were too many ideas in competition with each other, lines not always working together.

    You're getting tired of working on this. I sympathize, it can get to be a grind sometimes, working on the same piece for extended periods. If your schedule allows it, maybe you can take a couple days off from it so you can come back to it refreshed. I invariably benefit from taking breaks like that - I always come back with new, better ideas of how to proceed.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Cape Ann

    Re: Hymn Arrangement

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post
    I can see why he'd say he feels it could make for a less than confident entrance by the choir.
    I think the entrance in question may be for the congregation, so the challenge is to provide specific cues that untrained singers can recognize. As someone who makes hymn arrangements regularly (and has been on the receiving end of this, too) I am very sympathetic with the congregant who wants to make a confident and successful entrance because there are times when i feel like the an arrangement was written for the benefit of the organist or the composer - thus the music doesn't support a room full of untrained singers looking for 1) the downbeat, and 2) the starting pitch. In setting a hymn, even the best contemporary writers, including luminaries like John Rutter, never leave these two questions.

    Since I don't know the tune in question, adding a vocal part from a voice library would have helped me personally (you can get freebies like Chorium and Korg Choir).

    I felt meter and harmonic variations added a lot of interest to the arrangement. As a sight reader, I would have no problem (as long as I had cue notes for the end of the intro).

    Don't give up now! I get this all the time from the folks who review my music. In my opinion, you've got the hard part - the inspiration. It's there! A little perspiration now, sweating the details, could make this a setting that will outlive us all.

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