I am constantly amazed and inspired by the creativity of composers and arrangers. As I review new manuscripts, I see the titles like “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night,” “Joy To The World,” and ”God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and I wonder, “Why another arrangement of this?” After all, what can be said in an arrangement that hasn’t already been done dozens of times before? And yet, upon further review, there is so much more to be said. And new arrangements of these standard carols continue to be fresh and filled with new and creative material.
The young American composer and arranger Shawn Kirchner sent me a new arrangement of “Silent Night” (HL#48023416), and I opened it with complete boredom. By the time I reached the end I couldn’t wait to bring it into print. New counter melodies and creative accompaniment by an interesting, yet accessible instrumental ensemble. Shawn has followed this up with new settings of “Brightest and Best” (48023967), and a gospel transformation of the ancient German Carol with a new meter and alto sax of “Lo How A Rose” (48023918). I realize that the congregation would feel let down if they didn’t get to sing this classic carol on Christmas Eve, but my choir now has a new favorite.
The great David Chase, whose carol arrangements have brightened many lives at Christmas with his arrangement for the Boston Pops, Radio City Music Hall, Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and more, has surprised and thrilled me as I have opened his “First Noel” (00258706), “God Rest Ye” (50600730), “Angels We Have Heard On High” (50600405), and this years new and creative arrangements, soon to be released, in “Yuletide Carols” (00285548). Such fresh and exciting ideas woven into these standard carols.
Last year I conducted a large festival choir during Advent, and I was handed Joe Martin’s cantata “A Celebration of Carols” (HL# 35028357) to prepare and conduct. A look at the table of contents brought on a giant yawn as I previewed the contents—O Come, All Ye Faithful, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Angels We Have Heard On High, and so many more standard carols. As I began studying the score, I was excited to see the creative ways that these old warhorses were treated. Fresh harmonies, new and subtle rhythms, interesting voicings.
Every choir and congregation has their favorite carols to sing and favorite arrangements of those carols. Through the school of Hard Knocks, I have been forced to be open to see new and interesting settings of these classic Christmas favorites. There are few experiences better in the church than beginning new traditions.