View Full Version : Traditional music for kids' Christmas performance
Sherry Crann (sherry)
10-18-2008, 09:45 AM
It's been a while since I've posted any compositions, but that's about to change http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
I was volunteered to put together the kids' Christmas music program for church this year. My goal is to have the five pieces done by the end of this month (October) so they'll have all of November and early December to practice. I've got two done so far, and hope to get the others done soon.
The plan is to have a sort of "fakesheet" printed version that the kids can have to learn the lyrics from, and the rest is for a backing track. I wanted to have the music familiar enough and the main melody audible enough that it would be easy for the kids to follow. I also wanted to go with a more traditional line up of songs for this year. We've done some "musical" style presentations for the last couple of years for their program, and thought we'd cycle round again ;)
With those goals in mind, my files are set for using my soundfont-capable SB Audigy2 soundcard synths as well as some GPO instruments, and so the GM version will sound a bit different (how different will depend on your soundcard http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif ). I've got a rough soundfont-only at this point recording of the following two songs up at my SoundClick page (www.soundclick.com/beanfield_castle (http://www.soundclick.com/beanfield_castle)) if you want to take a listen there.
Here are the .not files for two songs so far.
O Come O Come Emmanuel and While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.
<center><table border=1><tr><td>http://www.notation.com/discus/icons/attachment_icon.gifO Come O Come
O Come O Come - GM.not (http://www.notation.com/discus/messages/35939/O_Come_O_Come_-_GM-36720.not) (54.9 k)</td></tr></table></center>
<center><table border=1><tr><td>http://www.notation.com/discus/icons/attachment_icon.gifWhile Shepherds
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks-8 -PerformanceExport.not (http://www.notation.com/discus/messages/35939/While_Shepherds_Watched_Their_Flocks-8_-PerformanceExport-36721.not) (140.7 k)</td></tr></table></center>
Comments, suggestions for improvements (there's still time!) or offers of chocolate are welcome!
M G Jacobs (mgj32)
10-21-2008, 05:38 AM
The mp3's of both sound delightful, and While Shepherds works well in the GM version. (I don't think you intended the gong to sound like it does when I put the Roland Gong in there ;).) The cello is particularly effective in While Shepherds. I don't know if you intend it to happen this way, but the kids replacing the recorders where there are lyrics, should sound beautiful, in both carols. My only suggestion might be to add a chorus staff and copy/paste the recorder music above the lyrics to that staff and see how it sounds both with and without the recorder staff.
The first time I listened to While Shepherds, the slow down at the end was very effective. The second time, it was gone--100 all the way. The tempo problem, I suspect.
I don't think I'd change anything, unless you wanted to expand the instrumental base in some of the carols yet to come.
My Christmas CD won't get done this year, but I'm working on a set of variations on God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen for a jazz group plus violin and french horn and maybe accordion, which I hope to perhaps get on Soundclick the week before Christmas. Since it's getting cold and I'm running the furnace at 64 this year, I should have plenty of ambient inspiration http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
Sherry Crann (sherry)
10-21-2008, 07:12 PM
Thanks for taking a listen and for the encouragement!
I was aiming for a bit of a juxtaposition of "ethnic" instruments such as doumbek, gong and didgeridoo (faked by the low contrabass soundfont I have) with something more ethereal like the singing glass which kicks in for the chorus of O Come. I actually have a didgeridoo soundfont, but it's not a very good one (it "clicks" during the cycle), so I tried out some different instruments til I came up with the contrabass one way low. I haven't tried the Roland Gong, but I'll take your word for it that I should stick with my soundfont ;)
The arrangement for While Shepherds sort of happened as I was messing about with a dulcimer font which sounds pretty decent, and trying out various ornaments. I like the simplicity of having just the two accompaniment instruments (I probably will keep the recorder in for both these as an "aid" to the vocalists) for this song, which tells the story of simple shepherds. I've played hammer dulcimer in the past, and love the sound of them. I still have two of the ones that I made years ago, and since the kids are a bit older now, I may pull one out to mess around with. More likely, they will http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif I love cello, too, so that was kind of a chamber music-y fit, and is a sort of twist on the harpsichord/strings approach.
I'll probably stick with the ensemble-style approach for the main songs, because we're ending with having everyone singing Joy to the World (which I'll post some time) which I put together 2-3 years ago, and it is fairly bombastic. But I am planning to vary the instrumentation of the next few songs. I'm currently working on Infant Holy, Infant Lowly, and it's coming along as a classical guitar piece, and it might get another instrument or two for "spice." We'll see http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif The other two are "The Promise", which is a song by Michael Card, so I'm probably not supposed to post that one publicly, and The Twelve Days of Christmas. I know there are a lot of arrangements of TDoC floating around, so my contribution probably won't be much in the world of music, but it will be fun. I have some animal fonts that I might try to incorporate there.
I'd love to hear your jazz variations on God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen. A jazz arrangement of that song was actually what launched me on my career as a bassist http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
Our music director at the church we used to go to was putting together a brass group to perform a few jazzed up pieces for Christmas, but he didn't have a tuba player. He knew I played guitar, and I guess he figured if I could play a walking bass on a guitar, it should be easy to do it on bass. So he borrowed a bass for me, and I tabbed out every line of every song so I could start practicing (this was prior to being able to read much music). I learned nearly all of it by heart before the first practice. He was the drummer. At the first practice we went through a few of the songs, then he started the swish-sticks on the cymbals for GRYMG, and just yelled at me "Start when you're ready". He had failed to tell me that the opening verse was a bass solo, and the finale for the program to boot. Needless to say, I went home and practiced that one till I could do it in my sleep http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif It turned out to be a lot of fun, and I do have Chris to thank for pulling that on me, and uncovering my love of the low end.
Please do post your version of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen when you get the opportunity. Here's hoping you don't have too much ambient inspiration too soon ;)
Sherry Crann (sherry)
10-28-2008, 07:29 PM
Here comes another one....
"Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" is a traditional Polish carol. It's in 3/4 time, and could be lots of fun done as a polka http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif However, in keeping with the musical themes of the pieces I'm putting together for this program, I opted for a more "gliding" arrangement with guitar and celesta, and a cool harp-like pad that I have thrown in. Since there is no general MIDI equivalent to the pad that I have (it's a soundfont) I put in the "atmosphere" pad for this GM version of the file. I also used a fairly nice nylon guitar font that I have. At least it sounds a lot nicer than the typical GM nylon acoustic guitar. It sounds a little like my playing, but I couldn't enter notes from my guitar http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif One of these days I'll get that MIDI pickup...
I put a recording of the draft on my Soundclick page (www.soundclick.com/beanfield_castle (http://www.soundclick.com/beanfield_castle)) and you can hear the font for the nylon guitar as well. I might tweak the performance of the guitar a bit more, to give it a bit more "life" as it sounds a bit "flat" right now. I entered a lot of those notes using the mouse, and haven't really tried fixing the note velocities or anything like that to add some reality to the performance. I did add a bit of a ritard at the end to make the arpeggio a little better, but that's about it. I might record the guitar live, playing along with the Composer performance. We'll see how time goes between now and then http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
<center><table border=1><tr><td>http://www.notation.com/discus/icons/attachment_icon.gifInfant Holy, Infant Lowly
Infant Holy Infant Lowly - GM.not (http://www.notation.com/discus/messages/35939/Infant_Holy_Infant_Lowly_-_GM-36770.not) (61.2 k)</td></tr></table></center>
M G Jacobs (mgj32)
11-01-2008, 04:52 PM
Lovely piece. I guess I can imagine it as a polka, but you'd better save that for another occasion ;) I tried to imagine kids voices replacing the celesta, with the celesta itself barely audible behind, and this piece could wind up as the "hit" of the program.
Incidentally, I had to up the celesta and pad master volume to the 80-85 range to hear them at all in the GM version, but it all works well at Soundclick.
ps. with email so slow these days, this might not arrive until after Christmas.
Djim Tio (djimtio)
11-01-2008, 07:56 PM
I could not imagine a " merrier" X-mas for your family and community with these beautifull songs.Infant Holy being my favourite ,also because of the ( "mouse played " ) guitar part ( listened with Merlin-Vienna and Framus acoustic soundfont ).
Is there any chance to hear your kids and your Taylor singing and playing along "live" in soundclick ?
Sherry Crann (sherry)
11-02-2008, 07:30 PM
Thanks for all the encouragement. The polka was sort of tongue in cheek, but I do often find it refreshing (and challenging) to try different styles for songs to help me think outside the box. I have a bass buddy, Norm Stockton, who collaborated with some of his musical buddies in that same vein (thinking outside the box) and they came up with a very tasty album "A Dangerously Groovy Christmas". I've really been enjoying it http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
Anyway, I didn't meet my goal to have all the pieces done by the end of October, because I got sidetracked on an arrangement that one of our foreign exchange students wants to do with me as a duet. She goes by "Helen" here, and she's an extremely talented and dedicated musician. And she very obviously enjoys making music, which makes playing with her a lot of fun, even if she does intimidate me because she is so much more advanced musically than I'll probably ever hope to be. She plays violin and piano (not at the same time) beautifully, and it's just a lot of fun to jam with her. Having Composer (to create some files) and Player (so she can hear and practice with them) has worked out really well for a number of songs.
Anyway, she had a piece that started out as a violin duet of "Angels We Have Heard On High", which we've rearranged to suit violin and electric bass. My personal biggest challenge is doing the double-stops, which is getting easier with each practice session (by myself - we haven't practiced together yet).
I was thinking about why this is such a challenge for me, and I realized just how limited my music reading ability is. I picked up whistle years ago to learn to read notation, but it's a one-note-at-a-time instrument played from only the treble clef. When I took up bass, it's generally single-note-at-a-time from just the bass clef, and most of the time I'm not even reading a sheet, I'm reading a chord chart given to me by the guitarist and making up my own line, or mimicking a line that I've heard. My guitar playing is also a lot of "monkey hear, monkey do", or noodling with a chord progression that I have. So, one of my upcoming personal goals is to work on learning to play keyboard using a method from another Composer user, and see if I can improve my overall musicianship in the coming year http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
Anyway, all that lofty musical-goal aspiration aside, here's the piece we're going to do. I'm posting the practice file here, which also includes the Print part and an "easy notes" part that I put in for a former bass student (gotta love keeping connections http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif ).
p.s. If I get any live recordings, I'll post them on SoundClick.
<center><table border=1><tr><td>http://www.notation.com/discus/icons/attachment_icon.gifAngels We Have Heard on High
Angels We Have Heard on High-Violin with Bass final.not (http://www.notation.com/discus/messages/35939/Angels_We_Have_Heard_on_High-Violin_with_Bass_final-36781.not) (154.6 k)</td></tr></table></center>
Sherry Crann (sherry)
11-02-2008, 08:22 PM
p.s. btw, the tempo of the above file should be quarter note=120. I had saved it while slowing it down to practice with.
Sherry Crann (sherry)
11-05-2008, 09:56 AM
Back with another installment for the children's portion of the program http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif This is probably the largest work that I've done from scratch, and it took a bit of time. I still have two more songs (another got added), but they're much shorter pieces, and won't be as involved.
We're putting together some artwork which ties in the traditional 12 Days of Christmas lyrics with a sort of "basic tenets of the faith" parallel. There is some disagreement about whether this song was used back during the days when England and King Henry were debating about what exactly the state church was, but in any event, we're using a version of the tie-in for our program. It's useful whether or not it's historical http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif With that in mind, and since we want folks to be able to digest the artwork, I wanted to add some type of "pause" after each day was introduced. I'll be interested to hear what you think of the technique I used http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
Once again, I have a rough draft up on SoundClick (www.soundclick.com/beanfield_castle (http://www.soundclick.com/beanfield_castle)) using soundfonts. I'm posting a GM version below, but be warned that I haven't done any level adjustments, I just replaced my soundfont settings with GM settings. I also have a soundfont version of the file if anyone is interested.
You'll notice that I didn't clean up the score at all - the lyrics are scattered about over the various instruments so that I could more easily keep track of what I was doing with which instruments and where. Since this file is principally for the audio anyway, I probably won't mess too much with that. If I need to print out a lead sheet, I'll just create a "melody" staff and copy/paste all the lyric sections into it just for printing. I'm planning to leave the instrumentation the way it is for the final version (no turning volume down any place), because the kids will need that prompting to keep up with the lyrics I'm sure http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
<center><table border=1><tr><td>http://www.notation.com/discus/icons/attachment_icon.gifThe 12 Days of Christmas
The 12 Days of Christmas - 2008 GM.not (http://www.notation.com/discus/messages/35939/The_12_Days_of_Christmas_-_2008_GM-36789.not) (599.0 k)</td></tr></table></center>
If you have suggestions about tweaks, adjustments or changes, do let me know. I've still got a little time http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
Sherry Crann (sherry)
11-06-2008, 05:00 AM
After having completed the 12 Days piece, this one seems ridiculously simple (and short). I wanted it to be contemplative, as it accompanies a short but thoughtful poem (set to the melody, of course) by Christina Rosetti. This piece is called "What Can I Give Him?", and I almost hesitate to put the .not file here because I used a lot of soundfont pads (and a "singing glass" font) for the parts. I didn't even try to emulate it with any of my GM sounds. You can hear the recording at www.soundclick.com/beanfield_castle (http://www.soundclick.com/beanfield_castle). However, I will post the .not just to show how having some nice pads can fill out such a simple arrangement without being too overwhelming. You can think of it as an experimental piece - I give you the notes, you use the instruments you like http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
<center><table border=1><tr><td>http://www.notation.com/discus/icons/attachment_icon.gifWhat Can I Give Him
What Can I Give Him 3.not (http://www.notation.com/discus/messages/35939/What_Can_I_Give_Him_3-36796.not) (34.5 k)</td></tr></table></center>
The last piece that I have to do is a piece that I don't think I'll be able to post due to copyright issues. And since I've played it live so many times before, I might just do an audio recording of it if I get too pressed for time. So, consider this the last installment of this season http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
Mark Walsen (markwa)
12-07-2008, 07:38 PM
I was preparing to write a blog at O'Reilly about a nice arrangement of Twelve Days of Christmas that one of our customers showed us a few years ago. So, in hunting for it I found your Twelve Days of Christmas. Wow, what a treat to have found yours!
For those reading who haven't heard it yet, Sherry's arrangement is a collage of excerpts of other Christmas tune against the background of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The rendition using just normal the GM soundcard is fun, but the version at www.soundclick.com/beanfield_castle (http://www.soundclick.com/beanfield_castle) is very rich sounding.
Sherry Crann (sherry)
12-29-2008, 03:47 PM
If you'd like to see how a couple of the songs turned out for our Christmas program, you can see video clips of two of them on YouTube:
What Can I Give Him? is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxraeCLJqc8
The 12 Days of Christmas is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GppjEICUfqE
My daughter Mahala did the artwork that the kids are holding up during The 12 Days of Christmas.
All in all, it came off pretty well. At least my kids still really enjoy the music - they like to play the backing tracks and sing along now on their own http://www.notation.com/discus/clipart/happy.gif
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