13 October 2014

Walk with me

Item 1. A simple strophic arrangement of a spiritual, serving as one number in a certain edition of the Methodist hymnal.

Item 2. To make this "hymn" serve for an anthem of a Sunday, we set certain conditions, so that the three verses are musically distinct.

Item 3. We make the happy discovery that one of our sopranos has a voice character, and the musical experience, that makes it an artistically easy decision to designate the first verse as a soprano solo.

Item 4. I make a mental note to do up a proper score, so that this ad hoc arrangement may be of musical service hereafter.

All this is, we may say, ancient history. Now, addressing myself to the actual task I realize that the arrangement as it appears in the hymnal is perforce under copyright. Thus I arrived anew at my already customary conundrum: the artistic impulse is to put one's own stamp upon the material, to "shake things up" a bit, as it were. Yet, if I do too much shaking, so that I deviate from the text, I make more work for my willing, but (in the matter of some musical resources) limited, choir.

The force of this artistic tension is felt in this: that we are in the position of requiring an anthem for this coming Sunday, which we shall only begin to read this Thursday (i.e., but three days before we go public with it); yet we need to devote much of the time of Thursday's rehearsal to other music. The idealist in me wants to say, I should spend no more than 30 minutes of this rehearsal on Sunday's anthem; but the hardbitten realist nose well that he must count on this matter consuming 40 minutes of the rehearsal time.

The realist in me is by no means always a pessimist. I understand, too, that's there is no need to have the piece perfect when we pack up rehearsal on Thursday. As long as the piece has a sufficiently firm musical foundation, then having got the choir's attention, and the Fear Factor, work to our advantage come Sunday morning. And, in fact, this whole process will probably aid my efforts in calming the choir's fears regarding Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song.

Item 5. The Sibelius file of the final arrangement is nearly complete tonight.  A little further work tomorrow evening, and not only is the piece done, but I think it is the sort of score which might prove to have legs.

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