Monday, November 26, 2018

New Choral Arrangement by Local Chelsea Artist Reveals Musical Side

Terry, Bass and choral composer, poses with Josée, alto, at choir retreat
I am really quite excited that my arrangement of a Christmas carol is going to be performed by the Stairwell Carollers. The story of how this came about offers an interesting anecdote.

In many Christmas carols, there are frequent references to drums and drumming, and basses are often called upon to replicate the sounds of drums.
Bass section perspective
This is my second year singing bass with the choir, and already I sometimes feel more like a drummer than a singer. Prumm… pum pum pum… During our Christmas concerts last year, basses were called upon to sing drum parts in no less than five of the pieces we performed.
A good drum riff can get under your skin. It is contagious and insistent. So it’s no surprise that driving home after rehearsals I often find myself singing drum beats. One night last November, I started singing one riff that somehow mutated towards an alternate beat … and then a different tempo ... until ultimately I experienced an ‘aha moment’. I realized that this new rhythm could marry interestingly overtop a well-known and beloved Christmas song. By the time I arrived at my home, the chrysalis for a new arrangement was formed in entirety in my head. All I had to do was write it out.

That took a little more time than I imagined. As someone not used to the particulars of writing vocal parts, it went slowly. But when it was done, I submitted it to Pierre Massie for possible performance consideration.

His response was immediately encouraging and edifying. He liked it and thought it worked conceptually and musically. Furthermore, he predicted that it could become popular with the choir and the public.

So it might come as a surprise when I inform you that my piece that the Stairwell Carollers are performing this year is not the one I’ve just described.
Terry, at the right in the bass section, pays close attention to director, Pete
Buoyed from Pierre’s confidence-building over my first effort, and eager to prove my freshly-minted credentials as a composer/arranger, I immediately set about arranging a second carol. This time, I whipped through it in a much quicker timeframe, and once again Pierre offered encouraging praise with the end result. And that’s the piece that I am proud to share with our audiences this coming Christmas season.

The Sans Day (or Saint’s Day) Carol is a 19th century song attributed to Thomas Beard, a simple villager from the parish of Gwennap in Cornwall. Gwennan is also the eponymous name of the saint whose feast day is celebrated in the carol. John Rutter wrote a famous arrangement of it for choir and organ that has become part of the Anglican Christmas canon. But the tune has also developed a parallel following in the Anglo-folk tradition, with artists such as the Chieftains, Maddy Prior, Sandy Denny and Rita MacNeil adding their voices and Celtic instrumentation to the tune.
Sans Day Carol, Terry Brynaert arranger
In my version, I have tried to find a common ground between the rarified sound of the Rutter version and the simpler, earthier stylings of the folk artists. And what could be any earthier than the droning tones of Cornish bagpipes?

With apologies to my fellow basses, I have not only given us more drum sounds, but I have also assigned us the bagpipe parts. (Some might think it’s a step up from drum beating; others would doubtless hold an opposing view.) I have written the melody line to be flitted back and forth between tenors, sopranos and altos, in tonal and melodic variations of the main musical theme.
Terry and friend raise a glass to another great concert season
I hope audiences enjoy this version of an old, lesser-known classic. And who knows: if it proves successful, maybe my first carol arrangement might be given an airing at a future Christmas concert of the Stairwell Carollers.
Terry Brynaert, bass
It is!  
Be sure to come hear Terry's wonderful arrangement at one of our upcoming concerts! 

See Terry's gorgeous artworks at Galeries St. Laurent

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You can also email your questions to me - info (at) stairwellcarollers (dot) com.
Holly :)

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