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And at last, the First Noel! The final arrangement in the series of carols and Christmas music for wind quartet entitled “Ye Olde Carol-Singers’ Compendium”. By now, any group that has worked its way through the previous eight arrangements should have a lively and varied repertoire ready for the Festive Season – whether as part of a local carol-singing initiative or for inclusion in school concerts. The combination of two flutes, clarinet and alto sax reflects the instruments available when I first started carol-singing round our village. However, the arrangements can easily be adapted with an oboe replacing one of the flutes or supplanting the clarinet with another alto sax or vice versa – just watch the dynamics!
Some practical advice on outdoor performances was included with the other arrangements and is worth repeating here:
- Each arrangement has a brief lead-in to ensure the singers come in together, on time and in key.
- The arrangements are designed to accompany at least two verses of each carol – if the group wishes to sing and play succeeding verses, agree this beforehand or utter chaos will reign…..
- Plasticizing the pages is a sensible precaution against the music dissolving in the rain!
- Test your lighting and music stands before you start – reading sheet music by street lamps in the wind and rain is an acquired skill.
- The alto sax can easily dominate the group. The player should be placed towards the back of the quartet and take care to follow the dynamic markings.
- Tuning alters dramatically with changes in temperature - if invited indoors (as our groups often were), a quick check before launching into the next carol can avoid a disastrous lurch into bitonality!
- Pubs, nursing homes and retirement accommodation usually extend a warm welcome to carol-singers but do contact them beforehand to get permission and fix a date and time. With luck, they may have mince pies and mulled wine waiting!!
- Finally, I’ve included 8 bars of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to round off each visit on a suitably high note.
I hope these arrangements help promote and preserve the ancient and joyous tradition of neighbourhood carol-singing.