Last week, I received the wonderful news that Alfred will be publishing my arrangement of Stille Nacht with next year’s choral releases! This is particularly fulfilling because I composed this arrangement in 2011 and have desperately wanted to see it in print. Once you hear the sonorities on the first verse, you will understand why it has always been one of my favorite musical experiments.
My editor and I have tossed around the possibility of publishing this piece on several different occasions throughout the years but it never seemed to be the right fit. The piece is rather cumbersome including three verses of German text, a tricky key-change, and a lot of divisi. Frankly, this piece had limited appeal due to its collegiate-level of difficulty. Several of my blog posts talk about how I have been able to improve upon my earlier works by using what I’ve learned throughout my experiences as a composer. This is a prime example!
When my editor first suggested cutting out a verse in order to make the piece more accessible to a larger number of groups, I felt like I was being asked to cut off one of my limbs. After all, I poured all of my 26-year-old blood, sweat, and tears into that arrangement. It was perfection (in my 26-year-old eyes) and I couldn’t bear to part with a single note. And then I pulled out my score.
As I listened to a recording by the outstanding Grove City College Touring Choir, the imperfections began to stick out like a sore thumb. The transitional key change felt stagnant instead of providing an energetic boost as it should, and I realized that I didn’t even care for the first two lines of the final verse. Some of the divisi made portions of the piece unnecessarily difficult and it became clear that this was not representative of my best work. Maybe this 5-minute piece could be tweaked in a way that would preserve the idea but create a more effective build to the climax.
I look forward to writing another post with some analysis to show how I changed the location of the key change and bridged verses 2 and 3 together to give this piece an improved dramatic effect, but for now I will leave you with this recording of the original arrangement: