Christmas Carol arrangements for choir, orchestra and audience
These twelve carol arrangements are well-tried and have been used in numerous December concerts each year. I have always loved the idea of involving the audience in a musical performance, especially at Christmas time when everyone always seems to want to join in. The essential principle behind them is the elimination of the routine repetition of singing through countless verses by presenting challenges that keep everyone ‘on their toes’. I have avoided the obviously traditional carols, in favour of the more secular ones. The role of the audience is not optional; they often alternate with the choir, divide into ladies/men and sing by themselves. There are frequent key changes, unusual harmonisations and various rhythmic ‘twists’ that add that catchy element. In Ding Dong Merrily on High, there are two key changes to contend with; all the men and ladies sing separately in the third verse, and there is a soloist required from the audience in the Refrain! Here We Come a-Wassailing is an old Somerset song, and receives similar treatment. In Deck the Hall, there are even passages in which the orchestra have to sing by themselves! In The Holly and the Ivy the middle two verses that feature time-changes should be fun for any choir!
Many of these musical features can be heard in Good King Wenceslas which also has a ‘ragtime’ descant in the last verse: –
In I Saw Three Ships, a soloist sings the first verse, unaccompanied, and the verses that follow build gradually, with orchestral interludes providing links for the key changes: –
Another feature of these carol arrangements is the choice of accompaniment. Most of them are for orchestra (full/chamber), organ or piano duet; two are for brass ensemble.
1. Deck the Hall 2. Ding Dong Merrily on High 3. God Rest you Merry Gentlemen
4. Good King Wenceslas 5. I Saw Three Ships 6. Silent Night 7. The Holly and the Ivy
8. What Child is this 9. The Wassail Song 10. We Three Kings of Orient Are
11. Come all you Worthy Gentlemen 12. The Twelve Days of Christmas
To perform any of these, you will need to have the essential musical materials, such as a choir master-copy, accompaniment score and an accompanying audience word sheet. Yes, the choir needs to practise, of course, but no rehearsal is necessary for the audience. All the conductor needs to do is to remind them when they have to sing! From experience, the audience will really enjoy themselves and have lots of fun; they will leave the concert hall with smiles on their faces!!
If you would like to use any of these arrangements, please make contact.