In my last post, I discussed the “Christmas in July” project to complete the arrangements of twenty nine Christmas carols for woodwinds, brass, and string instruments. They’re finished! Since my goal has been to create arrangements that can be played by as many people as possible, a good deal of time and thought was spent determining the best key for each song, The Christmas wind and brass arrangements are all in the same key so that flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone. trumpet, trombone, and any other band instruments can play along with each other. The string arrangements of the Christmas carols are in the same key so that violin, viola, cello, and bass can play together.
I have kept beginning and intermediate players in mind, and made the keys as easy as possible, but I realize that it’s difficult to make everybody happy. Finding a key that puts alto and tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet, and trumpet all in a comfortable key for students is a real challenge. My solution was to place as many instruments as possible in a friendly range, and for the instruments that are not in a comfortable range, I have provided an extra arrangement. For example, the band version of The First Noel is in the key of concert B flat, which places many instruments in an easy key. However, that key forces the clarinet to cross the register break several times, which can be problematic for some students, so I also included an arrangement of The First Noel for clarinet that is entirely in the lower register.
Whenever possible, I have placed the band and string arrangements in the same key, so that all woodwinds and brass can play along with violin, viola, cello, and bass. Typically though, the wind and brass arrangements are in the key of C, F, or B flat, while the string arrangements are in the key of C, G, or D. There are still several options for all types of instruments to play together, though. The main lead sheet page for each carol also includes arrangements of the songs in seven different keys: up to three sharps and three flats, (and no sharps or flats). Therefore, if a tenor saxophonist and a cellist want to play Hark! The Herald Angels Sing together, they can easily find arrangements to play it in the key of concert G (key of A for the tenor), or any number of other keys.
I’m not sure if I’ll be able to provide an arrangement for every single need, but I’ll keep trying. Next up: lots of piano versions of the carols.