As a resident of Scottsdale, Arizona for almost seven years, I have continued to write many arrangements for well-known professionals in the field-- John Williams, Itzhak Perlman, Yo Yo Ma, the Boston Pops Orchestra, London Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus-- but I’ve missed making music myself.
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in France, even studying the language at the Sorbonne in Paris. In order to satisfy my Francophile interests I joined a local chapter of the Alliance Française. I was soon elected to the board and, as an active member, wondered what special contribution I could make as a musician. Back in 1997 I decided to form a singing group, as far as possible composed of Alliance members that would (a) always sing French songs in the native language, (b) sing in multiple parts, and (c) sing without accompaniment. I thought that if they could learn to sing two songs in parts, in French and a cappella that would be as much as I could dare hope for in the first season. In fact they mastered the two arrangements in a couple of rehearsals, then I arranged two more, and then another two. The first year we performed these six songs at the Alliance Christmas party, to the delight of all present. Due to the improvement of the group, the following year I wrote another four arrangements for a total of 10 Christmas carols. I then proposed that we make a CD of the carols that the Alliance could sell as a fundraiser. However, such is the enthusiasm of the singers that, although people all over the USA have bought them, they have bought most of the CD recordings themselves!
We recorded the ten songs in one long session in my very spacious, high-ceilinged living room, utilizing a digital 4-track Yamaha Minidisc recorder and four Shure SM58 microphones. The engineering was done by a brilliant young friend who came specially from Los Angeles for the recording-- Dana Radke. The CD is called Un Joyeux Noël and the repertoire is:
Quelle est cette odeur agréable?
Il est né, le divin enfant
Entre le boeuf et l’âne gris
La marche des rois
D’où viens-tu, bergère?
Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle!
Les trois cloches
Il était une bergère
Si mes vers avaient des ailes
Chanson de Florian
Il était un petit navire
Hymne à l’amour
Homme d’armes / Va! Petit âne
This autumn a publisher in Montreal who specialises in French choral music will be selling all 25 of my above arrangements. To find out more about these publications visit the website of Alliance des chorales du Québec at www.chorale.qc.ca or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This kind of music making is very different from the professional kind, but it has its own compensations that make it very satisfying and well worth doing. I heartily recommend it.
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