I am reliably told by various advertisers that September is the time to begin thinking about Christmas, and, by a happy coincidence, this is the time of year that I tend to get my Christmas carols written, so I can keep away from those advertisements and instead bury myself in some writing. It helps to have these pieces done and dusted by the middle of October at the very latest, as this helps choirs to get a real feel for the notes before they have to perform them in front of a festive audience.
I could probably create a fairly large volume of my Advent and Christmas compositions and arrangements, maybe a project for some point in the future, from the arrangements of We Three Kings and the Christmas Truce version of It Came Upon A Midnight Clear to originals such as Sweet Was The Song and Gabriel, That Angel Bright. All of the above, and many others besides, have been written for the Parliament Choir, their annual Westminster Christmas concert (yes, even during Covid) a focus for new works.
Sweet Was The Song was actually the first piece I wrote for the choir, back in 2005, and has gone on to be performed in various different versions, and even featured on BBC Radio 3’s pre-Christmas schedule a few years back, recorded by the BBC Singers. In one of those really weird legal things, although I own the piece I don’t own that performance of the piece, so, while I remember it being very fine indeed, I can only say so from memory.
Yesterday’s scribblings were again for the Parliament Choir, appropriately enough, something geared towards this specific year and this specific concert. As usual, I have hunted through various sources for text and basic material, and now have the momentum to be able to set sail, even if the sight (or sound) of the destination is as yet unknown to me.
I do have a vague map of how to get there, though, an idea of the kind of harmonic and melodic world that the piece will inhabit. It will not push back strongly at any particular boundaries, for it will not be that kind of piece, but neither, I hope, will it sink into lazy and thoughtless writing, each decision instead made for a very particular reason, a place for every note and every note in its place.