Carol of the Bells

for Orchestra (,, T+3, Strings)

2010, rev. 2021

Duration: 3m

Available for rental

  • Carol of the Bells for Orchestra - Carol of the Bells
PDF Perusal Score

In the year 2000, I became an early adopter of Sibelius Music Notation software, and in a frenzy of excitement and inspiration—my previous notation program was a slow and awkward Finale 2.2!—I wrote a number of arrangements, Carol of the Bells among them, though that version was for brass sextet.

Later, I adapted the arrangement for British-style brass band, and it won “Best Arrangement” in the 2005 Northrop International Brass Band Composition Competition in the Arrangement category. In 2010, I adapted it for Concert Band and Orchestra. Then, in 2021—after completing my master's degree in composition—I revised and re-scored this arrangement based on much I had learned during my course of study from Dr. Robert Frank, Dr. Xi Wang, and from working with Dr. Jack Delaney, the director of the SMU Meadows Wind Ensemble. This 2021 revision is mostly concerned with orchestration and expression markings, and reflects my 2021 tastes and preferences, as well as corrects an earlier tendency to over-score and make things harder than necessary. This version should be easily playable by any decent regional orchestra.

My goal in writing arrangements is to take a fresh look at a familiar melody and present it from a new, and hopefully unique, perspective. My version of Carol of the Bells presents a more, I guess you could say dramatic, interpretation than what you'd typically hear. It also features a “development section” that explores different keys and cross-rhythms, and ends with a big, intense coda, yet still maintains a festive atmosphere in keeping with the original purpose of the song.

The arrangement is structured as follows...

  • Introductory Fanfare (to m. 9)

  • 1st Setting (mm. 9-44), mostly woodwinds • 2nd Setting (mm. 45-72), mostly brass

  • Development Section (mm. 73-130)

  • 3rd Setting (mm. 131-158)

  • Coda (m. 159 to end)

I explored a lot of Christmas melodies in my early years as a composer/arranger because I liked the familiarity and nostalgia of them. I also liked playing with expectations and exploring new ways of hearing these melodies that we may not have heard before. Other pieces that explore the possibilities of familiar holiday melodies are my GreensleevesIsabella Rhapsody (based on "Bring A Torch, Jeannette Isabella"), Three Kings Fantasy, and—inadvertently (because I wasn't aware it was used as a Christmas carol until well into composing it)—Variations on Noel Nouvelët. Some of them are—or soon will be—available for Symphony Orchestra.