arranging choral music

I spent a lot of time at the organ yesterday. Not only was I rehearsing stuff for this Sunday and next Sunday, I began learning the organ accompaniments to a couple of bigger anthems coming up.

While doing so, I discovered that the arrangement of “Happy and Blest are they” from Mendelssohn’s St. Paul op. 36 is a pretty lousy one. I decided to do my own arrangement of this movement from the large chorus and orchestra setting. I’m reducing it to organ and cello and essentially leaving the chorus parts the same. We will sing it in English.

The arrangement I was working from was what they call a vocal score. That means the vocal parts are correct but the accompaniment is playable on organ or piano. The notes are squinched into two staves. The arrangements are often not that keyboard friendly asking the player to work through intricate reductions of voice leading.

So this is what the first version looks like:


And this is what my version will look like:


I was taught that when I play and conduct a piece I should carefully prepare what I was going to do and plan out when to play the accompaniment as written and when to reduce it and allow a hand to come up and direct.

This is a matter of learning this approach to a score pretty thoroughly. Hence my work yesterday.

The other piece was by Bach. It’s the first movement of Cantata 139, “Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott.”


This arrangement was slightly more user friendly. But after studying the Mendelssohn vocal score I am tempted to look at the full Bach score and see if it can be arranged more clearly. This one I want to sing in German.

All of these scores are well out of copyright and available free online.

At any rate I need to stop blogging and work.

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