TITLE: A MOST WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS
COMPOSER: Arranged by Robert Sheldon
PUBLISHER: Alfred Music
GRADE LEVEL: 4 (Medium Difficult)
A superb arrangement of five popular Christmas songs is scored in a variety of styles. “Winter Wonderland”, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, “Santa Claus is Comin to Town”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.
The introduction is a variation of “Joy to the World” and quarter note (mm=126). in Eb major.
A light and easy swing section follows with staccato high winds, with a slow moving half-note ostinato in the horns, alto Saxes, and euphoniums in the background. The trumpets (playing in parallel thirds) begin to play the melody of “Winter Wonderland” while the staccato and legato ostinatos continue underneath. It is a very effective use of moving lines and sonorities.
The high woodwind parts are challenging but playable, throughout the arrangement. This piece leads to a bluesy feel in a swing tempo that comes off well, with the harmony in divided three-part trombones and euphonium. The middle section is given to the high woodwinds in octaves while the low brass and woodwinds play a G pedal point over moving triads in the horns, trombones, and saxophones.
A short trumpet solo concludes the middle section. A very fluid modulation or full band occurs, to F major, in measure 36. A rallantando slows the tempo and a modulation to B-flat major takes us to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”.
This is a solo for F. horn, with the notes extending to G above the staff. The melody is cued in the alto saxophone as a backup measure. Some very intricate chromatic inner voice movement brings us to a great modulation to the key of D-flat major. Here the trumpet has a solo, using a broad and full sound at the fortissimo level. The climax of the song occurs at measure 70, and then the dynamic level decreases along with a retard and a modulation to E-flat major.
Modulations are like a change of scenery in a play. They add color, contrast, and provide emotional interest to a composition. Sheldon uses his modulations very effectively and musically.
“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” gives the melody to the tubas, cued for baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, and bassoon, while the entire band cleverly snaps their fingers on beats two and four of each measure. This effect continues for eight measures where the band begins to “swing”. A walking bass part follows until unison trombones begin the middle section playing the melody. The final section swings with heavy brass writing and the tempo slows to meno mosso quarter note (mm=76).
The introduction employs the use of imitation as it skillfully modulates to B-flat major. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” begins with an expressive solo for alto saxophone, backed by warm trombones and clarinets. Inner voice movement in the F. horns and euphonium add just enough “spice” to this section. At measure 130 the trombones and euphonium take up the melody, supported by a pedal F in the low bass instruments, and ringing bell effects in the trumpets and F. horns.
The middle section is given to the high woodwinds in octaves with moving half notes in the lower instruments. The solo trumpet returns to finish the phrase, while another modulation arrives going from the key of B-flat to D-flat major leading to a beautiful climax. The solo trumpet reenters to finish the song.
A Bright Jazz Waltz (in one) at half note (mm=80) begins with rhythmic jazz waltz figures that builds and comes to a roaring stop and again modulates to the key of F major, just before the next song begins.
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Lots of diatonic and chromatic woodwind runs accompany this selection. Unison trombones play the middle section at a forte level, that leads to a trumpet soli section that is quickly carried away by the high woodwinds playing in multiple thirds. The bright rhythmic jazz figure that began this section now concludes it.
Suddenly the tempo increases poco accelerando and we are launched into a bright two beat with the half note (mm=144). The same song is now done in an animated, vibrant, and energetic “show style”.
A dazzling section with flute and piccolo playing runs up to a high C, two octaves above the staff. All the high woodwinds are working very hard in a score that can be compared emotionally with the wonderful overture to “Gypsy”.
A forceful maestoso with the quarter note (mm=92) concludes the arrangement in a dramatic fashion.
Kudos for Sheldon for a great arrangement for all bands above grade four including professionals. It will challenge your finest players due to its musicality and expressiveness. The writing is sensitive, and fits the instruments perfectly. The modulations are tastefully and masterfully handled, and the contrast in styles is magnificent. A must for all excellent bands!
Purchase at Alfred Publishing: A Most Wonderful Christmas