The other day I was helping a friend of mine perform some songs for an Easter weekend gathering on the steps outside a local church. One of the songs we explored was the classic Gaelic traditional melody we now know as “Morning Has Broken”. I was reminded how universally known this song is when after our performance several folks reflected on Cat Stevens’ version of it as well as the many hymnal settings common in contemporary worship venues worldwide.
The melody of “Morning Has Broken” has a wonderful shape to it that makes it easy to learn and a joy to sing. And the melody by itself implies the harmonic structures and dynamics in a conventional accompaniment. This linear strength invites us arrangers to weave a few countermelodies and contrasting rhythmic textures around it and recast the musical setting around the melody. For us arrangers who are lucky enough to have choirs to serve, it’s fun to write a combined score of different textures accompanying a fine melody like that. We can custom-fit an arrangement for a new semester in just a few minutes, or just see how we could use pieces of each stave to create longer forms that may even exclude the melody line sometimes. Lots of options equals lots of fun!
I put this “combined score” together with the intention of supplying you with what is essentially a collection of motifs. Since the melody is very phrase consistent, each eight- bar phrase of the three staffs maintains a character that can be part of different combinations and still function as a logical chapter of the storytelling. I’ll suggest a few “maps” of these phrases. See which one fits your needs and take it from there.
I’ll start with a basic map for SATB:
FIRST TIME THROUGH
Line 3-begin @ m2, to end
Line 2-sing m4, m6, m7 after the formata, to end
SECOND TIME THROUGH
Line 1-all, sing verse#2
Line 2- All
THIRD TIME THROUGH
Line 1- all, sing verse#3
Line 2 & 3- All
This simple map is just one way of many to construct your arrangement from the score. Maybe you hear a baritone soloist sing the melody 8ve basso against the parts of the third staff. You could choose to modulate up a whole step going into the third verse. Or maybe on one verse – melody unison with a strong alto soloist turning line 2 into a descant. Lots of possibilities.
Once you have the score in your notation program you can turn one page into three as you build your arrangement with copy and paste. With the structure in place, you can think about the details – dynamics, part assignments, rhythmic variations, etc. I’ve noticed that this set of parts works at a variety of tempos. The faster tempos generate an interesting energy. See what you think.
Fred Bogert has been in the business of music for over fifty years. He has performed in many of the finest concert venues in America, as well as shopping center parking lots. As studio engineer and producer, he re-opened historic RCA Studio B on Nashville’s music row in 1997. In his 15 Nashville years Fred recorded over three thousand songs. Three of the albums he produced have been nominated for Grammys. Today Fred lives in Louisville, KY, and with his wife, Gloria, has Briarpatch Creative Services. firstname.lastname@example.org