O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Ryan Meeks
I found a heavenly chord! One night as I was at my piano working on O Come, O Come Emmanuel, I found a chord that I later named the 'Emmanuel chord'. I originally only used it in the third line of the second verse - 'disperse the gloomy clouds of night' - using the chord's dissonance to 'disperse' the harmony into its subsequent resolution to a longing major chord. But now I was stuck with an arrangement that I didn’t like other than that one moment! As I thought about the heavenly sounding chord more and more, it came to me that its dissonance represents Emmanuel and Israel's struggle to come together. I was then able to employ it elsewhere in the carol to illustrate Israel's reaching out and seeking help, such as at the end of the 6-measure introduction, and again at 'ransom captive Israel' in the first verse. It also features in the lines where Emmanuel assists Israel, not just by dispersing the gloomy clouds, but also when he puts 'death’s dark shadows to flight'. In the final verse, the dissonant struggle is over, and instead of using the Emmanuel chord, I resolve to an unexpected major chord, representing the arrival of Emmanuel to Israel as he binds the hearts of all mankind.
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Adam Holladay
It's not the first time The Twelve Days of Christmas has been used as a vehicle for musical mirth, and I'm sure it won't be the last. After all, it surely can't be anyone's favorite Christmas song, so it has to be useful for something. I imagine it was on hearing Straight No Chaser's version some years back that I made the mental note that I ought one day to pen an arrangement of my own. The time felt right to tackle it this year, musically mixing the original song with an additional eleven songs, one per verse, in order to create a 'twelve carols of Christmas' - a potentially hectic but fun Christmas music mashup rollercoaster ride.
After working through the necessary harmonic or melodic superimpositions and transitions in my head to establish which carol or Christmas song would best suit each 'day of Christmas', I had most of it ready to go, and so the actual pen-to-paper period was remarkably quick. When I explained the idea to my then 12-year old daughter, Isla, she immediately understood the need to find similar elements within the paired carols that could be matched with the repetitive phrases in the original and suggested the number that now features as the pivotal, tension-building ninth day. That's my girl.
There are now twelve seasonal songs wrapped around that poor partridge making the final piece a mini Christmas concert unto itself. Hopefully spotting them all shouldn't be too hard...