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19 Dec 2019

Contemporary Christmas Music to Explore

Christmas Music

It’s that time of the year that some have been waiting for since the last season. Holiday hassle is already upon us in its overwhelming emotions and expectations. What do you wanna hear this month? What would you like to play?

Christmas music has found its way in most genres including country, rock, pop and even reggae and hip-hop. It can already be called a separate genre of its own, uniting all music works that help to create the unique spirit of a merry holiday. No mater whether you are a carol guy, or you love losing yourself in choral classics, or maybe you can’t wait to put on Mariah Carey’s hit as your main December song, there is always a little bit for someone in the boiling Christmas kettle. 

Out of all the festive diversity we picked the pieces that are most wanted in December. In case you forgot some of your regulars, have a look at this short list to fresh it up. All widely loved while some have already become Christmas standards, and deservedly so. Some of the all-time sheet music favourites at MusicaNeo are:

  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (Jule Styne)
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland) 
  • Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Johnny Marks)
  • Last Christmas (Wham!)
  • Gabriel's Message (Sting)
  • The Christmas Song/Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire (Frank Sinatra)
  • Go Light Your World (Chris Rice)
  • Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
  • Merry Christmas Everyone (Shakin' Stevens)
  • Christmas Time Is Here (Vince Guaraldi)

These are just a few win-win compositions from our online archive that manage to keep melting the hearts and causing warm smiles when played every year, even many years in a row. The list of standards keeps growing with new titles and some of them are bound to become international bangers.

By the way, “A Holy Night” still holds the title of the most sought-after Christmas composition in our catalogue. And it seems there is no such thing as ‘too soon’ for it as it stays in demand far beyond the holiday season.

We know it might be hard to find something completely new and exciting out there in all this variety, so we thought we’d suggest you a few interesting contemporary music works published by MusicaNeo authors that will serve a good addition for both your holiday playlist and ‘performlist’. Below are a few popular compositions in this genre to navigate at MusicaNeo.

1. “The World For Christmas” by Anders Edenroth

A beautiful original song to explore for both choirs and small vocal ensembles, “The World for Christmas” is a setting of the well-known poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore. It expresses the global concert for our planet. The song was originally recorded and presented by the Swedish a cappella ensemble The Real Group. The SATB score and piano part are offered separately and are fairly easy for most ranges.

Video: The Real Group sing The World for Christmas 

2. “Sã Qui Turo Zente Pleta” by Luís Henriques

Here is a choral arrangement of an old Portuguese Christmas song composed around 1647 in a monastery in Coimbra. Luís Henriques preserved the pitch of the original manuscript and made a double-choir version for advanced singers. The possible choir formations include SSTB(A) and SATB. Below is the recording of this Christmas work by L'Arpeggiata and The King Singers.

Video: Sã Qui Turo Zente Pleta by L'Arpeggiata and The King Singers

3. "Weihnachtliches: Der kleine Trommler" by Bernd Gehring

“The Little Drummer Boy” is an American Christmas song based on an old Czech folksong “Carol of the Drum”. In his mixed choir arrangement, Bernd Gehring added German lyrics by Resi Gehring. This is a very lively medium-difficulty five-part choral score with an audio recording. 

4. “Coventry Carol” by Joan Yakkey 

Joan Yakkey’s arrangement of the Advent “Coventry Carol” is based on the 1591 manuscript of the work. The setting offers various possibilities for choral singers (SSA, children or ladies) and instrumentalists (flute, oboe, recorder, viola, violin). The piece is scored for choir and trio and comes with a performance license and a sample recording of the work by SAB choir. You can also have a look at another interesting Christmas arrangement by Joan, just search the catalogue for her SSA version of “Riu, Riu, Chiu” if you want something upbeat and cheerful to play.

Video: Coventry Carol SSA arrangement by Joan Yakkey

5. “O Tannerbaum” by Michael Silverman 

Michael Silverman is known for his worldwide-played piano compositions in a mix of classical, jazz and folk styles. His piano version of “O Christmas Tree (O, Tannenbaum)”, which is one of the most popular carols in the German- and now English-speaking world too, is also among the most downloaded pieces at MusicaNeo. Have a listen to this pure instrumental holiday sound in the audio accompanying the sheet music. We also suggest checking out Michael’s peaceful arrangement of “Away in a Manger” also available in our catalogue.

6. “This Is The Life” by Adrian Webster

Adrian Webster composes inspirational piano solos under the name CrusaderBeach. This is one of his most popular original works that was meant to become a universal composition to embellish a number of occasions including Christmas. If you want something in the style of New Age to accompany your Christmas days, this is the solo for you.

Video: Adrian Webster playing This Is Life 

7. “Four Christmas Carols for Recorder trio” by Annie Helman

Recorder lovers will be glad to discover Annie Helman’s set of arrangements of some the most loved Christmas carols. “O Come All Ye Faithfull”, “Angels We Have Heard On High”, “Away in a Manger”, “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” – all are there ready to bring joy to your families. The songs are arranged for two soprano and one tenor recorders.

Video: Four Christmas Carols for Recorder Trio by Annie Helman

8. “Christmas Album for Piano Four Hands” by Lena Orsa

If you want to share the joy of playing Christmas music with someone at the piano, there’s hardly a better set of curious pieces to find. This is a set of 10 original pieces for piano by Lena Orsa that are not hard to learn and are a lot of fun to play with a colleague, a friend, or a family member. All pieces can be listened to at Lena’s YouTube channel and downloaded as separate music scores at MusicaNeo.

Video: Red Cat from the Christmas Album by Lena Orsa

The sheet music to these and other contemporary Christmas pieces can be found in the special section of our catalogue that already sounds over 2K items ready to become part of your holiday atmosphere. In case you might need a different score version, feel free to get in touch with the author of the music directly through the contact form at the site, they are always eager to help and provide the type of score you want along with the midi files, if needed. More contemporary Christmas sheet music selections are also presented in the Featured Sheet Music section at the main page of our website, don’t hesitate to check them out too.

We do hope you will find the necessary ingredients for a perfect Christmas season. Our team at MusicaNeo wishes you bright holidays and new music discoveries ahead! 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Image: REETZ at Pixabay

09 Aug 2019

It’s Raining Classical

rain

Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.

̶  said Roger Miller, American composer and musician. 

Whether it is a light shower or a heavy storm, there is definitely something spirit-stirring about the water falling from the sky. If you go to YouTube in search of some music for ‘relaxation, study and concentration’, it is highly likely that the search engine will suggest you some 10-hour tropical rain set among other meditative options. The force of nature has been stupefying people for centuries and the water is among its most magnetic elements.

We love summer rains, do you? Warm and powerful as they may get. Getting inspired by the phenomenon ourselves, we decided to track the influence of rain in the creative work of some classical composers. There must definitely be something in it that brought these people of art to sit down and pen a piece or two. Below we put together a short selection of really ‘wet’ classical compositions that could be a perfect alternative for your YouTube search request. The way rain is pictured in this music is a special sort of pleasure. 

Depending on the mood, you can indulge yourself with a playful embodiment of water in music, or let in a bit of melancholy and summertime sadness. Recommended to listen to during the rainfall or instead of it. Enjoy!


Frederik Chopin, Raindrop Prelude

This is the 15th piece out of the 24 Chopin’s preludes under Op.28. A clear association with the rain is established from the start – composer adds the repeated A flat into the piece’s pattern that can’t but produce the effect of heavy raindrops. Chopin, however, did not like the fact that his work was called an imitation of the rain. According to George Sand, his lifelong partner, he even got angry at such a comparison. Rather, he called it a translation of nature’s energy through his artistic genius. The woman recalls a dream that he shared with her: a vision where he was in a lake and the raindrops fell heavily on his chest inspired him for creating this work. The Raindrop Prelude is the longest in the set. It is also believed to be deeply introspective and quite intimate for Chopin, something way more than just a rainfall on the roof.

Video: Raindrop Prelude

Benjamin Britten, Noye’s Fludde

In this opera for children, Benjamin Britten tells the Biblical story of Noye’s Ark. The rain here is not created by the musical means but is produced with the help of simple domestic utensils. It was Gustav Holst’ daughter Imogen who was Britten’s assistant at the time. She was the one who showed him the experiment she made during teaching percussion to women at wartime. The sound of the raindrops was reconstructed with the help of the mugs hanging on a string and a big wooden spoon hitting them. The rain that we hear in the opera precedes a heavy storm, both natural and musical.

Video: Noye’s Fludde

Claude Debussy, Jardins Sous la Pluie

The third movement of Debussy’s solo piano piece “Estamps” is translated as “gardens in the rain” and couldn’t be titled better. The rain can be heard in all its forms here, from the soft touch of the first drops to the massive storm over Normandy. The story takes place in a garden of a small community of Orbec. Debussy masterfully interweaves two popular French nursery songs into this episode, and in general, the influence of childhood dreams can be clearly traced through many of his works. The rain here is illustrated with sparkling vividness and anyone playing the work on the piano can perfectly feel the rapid spring shower ‘fall down’ on the keyboard. The composition closely reminds a toccata in technique and requires good hand coordination skills to play it well.

Video: Jardins Sous la Pluie

Judith Weir, The Welcome Arrival of Rain

Composing this work, Judith Weir looked much further into the essence if the rain rather than just imitating its meditative sound. The idea was to highlight the life-giving power of this water and the growth it provides in so many ways. The Welcome Arrival of Rain is thus a renewal metaphor set to music. The piece was inspired by an extract from a Hindu text about the coming of monsoon rains to India and bringing new life to all living things. Just listen to the delicately captured sense of the fluid and trembling downpour. 

Edvard Grieg, Spring Rain

One of the six songs from Op.49 (Seks Digte) by Grieg is fully dedicated to rain. The lyrics of the entire set are in the Danish language and were written by the poet Holger Drachmann. The Spring Rain song is an example of a glorious marriage of music, lyrics and voice. The flowing vocal line portrays the way of the water drops down to the earth through the cascade of trees. It is not among composer’s most performed works but it nevertheless is unique in its charm.

Video: Spring Rain

Other notable ‘rainy’ pieces include:

  • Grieg’s Spring Rain from Op.49 (the raindrops portrayed through the falling chords)
  • Wagner’s Die Walküre (the moment Siegmund emerges from the storm incredibly conveyed through the strings only)
  • Britten’s Peter Grimes (with the timpani signaling about the ominous storm)
  • Strauss’ Alpine Symphony (with the full-orchestra thunder blast)
  • Shubert’s Rain of Tears (a poignant love song about a farewell before the rain)
  • Frede Grofe’s Cloudburst (about the growing storm over the Grand Canyon) 
  • Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (the fishermen sheltering from September tempest in Act II)
  • Ravel’s Jeaux d’Eau (the sounds of cascading waters, not the rain but the after-rain)

Set your playlist ready for a rainy day and dive in. In case after this article you’ve had a sudden desire to perform any of the above compositions yourself, note that most of them can be learnt here at MusicaNeo. Just print the needed score and go practice your rainy classic!

11 Jun 2019

David Cuff: the Mood of Happiness

I didn't start composing until my late 50s; having spent a lifetime in logistics management, I found that I was good at something completely different. This discovery proved totally refreshing and inspirational for me.

Originally from the UK, I lived in Western Australia between 2006 and 2018. A few years ago, I visited my recently deceased mother's home in a Perth suburb. My mother was a very creative and inspirational person. Driving home, a powerful image grew in my mind, and the next day I bought a keyboard, and obtained music notation software. My creative journey continued and grew from there. I’ve now “had quite enough” of managing people, have given that up after nearly 40 years, and now plan to spend much more time creating beautiful music.

My style is broadly classical, but with some experimentation. Most of my scores are short pieces for solo piano, but I have also composed duets for piano / oboe, or flute. I have also published one larger piece for full orchestra - more on that later - and have many other pieces in my unpublished repertoire. My music is, simply, targeted for anyone who wishes to enjoy it. All the published pieces so far should be fairly easy to play, so would suit learners / intermediate players, but also those who enjoy playing and listening to them in their own right.

There are many problems in the world today, so I try to write joyous, uplifting music as a balance. I hope that most of my pieces will convey this mood to the listener, and give them the chance when playing it to finish the piece a little happier than when they started. In creating a work, I try to follow the principle that, if it sounds good to me and delivers the intended mood of happiness, then others will also enjoy playing and listening to it.

I have been influenced and inspired by a wide range of classical composers, but particularly enjoy exploring the music of composers whose style strays away from the mainstream (see the score “Scharabaj” on my Musicaneo site). I plan to further develop my own style, and write longer pieces, and more which are scored for fuller orchestras.

In 2016 I wrote a piece entitled “16 Million Souls” (score available for download at no cost on my site) which is a bit different. It is in memory of those killed in both World Wars, timed as it was during a range of WW1 commemorations. I consider this as an achievement, to write a piece about a subject which has always mattered to me.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a keyboard which I enjoy playing, and find this greatly helps my personal relaxation. I am not as yet a good enough player to be able to play my own pieces fluently. So I use notation / playback software to assist. It seems to me that (whatever your views may be on such software) the methods available to composers have been transformed in recent years. It is the music, synthesized by this software, which you can hear in the samples saved on my site; I have placed them there as an aid for you, to give just an idea what the music might sound like when played on “real” instruments.

I hope my music is enjoyable.

03 Apr 2019

Cheese Gets Milder with Mozart

cheese

This is the official conclusion of the Swiss experts from ZHAW Food Perception Research Group, and yes, it’s real news.

You must have heard a lot about the powerful influence of classical music played to the embryos but who would have thought that dairy products can also be affected in a tangible way.

It was the initiative of Beat Wampfler, a cheesemaker from Switzerland, to couple with Bern University of Arts and carry out a 6-months experiment on the well-known Emmental cheese. During this time, the three main cheese samples were exposed to classical music (The Magic Flute by Mozart), hip-hop (We Got It from Here) and rock (Stairway to Heaven). There were other options too – ‘listening’ to UV by Vril, Monolith by Yellow, to low-, medium- and high-frequency soundwaves and one of the samples lay in complete silence.

All of the sounds were transmitted directly into the cheese wheels and resonated inside them 24/7.

In half a year, as a result of a few blind testing rounds, technologists, scientists and renowned cheese specialists made their conclusions. It was commonly agreed that the music-exposed cheese in general had a completely different texture, looks and taste compared to the ‘silent’ one. As for the genres, Mozart made its Emmental clearly milder in taste, while the hip-hop lead to a strong fruity flavour. It is now planned to continue the research by playing other types of music to the cheeses. Who knows, maybe a third success ingredient will be added to the milk and bacteria duet sooner than we think.

 
   
 
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