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23 Nov 2015

Christmas Sheet Music: Special Selection 2015

For many people the time of preparation for Christmas is enveloped by a special family atmosphere. The streets and houses are beautifully transformed, the lights and garlands shine everywhere. Here and there, one may hear “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night”, the melodies cherished since childhood.

Musicians enter into a rush season of numerous concerts. Orchestras and choirs prepare holiday programs. Students and teachers at music schools and universities demonstrate their best music works. Popular groups and famous artists take part in the preparation of special Christmas concerts.

As for composers, they are one of those for whom the shift of time does not exist. Yes! We can tell it for sure. Throughout the entire year, composers at MusicaNeo keep creating and publishing new music dedicated to Christmas, hoping that their compositions will sound at Christmas concerts in various countries of the world.

MusicaNeo catalogue stores over 1450 Christmas compositions. It would be impossible to enumerate all of them in this article. But we hope that this little overview will trigger in the reader the craving of a treasure seeker. And the music treasures in our catalogue have become so numerous during these years!

Choral Christmas music by contemporary composers is widely represented in our catalogue. It includes David Solomons’ “Ding Dong Merrily on High” for male choir, Colin Bayliss’ “Christmas Lullaby” for SATB, Philip Martin’s “Christmas Carol” for piano and SATB, music compositions by Joan Yakkey, Santino Cara and many other modern composers.

“Julen är här” translated from Swedish means “Christmas is here”. The joy of the holiday celebrated within a circle of friends is in every note of this piece for mixed choir or vocal group. Just listen to it performed by The Real Group (directed by the author Anders Edenroth), and also have a look at the creative weekdays of the famous group.

Another Anders Edenroth’s composition “The World For Christmas” delivers a special message in defense of the beauty and ecology of our planet. There is no doubt that these and other compositions by Anders Edenroth will sound more and more often at the best concert venues of the world.

Those who prefer mixed genres would love Christmas musicals by Stephen DeCesare. A lot of his music scores, including sheet music to his musical “A Christmas Carol” after the same-named novella by Dickens, are published at MusicaNeo together with a backing track.

From olden times greatest composers dedicated their creative work to Virgin Mary. Bach, Schubert, Caccini, Gounod, Liszt, Brahms, Massenet, Mozart, Palestrina, Fauré, Franck, Demersseman, Cherubini, Bruckner, Verdi, Saint-Saëns – this is only a part of the list of those who wrote their own song for the Blessed Virgin. Over 420 music versions of “Ave Maria” by various composers available in our catalogue provide an opportunity to choose a version for any taste, instrumentation and choir. Contemporary composers – Bill Monaghan, Michael Cooney, Alexey Kurbanov, Nikolaus Pfefferkorn, Joan Yakkey, Cody Weinmann, Andrew Moore, Giedrius Kuprevičius, Hirwa Florent, Bruno Vlahek, Bernd Gehring and others – offer to look at this well-known composition from a different perspective.

A lot of Christmas compositions have been written for wind instruments. For the opening of the holiday, Annie Helman’s “Christmas Fanfare” would be a good choice. Victor Dick’s arrangement of “Oh How Joyfully, O How Blessedly” and “Joy to The World” for various instruments, including winds – flute, tuba, trombone, saxophone, clarinet and organ – would become a lovely ornament of a Christmas concert. For those who are looking for sheet music to Christmas pieces for organ solo, we recommend to visit the sites of Roman Jungegger and Paul Weckhoven.

“A Christmas Acronym” is the title of the set of original music pieces for voice and piano by Joy Slade. At the heart of each of the ten little songs there is some bright Christmas image or situation – Santa with a bag of gifts, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Christmas tree, dances, snowflakes. The customers have an opportunity to get an instrumental backing track by contacting the author. Thanks to the performing simplicity in combination with the bright imagery, these compositions would be loved by the beginning musicians. Another song cycle by Joy Slade that adds to the Christmas theme is called “Rock Nativity (2nd edition)”.

In conclusion of our review, just a few words about Christmas music for piano solo. Among this year’s novelties, we’d like to highlight the “Sounds Of Years Gone By” by Vladimir Sterzer and “The Wexford Carol” by Jeremiah Oliver. Other interesting Christmas compositions that were published earlier in the catalogue – Andrian Webster’s “This Is The Life” and Eugen Doga’s “Christmas Song” – are also available at MusicaNeo.

In order to proceed to the music scores of the original pieces and arrangements of popular Christmas sheet music mentioned in this overview, type the title of the needed composition or composer’s name in the search field at the top of the page.

16 Nov 2015

Hello, Adele!

When in 2012 Adele announced she would temporarily leave the music stage to dedicate herself to the family and the birth of son, the army of music fans worldwide did not conceal the utmost dismay and frustration. The long-awaited comeback of Britain’s most beloved singer took place a few weeks ago and was marked by the release of a fantastic single “Hello” that beat all possible records within the first hours of going public.

The ‘Hello’ we see in the title does not at all come from the ‘hello-I’m-back’ context. Nothing to do with that. In a narrow context, it is a hello in a telephone conversation (as we can see from the video). As for the more global meaning, it’s a hello from the ‘grown-up Adele’ to the previous version of herself, the Adele she used to be, as well as to the circle of people who used to surround her at various stages of her life.

People have always loved Adele for the huge amount of personal involvement in each song of hers. She always said that the rush for commercial success was not her purpose, the true aspiration was to create a strongly personal music work that most people could relate to. Without that, she couldn’t compose. Here’s why it took her so long to get back to songwriting.

Adele’s perfect vocals are soaring as high as ever and the lyrics of are simple and heart-wrenching at the same time. We all have our ‘ex’-es, things and people that played a certain role in our lives but are now gone for one reason or another. According to Adele, the ballad “Hello” marks that transition from one stage of life to the next one; it accents the necessity of making changes in life, dealing with it and moving on despite everything.

By the way, Adele played drums herself, besides songwriting she’s credited on the song for that too.

“Hello” is actually a powerful teaser song: it is the lead single from the 3rd studio album that Adele prepared for release in a few days (November, 20) . Traditionally, looking back at the “19” and the “21”, the album will be titled “25”. To say that the “25” is very much anticipated is to say too little.

23 Sep 2015

Composers & Dogs: Curious Cases

Composers & Dogs: Curious Cases

If you have a pet at home you should agree that once we choose to take care of an animal – dog, cat, parrot, ferret, horse and what not! – these creatures become a big part of our life and can’t but influence it, whether we want it or not.

We generally know the outstanding classical composers by their music legacy and it is what we love them for. But just like all ordinary people, music genii lived their non-musical lives full of human trivia that sometimes made a huge impact on their creative work. Today let us look at some interesting cases of relations between composers and dogs. Some were inspired by their own favorite pets, others had good fellowship with someone else’s dogs, and some were greatly distracted from work by the four-footed beasts.

Let us start with Frederic Chopin. No, he did not have a dog of his own. But his lover – George Sand – did. It was a small dog she called Marquis and he and composer hit it off pretty well. Chopin would often mention the dog with great warmth in his letters to Sand. Marquis also got into composer’s work: the Minute Waltz (the Waltz in D-flat major, Op. 64) composed by Chopin in 1847 was originally titled “The Little Dog Waltz”, and it is believed that Marquis’ chasing his own tale served as inspiration for writing this playful music piece.

Another example of a composer’s affection towards someone else’s dog is the case of Ludwig van Beethoven and Gigons. Gigons was the name of Therese Malfatti’s dog. Therese used to be Beethoven’s student as well as his romantic passion. The famous bagatelle “Für Elise” is said to have been composed for the young lady in 1810, the year when Beethoven opened his feelings and proposed to her. "Unfortunately, the girl refused to marry the 20-years-older composer, to his great dismay. The only way Beethoven still felt related to Therese was his friendship with Gigons: he would mention the dog in his letters to a friend taking joy in the dog’s company.

Speaking of true dog fans, Edward Elgar was obviously one of the most dedicated ones. Too bad his wife Alice was against them, so Elgar could not have one at home during the 30 years of their marriage and only enjoyed occasional communication with his friend’s dog. It was George Robertson’s pet Dan who was later portrayed in the Enigma Variations (No. XI). After his wife’s death, Elgar was accompanied by two dogs till the rest of his life – Marco and Mina (The English Cocker Spaniel and The Cairn Terrier). Even during his work trips he would address his beloved pets over the radio and they reacted excitingly hearing their master’s voice from the speakers. Once Elgar even talked to Marco and Mina on the phone firmly ordering them not to bite the cushions.

The dogs did not always act as creative inspiration to composers. In some cases they could become the biggest distraction! Thus, an English composer Ethel Smyth once took her St. Bernard dog Marco to a rehearsal of Brahms’ Piano Quintet. The great author of the quintet himself was present there. To Smyth’s huge confusion, in the middle of the performance Marco entered the room and walked closer overthrowing the music stand of a cellist. Luckily, Johannes Brahms turned out to be a dog lover himself and was only pleased at the sight of the dog.

A more complicated dog-distraction took place in the life of Richard Wagner who, despite being a dog lover (he used to have a King Charles Spaniel, a Labrador and a Newfoundland), tangibly suffered from one in 1861. At that time Wagner was struggling to complete his opera “The Mastersingers of Nuremberg” and meet the deadline by 1862. One of those days he saw a bulldog tied in front of the house he lived in and decided to free him from the chain. He did so, but the dog managed to bite his hand which caused a serious thumb infection. The 6-months inability to write, of course, served as justification for not meeting the deadline. However, the ungrateful dog’s bite resulted in an overall 5-year delay period needed to accomplish the work.

Some dog-and-composer relations were way stranger, though. Louis Hardin, for instance, took a pen name Moondog after his dog Lindy who, according to Hardin, howled at the moon like a wolf. The “Moondog” composer would dress as a Viking and walk along the 54th Street of New York.

A German composer Hans Werner Henze, being a huge fan of all “English”, would speak to his dog James in English only. And the French song maestro Reynaldo Hahn named his dog after a philosopher from Voltaire’s novel – Zadig – and would write letters to him, saying how much he would love to become a dog himself.

Perhaps one of the biggest dog fans among contemporary avant-garde composers is George Crumb. He is not only fond of these animals in everyday life but has dedicated a tangible part of his repertoire to them. That is first of all the 1998 suite “A Dog’s World” dedicated to all the Crumb family dogs ever owned. One of them, a white fluffy dog Yoda, appears on the “Bad Dog! A Portrait of Crumb” DVD cover.

And the last one for now. There’s an experimental composer Laurie Anderson who, together with her husband Lou Reed, organized a concert in Sydney (2010) for a very specific audience – dogs only. The concert was performed near Sydney Opera House at a very high pitch (too high for a human). Anderson said that while preparing the performance she took ‘expert’ advice from her dog Lollabelle.

Humans and animals have been inseparable for years, one way or another. And history remembers so many more examples of their curious interaction. What similar cases can you think of? Maybe you have a curious story of your own? Share in comments!

02 Jul 2015

The Joy of Collaboration

By Heather Houghton.

The Joy of CollaborationThis month it has been a joy, and a challenge, to work with three other musicians in preparation for recording the last songs of my second CD. A flautist, a violinist and a pianist in separate and repeated sessions have provided valuable critic into my music. Amending the scores has been good experience and a great preparation for the third creative work: we have the skeleton of a musical which we hope to return to in writing the music in the autumn. Is we meet other singer songwriters we find many who do not commit their creativity to music scores: so I endorse the great work of MusicaNeo. A recent upgrade to the excellent free software of NCH Crescendo Music Notation Software is a great help. So get composing this summer but don't forget to take time to publish your music scores so more can collaborate with you. In the last year I have had the inspiration of working with five different groups - different churches - to bring one of the new songs off the second CD. Such would not have been possible with scores being available ahead of our arrival via MusicaNeo! :)

Check out my scores for the first CD.