Shooting a Little Too High for Christmas

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  1. #1
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    Enviroguy's Avatar
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    Blue Wink Shooting a Little Too High for Christmas

    Several weeks ago while on my way home from work, this song came on the radio. It seemed to be based off of Pachelbel's Canon in D but had been arranged as a Christmas song. It sounded very complex but really only had a couple of moving rhythms and the singing parts were basically two women in harmony. Suddenly it dawned on me that my little church orchestra might be able to pull this off.

    First I had to figure out what the song was. After describing the song to several musical folks I know, one finally recognized what I was talking about. It was Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s (TOS's) "Christmas Canon". So starting with sheet music from a deconstructed midi of Pachelbel's Canon, I began reshaping it into something very similar to TOS's tune. Basically, the majority of my orchestra would play the base rhythm which is nothing more than a long series of half note cords. After an appropriate introduction, I would have two women come in singing lyrics similar to TOS's but with a more nativity oriented theme. And about half way through the piece, my wife on flute and I on soprano sax would pickup with Pachelbel's main fast-moving melody. And I even simplified that a bit for easy playability.

    On the computer, this all sounded great and I believed my little group of high school kids and middle-aged returning players could pull this off. Boy, was I wrong.

    The kids playing the long series of half notes to make of the base rhythm kept losing their places and getting off beat. They needed constant direction to stay on track. Next, the girls doing the singing could not stay on pitch because the singing parts are very different from the music going on behind them. And when I quit conducting to join in with Pachelbel's main melody, the rest of the orchestra just fell apart. Plus, that fast-moving melody is much harder to play than it looks when you are just sight reading it. I needed some serious practice. And to top it all off, my wife was home sick and not at practice.

    In the end, I had to call the whole thing off. I told the orchestra to just show up Sunday morning and I would have something very simple, like "Joy to the World", that we could play without practice. Or at least a few of us can.

    Anyway, it looks like Pachelbel is going on the shelf. Of course, there's always next year.
    Good Luck,

    Buescher 400 Tenor, Pre-War Big-B Aristocrat Tenor, True Tone Alto, Conn New Wonder Bari, Antigua 590 Soprano

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  3. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member ratracer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shooting a Little Too High for Christmas

    +1 to even trying that song! I know exactly which song you're referring to and have often wondered how hard it would be to pull together an arrangement. Granted, I have no training in arrangements so it would take me 10Xs as long as anyone else! Too bad you all couldn't pull it off. That would have been really interesting to hear! Oh, well, perhaps with time for more practice and a wife that's not sick, you can pull it off next year! Might suggest getting a copy of the TSO's Christmas Canon and letting them hear it prior to practice. That always helps me! I can imagine that TSO is not one of those groups your folks listen to on a regular basis?

    Of course, while there are only two "voices" in the song, TSO uses what sounds like is a choir for those two voices. Perhaps it would be easier to enlist more than one person for each voice to pull it off? Keeping one another on pitch?

    I have a couple of different arrangements of the Canon, both of which kick my butt. One is an arrangement for tenor sax. It is the easier of the two. The other seems to be part of the Canon just transposed for tenor. The first is arranged such that it takes into account that somewhere, sometime, we have to breathe! The second arrangement ignores that technicality! The arrangements came with play along CDs and it's always a challenge for me to play along with the backing tracks. The 16th note passages require a beautiful sustained fluidity that is easily lost, for me anyway.

    For me, I reckon it's kinda similar to Yakety Sax - on paper, it really doesn't look like it should be that hard to play, but if you've heard Boots do, you find out that to play it to his standard, at tempo, is much more of a challenge! (well at least for this rank amateur!)

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