You Can Never Go Wrong with "It is Well With My Soul"

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  1. #1
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    Enviroguy's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
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    Default You Can Never Go Wrong with "It is Well With My Soul"


    This is kind of a positive rant, so please bare with me...

    Sunday afternoon I was looking through my choices for the church orchestra to play next Sunday. I keep all the music I've arranged on my computer by date so I don't pull up something we've recently played. There's about fifty pieces there. But this time I really wanted something new even though I only had about two hours to get it arranged for my little orchestra.

    I'd always avoided "It Is Well With My Soul" since it's done a lot by singers in my church and the congregation sings it a lot too. Plus, it really doesn't fit our Dixieland style. But I really wanted to try something different.

    I went to the Noteworthy Composer "Scriptorium" website and downloaded the original score. These are always in just two staffs like in the hymnals. So I had to re-code it note by note so I would have all four parts on different staffs. I know a trick to split these by converting them to midi files and then reopening them in Noteworthy while filtering notes in specific ranges to different staffs. But it involves a lot of trial and error and there is always cleanup left to do. So just typing this relatively short song back in seemed faster.

    Once typed back in on four separate staffs, I transposed the lead part to the right key for French Horn. Alto went to Bb trumpet. Tenor went up two octaves to flutes. The flutes also got extra eighth notes and lower phrases when up an additional octave with some changes in lead-in notes to make the phrases flow. Clarinet also got this part, but in a low range where my clarinet lady likes to play. A bass part went to Euphonium in bass cleft and another version of the bass line went to treble cleft and keys for Bb baritone. And then lastly, that baritone part was then modified for tenor sax to by moving higher notes down an octave to stay in the lower stack and bell-keys as much as possible. I call this "Bass in Bb" and it's especially designed to let my son sound like he's playing bass on tenor sax. My son plays these low parts very very well.

    I arranged the piece to play through verse and chorus twice and then a 2nd ending where the chorus is repeated by the french horns with the rest of the instruments all playing the answering phrases in unison at p and then breaking into harmony and double-f on the last phrase strongly retarded with flutes and one lead french horn jumping up an octave.

    The french horn section consists of a lady that played in college twenty years ago, her sixteen-year-old daughter that is a very strong player and a twelve-year-old daughter that recently began playing. All three having the same tone and timing and sound great together. For this lead part, I brought them out front and sat two mics down low between them. This seemed to balance the french horns perfectly with trumpets and low winds at mf and flutes playing at f.

    Instead of playing with orchestra, I decided to just direct. And I did this in a style where I pretty well direct every note since the music moves in only two different patterns. This allows me to speed up and slow down the orchestra at will the way old church music leader would do when leading the congregation.

    By the end of rehearsal last night, our little group was blowing this piece away. The final phrase even gave me goosebumps. I can't believe that we are going to pull this off. Divine guidance is definitely at work. And I can't wait for next Sunday!
    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: You Can Never Go Wrong with "It is Well With My Soul"

    Quite the sublime song and tune! Lots of potential and power! You ought to post a recording if possible! Cheers!!

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