What Child We Sing?

What Child We Sing?

for Orchestra

by Robert Myers

Tune: Greensleeves and Noel Nouvelet, traditional English and French carols
Duration:4:15 (approximately)
Orchestation: 2/1/1/0 4/3/3/1 Timpani/Glockenspiel, Percussion (1), Harp, Piano, Strings

Program Notes: The title, What Child We Sing, is a play on two traditional Christmas carols, What Child Is This and Sing We Now of Christmas, which are the basis of this new work. What Child Is This is almost always paired wth the 16th Century English tune, GREENSLEEVES, a ballad of unrequited love. Both the text and tune of Sing We Now of Christmas come from a traditional French Christmas carol, NOEL NOUVELET, believed to be even older than GREENSLEEVES. These two traditional Christmas carols blend together in several ways so as to make the compilation into one work a natural result. Both tunes are set in a minor mode with a very similar narrow melodic range that effortlessly flow together. The question of what child lies in the manger is answered in the refrain of Sing We Now of Christmas with the proclamation, “Sing We Noel, the King is born, Noel.” The result turns out not to be a medley but a melding of two distincts into one union, What Child We Sing?

What Child We Sing best works in the Advent or Christmas seasons with its strong exposition of traditional Christmas carols and would be suitable in a sacred concert or as a prelude, offertory, or reflective music in either liturgical or unstructured service. It has sufficient artistic metric to be suitable for the concert stage as well, although it is not at all difficult, being suitable for intermediate or higher level musicians.

Instrumentation:

Flute 1, 2 Oboe Bb Clarinet Alto Sax (optional) Horn in F 1, 2 Bb Trumpet 1, 2, 3 Trombone 1, 2, 3 Tuba Timpani / Glockenspiel Percussion (1) Cymbals (Crash, Ride, Suspended) Corinthian Bells or Mark Tree Triangle Snare Drum Bass Drum Harp Piano Strings

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What Child We Sing? – for Orchestra
A Hymn of Beginnings

A Hymn of Beginnings

A Hymn of Beginnings; Fantasy on BUNESSAN

  • for: Bassoon and Piano
  • duration: approx. 3:15
  • difficulty: intermediate
  • music: BUNESSAN

The tune BUNESSAN is a traditional Gaelic melody first printed in 1888 as the setting of Mary MacDonald’s carol “Child in the Manger.” The tune was named after Mary’s birthplace on the Isle of Mull off Scotland’s western coast. BUNESSAN is commonly associated with hymns celebrating new beginnings: the aforementioned “Child in the Manger,” then the 1931 creation-celebrating hymn “Morning Has Broken,” and the more recent but lesser-known 1982 hymn “Baptized in Water.”  The title of this piece, “A Hymn of Beginnings,” recognizes that association.

Sacred bassoon solos aren’t common and those that exist tend to be quite pedestrian. With a new bassoonist in our church orchestra whose talents go well beyond the pedestrian it seemed opportune to try something new and thus, “A Hymn of Beginnings” took shape. The music has a conventional feel but with a palpable dash of the unfamiliar, achieved through subdued bi-tonal coloring, matching the major-key melody with a minor-key harmonization that moves by descending thirds. Still, it remains quite accessible to the casual listener with its familiar melody and obvious tonality.

“A Hymn of Beginnings” is suitable for intermediate level and above musicians and works well at any time of the church year with its contemplative yet varied moods. Its association with new beginnings makes it particularly suited to Christmas, Easter, baptismal services, weddings, and others.

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Fairest Friend

Fairest Friend

Fairest Friend

  • for: Flute, Horn in F (or Trombone), Piano. Optional: Drum Set, Strings (synth), Bass Guitar
  • duration: approx. 3:50
  • difficulty: intermediate
  • music: CONVERSE (What a Friend We Have In Jesus), ST. ELIZABETH (Fairest Lord Jesus)


Fairest Friend combines the beloved hymn tune from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “Fairest Lord Jesus” in a duet for C Flute and Horn in F (or trombone) with piano accompaniment. Full score and parts are included in the package, including parts for optional drum set, bass guitar, and synthesizer (or strings). Any or all of the optional parts may be included as needed but the piece works well with just the piano accompaniment also. 

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Oh, Shenandoah

Oh, Shenandoah

Oh, Shenandoah
  • for: Trombone (or low brass) Quartet
  • duration: approx. 1:20
  • difficulty: intermediate
  • music: Traditional American Folk Tune


“Oh, Shenandoah” is a short (approximately 1:20) arrangement of the traditional American folk song arranged for trombone (or low brass) quartet with a bass line playable by either bass trombone or tuba. The tune is clearly presented amid rich harmonies to be a delight for audiences.

This work is one of what is intended to be a series of short form arrangements, “miniatures,” of American sacred and folk tunes.  “Oh, Shenandoah” is well suited for academic, community, or church ensembles. The music is readily playable by intermediate or higher level musicians and is intended to be enjoyed by a broad audience.

Preview SCORE and purchase SHEET MUSIC here.

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

Mine Eyes Have See the Glory
  • for: Trombone (or low brass) Quartet
  • duration: approx. 3:45
  • difficulty: intermediate
  • music: BATTLE HYMN

“Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” is an arrangement of the traditional American camp meeting song, BATTLE HYMN. It is written for trombone (or low brass) quartet with a bass line playable by either bass trombone or tuba. Utilizing martial rhythms and “juicy” chords surrounding a lyrical middle stanza it is sure to delight performers and audiences alike.

It is one is what is intended to be a series of short form arrangements, “miniatures,” of American sacred and folk tunes.  This work is well suited to academic, community, and church ensembles. The music is readily playable by intermediate or higher level musicians and is intended to be enjoyed by a broad audience.This package includes the full score and set of instrumental parts.

Preview SCORE and purchase SHEET MUSIC here.

Scherzo No. 1 in C-minor

Scherzo No. 1 in C-minor

Scherzo No. 1 in C-minor
  • for: Solo Piano
  • duration: approx. 47 seconds
  • difficulty: intermediate
  • music: Original

Scherzo No. 1in C-minor is a short, rapid-fire, and light-hearted piano solo for nimble fingers. Despite the minor key-center, the heavy syncopation, headlong tempo (allegro furioso!), and brief foray into F-major, give the scherzo a happy and amusing disposition, which is fitting for scherzo’s original meaning of “musical joke.” The piece is not complex but its pace requires good dexterity to play it well at tempo. Scherzo No. 1 will provide an excellent change of pace/mood for a concert or recital program.

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Fingal’s Fantasy

Fingal’s Fantasy

Fingal’s Fantasy
  • for: Solo Piano
  • duration: approx. 5:45
  • difficulty: intermediate
  • music: Original

Fingal’s Fantasy is an original work for solo piano using three, synthesized, seven-pitch scales derived from the first three variations of the opening theme in Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, better known as Fingal’s Cave. Fingal’s Fantasy is a three part work in which each section uses one of the three scales with each section appearing in a contrasting style. Mendelssohn’s original motive can be clearly heard in the treatment of the first scale and appears more heavily disguised in other sections. Despite the use of synthetic scales, the piece ends with a strong declaration of B-minor in homage to Mendelssohn’s selected key for Fingal’s Cave. Fingal’s Fantasy is only moderately difficult but will engage even advanced performers with an excursion into 21st century composition. It is suitable for concert or recital repertoire.

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Long Expected Jesus

Long Expected Jesus

Long Expected Jesus
  • for: Brass Quintet (2 Bb trumpets, horn in F, trombone, tuba)
  • duration: approx. 3:40
  • difficulty: moderately easy
  • music: HYFRYDOL

This fresh setting of the Welsh tune, HYFRYDOL, works perfectly for an offertory, prelude, or devotional function. Although written for the Advent season, the multiple familiar hymns set with this tune make the piece suitable throughout the church year. It is readily performed by high school or higher musicians yet still contains sufficient variety and artistic expression to be rewarding for even advanced performers. The familiar melody is stated clearly throughout and accompanied with interesting and sonorous harmonies so as to be accessible to all audiences.

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Were You There?

Were You There?

WERE YOU THERE?

  • for: Solo Tuba and Piano
  • duration: approx. 4:20
  • difficulty: intermediate
  • text & music: Traditional African-American Spiritual

The origins of this traditional African-American spiritual likely predate the Civil War. Since its first publishing in 1899 it has become prevalent in the hymnals of nearly every American Christian denomination. Its simple lyrics and haunting melody hardly fail to strike a personal and intimate chord within Christians as they sing, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Sometimes is causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

This arrangement was set to fill a particular need. When the search for an arrangement of sacred tuba material suitable for the considerable talents of our church’s personnel produced little fruit, creating a brand new arrangement became the obvious solution. Thus, necessity and inspiration came together to produce this piece in just a few days. It makes three statements of the melody in contrasting harmonic settings, opening with polytonal language reflecting the grotesqueness and irony of man crucifying his God. The burial stanza is portrayed in a minor key with a dirge-like pulse. For the resurrection, the music moves to a major key while swelling to a climax. It closes with a nebulous tonal center and omits the final melodic phrase to leave the listener contemplating how these events often cause our hearts to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Purchase sheet music here.

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
  • for: String Ensemble: Solo Violin, Solo Cello, Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Cell, Double Bass
  • duration: approx. 6:00
  • difficulty: easy
  • text: Psalm 13 (adapted)
  • music: PICARDY, 16th Century French Song

The hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” may have origins as far back as the 4th Century church, being long used both as a Christmas hymn and to focus worshippers on the mystery of the incarnation and the Eucharist. Thus, this piece is well-suited for Advent, Christmas, or any observance of communion. The tune, PICARDY, comes from a 1680 French song book.

This arrangement maintains the original melody in three contrasting settings bookended between rich sequences of tonal clusters. Solo violin makes the first statement of the melody in silvery harmonics over static chords. Solo violin and solo cello take the second statement in a contrapuntal fashion over homophonic harmonies. The third statement changes tempo and style to reflect the heavenly adoration of the Lamb portrayed in the text. Here the melody is taken by ensemble violins while solo violin adds countermelody and low strings provide a rhythmic pulse.

This arrangement is meant for players of mixed abilities. The ensemble parts are easy and intended for beginning and early music students. The solo parts are suitable for intermediate to advanced  players. Thus, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” is well-suited for a string studio with a range of abilities, a student-faculty group, or a typical church ensemble with a mixture of young and mature, student and professional.

Purchase score and parts here.