For Flute, Horn or Trombone, Piano, Drum Set, Strings/Synth
Fairest Friend is a medley of two beloved hymns, Fairest Lord Jesus and What a Friend We Have in Jesus. It is set as a flute and horn (or trombone) duet with piano accompaniment. Optional rhythm and strings/synth may be used if available or to add color but the piece works well with the three principal instruments.
This fresh setting of the Welsh tune, HYFYRDOL, works perfectly for an offertory, prelude, or devotional function. Although written for the Advent season, the multiple familiar hymns set with this tune (e.g., Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners; Love Divine, All Loves Excelling; Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus; etc.) 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.
In 1861, the sight of Northern troops assembling in Washington, D.C. inspired Julia Ward Howe to pen the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which begins, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Although originally intended to stimulate patriotic fervor, the text’s potent depiction of biblical themes – God’s certain and final defeat of evil, the looming eternal judgment of all souls, Christ’s atonement on our behalf, and a clear call to sacrificial evangelism – the work became prominent in many American hymnals. As summer approaches with the major American holidays of Memorial and Independence Days you may be seeking appropriate music to use in recognition of God’s providence and sovereignty. Here is one option for you, my arrangement of Ward’s hymn titled Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, set for trombone/low brass quartet. It’s a short piece, suitable for prelude, offertory, postlude, or other moments in your service, or would make a marvelous addition to a patriotic service or a summer bandstand concert. It is accessible and enjoyable for intermediate and higher level musicians. With rich harmonies and shifting colors, a twist on the traditional meter, and variations in tempo, it is a delight to the ears that underscores the implications of the unvoiced lyrics.
Some would say Oh, Shenandoah is the quintessential American folk song. But almost everything about the song is clouded in confusion and obscurity. When was is written? No one knows. It was first published in 1882 but is almost certainly much older than that. What is it about? Many people associate it with the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia but its lyrics repeatedly refer to the Missouri River which is hundreds of miles from Virginia. Many think that Shenandoah was an Indian chieftain and the song is about a love-sick frontiersman pining for the chieftain’s unnamed daughter. Whatever the case, it’s a song Americans love to hear and to sing. So, when looking for a traditional American tune to arrange for trombone quartet, Oh, Shenandoah was a very natural choice. Listen to this colorful and emotive arrangement for trombone/low brass quartet and see if images of the American countryside don’t spring to mind!
Although the familiar melody is ever-present in this setting of “O, Sacred Head Now Wounded” it will sound very foreign to most ears. In acknowledgment of the atonal origins of the pierrot ensemble, this arrangement embraces dissonance and chromaticism and avoids clear statements of conventional harmony without, however, being altogether atonal. Thus, it is a most unusual setting of the tune, but one that poignantly paints the deep anguish expressed in the hymn text, which is the anguish of the crucifixion’s witnesses. The music is simultaneously shocking and familiar, which seems a fitting way to present this familiar story in all its appalling horror.
The music may be successfully performed with advanced high school or later musicians. It is not excessively demanding technically but will require artistic taste and expressiveness and good counting skills. It is well suited for recital or chamber ensemble concert in either secular or sacred venue.