Hymn No 8 (First Version) from the Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal, aka “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates!”, arranged for Soprano and Bass Clarinets.
Psalmodia Evangelica, 1789
Georg Weissel, 1590-1635
Tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1829-78
My clarinet teacher frequently tells me that I need to concentrate my sound and use dynamics in my playing. So, for this one, I tried to concentrate on my playing and sound as much as possible and keep it under control. I also played further from the microphone.
“Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Awake, calls the voice to us), BWV 140, also known as Sleepers Wake, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, regarded as one of his most mature and popular sacred cantatas. He composed the chorale cantata in Leipzig for the 27th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 25 November 1731.”
My wife was reading the lyrics I had posted with the previous version of the hymn, (007.ServiceBookAndHymnal) and said, “This sounds scary! What is it about?”
I have to say, I hadn’t given it much thought, as I am pretty shallow. To me it was more about the idea that during different parts of our lives we are often “asleep” and it takes some thought, or an event, to “wake” us out of the slumber of everyday events.
Philipp Nicolai lived in Germany during the Plague years. He had seen friends and colleagues fall victim to it. It was a pretty terrible time to be alive. It probably seemed to him like the end of the world wasn’t too far off.
The Hymn references several things, first what is called, “The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins“, which comes from the New Testament of the Christian Bible, (Matthew 25:1–13,) which is usually interpreted to be about being prepared for Christ’s return to earth. It also references some scary bits from the book of Revelation. My favorite line, (“eye hath not seen, nor ear heard”,) comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:9), which, ostensibly is about the amazing stuff that the true believer will see in Heaven, but to me is more about how art, including music, can transcend our ordinary lives.
For this one, with all of J.S. Bach’s eighth notes and syncopation, I kept the overdubbing down to 2 soprano and 2 bass clarinets. It’s actually a pretty challenging piece, by hymn standards.
Hymn No 7 from the Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal, aka “Wake, Awake!”, arranged for Soprano and Bass Clarinets.
Philipp Nicolai, 1556-1608
Tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1829-78
Wake, awake, for night is flying,
The watchmen on the heights are crying,
Awake, Jerusalem, at last!
Midnight hears the welcome voices
And at the thrilling cry rejoices:
Come forth, ye virgins, night is past!
The Bridegroom comes, awake,
Your lamps with gladness take;
And for his marriage feast prepare,
For you must go to meet him there. Amen.
Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing,
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious,
Her Star is risen, her Light is come.
Ah come, thou blessed One,
God’s own beloved Son,
We follow till the halls we see
Where thou has bid us sup with thee.
Now let all the heavens adore thee,
And men and angels sing before thee,
With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone;
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where we are with the choir immortal
Of angels round thy dazzling throne;
Nor eye hath seen, nor ear
Hath yet attained to hear
What there is ours;
But we rejoice, and sing to thee
Our hymn of joy eternally. Amen.
Overdubbed 4 clarinets for each part, again playing soprano clarinet on the soprano and alto voice parts and bass clarinet on the tenor and bass voice parts, for a total of 16. I then applied the Audacity “Large Room” Reverb effect. There’s a “Church” and “Cathedral” effect, but they end up kind of quiet and very echo-ey.
Overdubbed 4 clarinets for each part, again playing soprano clarinet on the soprano and alto parts and bass clarinet on the tenor and bass parts, for a total of 16. I then applied the Audacity “Large Room” Reverb effect. There’s a “Church” and “Cathedral” effect, but they end up kind of quiet and very echo-ey. I finally remembered to mute the metronome track.
“Let every heart prepare a throne, And every voice a song.” is a fine sentiment, whether you are religious or not.
So, this is the first arrangement I wrote fully on my own.
I transcribed Jean ‘Toots’ Theileman’s Bluesette and wrote the Bass Clarinet and Second Soprano Clarinet part based on the key changes.
I think it is kind of fun, it has a propulsive, merry-go-round feel that works with the melody. I only wish I knew how to play accordion better, so I could play the bass part on accordion. That would make it really cool.
Tho, playing the bass clarinet part through as many times as it took for me to get it mostly down, gave me a new respect for tuba players. I shall never make fun of the tuba!
Starting to get the hang of the recording software, Audacity, not to mention the arranging software, MuseScore.
I’m trying to get it to sound more like a Clarinet Choir, so this time I recorded 4 versions of each part and then mixed those down to a single track. The Bass Bass Clarinet part is on the far left, Tenor Bass Clarinet part in the middle left, Alto Soprano Clarinet part middle right, and Soprano Soprano clarinet part on the far right. After doing that for all 4 parts, a 16 clarinet choir, I added a final Soprano clarinet part of the Soprano part down the middle, ending up with a total of 17 clarinet tracks.
I did accidentally mix the click track into the Bass clarinet part while I was trying to figure out the whole “mix down” thing. Next time I’ll leave that out.
Finally, I used Audacity to a little Reverb, using the “Large Room” preset.
Thank you for coming in, Big Ears. While your copper, stainless, and brass levels are good, especially copper, I am seeing a definite African Blackwood deficiency. I am recommending daily clarinet and oboe supplements to build up your levels. In six months, let’s run the test again and see if you’ve built up enough tolerance for some Bass Clarinet and, maybe, Bassoon. And try to get more exercise…