Please turn to number 43 and join with the clarinets in “Under Feeble Stable Light”.

Meter: 8 8, 9 9, 8 8.
Tempo: Tenderly, in unison
Music: Arnold F. Keller, 1890-
Music composed for this book
Text:Arnold Frederick Keller, 1890-

Under feeble stable light,
Come and behold the wondrous sight!
Lies here a babe so heavenly sweet,
Mother and angels the Infant Keep.
Angels on wing, What do they sing?
‘Glory to God, the Saviour, King!’

I can’t say I think much of Mr Keller’s skills as a lyricist, but the tune and harmonies of this hymn are pretty cool. One of the more modern settings I’ve run across in the book so far, short of the Holst piece.

Clarinet Arrangement: 043-underthefeeblestablelight

The tenor part was too low, so I had to play it on bass clarinet. Doubled each part, twice through. Audacity “Large Room” Reverb Effect.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal


Please turn to number 42 and join with the clarinets in “O Come, All Ye Faithful”.

Meter: Irregular
Tempo: In moderate time
Music: John F. Wade’s Cantus diversi, 1751
Text: Latin Hymn, XVIII cent.
Tr. Frederick Oakeley, 1802-80, and others

Adeste Fidelis“, or “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, is another hymn whose origins are shrouded in mystery. Apparently, the earliest instances are from the notes of John Francis Wade, but others have been given credit for the origin, including a King of Portugal.

I hope you don’t mind me stealing more info from wikipedia articles. Who knew it would be such a great resource for information about old hymns? I guess the Christians are active on the Internet.

“The original text has been from time to time attributed to various groups and individuals, including St. Bonaventure in the 13th century or King John IV of Portugal in the 17th, though it was more commonly believed that the text was written by an order of monks, the Cistercian, German, Portuguese and Spanish orders having, at various times, been given credit.”

The most commonly named Portuguese author is King John IV of Portugal (Portuguese: D. João IV de Portugal, pronounced: [ʒuˈɐ̃w̃]). “The Musician King” (1604–1656, came to the throne in 1640) was a patron of music and the arts and a considerably sophisticated writer on music; in addition, he was a composer, and during his reign he collected one of the largest musical libraries in the world (destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755). The first part of his musical work was published in 1649. He founded a Music School in Vila Viçosa that ‘exported’ musicians to Spain and Italy and it was at his Vila Viçosa palace that the two 1640 manuscripts of the “Portuguese Hymn” were found. Those manuscripts predate Wade’s eighteenth-century manuscript.[3] Among the King’s writings is a Defense of Modern Music (Lisbon, 1649). In the same year (1649) he had a huge struggle to get instrumental music approved by the Vatican for use in the Catholic Church. His other famous composition is a setting of the Crux fidelis, a work that remains highly popular during Lent amongst church choirs.

Interestingly, the song is also interpreted as a “Jacobite birth ode to Bonnie Prince  Charlie”.

The hymn has been interpreted as a Jacobite birth ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie.[9] Professor Bennett Zon, head of music at Durham University, claims that the carol is actually a birth ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie, the secret political code being decipherable by the “faithful” (the Jacobites), with “Bethlehem” a common Jacobite cipher for England and Regem Angelorum a pun on Angelorum (Angels) and Anglorum (English).[9] Wade had fled to France after the Jacobite rising of 1745 was crushed. From the 1740s to 1770s the earliest forms of the carol commonly appeared in English Roman Catholic liturgical books close to prayers for the exiled Old Pretender. In the books by Wade it was often decorated with Jacobite floral imagery, as were other liturgical texts with coded Jacobite meanings.[10]

Transposing it to b flat for the clarinet, does have the unfortunate side effect of changing already 4 sharps to 6 sharps. It’s hard to remember the a and e sharps, since they end up being b and fs: 042-ocomeallyefaithful

Whatever its origin or secret meaning, it is a wonderful hymn, and another of my favorites.

The current usual method, doubling all parts. Mixing across the field of hearing, then applying an Audacity reverb effect, in this case “Large Room”.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal


My general process for these hymns is as follows:

  1. First I transcribe the SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) hymn from the hymnal to a program called MuseScore.
  2. Using MuseScore, I transpose the parts from SATB to the 4 clarinet parts.
  3. I count the measures and generate a click track for the hymn in Audacity, so I can keep in sync with myself.
  4. At this point I play through the parts with only Soprano Clarinet, top to bottom, to get a rough idea of the melody and feel of the hymn. Also, if there are any serious technical challenges.
  5. After the initial recording, I usually let myself think about it for a day, or at least a period of hours, letting ideas about phrasing and tempo percolate.
  6. I start with the bass clarinet part and build the hymn from the bottom up, finishing with the Melody/Soprano part. Lately, I’ve been playing through the hymns at least twice.
  7. I mix these parts, panning them to different points in the left sound field.
  8. Then I repeat, starting again from the Bass Part and mix them to percentage pans of the right sound field.
  9. Finally, I tweak the mix, remove the click track, apply an Audacity reverb effect, and export the parts to mp3 and wav.
  10. On to the next hymn!

The whole process probably takes 4 hours per hymn, more or less, depending on the complexity and length.

After finishing the first rough recording of Number 43, “Once in Royal David’s City”, I had an impulse to mess around a bit with Audacity Effects on that track.

I’d been reading about creating distortion effects, using the Leveller and Compression effects, so I started there.

Leveller x3

At this point, I was kind of thinking it sounded pretty synth-esque, so I applied some more effects to increase the plasticity.

It was now pretty cool, sounding a bit like the Stranger Things sound track, but there was something that I was thinking. It sort of had the character of the music I associate with Nintendo games, but it needed to be faster.
Change Speed 2x

Ah, yes, now that brings a smile to my face.

Ahem, and now, with “Once in Royal David’s City”, we return you to your regularly scheduled Lutheran Hymns played on clarinets.

Name: IRBY.
Meter: 8 7, 8 7, 77.
Tempo: Slowly. May be sung in unison.
Music: Henry J. Gauntlett, 1805-76
Text: Cecil Frances Alexander, 1823-95

The music is a bit folky, but the text of this hymn is not a super-awesome, I especially like how in verse three Alexander slips in some suggestions for how Christian children should behave.

“And through all his wondrous childhood
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms he lay;
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as he.

Perhaps he was going through some tough times at home.

Here’s the clarinet arrangement: 041-onceinroyaldavidscity

For the hymn proper, I took the usual tack, doubling all parts. Since the hymn is a bit busy, I used the “Medium Room” Reverb effect, instead of the usual “Church Hall”.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal


Please turn to number 40 and join with the clarinets in “The First Noel”.

Meter: Irregular. With Refrain.
Tempo: With Spirit
Music: Traditional English Carol
Text: Traditional English Carol

Another true Christmas Warhorse and another enjoyable song to play.

From the wikipedia:

The First Noel” (also written “The First Noël” and “The First Nowell“) is a traditional classical English Christmas carol, most likely from the early modern period, although possibly earlier.[2][3] Noel is an Early Modern Englishsynonym of “Christmas“.[4]
In its current form, it is of Cornish origin, and it was first published in Carols Ancient and Modern (1823) and Gilbert and Sandys Carols (1833), both of which were edited by William Sandys and arranged, edited and with extra lyrics written by Davies Gilbert for Hymns and Carols of God. Today, it is usually performed in a four-part hymn arrangement by the English composer John Stainer, first published in his Carols, New and Old in 1871.[2] Variations of its theme are included in Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s Carol Symphony.

The melody is unusual among English folk melodies in that it consists of one musical phrase repeated twice, followed by a refrain which is a variation on that phrase. All three phrases end on the third of the scale. It is thought to be a version of an earlier melody sung in a church gallery setting; a conjectural reconstruction of this earlier version can be found in the New Oxford Book of Carols.[5]

Clarinet Arrangement: 040.TheFirstNoel

Doubled all parts and went with the “Medium Room” Audacity Reverb Effect, as I’ve been feeling slightly self conscious, thanks to some facebook comments from alleged friends, about over using the more extreme reverb settings. Which do you prefer? Are the “Church Hall” type reverb effects distracting?

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal


Please turn to number 39 and join with the clarinets in “Good Christian Men Rejoice”.

Meter: Irregular
Tempo: Smoothly, in quiet time
Music: XIV cent. German Melody
Text: Medieval Latin Carol
Tr. John Mason Neale, 1818-66

Not sure why, but I find this music strangely moving. Maybe I’m just getting the hang of playing hymns on the clarinet or something. I do seem to enjoy the older hymns the most…

Clarinet arrangement:039.GoodChristianMenRejoice

Doubled all parts and applied the usual Audacity reverb “Church Hall” effect.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal


Please turn to number 38 and join with the clarinets in “Lo How a Rose E’Er Blooming”.

Meter: 7 6, 7 6, 6 7 6.
Tempo: Tenderly
Music: Geistliche Kirchengesang, Cologne, 1599
Text: XVI cent.
Tr. St. 1,2 Theodore Baker, 1851-1934
St. 3, Harriet R. Krauth, 1845-1925
St. 4, John Caspar Mattes, 1876-1948

Another of my personal favorite hymn melodies!

The text is thought to be penned by an anonymous author expressing fulfillment of the prophecy ofIsaiah 11:1 The piece first appeared in print in the late 16th century. The hymn has been used by both Catholics and Protestants, with the focus of the song being Mary or Jesus, respectively.[1] In addition, there have been numerous versions of the hymn, with varying texts and lengths. In 1844, the German hymnologist Friedrich Layriz (de) added three more stanzas, the first of which, Das Blümelein so kleine, remained popular and has been included in Catholic hymnals.[2]

The tune most familiar today appears in the Speyer Hymnal (printed in Cologne in 1599), and the familiar harmonization was written by German composer Michael Praetorius in 1609.[1]

Here’s the clarinet arrangement: 038.LoHowARoseEErBlooming

I doubled each clarinet part and added the usual audacity “Church Hall” Reverb effect.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal


Please turn to number 37 and join with the clarinets in “Love Came Down at Christmas”.

Meter: 6 7, 6 7.
Tempo: Brightly
Music: Traditional Irish Air
Harmony from the Revised Church Hymnary
Text: Christina Georgina Rossetti, 1830-94

Apparently, this text has been sung to many different melodies, and by many different people, including Shawn Colvin and some modern band called “Jars of Clay”.

From the wikipedia article:

The poem has been set to music as a Christmas carol by many composers including Harold Darke, Leo Sowerby, John Kelsall and John Rutter[2] and is also sung to the traditional Irish melody “Garton”.[3] More recently, the poem was given a modern treatment by Christian band Jars of Clay on their 2007 album,Christmas Songs.[4] American composer Jennifer Higdon set the text for solo soprano, harp and four-part chorus.[5] A new setting by the British composer David J Loxley-Blount was performed in Southwark Cathedral on 8 December 2014 by the Financial Times Choir conducted by Paul Ayres. It was repeated by the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree on 11 December 2014.[6]

Studwell describes the poem as “simple, direct and sincere” and notes that it is a rare example of a carol which has overcome the disadvantage of “not having a tune (or two or three) which has caught the imagination of holiday audiences.”[7]

This appears to be one of the simpler settings of the poem. Here’s my transcription for clarinet quartet: 037.LoveCameDownAtChristmas

I doubled the melody part, but otherwise left it at one clarinet each. I also went with a less extreme reverb, since it is fairly lively, and played it through 3 times.

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal


Please turn to number 36 and join with the clarinets in, “In The Bleak Midwinter”.

Meter: Irregular.
Tempo: In moderate time
Music: Gustav Theodore Holst, 1874-1934
Text: Christina Georgina Rossetti, 1830-94

I’ll take famous composers for $500! I had no idea that one of my favorite hymns was by Gustav Holst!

From the wikipedia article on Holst:

Gustav Theodore Holst (born Gustavus Theodore von Holst; 21 September 1874 – 25 May 1934) was an English composer, arranger and teacher. Best known for his orchestral suite The Planets, he composed a large number of other works across a range of genres, although none achieved comparable success. His distinctive compositional style was the product of many influences, Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss being most crucial early in his development. The subsequent inspiration of the English folksong revival of the early 20th century, and the example of such rising modern composers as Maurice Ravel, led Holst to develop and refine an individual style.

The poem it is based on was first published in Scribner’s magazine. From the wikipedia article:

“In the Bleak Midwinter” is a Christmas carol based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossettiwritten before 1872 in response to a request from the magazine Scribner’s Monthly for a Christmas poem.[1]It was published posthumously in Rossetti’s Poetic Works in 1904.

I have, of course, arranged it for 4 clarinets:035.WhenChristmasMornIsDawning

I recorded each voice twice and added the usual tweaked Audacity Reverb Effect “Church Hall”.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air –
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give Him –
Give my heart.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal


Please turn to number 35 and join with the clarinets in “When Christmas Morn is Dawning.

Meter: 7 6, 7 6.
Tempo: Simply
Music: German Folksong, 1823
Arr. by Elisabeth Ehrenborg-Posse, 1818-80
Tr. Claude William Foss, 1855-1935

the pdf of the clarinet arrangement: 035.WhenChristmasMornIsDawning

This is a really pleasant song. Very simple melody with uncomplicated harmonies. It reminds me of Quaker Hymns and other songs like that.

When Christmas morn is dawning
In faither I would repair
Unto the lowly manger;
My Savior lieth there,
Unto the lowly manger;
My Savior lieth there.

How kind, O loving Savior,
To come from heaven above;
From sin and evil save us,
And keep us in thy love.

We need thee, blessed Jesus,
Our dearest friend thou art;
Forbid that we by sinning
Should grieve thy loving heart. Amen.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal


Please turn to number 34 and join with the clarinets in, “The Holy Son of God Most High”.

Meter: L.M.
Tempo: Slowly, with dignity
Music: Geistliche Lieder, Leipzig, 1539
Harm. J.S. Bach, 1685-1750
Text: Henry More, 1614-87

I still don’t quite get these J.S. Bach arrangements. I have to fight with myself to even get them to this state. I really wish I had a choir director giving me some direction on dynamics and tempo.

Clarinet Arrangement: 034.TheHolySonOfGodMostHigh

There are these single notes at the end of lines, which I find I have a tendency to hit too hard instead of letting the phrase taper off.

Well, as I like to maintain, hymns are made for the common people, they are not supposed to be perfect. You just have to try.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal