Please turn to number 75 (First Tune) and join with the woodwinds in “The Royal Banners Forward Go”.

Number: 75 (First Tune)
First Line: The Royal Banners Forward Go
Meter: Irregular.
Tempo: Unision
Music: Plainsong Melody, Mode I
Arr. Ernest White, 1899-
Text: Sts. 1-4, Venatius Fortunatus, 530-609
Sts. 5,6, Anonymous
Tr. Episcopal Hymnal, 1940

Clarinet Arrangement: 075.TheRoyalBannersForwardGo

I have come to almost dread these Edmund White arrangements of Medieval chant.

First, they’re a pain to transcribe. There is inevitably some mis-match between the beats in the different parts, which forces me to use my own judgement.

Second, the hymns, as written, have no measures. So, the “meter” such that it exists I can only divine based upon the length of the musical phrases, rather than actual written measures. In this case, it means I have to divy it up several different meters. It starts in 6/8. Moves to 5/8 for a measure. Then goes to 7/8 for a few. Has a measure of 8/8. Then two of 6/8. One measure of 5/8. And it finishes in 7/8. It’s almost as bad as a Rush song.

Anyway, all that counting is tough, especially at the relatively slow pace of a medieval chant. It’s one thing to mis half a beat when you’re cruising along with a ton of little notes, but when your travelling at 72bpm, it just sounds sloppy. It’s kind of a zen mode where you have to count very slowly and carefully.

Anyway, usually what happens is there is usually a short motif which all the parts perform in unison, which sort of provides the framework upon which these pieces hang. In this case, it is two quarter notes at the end of each phrase.

So, they take a lot of work, compared to more modern (Ha!) hymns in the book, and several days to get myself into the proper frame of mind to be able to perform all 4 parts accurately 3 times through.

But, I do really enjoy them, once I get in the mind set.

I did a bit of “Hymnprovisation” on the second time through, and am pretty pleased with how it turned out.

This is the first hymn of the section in celebration of Holy Week, the days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal