December 12th, 2008

Christmas, Advent

Advent 2008: Russian Christmas Music

Unless you're an old band geek like me, you may not know today's selection. But I'm fairly confident that almost anyone who was ever a member of a concert band knows it. Russian Christmas Music was composed by Alfred Reed, and was performed for the first time on this date in 1944. The city of Denver had organized a holiday concert with the aim of promoting Soviet/U.S. relations. The plan was to premiere two new works, one from each country, but the organizers discovered that the Russian work, Prokofiev's March, Op. 99, had already been performed in the United States, so Reed was commissioned to write a new "Russian" work. He found an authentic Russian Christmas song, "Carol of the Little Russian Children," that he incorporated into the opening section. The rest of the piece was not based on any particular Russian carol, but was inspired by liturgical music of the Eastern Orthodox Church. given the assignment just sixteen days before the concert, Reed completed the work in eleven days.

During my career as a concert band musician, I've performed Russian Christmas Music no less than three times. Luckily for me, I love it. It is, without question, one of my very favorite concert band pieces. My favorite part is right near the end, in what Reed called the "Cathedral Chorus" section. Starting at 14:22, there's a gorgeous, soaring French horn line that is so much fun to play that by itself almost makes up for the countless crappy horn parts I had to put up with.

Alfred Reed & Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra - Russian Christmas Music (MP3, 14.8MB)

Previous Advent posts:

2003: Father, Long Your People Waited
2004: St. Joseph Carving
2005: 'Twas only joy the angel sang
2006: Is There a Santa Claus?
2007: Star of the Hero
brutal!, bad bad bad bad


If you tried to download a copy of Russian Christmas Music earlier today and ended up with a second copy of "Fairytale of New York," I've fixed the link. Sorry for the inconvenience.
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