Christmas Descants

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Sopfonix, Dec 5, 2006.

  1. Sopfonix

    Sopfonix Member

    Can someone please me, I am after the trumpet descants for Hark The Herald Angels Sing and O Come All Ye Faithful, I don't have the know how or ability to listen to it and write it down, even though I know the tune. I need them for the 18th Of December and would be grateful if someone could help me.
    Thank you
  2. MissBraz

    MissBraz Active Member

    if you look in any decent carols for choirs book then they will have them and for singers they are lushh (from personal experience) although it migt not be the sorta thing your looking for just have a look... All you will have to do is transpose the part into Bb
  3. MissBraz

    MissBraz Active Member

    or Eb for Eb instruments lol!
  4. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    The standard carol book for most choirs is "Carols for Choirs" (unsurprisingly! ;) ) published by Oxford University Press; I think it comes in at least 2 volumes but most major libraries should have a copy or be able to get it. Any music shop worth it's salt should have it in stock. It has the "familiar" descants for most carols, notably Hark the Herald, O Come all ye Faithful and the glorious First Noel.

    I did these so often at school that I could probably do the descants from memory even now :D . As Miss B says you will need to transpose them into the right key for your band's arrangement. AFAIK, tradition dictates that the descant is used for the penultimate verse.
  5. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    4 volumes actually! ;) although the most common carols are in the first two.

    The "familiar" descants were all written by Sir David Willcocks, and although other descants exist in common use, these are the most popular due to their use for hundreds of years on Carols from Kings (with Sir David conducting!). IMO they are definitely the best. However, the common ones will nearly all be in E major (4 sharps) when they are transposed for brass band, with Eb instruments playing in 5 sharps!

    Isn't it usually the last verse that has the descant? :confused: The exception is Oh Come all Ye Faithful which has the descant in the penultimate verse as the last verse (which has harmonies all of it's own in the C4C version) is only sung on Christmas Day.
  6. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Just a little caution here from experience. Some of the best loved descants do not work well with all harmonisations of the tunes. Certainly some parts of the O Come descant do not fit properly with the SA Carol books.

    Be prepared to adapt slightly.:)
  7. Flutey

    Flutey Active Member

    On Saturday we had a flute and keyboard accompaniment to a choir, using the Carols for Choirs books (green and orange ones, sorry I can't give more detail but I was called in at the last minute- literally!) and I thought that the descant to O Come fitted very well and sounded great! I think we have a trumpet descant for Hark the Herald in school- I'll have a look tomorrow and let you know.
  8. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Well it would, really, since David Willcocks and John Rutter are responsible. As this is a BB forum I assumed people would be trying to use the descants from 'Carols for Choirs' with something like the old green books or the new red books. There's one bar in these arrangements that really sounds awful in O Come, for example.
  9. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    If it's any use to you, I've just published a book called 'Classic Christmas' which is for solo instrument and organ/piano, but contains 25 carols and has descants for them all, using the conventional harmonisations.

    Mike is right, most of Sir David Willcoks' descants only work over his own 'Carols for Choirs' arrangements - and brilliant they are, too!
  10. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

  11. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    But see Mike's comment above about using these descant with the green and red SA carol books - he is not wrong!
  12. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Agreed, however even if you arranged from scratch to over come this, you can arrange them into any key you like, unless of course an organ is also playing from the original at the same time.
  13. Crazysop

    Crazysop Member

    How interesting....... because I could really use descant parts for those resident band composer, absolubte genius, bestest rep that ever did have the misfortune to sit next to me, and all round great guy ;) enought hints there??????:icon_cheesygrin:
  14. Ffion Flugel

    Ffion Flugel Member

    What do you do if someone in your band keeps adding dodgy descants in terrifying fashion? I suppose leaving them to play it solo on a given cue would be quite promising?
  15. Sopfonix

    Sopfonix Member

    Thanks for all the help, if they aren't going to work with the nice little red books, theres not much point in me finding them as they are the books I will be using. Very bizarre that they don't work though, it's not as if the tune has changed!!!
  16. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    The harmonies have though. It only takes one chord to be different to mean that there is a note in the harmony clashing with a note in the descant.
  17. Daisy Duck

    Daisy Duck Member

    Right, I'm officially scared now... I will be making my Soprano Cornet debut on 16th December playing the Sir David Willcocks descants... 5 sharps??? Eeeek!

    If you're using the red SA books, why don't you just use the Soprano Cornet part? You might have to transpose it if you're playing on a B flat instrument but there are still some really nice descants in there, even if they're not the traditional ones.
  18. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    This has all been discussed before in some detail on another thread:

    The problem is that when bands share Christmas Concerts with choirs (as often happens at this time of year), and Christmas Carols are included in the programme for the audience to "sing along" to (as they often are), most choirs/audiences are familiar enough with the Willcocks CFC arrangements/descants, and expect to hear/join in with them.

    In theory, the only "correct/safe" way is to obtain the "official" Ray Steadman-Allen arrangments (published by Rosehill in collaboration with OUP (the original publishers of "Carols for Choirs"|). The R.S.-A. versions are fully compatible with the CFC/Willcocks versions, but can also be used as stand-alone items. In practice, it's a pretty expensive way of doing it (as noted in the earlier thread), but the only alternative is to make your own arrangements, which is of course illegal.
  19. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member


    If you want the Willcocks descants, in most of the CFC ones, I think, the choir sing in unison on the descant verse and the top sops go screaming off.

    O Come :- You could give everyone except the basses the tune and the basses could probably just play their own part. (I've not tried this but it might work)

    Hark the Harold ;) :- the descant does actually work all the way through.

    Away in a Manger:- I've done my own rather nice little 'descant' (it's really an obbligato) which you can have. It works better with the original green books version than the rather fussy new red book version.
  20. BeatTheSheep

    BeatTheSheep Member

    If you havent a rehearsal, just play the tune. Descants are surely just an embellishment and the carol should work very well without. Last verse FF?

Share This Page