The Earth Shall Ring is the Pinnacle Brass Quintet's first recording and features eleven original arrangements of traditional Christmas Carols. The repertoire spans five centuries of Christmas celebration in music, both secular and sacred. Many of these innovative arrangements juxtapose two separate carols to create one. Our transcriptions exploit the vocal quality of the brass family and the power that it yields. Our goal was to create a recording that sounds and feels like a live performance. We're extremely proud of the homogenous, warm sound we've created in this recording and hope that it finds itself among your favourite Christmas albums.
On This Day the Earth Shall Ring is a Medieval Latin song from a collection entitled Piae Cantiones. Originating in the mid-14th century, the song's original title is "Personent Hodie." The tune became popular after British composer Gustav Holst composed a setting for choir and orchestra in 1916. This arrangement of the tune harkens back to its roots: its simple modal harmonies and lilting rhythms are strongly reminiscent of Medieval dance music.
Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming was originally a Catholic hymn, first appearing in print in the 16th century but likely centuries older. It is best-known today through German Baroque composer Michael Praetorius' 1609 harmonization, but the tune has been used by a number of composers over the centuries (including Johannes Brahms). This brass quintet arrangement is based on Praetorius' harmonization. It begins and ends with warm chordal sections, the instruments sharing the melody. These sections are divided by a lively and restive contrapuntal middle section.
Hodie Christus Natus Est is an arrangement of a motet by Netherlandish composer Jan Sweelinck, composed in 1619. Originally a motet for five voices, the work crosses over smoothly into a brass quintet arrangement. An interplay of homophonic and polyphonic passages characterizes Hodie Christus Natus Est, with richly-voiced chords counterpoised with transparent imitative textures.
In The Bleak Midwinter was originally set as a hymn by British composer Gustav Holst in 1906, under the title "Cranham." The text, a 19th century Christmas poem by Christina Rossetti, has been set by many composers over the past century, most notably by Harold Drake in 1909 and Benjamin Britten in 1934, as part of his famous choral variations, A Boy Was Born. This arrangement, by McCrady, neatly follows the unfolding of the poem's narrative: the opening lines of the poem, describing the austerity of winter ("In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan / Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone"), are evoked by the spare textures at the beginning of the piece, where the melody is heard floating above a drone; as the piece progresses, and the poem describes the arrival of Christ and the celebrations of the angels, the tune is supported by rich, full-throated chords.
Pat-a-Pan is a traditional French carol, composed sometime in the late Baroque period. The name is onomatopoeic, suggesting the sound of a drum; it is derived from the characteristic repeated rhythmic figure of the accompaniment. In this arrangement, the "Pat-a-Pan" rhythm appears, unmistakably following the brief imitative introductory section. The original carol's text describes shepherds playing flutes and drums in celebration of the birth of Christ.
Chorale no. 64, Nun seid ihr wohl gerochen, is taken from J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio, composed in Leipzig in 1734. Matt McCrady's arrangement throws the complex relationships between parts into sharp relief, interweaving perky trumpet lines with vigorous, roving countermelodies.
In King of Angels the indomitable carols "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" are treated here in a very effective arrangement. The piece begins with a slightly melancholic call-and-response passage, which flirts with the minor mode before the fanfare-like setting of the first carol. The opening episode repeats, again flirting with the minor mode and then unexpectedly but seamlessly metamorphosing into a tender rendering of "O Come All Ye Faithful." The opening section returns, presaging a modulation back to a bold reiteration of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." The piece draws to a close with a final return to the opening passage.
The Sussex Mummers Carol - not to be confused with the "Sussex Carol" - is a well-known English carol that describes the birth and death of Christ and reinforces the basic tenets of Christian theology. It is one of a number of songs that would have traditionally been sung after a Mummers play: a door-to-door folk play, performed at Christmas and featuring masked players. The tradition seems to have originated in the Medieval era but was popularized in the 18th century. This arrangement features three iterations of the original carol tune: each time it is heard, the accompaniment is more active and the dynamics more varied.
Gentlemen's Carol is spritely and mercurial. The opening measures present the melody of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" but it is punctuated with motivic fragments from "Carol of the Bells." The first carol is then restated in a faster homophonic setting before it is treated imitatively, with a series of staggered entries soon giving way to a galloping refrain of "Carol of the Bells." The piece rushes to its conclusion by way of an energetic contrapuntal duel between the two carols.
O Magnum Mysterium was originally a Gregorian chant, with a text that celebrates Mary and the birth of Christ. A number of composers have used this chant melody over the years as the basis for compositions, perhaps most notably Tomas Luis de Victoria, famed Spanish composer of the late Renaissance, who used the tune as the basis for a motet. In this arrangement of Victoria's motet, the modal austerity of the chant is balanced by rhythmic vivacity, colourful flourishes and full harmonies.
Scott Irvine's arrangement of Angels We Have Heard on High is a particularly good showcase for the various colours, ranges and capabilities of a brass quintet: after a gentle introduction, an increasingly lush imitative texture underpins the melody, which is passed from instrument to instrument and through a variety of registers; then, the melody is heard brilliantly embellished, in the style of a Baroque fanfare. As the piece concludes, the lower brass gets the chance to assert itself, building to a bold finish.
The arrangement of Silent Night is very traditional, though there are moments in which the harmony swells into gently-dissonant chords. The final iteration of the carol introduces pop and jazz-inflected harmonies.
We Five Kings is Rober Fraser's clever jazz-influenced arrangement of "We Three Kings," drawing, as its name suggests, on the Paul Desmond/Dave Brubeck classic "Take Five." Beginning with the iconic opening rhythmic figure of "Take Five" (counting 1-2-3,1-2) and remaining in quintuple meter throughout, "We Five Kings" offers a unique and showy twist on a favourite carol.
John Iveson's arrangement of We Wish You a Merry Christmas is strongly traditional, but with a few surprises: melodic phrases are quickly passed around as the texture gets busier, and a few sudden measures of hemiola midway through add rhythmic interest. The carol concludes with a bright fortissimo fanfare.
Liner Notes Written by: Alexander Carpenter
We'd like to thank our colleagues, friends, and family who have helped make this album possible. Special thanks to Matthew Clark, who donated countless hours in the sound booth; Robert Fraser and Robyn Jutras for contributing arrangements; Zak Cohen at Woodshop Studios; and Alexander Carpenter for writing the program notes.
For more information about the Pinnacle Brass Quintet please check out our website at http://www.pinnaclebrassquintet.com