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Ceremony of Carols - SATB version

Hi all -
Just wondering if anyone can speak to their personal success or their "less-than" success with executing the SATB arrangement of Britten's Ceremony of Carols. Purists, I'm sure, would argue to just do the SSA version - and I'm most likely leaning towards this anyway. However, I'm just looking for some feedback on the SATB versions/arrangements.
on May 16, 2012 2:43pm
Chris:  The SATB works just fine.  Why would you think otherwise?  But I wouldn't expect to find more than the one version since I believe it's still under copyright, having been written in 1942.
on May 17, 2012 6:06am
The SATB version is very adequate. Just make sure that you have a harpist.
on May 17, 2012 7:01am
As the treble-only version is the original, I am inclined to prefer it. To my ear, the textures in the SATB version sometimes sound too thick and heavy.
on May 17, 2012 6:25pm
I agree with David, but the satb version works.
Michael Wade
on May 17, 2012 10:42pm
Colleagues:  Did not Britten himself write the SATB version?  I'm trying to remember the story about its composition.  Didn't it have something to do with an ocean voyage?  And perhaps with an a priori decision (or commission, or commitment) to compose something for treble (i.e. boys') voices?
But regardless, this is hardly either the first or the last time that a choral work has been published in different versions for different voicings, so why do people feel hypercritical about THIS particular work?  I love what Anonymous 4 has done with medieval music that was never "intended" for treble voices, let alone women's voices.  (That silly old single sentence in, I think, I Corinthians to blame!)  Certainly someone may prefer one voicing to another, but in most cases don't we look for voicings that fit our singers and not make a big deal out of it?
Just a bit puzzled.
All the best,
on May 18, 2012 7:07am
Britten wrote the original SSA version on board ship on his return to Britain during WWII in 1942. On the same voyage he composed the Hymn to St Cecilia. Julius Harrison made the SATB arrangement later. The harp part is, as I recall, unchanged. The SATB version works fine, but, as David mentions above, the textures get a bit thick at times. Also, some of Britten's innovative textures for treble voices are lost or spoiled. Because of the sheer bravura of the writing for treble voices in the original, I am one of those "purists" Chris refers to above who don't really like the SATB version very much. But I would *never* advise the director of a mixed chorus not to do it; the work is such fine music in any version.
on May 24, 2012 7:29pm
I have done the whole thing with SSA and just This Little Babe with SATB. The one movement works pretty well with SATB, though I am a bit partial to the SSA version with the canonic singing all being in the same octave. So to somewhat echo the sentiments of others... The SATB version is fine if you really want to do the piece and the choir in question is SATB.

Having said that... It is typically a much bigger challenge to find major works for treble voices. Usually it is the opposite dilemma... Is it ok to do an SSA transcription of a piece originally intended for SATB? Often, I say yes because if the choir is SSA, sometimes this is the only chance to expose them to certain pieces, composers or genres. Having spent much time trying to find SSA repertoire, I have often found it luxurious to see how much more great music is at my disposal when programming for SATB. So on some level, I might argue that there are better choices than this for SATB... But again, though I prefer the SSA version (just as I prefer the Biebl Ave Maria for all men or all women), the SATB version is still a fine piece of music.

on May 29, 2012 8:13am
I agree with the posts.  Though I prefer the SSA, the SATB version does work well.  Having performed it recently, I did come across some awkward voicings and a few mistakes when comparing the SATB to the SSA.  I am happy to share what I found if you are interested.  All best for a successful performance!
David Lang
The Reston Chorale
on May 30, 2012 5:09pm
I don't find the SATB very satisfying, and for church concerts have made my own mixed arrangements of There is no Rose (SSA vs. men unis) and Deo Gracias (unis, TTB, SSA, STSTAB) singing from the original edition.
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