The "new" Battle Hymn?
Date: January 21, 2013
Friends & Colleagues: Anyone have a clue who arranged the new setting of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" sung at the Presidential Innaugural by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir? (I'm sure it's posted somewhere on the web, and equally sure I could never find it!!)
I suspect that it will have a brief half-life of popularity, much like some Super Bowl settings of the National Anthem, and generate some healthy sales figures if it's published quickly, but kind of doubt that it will join the traditional Wilhousky and Ringwald arrangements as "classics," much as those Super Bowl arrangements have faded away in favor of more traditional settings.
It was very well written and beautifully performed, in spite of the cold weather and the difficulties of outdoor performance, and likely performed live and not prerecorded. (And very impressive, of course, because it was written to be impressive.)
And that's exactly why I don't think it will have a lasting impression. As an arranger I understand much of what goes through an arranger's mind, when presented with the need to create a new setting of a very well-known piece, but I also understand how easily that can lead to over-arranging, which is what I heard in this. Very much like a lot of the Contemporary Christian music and albums of the '70s and '80s, it's an approach based on a perceived need to use every trick in the book on every single arrangment, which ends up in their all sounding alike, all requiring a 6-red-light ending, and if you messed up and left out a couple of Manheim Rocket string runs you'd better go back and find a place to stick some in!
But that's an arranger's reaction. How about those of you who sing, or conduct, or plan programs whether for church or concert? Did you enjoy it? Did it speak to you? Is my reaction wrong, or too old fashioned, or just too reflective of my own taste? I'm really curious.
All the best,
P.S. I have to admit that I feel very different about the beautiful and tasteful backup arrangement of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" played by the U.S. Marine Band with Kelly Clarkston, leaving her free to attempt and bring off her own fireworks. But then that's what I expect from the highly professsional arrangers who serve our top-of-the-line military musical organizations, and would be immediately squashed if they offended anyone in their chain of command. And the grand finale arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner" actualy WAS impressive, and combined the new and the traditional in an almost perfect way. (In the key of F, in case anyone cares, with soaring horns in the tradition of Carmen Dragon.)
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