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"Russian Christmas Music", Popular Concert Band Piece

8. December 2011 by Masha 0 Comments

Russian Christmas MusicAmerican composer Alfred Reed was asked to write a piece of "Russian music" for a Christmas concert in Denver, Colorado. He had only 16 days to come up with something that would supplement the concert's theme of improving Soviet-American relations.


On December 12, 1944, the first performance of Russian Christmas Music was nationally broadcast on NBC Radio. Today, it's one of the most popular and frequently performed pieces of concert band literature.


A typical performance lasts 14-16 minutes, but it actually consists of four sections. The opening section, Carol of the Little Russian Children, is based on a 16th century Russian Christmas carol and includes chimes, clarinets, and string bass. The second section is called Antiphonal Chant which is faster and louder, with trombones, trumpets, cornets, and then woodwinds.


Village Song is more gentle with English horn and flute solos, and the addition of bells. The fourth and final section is Cathedral Chorus which starts quietly, then builds to a climax with trombones and percussion, ending with a thundering finale.


Russian Christmas Music was written to convey the sounds of Eastern Orthodox liturgical music, which uses only the human voice, so it's played with lyrical and singing quality.


Listen to this incredibly moving composition right here!