Bell Carol Fantasy

Janáčkova Filharmonie Ostrava | Stanislav Vavřínek, conductor


When an orchestra player expressed interest in playing Carol of the Bells as part of a fun December rehearsal, I checked out what arrangements already existed. To me, they all seemed too simple and repetitive, so I set about writing my own. I discovered that the familiar carol has its roots in a traditional folk chant about a swallow bringing a New Year’s message of a plentiful new year, and the title comes from the Ukrainian word for “bountiful.”

I decided to emphasize the sense of bountifulness and I open this arrangement with the familiar bell tune now played slowly and elongated by the low, autumnal clarinets. I let this new “theme of abundance” build and fill out colorfully among the whole orchestra before fading away. The flutes offer a suggestion of birds passing in gentle flight. This theme soon becomes recognizable as the well-known bell motif as the piece launches into the familiar carol tune. To close out the work I bring out the dance energy of the cross rhythms and counter melodies.