HomeBlogsDekeSharon's blogIn The Beginning... (part IV)

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by Julie Moffitt

When last we spoke, I had just completed the key change for “Every Season” into the final verse.  It was tough, but we got through it together.  I’m proud of us.  Good job, guys.  This time I’ll finally be finishing the notation (it really didn’t take all that long, it just feels that way stretched out across four blogs) and reviewing it to make sure everything fits. 


The key change commences with the fullest sound in the entire piece, the climax.  Lots of instruments, lots of intensity.  The sopranos will definitely be split here, and the lyrics will include open sounds like “ah” and “oh” to give maximum power to the voices.  Last time I started this off with the alto and sopranos on the 9th of the Bb chord, which the first sopranos and altos will continue throughout the first half of this verse.  The second soprano line, however, gets to play with the dotted quarter plus eighth tied to a half note rhythm that the basses have – those two parts will really give emphasis to the driving feeling of this section. 


And actually, I ended up taking the altos off of the C and leaving it with just the sopranos.  This freed up the altos to take over a more rhythmic part for the first four measures, which the second sopranos pick up in the next four, at which point the altos take over the moving tenor line I’d created (all eighth notes) while the tenors pick up a new melody that’s appeared.  Once again, though I know this all sounds rather complicated and disjointed, I’m actually simplifying the song quite a bit to prevent the singers from having to memorize too many different ideas.  If I were going note for note by the original, this poor group would have no time to study for midterms.

Oooh, that’s kind of cool – leading into the second half of the verse, I just wrote a tenor / alto descending harmony that catches the ear nicely.  Small pleasures, folks, small pleasures. 

The second half of this verse is where the song quiets down from the climax to the peaceful, soft ending.  The first thing that stands out to my ear is a string melody that begins up high but works its way to a lower register via a flute; I’m going to lay that melody down first, placing the first four measures in the soprano line, the next two in the alto, and the last two in the tenor.  I think it will be pretty when that melody descends along with the dynamics of the song. 

For the first four measures, I continued the alto / tenor harmony that I’d used to lead into the key change.  The altos stick with a dotted quarter to eighth tied to half note rhythm, either a third or a fourth above the tenors; the tenors alternate between the same rhythm and a moving eighth note line echoing the piano part in the recording.  Second sopranos will hold an A across all four measures (taking turns breathing of course) fading out the full string section, while first sopranos have the beginning of that solo string melody. 

And as the song begins to fade away, each part starts taking on more whole and half notes; I’ve given the tenors a little bit of movement, but the second half of these first two measures will be held by all parts.  The third measure here is all whole notes except for the tenors, who will move from a quarter note to a dotted half, and then finally the last measure is all whole notes.  I like giving just that little bit of movement to one part, just enough to delay the absolute stillness of the whole notes that we know are coming.

The coda to the song begins just as the song began, with the altos split over the piano melody.  Simple cut and paste there, plus a soprano string note held quietly across the entire coda.  Measure three of this section adds a harmony to the alto moving line, which I’m going to place in the tenors for now, though it’s a little high for them on a quiet section.  I may reverse some parts here, if I can avoid having too much new memorization for the altos.  And then the last measure, the basses are back in for one final tonic chord.  

Okay!  At long last, the entire song has been notated!  We’re so close to being done!  [chuckle]  Sorry, that was just really funny.  I used to get so excited, when I first started arranging, at this point, because I honestly thought the end was just around the corner.  Ah, the naivety of youth…

[It is now the following day.  I like to take a long break – like overnight – between finishing the notation and completing the song, to give me some fresh perspective.  Plus I really needed to watch Season 2, Disc 2 of Grey’s Anatomy.  The new season will be starting in a few weeks and I just got hooked recently, so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

First things first, I’m listening to the whole song again, top to bottom, to make sure that I didn’t miss any weird clashes.  It happens and it’s pretty embarrassing to have spent 4 or more hours on a song without noticing.  I’m also coming across those sections that I’d left alone for later alteration, like the line where the tenor goes way too low and I need to add a baritone note in or change something.  Hmm…I think this will work.  The measure where the tenor goes too low for my liking (C below middle C) is the second to last measure of the verse; the basses don’t sing in the last measure, giving the tenors the lowest note.  So instead of leaving the basses with their whole note, I gave them an eighth on the original note (a low F) and then they jump up to the C below middle C, letting the tenors come in on beat 2 instead of on the and of beat 1.  All notes are covered, and there’s now a neat little walk-up effect from the bass in this measure to the tenor in the next. 

One crisis averted, on to the next!  At the key change, the bass note still doesn’t sound quite right.  And though I’m still not really happy with it, there aren’t any other notes that seem to fit any better.  The recording doesn’t sound perfect, either, to be honest, and so I’m going to leave it alone once again and see if anything magically comes to me while I’m entering lyrics.

The last issue is the coda, where the tenor line is just too high for them to really sing well at a low volume.  So I did a little finagling (there’s that word again…) and ended up switching all the parts around.  The tenors took over that held note from the sopranos, an octave lower; the top line of the altos (i.e. the second sopranos) have their original melody, but they now take over the tenor melody halfway through measure 2, at which point the sopranos take up the former alto melody.  That leaves the two upper parts singing in thirds, and at last, I’m happy with the ending.

So what’s left is the following:

  • dynamics
  • lyrics
  • structural outline (rehearsal numbers, etc)
  • layout
  • final sing-through

I’d actually like to do a walk-through with you on the layout, for a number of reasons, so this might turn into 2 more blogs yet.  [smile]  ‘Til next time, happy arranging!