The Nutcracker Jingles

It’s hard to be believe we are in November now. This is my favorite month of the whole year. It’s when we start to wonder if it’s necessary to start Christmas planning; although it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. When it is this time of year, one of the most beloved holiday classics of all time comes to do performances in New England-at places such as Boston at the Wang Theater and the Palace Theater in Manchester, NH. It’s the Nutcracker Suite; originally scored by Tchaikovsky.

In this song, the jingles are twisted with the familiar song of Jingle Bells. The song begins with the traditional Jingle Bell melody, then the second one is twisted with the March of the Toy Soldiers, followed by the Sugar Plum Fairy, then the Dance of the Reed Pipes, and finally the Waltz of the Flowers. The song was arranged by Chuck Bridwell; and it’s very festive and created to delight the lover of the Nutcracker Suite.


Mary, Did You Know?

As we are continuing to grasp about the early days of Christmas and know it was started, this song is more modern than some of the other songs for the season in the chorus. This piece was written by Buddy Greene and the lyrics were created by Mark Lowry. This debuted as a gospel piece by Michael English; an artist own for his Christian inspired music. It was when both Greene and Lowry were members of the Gaither Vocal Band in the early 1990s.

Other artists have used this piece such as Pentatonix and Jordan Smith. This sounds like a piece for artists to catch on, but there are a couple of points to explain. People have thought it lacks the scriptural or theological depth describing that Mary would not been asked about the birth of baby Jesus. The bible describes it more like Mary understood perfectly. Some others mention about this piece being a beautiful expression of the love of God. This song doesn’t have as much poetic license as some others; but the beat of 53 beats per minute have made this piece good for those who made it on top of the charts in the past.

Christmas is Coming

I hope everyone after four practices has gotten into the Christmas Spirit for the semester. This song I’m about to write about is often used for all ages – because this can be used as a round; a type of song that children like to sing with each of them starting at different parts with the same melody; or the whole song sung through with the entire choir. The traditional version of Christmas is Coming is heard as the identical melody to the English dance tune Country Gardens but other melodies have been used in the song.

In the past, this song has been sung by the Kingston Trio for their album The Last Month of the Year and titled as A Round About Christmas. If any of you like old time folk music, then this would be a nice soothing song to get you ready for December. Other artists have sung this including Bing Crosby; who sung Christmas is a Comin’; rearranged by Frank Luther. You can also listen to the instrumental version on Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack arranged by Vince Guaraldi.

For the semester, this version is arranged by Andy Beck. He’s a graduate of Ithaca College with a Masters degree in Music education; and now is a music director, composer and arranger of popular Christmas music scores. For more information of him and his scores, visit his site at This traditional English round has been re-embellished with new lyrics and make people come together while the season will be busy. The tune has been added with a new composed bridge and will make a wonderful opening for the concert.

In case you don’t know what the traditional nursery rhyme is like, here’s what it’s like in case you want to teach your young children and grandchildren:

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat

If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do

If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!

Angels We Have Heard on High

Hello, I am pleased to be a part of the chorus family of Souhegan Valley, although I’ve decided to take a break for the fall in order to adjust my work schedule. The Christmas season hopefully will get our spirits up after what’s been happening lately. This season I am going to be helping out with posts on the songs for the semester along with Janine Leffler and Sonya Walcott. To start off, let me tell you about the Christmas Carol that you are used to singing when thinking about the Birth of Jesus.

In Luke 2:14, it celebrates with the Angels singing in heaven before the echoing off the mountains. The Shepards lay in the field keeping watch over the flock by night. The French loved to sing about this during the holiday season, and they did before the lyrics were translated and recreated by James Chadwick in 1862. The English lyrics aren’t exactly like the translation from the French version; but it still demonstrates joy and glory when singing.

The song opens with the invitation for Christians to come see the birth of baby Jesus, and then asks why the celebration; before the third stanza talks about the invitation. The best part is the “Gloria in Excelsis Dio“; latin for Glory to God in the Highest. This was arranged in the chorus part by Edward Snippen Barnes. Today Christians who attend church on Christmas eve or Christmas day sing this tune after the Gospel reading.

Two years ago the chorus did an alternative version called Sing with the Angels. After two verses, we sung the Gloria part. I thought this was one of my favorite songs for the semester. Once you get into the chorus part let your mind and souls be in good spirit, and don’t try to brush too much with your vocal chords. I hope reading about this gives you a good idea of where this song came from.

The Whistling Gypsy

It’s been a good three months since the beginning of the chorus season. The songs we have been practicing have been a little difficult, yet can be fun once you can understand the rhythm. Think of how we all have conquered Take the A Train, when John Potelle decided he wanted to try to scat solo. I have been discovering how some of the songs that have come from the Isles made it to America. I hope you have been with me on this journey as I have been able to discuss these songs. Today I am going to discuss The Whistling Gypsy.

I want to first say that I will be happy to try out for the solo audition the next practice. I thought since my mother has been into Irish Music and her fiddle for twenty-five years, it would be a pleasure for me to be a soloist during the upcoming concert. This song was created Leo Maguire in the 1950’s in Ireland, and since then it has been sung by several artists, and was used in the film The Black Knight, after Leo recreated the lyrics.

This version of the Whistling Gypsy is made for four-part chorus, and includes Baritone, solo, piano, and guitar accompaniment. There are five verses, which will have three soloists, the main-storyteller, the father, and the female parts. The whistling part adds flavor to the mix of the chorus singing the Ah-de-do part. The song is about a woman who runs off to be with a gypsy, who is originated from the Romanians, or an ethnic tribe living in Europe or America. Once we sing the song in the chorus concert, it should put the audience into perspective about the life of Ireland, and how most of Americans living in the Eastern United States came from our ancestors from Europe, such as the gypsy in this song.

Ticket to Ride

I am only 32 years old but I suppose you could call me an old soul since I am a huge fan of the Beatles.  I credit my friends in college who had a Beatles Cover Band  JFJ  (their names are  Jimmy Ford and Jake)  for introducing me to the music of The Beatles.    I think that  so far this semester my favorite song we are singing in chorus has been the Ticket To Ride Beatles  Medley which includes Ticket To RidePenny Lane and Baby You Can Drive Me Car.

Ticket To Ride was included in  the Beatles movie Help and was the first Beatles song to be over 3 minutes long. This song was performed in Shea Stadium on August 15th 1965 and then on the Ed Sullivan Show on September 12th 1965. The scene during the song of the movie is when the fab four are skiing at the Swiss Alps. Some of the footage was used for the cover photo for Help the record album.

Penny Lane is about a bus station that was a central location for all the Beatles to meet when they needed to get somewhere in Liverpool. This bus station no longer exists.  There were some sexual references in this song that were intentional.  “Finger pie” and “Keep your fire engine clean are sexual slang terms.  For instrumentation there was no  guitar in this song. John Lennon played piano and George Harrison played the conga drum. This song was on the B side of the 1967 LP with A side Strawberry Fields Forever; and later as one of the songs on Magical Mystery Tour, the album.

In Drive My Car  the storyline is that  the song’s narrator is told by  a woman that she wants to be a movie star and offers  him to be  her chauffer. Paul McCartney said that  “Drive My Car” is a  blues euphemism for sex which is a  reference to the  pre-automatic  shift era of automobiles. Drive My Car was first performed  on October 13th 1965. It’s the opening song to the Beatles’ album Rubber Soul.

All songs in this medley are very fun to sing . Out of the three my favorite is  Ticket To Ride since I have seen the movie Help before and am most familiar with it. I am looking forward to performing this song in our concert.

Sources: Wikipedia  and

As told by Janine Leffler, edited by Matthew Smith

Take The “A” Train

As we begin spring, it’s good that most places in New England are becoming more green with less snow since we’ve been having warmer temperatures. We were fortunate not to have the snow that New York city got. It’s where you could go anywhere anytime in the city that never sleeps, by a number of different modes of transportation. One of the most popular is by subway, and that relates to the next song from our chorus that I would like to describe.

The song is called Take The A Train. It was written during the glory days of jazz music, and composed by Duke Ellington, after he met a shy delivery boy from Philadelphia named Billy Strayhorn. His thoughts about taking the subway to get to East Harlem inspired him to write this music piece. Their friendship and love of jazz combined gave them the courage from this song, because the A Train was known of all the subway rails in New York City to be at the bottom of the pack.

The song itself has a mixture of harmony and rhythm combined into a festive piece with scatting. It’s a little hard when the song is going at a fast pace, especially with the scat in the middle, but it’s sound fun once you can blend your own voice with the rest of the chorus. I found even though I am still learning how to sing the scat, I can feel good when I can sing next to the bass section.