The Return of A Christmas Carol

In 1980, the members of the Newnan Community Theatre Company prevailed upon me to set Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol to music. Their thinking was that just as every ballet company in the world did The Nutcracker every holiday season, most theatre companies did Christmas Carol, and with similar financial objectives.  They were not wrong.

I set about cannibalizing older pieces and writing new ones, and in a couple of months I had it all pieced together.  It was, as expected, a huge hit, and we did it every year for a number of years.  In fact, after the Newnan City Council effectively shut us out of the Municipal Auditorium and we had no home, it was the cancellation of Christmas Carol in 1983 that spurred the movement that got us the old Manget-Brannon building as a permanent facility.

Eventually we tired of the same piece every year (although audiences never seemed to), and we began alternating with other holiday offerings.  It was last presented in 2001; the last time I directed it was 1992.

When Newnan Theatre Company (same group as NCTC, just a different name) expressed an interest in reviving a couple of years ago, I discovered that I had none of the sequencer files on my computer, nor any of the MIDI files.  It was too late in the year (plus it was my first year  as GHP director, I think) for me to reconstruct the whole thing.  When the topic came up again recently, I was ready, and so I am in the middle of re-orchestrating all 18 pieces, plus reinventing the overture, which was never written down on paper at all.

When I began seriously setting about the task, I was shocked to find how close I had come to losing the whole show: I had only the original, handwritten piano score plus a few vocal pages to go by, and these were scattered across several notebooks and files.  I had nothing resembling the full orchestration that I had developed in the sequencer.  It was all going to be from scratch.

That’s OK.  I want to start over with a live ensemble, and so I’ve been working with a piano, a synthesizer keyboard, a flute, a clarinet, a cello, a glockenspiel, and chimes.  That should be enough.

I’m now two months into the project and am halfway finished, although the “Finale” is a monster by itself.  So far, so good, although Belle’s song, “That You,” set me back two weeks because I had to seriously rethink the harmonization and accompaniment.  The melody was always fine, but everything else was clunky.  It’s better now, but not without a lot of struggle on my part.

Part of the struggle has been dealing with Finale 2014’s idiosyncrasies, including a recent upgrade that was supposed to fix a serious problem and instead reinstated it.  (I ended up downgrading to the first version of Finale 2014, something I’ve never had to do before.) And then the USB extension cable connecting my keyboard to the computer went bad without warning, etc., etc.

I’ve also procrastinated by updating nearly every other piece of music I’ve ever written from whatever version of Finale it was originally created in (as early as 2003 in some cases!) to 2014.  Worth it, but hardly productive.  (Check out William Blake’s Inn in its new settings.)

So today I hammered out “That You” and should be rolling straight through the rest of the show.  If I keep at it, I should be done by the end of April.

Check it out over to the left under My Music.

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