My selection, "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night," was a bit challenging as it is only 25 seconds long from beginning to end. Repeating chorus after chorus was not an option even if it was modulated a number of times as the melody becomes less inspiring each time it occurs. What to do? Well, I usually do a historical analysis of my Christmas music so I thought this would be a good time to continue that policy.

The version I used may not be the most popular around the world these days, but it is one that I grew up with and was written by George Frederick Handel. Can't go wrong there. I found that the beginning of the carol was taken from a 1700s opera entitled, "Siroe." With that little bit of info, I searched the Internet and, believe it or not, found a copy of that opera and the Carol melody in Scene 10 of Act II. It was sung by the Heroine, Emira, and her aria closes the Act.

Handel's written melody is only about 2/3 of what we know as the actual passed down melody. A 19th century composer, who apparently liked Handel's aria, used the first 2/3 of it and then composed an ending which could be used with the text of, "while Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night." So, to make a long story short, I used Handel's lead in from his Aria along with his instrumentation to prelude into a modern full orchestra rendition of the short Carol. After that, I went back to his opera and used some transition material as a filler and modulation device before the second full orchestra rendition. Along with this, I used the BASS NOTES of the Carol beginning as a short theme for a 3-voice fugal exposition (using the organ). The second and last rendition of the chorus is in a different key than the first and after that, I, again, went back to Handel's score and used his aria postlude as an ending to my arrangement in the modulated key. Thank you G.F. Handel.

So there you have it. A 25 second Carol made into a much longer arrangement by using material from the original composer plus some original material by me. A lot of work, but a lot of satisfaction and education as well.

Jack