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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

December 3, 2010

Arranging Christmas Carol, by Music Director Amanda Wansa

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 4:57 pm

Arranging Christmas Carol was an exciting new experience for me, since I’ve never done the same production twice with the same company.  Although, it is some of the same “arrangements” of music that I prepared last year, instead of using tracks (recorded accompaniment that I put together for last year’s show), Julian insisted that we use live musicians.

It is a blessing for a music director to be given the budget and means to hire live musicians and be supported by an Artistic Director who encourages their use.

Mr. Wiles and I decided, together, that the “sound” of the piece should lean towards strolling musicians…therefore, I had to choose instrumentation that would enable musicians to move (literally) onstage and still get a full sound.  I chose violin/fiddle and various reeds.  Most “reed” players can double.  This means that they play mulitple instruments for one production, since they have that capability.

I have hired a fabulous reed player – Jason Bellack – who played FOUR instruments for our Hairspray pit, and Andrae Raffield as our fiddler.  I’m excited to see what life they can bring to the production.  I, myself will play guitar and piano.  Every rehearsal is kind of a juggling game for me, since I’m hopping from piano to guitar, trying to listen to the singers and take notes, and being responsible for all the sound effects in the show (and once you see the show, you’ll see there’s a lot).  The sound effects and recorded music is all chosen, edited, and mixed by me; input into a computer program, and played throughout rehearsal.  I have to adjust volume levels as we go, take notes on changes, and make those changes outside of rehearsal.  I’ll be glad to get the show up and running so that I can just be a guitar and piano player.  Of course, I’ll always be listening for adjustments, but what Music Director can turn their ear off?

In order to arrange the live music, I had to refer to my piano versions of the music I wrote/arranged last year and pull it apart so that certain harmonies and melodic lines were sure to be played by one of the 2-4 instruments making music.  This process was not as hard as I thought.  The opening and the closing were the biggest challenges.  We also have actors – many of our VERY talented youngsters in Troupe and Theatreschool – playing percussion.  I think audiences will really enjoy this production with the return of live musicians!

Carolers in A Christmas Carol.

The cast of A Christmas Carol sing "Christmas Is In the Air".

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