The First Noel, Big Band Arrangement

North Carolina got hit with a blizzard overnight and it’s expected to continue snowing through tomorrow. Since I’m fortunate to not have lost power (yet), I’ve been putting the finishing touches up on a big band arrangement of “The First Noel.” Here is a MIDI demo of it.

If you’re curious, I do most of my composing/arranging directly into Finale and the above playback file is Finale’s playback. For the rhythm section parts I create a Band-in-a-Box MIDI file and open it up with Finale, then copy and paste the parts I want into my big band score. That gives me a quick and easy rhythm section playback.

It takes too long to fix all the weird import errors when I try to import a Band-in-a-Box solo into Finale and since the chart will soon be played by real musicians I didn’t worry about plugging in solos in the demo. There are three soloists. The first 16 bars is alto sax, followed by 8 of trombone and 8 of trumpet.

This tune was interesting to work with and arrange. It’s an unusual tune, the same phrase repeats and then a refrain follows that is very similar to the original phrase. Creating a swinging big band arrangement of that form presented some challenges. Because each of the three phrases in the “tune” are so similar, it would quickly become repetitive to have every phrase of the chart be based on the same phrase. I broke up that pattern in four different ways. First, I changed up the reharmonization for the refrain (third) phrase. I also wrote a new 8 bar section to use as an intro, interlude, and coda. During the solos section I inserted a bridge based on the bridge to “Frosty the Snowman.” Lastly, I modulate to new keys, on the shout chorus every phrase.

Assuming no weather related setbacks, the Asheville Jazz Orchestra will premier this arrangement at our annual Stan Kenton Christmas Concert this Friday night. If you’re in western North Carolina that night, please come on out.

Free Meditation Timers

It’s nice to not be distracted by the clock while practicing meditation, so a few years ago I created some MP3s to use with my iPod.  These days I tend to use the fancier timer on my cell phone, which is more convenient for me and takes up less drive space on my iPod.  Still, the meditation timers I’ve made available online remain one of my more popular resources.

Here they are.  Each MP3 starts with 30 seconds of silence (to give you a moment to get comfortable) followed by the sound of a bell ringing.  After a period of time the MP3s end with the sound of the bell again.  The files themselves are pretty large, considering that they are mostly silence.

5 Minute Meditation Timer
10 Minute Meditation Timer
15 Minute Meditation Timer
20 Minute Meditation Timer
25 Minute Meditation Timer
30 Minute Meditation Timer