I've been writing Christmas songs for a certain Mr. Brecken. Julie knows what I'm talking about. I have three songs ready, fourth on its way. This fourth one got to be a song for a mixed choir and a piano. Mr. Brecken has written the lyrics for the song and I can't show the lyrics without his permission, but I thought I'd share my music with you. If Mr. Brecken agrees, I would nominate this song as the next song for the Virtual Choir to record.

So much can I reveal that it's a Christmas song, praising Father, Son, Holy Ghost and Saint Mary.

There's no time table yet for it. No occasion where it should be played for public.

The attached soundtrack consists of an uncompleted choir part played by piano, which you hear slightly panned to the left, and an equally unfinnished accompanying piano slightly to the right. The piano drops away soon after the beginning, but should follow in a similar way the rest of the piece.

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Greetings Johan!

What a great piece.   It's impossible to tell the full depth of the piece without the score and the words, of course, but what I can hear in the .mp3 holds much promise!   B. Bentrup Gray is also working on a new piece for the Virtual Choir so it seems like it might be time to get folks in singing mood again!  

Let us all know when this piece is finished, and when Steven Brecken has given permission for us to sing it!   Steven is also a member of VirtualArtists, so you can share your thoughts with him and he can hear the wonderful recording of "June" as an example of what this group can do.

Before we start a new Virtual Choir project, we need to get some clear criteria and directions from Ray in order to create the best possible recordings.  Any thoughts and ideas about the best way to proceed would be very welcome! 

Hi Johan,

Nice piece but excuse me if I hear descending rather than uplifting phrases here. Maybe it's just me?

As far as recording any new virtual choir piece is concerned, there are simple steps to take on each individual's part. Audacity seems to be the "free for all" app and I've downloaded it myself so as I can give some direction in the use of it for those not too familiar with the software. Perhaps a walk through video! I'll try my hand at that although, my Scottish accent would prohibit full understanding by all :(

Text balloons probably a better option :)

Ray, your suggestion of a walk-through video for Audacity would be a god-send.  With either text balloons or brogue, it would be extremely helpful and a real gift to the musical community. 

I'd love the brogue .... with text balloons as translators.  Chuckle.   The one and only time I was in Scotland on a week long visit, I could barely understand a word or two here and there, and I'm sure the reverse was true.  But I love hearing the rhythm and all the rolling r's of what ya'll call "English".  ;-)   In fact, I've been boning up a little, so I can understand more:

Some Choice Scottish Phraseology

Ooops, I got off topic, didn't I?   Couldn't resist ...

Yes, I'm aware of the descending melodies, as well as the descending harmonies. But what goes down must come up, right?

Anyway, I had in mind a similar mood as in Bach's Christmas oratorio, first cantata, the opening and finishing chorus. Especially the latter, based on "Vom Himmel hoch", has a descending melody. I guess the melody is pretty much set for this song, but I still seek for coherency in the harmonies and choir parts, as well as the piano part. It kind of jumps a bit from style to style.

There is also the wonderful "Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates" by our good friend Handel, which lifts us up by moving down melodically.  There are certainly many great precedents for Johan's descending melodies!

Here's an excellent video of the Handel, by three wonderful Korean choirs.  This should get us all in the mood to sing!

Ahead of a possible walk through on Audacity, I thought I would have another listen to the original audio files presented to me for mixing June. Boy, did it turn out better than I could have imagined.

1. Mono files are what's wanted

2. Setting up the record level is very important where the noise floor is quite high on less expensive audio card circuits in computers. Checking my own with a webcam microphone connected by usb shows a pretty poor -24 dB (take my word for it.....that is noisy) however my professional audio device is around -110 dB (a whole lot quieter). This figure for your setup can be seen in audacity when setting Pause then Record ahead of any recording.

BTW ignore my opinions on phrases going up or down :)

About those pesky descending melodies, well, all discussions have their ups and downs, don't they?  ;-)

I'm a little scared to ask, but when you said "Boy, did it turn out better than I could have imagined."  did you mean that the original files were so bad that the superb ending result was nothing short of miraculous?   I know you're far too kind and modest to say it, but I had a feeling that your wizardry was hugely responsible for the quality of the final recording.   I hope we can all do our part on the next recording, having more knowledge and taking a more methodical approach.  Your wizardry is indeed invaluable, but I'm hoping you don't have to work so hard on the next recording!   We'll all do the work this time.

Ray said:

BTW ignore my opinions on phrases going up or down :)

No, I won't! All aspects of music are good to be discussed, whether you stand behind what you said or you just wanted to tease. Melodies are essential in music. Melody is still the musical element that defines a song. You may plagiate a harmonic progression or a rhythm pattern, but you may not plagiate a melody. Anyway, there are examples of bad melody lines that don't fit the lyrics. In the Lutheran church of Finland we use two hymn books, one Finnish and one Swedish (I myslef belong to the Swedish speaking minority). The books don't contain exactly the same set of hymns. A lot of the texts are the same, a lot of the melodies are the same. Then there are same hymns with different melodies. You can find interesting and very strange choices of melodies, when you compare the books. This is a classic:

Swedish version

Finnish version

The text goes something like "I lift my hands towards God's mountain and house".

But not everything in the lyrics has to be underlined by the melody. There are perfectly well melodies in perfectly well songs, where a nit picking analysis reveals kind of contradictions between melody and lyrics.

And sure Händel could write lifting melodies, where needed. Like "The trumpet shall sound" from Messiah.

I have this production of Messiah on DVD. I haven't yet listened to the whole thing, just the highlights, but I know it's just great!

Johan, what an interesting discussion!   Could you post the Swedish version of the cited hymn again?   I got an error trying to open it, but I could open the Finnish version ...  You're right, some melodies seem to really take away from the lyrics!   There are times, of course, that we brilliant composers do that on purpose ... or so we might say after the fact ...

But in the case of your Christmas hymn we don't know yet what the lyrics are - they might have been "God came down in human form" or something like that ...

Sorry for checking this out on this thread but I need to know it works before proceeding further

Make sure you watch in HD full screen mode

I watched it in full screen mode, not sure if I have HD.   It worked.  I could see and understand everything so far.  I'd probably also need a written list of instructions that summed up the video, so I could print that out and have beside me when I was running Audacity.    Verbal instructions or your famous "balloons" would also add value.   This is going to be very helpful!   When we're ready to start our next piece, we can start a new thread.  In the meantime, this one is good for developing an approach and a method for all those who will participate.

Thank you, Ray, for your generous gift of time and knowledge.


You just click on the cog icon and set the quality at 720p

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