A Hymn for Horns

For an upcoming recital, I have been trying to figure out how to perform (or arrange to have performed) my new choral work… without a chorus. Apart from my not having many connections in the choral community, a full chorus would probably outnumber the students and parents in attendance at the recital.

As a fallback, I hastily mixed a synthesized rendition of the hymn for horn choir. I owe this exercise to GarageBand for having an impressive horn ensemble sample in its sound library, but I was happy enough with the results to take the time to “write out” (in Sibelius) the score for a 5-part horn choir.

Horns are great. I'm not biased.
Horns are great. I’m not biased.

Some concerns and considerations:

  • In its original key, the piece would demand of the first horn players a sustained high C. So, I have lowered the key of the piece by a whole step. I am considering lowering it even a half-step further, but that would result in the somewhat awkward key of B major for at least one section.
  • My composition teacher informed me that a 5-part horn choir is a very rare and unusual ensemble. He recommended re-scoring the piece for horn octet, which would have the added benefit of doling out the longer phrases and high parts more fairly (as it is, the 2nd horn part has no rests), as well as enabling beefier chords.
  • Not needing to figure out how to distribute spoken syllables across notes is a huge burden off my shoulders. Not to say that it isn’t a useful exercise, but writing the piece for an instrumental choir has allowed me to reinstate the phrasings, slurs, and ties that I first had in mind, which, you know, I think are more tasteful.

There’s a lesson here about the unpredictable evolution of one’s own work. Something for me to mull over and write about later.

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