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In the Bleak midwinter (Darke) – Christmas with Septura

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Published on Nov 2, 2016

Brass instruments are almost a Christmas cliché: synonymous with the celebration, but perhaps not with the wealth of great music that it has inspired. Septura sets out to rectify this, re-imagining for brass septet the Christmas offerings of the greatest composers of the past 450 years. Pushing the combinations and colours of the septet to the limits, the result is a virtuosic and varied selection of festive favourites.

Many of the English choral pieces that we have re-imagined have been made famous by the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast worldwide on Christmas Eve from King’s College, Cambridge. Harold Darke’s nostalgic In the bleak midwinter has been a mainstay of that service since 1941, when he became the war-time Director of Music at King’s. He followed in the footsteps of Holst in setting the text by Christina Rossetti, but unlike Holst’s version, Darke’s isn’t strictly strophic. Instead, it alternates verses for solo voice and organ with ones for the full choir. In our transcription cup-muted instruments provide the organ accompaniment as the first verse (normally sung by a treble) is played by a solo trumpet, and the third (normally a baritone) employs the unique sound of a solo euphonium. In the second and fourth verses a quartet of instruments play the rôle of the choir.

Trumpets: Huw Morgan, Alan Thomas, Simon Cox
Trombones: Matthew Gee, Matthew Knight, Dan West
Tuba: Sasha Koushk-Jalali

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