Clearly Christmas - Euphonium and Tuba 4tet

Low Brass Quartet / Christmas Carol

Creative Vision for the Track:
This is the second of the two carols I did for the euphonium and tuba quartet. I wanted to contrast the agressive nature of “Holly And The Ivy” with a lush carol that would highlight the warmth of the low brass ensemble.

The challenge in both pieces was making sure the balance between the two euphoniums and top tuba worked. I had some flexibility because their first tuba was using an F tuba which could handle that register well. (The CC and BBb tubas can play in that register as well but because of the smaller size of the F it is closer to a euphonium than the other two.

I injected some extended harmonies in various places. Again, because of the register I had to be careful with the voicings to avoid it being muddy. There are a number of major seconds / ninths throughout and last statement of the piece in Euphonium 1 is Lydian.

I had a professor many years ago proclaim that dissonance in the mid- to low register equates to “lush, full harmony” while dissonance in the upper registers is more “shimmery”. Notice neither description of dissonance is negative.

Composition Details (Tempo, Key, Main Chords etc):

Key: Ab

Reharmonization Techniques: Reharmonization based on decending bass line (measures 22 to 25), sus4 chords, modal interchange, occasional deliberate violation of low interval limits when the horns are voiced in triads (not so much in extended voicings),

Other: Thicker harmonies were usually followed with unison or octave unison voicings to clear the ear and keep the setting from feeling weighted down.

Main Instruments used:
Mockup used CineBrass Voices of the Deep and Ark2 for tubas and euphoniums. Piano was a stock Logic Pro grand piano.


“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” – arr Stan Bann

Nice! Enjoyable harmonies all the way through. Love the descending bass line. Didn’t notice any dissonance that offended my ear. To me it was lush, full harmony. You know how to write for low brass!

For me personally, I thought the intro was longer than it needed to be- I think you could just use the first 4(?) measures and go right into the melody. (Start melody at about the 12 second mark.). But the rest of the intro was lovely; you could maybe use it as a musical interlude between verses. (See- now you have to write a second verse- good news for us listeners!) :^)

My other comment- I don’t think you need the piano. For me it wasn’t adding anything that wasn’t already being provided by the beautiful writing of the horns, and sort of seemed out of place.

Again- just personal thoughts- Great arrangement!


1 Like

Thanks, Steven!

I agree on the piano part. It wasn’t part of the quartet. The sound file is a quick rendering I did a while back of the score. It actually was one of the better sounding mockups (Garritan through Finale makes my teeth itch). Posting that one was more for expediency.

There is a mixing challenge when working with the low brass choir as everything sits in the mids. The result is a deader, stuffier sound (to my ears, anyway).

The best sounding tuba and euph library to my ear is Ark2 but it is recorded with so much reverb I lost a lot of definition. I shut down all the reverb in Logic and it still was so wet it was dripping. I went to Cinebrass “Horns of the Deep” which dried things out. I kept the Ark2 for Tuba 2 for presence.

There were reasons I chose the extended intro. As Sammy Nestico once said “nobody gets mad at something pretty” so I aimed for “pretty”.

Bottom line is I’m glad you liked the arrangement! As always I appreciate and welcome your comments! Take care, my friend! See you around campus!


Can’t go wrong with advice from Sammy Nestico. And you nailed the pretty!