I Saw Three Sheriffs (Christmas Music Contest)

First, considering this is kind of a mashup/arrangement of “I Saw Three Ships” and two of Aaron Copland’s pieces, “Hoe-Down” and “Simple Gifts,” I’m not sure if this really qualifies for this contest since it’s not completely original. If that’s the case, please disqualify me. Otherwise…

Originally, I was wanting to do a Christmas medley. But when I came up with the idea of doing a western film style Christmas arrangement, and then I realized that 3 Ships is basically a jig, and then that a hoe-down is basically an Americanized jig, I saw that there was plenty I could do with just that song and I focused on it alone.

This is my attempt to write something western, which I had never done before. I was focusing on Aaron Copland, but there are some Elmer Bernstein influences in there (Magnificent Seven). My main goals were 1) to make it sound like an old cowboy/western soundtrack, and 2) to combine I Saw Three Ships and Copland’s music in a way that properly served both.

It starts with an intro that sets up the style. Then starts the “verse” section of I Saw Three Ships. After the “verse” it drops down for a “bridge” with a woodwinds mix of one of the sections from Hoe-Down and then adds some of Simple Gifts. Then it comes back to another “verse” with a mandolin leading and some pizzicato bass. That “verse” finishes with a descending line/chords in the accompanying instruments returning to the intro pattern. Instead of going to the verse from there, it goes to another “bridge” with the hoe-down theme stated twice. It comes out of hoe-down on a G instead of D and there’s a turnaround to get back to D for the final verse. The verse starts out similar to the first verse but with the piccolo playing a different part of hoe-down over top. The second half of the verse, the accompaniment plays mostly chords, working in some very western flatted 7 to 5 chord transitions. The end holds an A for a while playing a rhythm similar to the ending of how-down. Then the brass & woodwinds complete the end of the verse phrase with the violins playing a bit of “Turkey In The Straw” before the stinger.

It’s in D for the most part. Temp is mostly 115, but it has a couple sections that slow down to about 110 and 105.

Sample Libraries:
BBCSO Core (all woodwinds, strings, brass, and percussion)
Bigcat Sketching Orchestra (some additional violin and cello)
The Alpine Project (some additional viola)
Spitfire LABS (Strings and Mandolin)
Logic Pop Drum Kit (for the sleigh bells)


well done. It sounds very good. It reminds at music by Elmer Bernstein.

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Clever, and you have combined the styles of Elmer Bernstein, Aaron Copland with the spirit of Christmas. Great sound production as well.

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This is great Mike! This is the kind of style I like to compose in, that Golden Age of Hollywood style like Elmer Bernstein, Max Steiner, Erich von Korngold et al and you nailed that Bernstein/Copland sound. Every time I hear your music, it makes me want to go get BBSCO, but I’ve been using Orchestral Tool’s SINE player and picking off the individual instruments from Metropolis Ark and their other libraries which are really good.

Awesome piece!

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Thanks, Matt! I’m still getting used to BBCSO but I think it really fit this piece the best so far. If you like the sound, you can always get the Discover version which is free if you fill out a survey, and try it out to see if you like it. The only things I’ve had a hard time with are, I wish the trumpets were more versatile and could get more “brassy,” and the strings are full sections, so if you want anything more intimate or “woody” you have to get it from somewhere else.

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It sounds very well Mike. Huge mix. It is impossible not to smile. An animous moment, really necessary these days.

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