Gnaden Fülle läßt seh’n

Hey, look there, it’s almost Christmas. For this year’s internet Christmas card, we’re bringing out the guitar for an easy (I can play it; ergo it is pretty easy), standard-tuning, fingerstyle arrangement of an old favorite. I have found that it is impossible to play fingerstyle guitar without gradually assuming a strangely equanimous persona. The equanimity doesn’t last, of course. But it’s nice to know that it’s in there somewhere.

Gruber (arr. Guerrieri): Silent Night (PDF, 60Kb)

Only a couple of clunkers in that performance! It probably would have been better had I been fueled up with this concoction, a holiday favorite in the early days of the Sunset Club of Los Angeles, according to the December 13, 1902 issue of The Capital:

The “Sunset Club Christmas Punch” is a more stalwart and insidious amalgamation of choice ingredients, and should be taken with respectful care by even robust partakers. The following are the constituents of this holiday specialty:

Four bottles of any fine brand of champagne.
Two bottles each of rum and brandy.
One gill of curaçao, or chartreuse.
One quart of black tea.
Four bottles of plain soda.
Lemon juice, sugar and fruits.

Mix the juice of six cured lemons with half a pound of crushed (or cube) sugar and then amalgamate with the tea, and stir for a few seconds. Then pour in the rum, and stir to a foam. Then the brandy and liqueur. Now, place a large cube of ice in the bowl and pour in the champagne and soda. Then place slices of two or three handsome uncured lemons and of four small oranges on the ice; and around it. Cubes of pineapple or banana slices, or both, may also be used. Serve in Roman punch cups.

A potent elixir to while away the hours while you’re waiting to see if that “peace on earth and goodwill to all” page is ever going to load. Safe holidays to everyone.

Footsteps here below

Guerrieri: Sonos in Aere (I Love to Hear the Story) (PDF, 46 Kb)

This year’s Christmas carol was supposed to be one of two: I wrote a sweet one and a not-so-sweet one, but the text permission for the not-so-sweet one has yet to come through. (Coal in your stocking this year, U.S. copyright law.) So here’s the sweet one, at least—it was bumped from my Christmas Eve service, so now it is yours. I have a sneaking, cynical suspicion that the not-so-sweet one will still be pertinent next year.

That said: Happy Holidays! However tenuous your relationship to the season, you can still frolic and play the Adelaide Keen way:

Sinners, reconciled

arr. Guerrieri: The Wexford Carol (PDF, 99Kb)

Happy holidays from everyone at Soho the Dog HQ! Here’s a carol arrangement to cleanse your aural palate in between walls of indiscriminate seasonal noise. Honestly, this has been one of those years when I think Christmas might be better off as, say, a quadrennial affair, like the World Cup. You know how the World Cup comes along, and people with no previous interest in the sport are straightaway really into it, to an unprecedented degree? Imagine if you could pull that off with platitudinous Christmas sentiments. (“Peace on earth? Goodwill to all? I suddenly find these notions INTRIGUINGLY COMPELLING” *strokes chin as eyes widen and flash*) Comfort and/or joy to everyone out there.


“Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” (descant and harmonization by me, 2014) (PDF, 57 Kb)
The same thing in a lower key (PDF, 57 Kb)

A characteristically nutty descant I wrote for an otherwise beloved carol. I like my angels heralding in screaming bright G major, but that might be just a bit high for the end of a full lessons-and-carols service, and a half-century of Presbyterian hymnals have insisted on F, so take your pick.

This night so chill

arr. Guerrieri: Still, Still, Still (2012) (PDF, 191 Kb)

This year’s holiday card is a two-voice-and-piano arrangement of one of my favorite carols. Seriously, if I had to make out an intellectual Christmas list, “the chance to repeatedly harmonize an arpeggiated triad in increasingly odd fashion” would rank somewhere near the top. It’s the simple things, really.

In the meantime, I am considering ringing in the new year with this concoction, courtesy of Jennie June’s American Cookery Book (1866):


Put into a bowl a pound of sugar, pour on it a pint of warm beer, grated nutmeg, and some ginger, also grated; add four glasses of sherry and five pints of beer, stir it well, and if not sweet enough, add more sugar, and let it stand covered up four hours, and it is fit for use. Sometimes add a few lumps of sugar rubbed on a lemon to extract the flavor, and some lemon juice. If the lemon rind is pared very thin, without any of the white skin left, it answers better, by giving a stronger flavor of the lemon.

Bottle this mixture, and in a few days it will be in a state of effervescence. When served in a bowl fresh made, add some bread toasted very crisp, cut in narrow strips.

No sweeter sound than this is heard

Guerrieri: Rejoice, Rejoice! (PDF, 87 Kb; plastic-imitation MIDI here)

It’s Christmas carol time. This one sets a text by William Chatterton Dix, better known for writing “What Child Is This?” (Surely the most leading question in Christmas carol history, outpacing “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by a wide margin. I’ve always wanted to hear a version of “What Child Is This?” where the baby isn’t Jesus. Twist ending!) Dix was also the manager of an insurance company, which makes him the Charles Ives of hymn-writers, I suppose. At any rate, this carol manages to be both cheerful and consistently unsettled, which is how I imagine pretty much everybody spends their holiday season.

By the way, previous years’ carols can now be accessed with the handy “Carol” tag at the bottom of this post. Four years on, and I’ve finally come around to blog tags! To be fair, the tags put a bit of strain on my 2400 baud modem.

Drede ye nought, sayd the aungell bryght

Guerrieri: Be We Mery in This Feste (PDF, 163 Kb; not terribly subtle MIDI here)

Here’s a nice, crunchy, part-of-this-balanced-breakfast Christmas carol that I’ll toss into the season’s general musical maelstrom. Merry Christmas, every one! This will probably end up being this year’s Christmas Eve choral introit—sometimes you just want something in-your-face to shake everyone out of their cookie-induced torpor. Can I augment that harmony? Sure! Can I throw on all the mixture stops? It’s Christmas, isn’t it? Why do Tudor sources add so many extra letters to otherwise normal English words? Hey, it’s the thought that counts.

If the macaronic inclusion of ecclesiastical Latin is too sober for your holiday, you can always set the Wayback Machine to last year’s wassails. And it’s as good a time as any to remind everyone that charity-supporting t-shirts are a great way to distract your friends and loved ones from the coming financial apocalypse. (Buy eight for Hanukkah!)

Silk purses from sow’s ears

We finish up the week’s holiday scribbling (previously: 1, 2, 3, 4) with a boar’s head carol, one of the oldest Christmas traditions there is. When super-intelligent aliens take over the planet and interrogate humanity about our customs, I imagine that the boar’s head will come up around Day 23 or so.

SUPER-INTELLIGENT ALIENS: OK, that’s all we need to know about the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. Moving on. Now, this whole boar’s head thing….

HUMANITY: Oh, yeah. The boar’s head—for Christmas.

SIA: That would be the infant-in-a-feeding-trough holiday.

H: That’s the one.

SIA: Now, you’d cut the head off a pig…

H: Yep.

SIA: And you’d put it on a plate…

H: Yep.

SIA: And then parade it around the room and sing to it.

H: Yep, that’s pretty much it.

SIA: And why would you do this?

H: Well, I mean, we had to, didn’t we? That boar is vicious, with those tusks and all. And he’s constantly eating all the crops, isn’t he? We worked hard raising those crops. We had to kill him.

SIA: So it’s revenge, basically.

H: Yeah, I suppose.

SIA: Which you then made into a Christmas thing.

H: Yeah.

SIA: Like Die Hard, but with a pig.

H: Come on, man, you put it that way, it sounds stupid.

Voice and piano, with violin and cello obbligato. Why? Because I can. (Maniacal laughter, &c.) For my brother Dan and his new bride Jenn. (And Jessie, too.) Musically, this one is pure cop show. Not the “Dial ‘M'” cop show-as-slang-for-cool—I mean it sounds like the theme to a 1970s cop show. Sing it while riding on the hood of a speeding car.

Guerrieri: Nowell, Nowell (PDF, 176 KB; surprisingly appropriate MIDI here)

Food, Glorious Food

Today’s carol (previously: 1, 2) comes to us courtesy of 17th-century England, where carving a roast was apparently regarded as a descendant of jousting—an oddly Proustian trigger for chivalric nostalgia. For Karen and Mike (you can share some with the boys if they’ve been good). Tritones and augmented triads make everything festive!

Guerrieri: My Master and Dame (PDF, 99 KB; Cooperstown-Giant-authentic-sounding MIDI here)

Can I start you off with some drinks?

Today’s carol (previously) tells the heartwarming tale of a group of pushy carousers who demand nothing but alcohol. We have no need of your “food”! It might be nutritionally unsound, but I’ll bet a roast goose they gained less weight in December than I will.

For Jeana and Glenn, and critic-at-large Moe’s rural Midwestern counterpart Dougal. Musically: as if 19th-century wassailers were carrying around pocket transistor AM radios.

Guerrieri: Bring Us In Good Ale (PDF, 148 KB; Casiotone-esque MIDI here)