Henry Gauntlett, et. al.
Five Carols for Four Trombones:

Arranged by Wayne Groves

Three tenors One bass

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Publisher: Cherry Classics Music
Date of Publication: 2017

Score and parts

Primary Genre: Trombone Ensembles - 4 trombones

The program notes indicate these were arranged at different times as each of the various hymns were encountered and they were created for students and colleagues in the Aguascalientes Trombone and Tuba Ensemble in Central Mexico. Because of the disparity of ability level, except for some possible range issues, these are functional. The five carols are as follows:

Once in Royal David’s City by Henry J. Gauntlett.
Scored in G major, three verses of the AAB form are given. In the first verse, solo trombone plays the first A, and the quartet plays the remainder in unison. Harmony is indicated in the second verse with the first part retaining the solo line indicated at a higher dynamic level than the other parts. The second part gets the melody in the third verse in like manner. In these last two verses, harmony pitches are written above the melody (voice crossing) which might make it difficult to perceive the melody, and the music is identical for each of the repeated A sections. The highest pitch is in the third part – g1, and the fourth part descends to D.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Gustav Holst.
Scored two times through the AABA form, the first time uses a predictable harmonic accompaniment with the melody in the first part. The melody is shared between first and second parts on the second time through with the first part ascending to b-flat1 in both verses. In the key of D-flat major and homophonic, the bass part has optional lower octaves indicated to FF. Phrases are not marked, however the traditional 4-measure phrases will be fine.

Huron Carol “Jesous Ahatonhia” by St. Jean de Brébeuf
In the key of g minor, this opens with an expressive solo statement of the melody in the first part supported with pad chords from the others. In measure 10 and indicated Moderato, a motor rhythm begins in parts 2-4. Although indicated louder, voice crossing from the other parts might obscure the melody in the first part. The third verse is interesting. The melody is scored in parallel sixths while the other two parts continue the motor rhythm, giving this a nice contrast. The conclusion uses the first two measures of the theme as material for a canon; all parts with slurred eighth notes. The third part presents a range issue – b-flat1, while the first ascends to g1; the fourth down to D.

Divinum Misterium – Original Plainsong
The first seven measures are indicated in eighth notes with groupings of 10, 9, 10, 9, 13, 8, and 14. The “chant” nature is obvious, however since durations are different for the three supportive parts, subdivision will be necessary to correctly move the harmonies. Once again, there is voice crossing with the melody that might obscure the tune. The second melodic statement is Maestoso in 4/2 meter and will convey a much broader sound. In the key of B-flat major, the first part goes up to b-flat1. Although not marked, the phrases are obvious and an “amen” has been added to the end.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel – traditional
The first verse in d minor is indicated with steady pulse, but changing meter. Because some pitches are held for different durations, a sense of rubato is conveyed without actually changing tempo. The second verse is quite symmetrical. Its melody is in the first and fourth parts in octaves with harmonic pads in the others. A key change to g minor and a duet between the first two parts begin the contrasting polyphonic third verse. The fourth part joins in the second phrase, and at the climax all four parts are indicated fortissimo with a more homophonic texture. Traditionally this concludes down, however the ending is scored with a crescendo through a chordal extension. Ranges are manageable; first – g1 and bass – CC.

If you are looking for a collection that offers cultural contrast and accessibility, this set is for you. Parts are easy to read, the music is quite functional for services, and there are plenty of moments to showcase individuals or sections.

Reviewer: David Stern
Review Published June 15, 2023