I’ve been really happy with my 2008 arrangement of O Little Town of Bethlehem – a mix of (relatively) easy pop chords with a bit of Christmas sparkle thrown in – so I had no intention of trying to arrange the song again for a long time. But as I sat down this past summer to start working on ideas for new Christmas HymnCharts, the main piano theme just popped into my head.
This new 2014 version is a bear, no lie – with nearly 40 Protools tracks it took three times as long to mix as my other arrangements. It’s hard, with lots of changing chords, so you’ll have to actually rehearse this one! The song is piano-driven – your guitarists will gripe about all the changes but tell them to get over it and start working on it now so they’ll be ready by December. The explosive end has a touch of that epic Trans-Siberian orchestra feel yet it’s still meant for your congregation to sing.
In worship, try starting out with a male or female soloist on the first verse, then have your praise team and/or choir join and invite the congregation to sing along on the remaining verses.
I’m also using my new arranging fixation of composing a melodic theme for the intro and midtros, then using that same theme as a vocal tag at the end. Your congregation will be able to sing along because they will have already heard the tag melody five times!
As with all pop music these days, the arrangement is built on hooky lines that are layered upon layer to the end of the song, building volume and intensity to the end.
I don’t recommend changing keys as the song has quite a wide vocal range. Plus, pianists like Eb 🙂
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