How I composed ‘On Christmas Day’
Here's the piece -https://youtu.be/C3q4kGkKcEk
It was early Christmas Day 2020, and I was going about doing normal things, preparing for the day ahead. Suddenly I got the beginnings of a little melody in my head.
And at these sorts of times the brain has time to create without any constraints, so good ideas can come now and then.
Anyway I thought, oh yes, this idea is worth working on. So I went straight to the piano and quickly was able to flesh out the main idea and a secondary idea to go with it. That was the easy part!
Next was the Christmas church service at 8.30am, which was wonderful. Then a trip to the Gold Coast for a family lunch.
The ‘composing’ continued later in the day. At the end of the day I had what I thought was quite a nice little piece, and was prepared to call it ‘finished’. Although I had a nagging feeling it was just a bit too short!
The next day, I played it to my wife and she made some suggestions. Ok, so back to the piano I went!
After a couple of attempts, I settled on extending it with a bell-like ending which was a bit of a contrast to the rest of the piece.
Now the piece had all its main ideas, but how to come up with the finished product?
The main things to sort out were:
1. As there are lots of running quavers in the first page based on simple chords, I had to arrange the notes so they created a good sound with the right texture.
2. With the quavers running between the hands, it took a while to optimise the ‘interplay’ between the hands.
3. Then there’s the big arpeggio sweeping from low to high. With the pedal down all the way through, there is a big sustain of sound that I wanted to keep going while the final high melody played. At first, I tried writing something too complex and full up in the treble register which didn’t quite work. So I simplified the left hand notes to just repeating an A, it all sounded much better!
4. I was finally happy. It was done! What remained was to record it and fine-tune the score to follow how I played it on the recording.
5. I also had to improve my playing of the running quavers so that the notes ran evenly between the hands. I also had to think about shaping and slightly phrasing the melody.
And one last thing... deciding on a name for the piece. Would I call it ‘Just Missed Christmas’, or ‘Too Late for Christmas’, or something else?
I am glad I chose ‘On Christmas Day’ as it directly relates to the writing of the piece and I can hear the words ‘On Christmas Day’ when I sing the melody in my head. The piece may even become a song!