O Little Town of Bethlehem was written in 1868. Phillips Brooks, an Episcopal priest from Philadelphia’s Church of the Holy Trinity, wrote the text; Lewis Redner, the church’s organist, composed the music. The song gradually made its way into Protestant hymnals over the next twenty years, and it has since become a standard in the Christmas repertoire.
This band setting of the beloved carol is straightforward and fairly conservative. It is also more demanding than it may initially appear. Maintaining a beautiful tone throughout should be the highest priority. Lines should be played in a fluid, lyrical style, breathing being staggered as much as possible. The tempo throughout should be approached in a rubato fashion, with more motion at the beginnings of phrases and a gentle tapering at the ends. Dynamic contrasts should occur naturally, providing dramatic and musical interest, but with no real surprises, particularly during the climatic moments following measure 49. There is a considerable amount of chromaticism and a significant number of enharmonic equivalents - particularly concert G sharps - throughout this piece. Please allow adequate time to address and reinforce these new concepts with your students before you begin rehearsing the piece with them. Enjoy!
- Composer: Stuart P. O'Neil