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commissioned by the River City Brass Band, Music Director Denis Colwell
'Twas the Night
Before Christmas

Drew Fennell, composer


This is the first actual composition I ever did for River City Brass Band. Up until that time, I had arranged many dozens of pieces. I was not so sure I would be successful, but I set to the task. I was really backed up, as a result of having worked on about fifteen Gilbert and Sullivan tunes for the previous concert, so I only had a couple of weeks to finish the piece.

I conceived the main themes while in a quiet moment on my future fiancée's back porch on a cold November evening. It is interesting to me how, in just a single moment, you can go from having no idea what you are going to write to having the entire thing mapped out for you. I have often thought about keeping music manuscript paper with me for just such moments. In any case, I had enough time to commit these ideas to memory, long enough to get home and scribble them down on my computer.

The end result was a quaint little piece, of which I am very proud. The performances went, for the most part, very well. Sometimes I wondered (and I wonder with every piece I write) if the audience was only being polite in their response. However, the musicians seemed to enjoy playing it, and that is always a good sign.

  • 'Twas the Night Before Christmas is published by Drew Fennell Publishing.
    Available for Wind Band and Brass Band and Orchestra.

  • Hear a computer generated version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, without narration [brass band version]*.

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Program Notes

In ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, I hope to recreate some of the excitement I felt as a daydreaming child, during the magical holiday season. For this reason, as the music begins, there is an ethereal quality, as if it were all a dream. But, as dreams begin to seem more real as they progress, so the music takes on a more tangible quality as well.

The prologue begins with a dramatic musical “Once-Upon-A-Time,” as we travel north in the blowing snow. Eventually, we settle into a bustling workshop of Saint Nicholas and his elves, as preparations are being made for St. Nick’s nocturnal trip. The jolly theme for St. Nicholas is introduced by the tubist, who is joined by the piccolo player. Later, we hear sleigh bells as St. Nick mounts his sleigh and takes off on his annual Christmas journey. As the prologue ends, we see him (and his entourage) disappear, in a flash, into the distance. Here, then, the themes and motives have all been exposed, and the stage is set for the narrator to begin the reading. The underscoring continues the themes and motives we heard in the prologue.

Ideally, the narrator should be an older man – a “grandfatherly” character, perhaps even costumed in corresponding “grandfatherly” clothing. He may be reading from an old, worn book – possibly with a child sitting on his lap.

Duration: approximately 6 minutes

– Drew R. Fennell

Narrators for this piece click here for important information!

  • View an unformatted text version of these program notes, suitable for use in concert programs*.

*Right click on the link and choose Save Target As... to download the file.

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Wind Band Instrumentation

1st Flute
2nd Flute
1st Clarinet in Bb
2nd Clarinet in Bb
3rd Clarinet in Bb
Bass Clarinet in Bb
1st Alto Saxophone in Eb
2nd Alto Saxophone in Eb
Tenor Saxophone in Bb
Baritone Saxophone in Eb
1st Trumpet in Bb
2nd Trumpet in Bb
3rd Trumpet in Bb
1st Horn in F
2nd Horn in F
3rd Horn in F
4th Horn in F
1st Trombone
2nd Trombone
3rd Bass Trombone
Euphonium T.C. or B.C.

(4 or 5 players)
Percussion includes:
sleigh bells
suspended cymbals
crash cymbals
snare drum
bass drum

Fanfare and Theme is heavily cued and may be effectively performed without the oboe, bassoon, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone or a full complement of horns. Doubling is ideal for some parts, but it is certainly not required.

Brass Band Instrumentation

Soprano Cornet in Eb
Solo Cornet in Bb
1st Cornet in Bb
Repieno Cornet in Bb
2nd Cornet in Bb
3rd Cornet in Bb
Flugelhorn in Bb
1st Horn in Eb*
2nd Horn in Eb*
3rd Horn in Eb*

1st Baritone*
2nd Baritone*
1st Trombone*
2nd Trombone*
3rd Bass Trombone
1st & 2nd Euphonium*
1st & 2nd Tuba in Eb*
3rd & 4th Tuba in Bb*

(4 or 5 players)
Percussion includes:
snare drum
bass drum

*Parts for Horn in F as well as parts for Baritone, Trombone, Euphonium and Tuba in bass clef also available.

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Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 Drew Fennell
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