This collection of carol arrangements is aimed at the guitarist who has moved beyond the early stages of playing and who is ready to explore keys such as D, A and E major. The aim throughout the book has been to provide rich resonant settings of the carols, whilst avoiding undue technical difficulties.
Following on from First Carols this book presents a lovely selection of nine carols varying from single line and simple two part settings to more sophisticated harmonization using chord shapes in the left hand, arpeggio accompaniment and fuller harmony.
The music helps the player to become more familiar with the key signatures of D, A and E major and makes more use of the fingerboard moving to second, fourth and seventh positions.
At the beginning there is some background to the carols’ origins as well as some technical and performance notes.
John uses harmonics and tambura techniques to great effect in I saw Three Ships and The Huron Carol and there is a lovely ensemble arrangement of Silent Night (one of my favourites).
I love the setting of O Come all ye Faithful where he uses single lines then two part voicing and then three part harmony to capture the feel of the carol building, taking me back to my school carol service with the congregation and choir solos and descants!
There is great contrast and feeling created in I saw Three Ships by simply changing register and moving between one and two voices. I also love the two arrangements of Away in a Manger, firstly with simple, open basses and then, in the second, a D tuning of string 6 and gorgeous harmony in thirds and sixths.
The highlights for me are that second arrangement of Away in a Manger and the Huron Carol which is really atmospheric and evocative, very satisfying, and not too difficult, to learn and play.
At the beginning John states that his aim was “…to provide rich and resonant settings of the carols, whilst avoiding undue technical difficulties…”
He has definitely achieved this with a very worthwhile and enjoyable collection that also manages to teach you lots!