I got part-way into writing it and morphing it into a 4/4 trance tune (of all things), then set it aside out of frustration with my lack of skill, and wrote a "Baroque/Bach" version of the carol instead ( "Belle Fugue" http://www.macjams.com/song/18042 ). So, as I slowly learned more about music, the "Belle Aire" sketch gathered dust for years...
in November 2011 I met a local mandolin player (Kevin), and we talked about how I wrote a little music here and there. He told me the "San Diego Mandolin Orchestra" group he was playing in had a Christmas concert coming up and they might be looking for new music to play, and did I have anything written for Mandolins and flute? My mind raced. This seemed like a great opportunity to re-orchestrate something, learn about a new instrument (the mandolin), and possibly have a piece of my music performed live!
But I only had a few weeks to come up with something. I remembered this very short (half-completed) "holiday" piece from almost a decade ago, and started researching the mandolin. Oh wait... I was then reminded that it is an orchestra, a whole FAMILY of instruments! Mandolin, Mandola, Octave-Mandolin, Mandolin-cello... I learned as much as I could about each instrument and its range and what clef each played in, then started reworking the music for these instruments. The flute's deceptive initial counter-melody (that makes the listener start wondering if this might not be Carol of the Bells at all) was already there and remained mostly intact, but I added some embellishments, like the short swing-section, bouncing the melody between guitars and 1st and 2nd mandolins in the middle, and putting in some of the characteristic mandolin tremolos near the end.
Well, to make a long story short, Jim Trepasso, conductor of the orchestra very kindly accepted my score, and had his musicians start practicing it for the performance. On December 21st, 2011, my wife and I drove down to attend the concert, at the Coronado Public Library. We offered to video-tape this and a few of the (more traditional) holiday pieces they played that evening, to give more exposure to the mandolin orchestra, and to the "Friends of the Coronado Library" who put on these concerts. The orchestra did an amazing job quickly learning and performing my piece for the concert, and the evening was a jam-packed success. Jim was embarrassingly generous with his introduction of me during the concert.
So, without further ado, here is a video recording of the San Diego Mandolin Orchestra performing "Belle Aire". And the Macjams audio recording here is the Garageband computerized rendition of the musical score itself (not the live performance) for comparison. And the video size on this blog is tiny... you may want to watch it in a larger format directly from the YouTube site... just click the link below the movie.
But wait, there's more! Just for you, I have a free "computerized" recording of the original score (not this live recording) which you can listen to or download by clicking here.
Please visit the San Diego Mandolin Orchestra web site, buy some of their music, and take some time to go to your local library and support their concerts! Happy holidays, and as the original lyrics of "Carol of the Bells" suggest, may the swallow bring you good fortune and a bountiful new year!
My warmest thanks to Jim Trepasso for offering to have my music performed, to the Mandolin Orchestra musicians for practicing and performing so nicely, to Vanessa the flute player/Coronado librarian who helped set up the concert and played the flute part with such warmth, and to my wife who was half of our video-camera/roadie team, and always inspires me beyond words.