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Firebird: a chorale finale with electric guitar

Arranging Firebird.

When you hear the word “chorale” you might think of choirs, robes, or other liturgical music. 

So we were stoked when a client requested a personalized arrangement of the chorale finale from Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird, a famous Russian ballet about a powerful female spirit bird who helps a Russian prince defeat an evil sorcerer.

Russian folklore was all the rage in early 20th century Paris. 27-year-old Stravinsky got hired as a sub and composed Firebird, making him an overnight success and leading him to a successful partnership with Sergei Diaghilev and future works Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913).

Notes from the client:

I had one advanced player who wanted the spotlight (flute), and a few others (brass players) who could handle more playing time and needed practice blending with each other. That’s why I suggested a chorale in the first place.

I also had a few instruments in my group that didn’t fit a typical “chorale” arrangement (guitars and electric bass, in particular, which don’t sustain a single note). I wondered how Josh would incorporate them without it feeling like they didn’t belong in the piece.

This made it the perfect piece to arrange for a featured solo. And we got the chance to use electric guitars to create soft movement while accompanying the flute soaring above it.

Firebird flute and guitars

Firebird starts quietly and builds gradually using the same melody throughout.

Using the three brass instruments to create maximum volume toward the end was the easy part. The harder part was using the percussion to highlight the other instruments rather than being the main feature. 

Firebird drum part

We accomplished this by using hi-hat instead of drums and keeping a lid on the speed of the drum part until the final section where the whole ensemble is blaring. 

Because school was canceled due to COVID-19, we haven’t gotten the chance to see this arrangement in action, yet!