For this Assignment I was asked to create a string orchestra arrangement of a song of my choice. I chose Manning Sherwins and Eric Maschwitz’ A nightingale sang in Berkely Square, due to the interesting chord progression and use of two different keys.
Vera Lynn – A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square 1940 – YouTube
I used the following melody line and chord progression to create my arrangement:
The change of key happening in part B is introduced by the Am7b5. Even though it doesn’t use the original accidentals of Eb – major (Bb, Eb and Ab), it still fits to the rest of the piece. This chord leads over the following dominant sept chord (D7) to G – major.
I personally found this change really interesting, as these two keys (Eb – major and G – major) are not related to one another, but still work well with this chord progression as a transition part.
For the following diagram I unfortunately wasn’t able to colour in the entries of the voice and accompaniement in detail, I nonetheless managed to create a rough overview of the structure.
The key Eb maj is shown in pink, whilst G – major is purple. There is a second transitioning part in bar 29, but both used chords (Fm7 and Bb7) are “natural” chords of Eb – major again. Unlike the arrangement below, the upbeat already counts as bar 1.
I started with the melody line of part A (without the repetition) and the root notes of the given chords for the double bass. For the cello I added a pizzicato accompaniment, which continuously lets the piece move forward, apart from a few exceptions, when the melody seems to “take a breath” (for example bar 3). The viola only accompanies with long sustained notes. For the second violin I created a voice which seems to be partially accompanying and partially playing a counter movement to the first violin. For this voice, I mainly focused on the notes which were still missing to fill the given chords, but tried to fill the gaps between as well. In order to create some change I swapped some of the voices for the repetition of part A, letting the cello play the melody.
As already mentioned, the key shifts from Eb – major to G – major. For this change I decided to use a new kind of accompaniment for the main voice by exchanging the pizzicato – movement of the cello for a legato movement starting off – beat, which, in my opinion, makes this part sound slightly waltz – like.
I’ve already heard several versions of this piece and overall have the intention, that I managed to capture it’s mood and the romantic, slightly dramatic character it wants to create really well. The most challenging part for me, was to be able to find out and use all notes of the given chords and still mainly stick to the harmonic rules from Exercise 6: Arranging chords.
In terms of the instruments, I tried to use some different new techniques, which I only learned over the part of this course. Even though I also wanted to include some of the more unusual sounding techniques, I found it difficult to know where to place them. I’m nonetheless quite pleased with the mixed result of the techniques I used. Especially interesting was the use of “sul tasto”, which makes a note played by a string instrument sound much softer. For the double bass I thought of changing the pizzicato for a Bartók pizzicato, but had the impression, that the jazzy character of the piece might get lost. 2
Even though I created the structural diagram before writing the arrangement, I personally didn’t have the impression, that it contributed much to the result. Nonetheless, it was useful to have a chart of the given chords and an overall structural view. This helped me to divide the piece into four different parts (A – A’ – B – A”) and focus on them solely instead of working my way through the whole piece at once. If I had chosen a piece with a given accompaniment, I probably would have found the structural analysis more helpful.
1 Ukena, P. (2018). A Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square. [online]. musescore. Available at: https://musescore.com/user/355131/scores/5179829 [Accessed: 2.01.2021].
2 Black, D. and Gerou, T. (1998). Essential Dictionary of Orchestration. Alfred music. pp. 6 – 48