Arranging songs for the Family Folk Machine

by Jean Littlejohn

Right now I’m finishing up the last few song arrangements for our fall FFM session, “Stand by Me: Songs of Friendship.” I love all the stages of bringing a song to life in the Folk Machine, but the arranging stage is a really exciting one. Arranging gives me the space to think about a song in slow motion, to find its inner logic and structure, and to dream about the meanings and connections that will be layered onto the song when it takes shape in the voices of the choir. It gives me an opportunity to think about how certain lines in the lyrics may have particular resonances for certain people in the Machine (although, of course, I’m sure there end up being many resonances that I know nothing about) and how certain verses would sound in various individual solo voices. I can think about the people who are going to be singing the harmony I’m writing, and it makes the work really fun, like creating a special present by hand for a friend you really like.

Sometimes you don’t know, going in, whether a solo song is going to “arrange up” very successfully for choir. This fall I’ve been very pleased by the way all the songs have arranged up. We’ve got a program full of strong songs, and they’re already starting to take shape in rehearsals.

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