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sheet music

sheet music

Jenkins, Dan - 24 New Chorales


Dan Jenkins composed his '24 New Chorales' in 2011. He writes: 

"Actually there are 32.

During his lifetime, Bach wrote 371 Chorales that we know of, and in doing so he laid down the rules for all 4-part harmony written ever since.

In 1961, David Fetter at the Eastman School in Rochester, New York, saw that the Chorale format would suit four trombones very well, and transcribed 22 of the Chorales. These in their turn have become a bedrock of Trombone Quartet repertoire, being especially useful for ensemble training, as they draw attention to intonation, unanimity of articulation, phrasing, matching of sound, and so on.

50 years later, I have tried to update things a little. These are back to being original compositions, following Bach’s rules. They have contemporary harmony but are, I hope, beautiful rather than too crunchy. Though the harmonies aren’t Bach, the melodies certainly could be, though Bach actually wrote only a small proportion of his Chorale melodies; the rest were already in use in the church at the time. There’s a Chorale for every key, major and minor, making 24, and four of the Chorales have three versions, making 32 in all. The three versions have identical melodies; the b/ version is as the rest of this collection, i.e. modern and attractive; the a/ and c/ versions are on either side of this: the a/ Chorales are as Bach may have treated the tune, and the c/ Chorales are thoroughly modern, or as one student described them, “progressed”! I see no reason why contemporary chords shouldn’t be treated in the same way in terms of tuning and balance etc as more traditional ones, and this also applies to the occasional use of quartertones in two of the later Chorales.

A major update is the fact that these Chorales aren’t primarily for Trombone Quartet. So that orchestral sections can play them, the bass line is now for Tuba, although an alternative Bass Trombone part is included. The tuba part may at times seem to be a long way below the three trombones, but because that is healthy tuba register, it sounds fine. The optional Bass Trombone part is adjusted accordingly. The only time a trombone may be preferable on the bass part is in the Chorales featuring quartertones, but a tuba can easily lip things up or down to play these. The 1st Trombone part is in both alto and tenor clef. The alto clef part is there for a 1st player playing Alto Trombone, to facilitate their reading so that they can concentrate on the difficult tuning on that instrument. And if the 1st player is playing a tenor trombone, as most of us are brought up that way, it’s good alto clef-reading practice.

With these pieces not having to be constructed to fit words, as Bach had to, I’ve relished the beauty of the Chorale itself and written simple, almost plainchant-like tunes, to enhance the strength of both melody and harmony.

32 pieces in the same format is a lot, so some variation was needed, so that they’re 32 different pieces, not a long series of similar ones. Therefore, unlike previous Chorales, I’ve put some directions in, to give an indication of how I saw the mood or character of each individual piece. Also as a first, I’ve added some dynamics, for exactly the same reason. However, it’s worth appreciating the fact that David Fetter’s transcriptions, like the Bach originals, had no dynamics whatsoever, so the performers could shape the music as they wanted. A bold phrase here, a quieter echo there; players should still feel free to adjust or ignore my suggested dynamics entirely, for their own interpretation and variety. These are 32 living pieces of music.

The series is in order of a cycle of 5ths (that’s reasonably Bach-like) and I’ve tried to mix things up a little with a few different time signatures.

Even though they’re set out in a particular order, as a progression, I certainly don’t expect any group ever to slog through this series! Rather treat it as a Lucky Bag, to be dipped into at random; pick a number, or a key, or a mood according to the occasion."


A set of 4 playing scores is provided. Scored as follows:

Part 1: Tenor Trombone or Alto Trombone - Advanced level

Part 2: Tenor Trombone - Intermediate level

Part 3: Bass Trombone or Tenor Trombone - Intermediate level

Part 4: Bass Trombone or Tuba - Tuba part is Advanced level

Difficulty level: Intermediate to Advanced. (Trombone 1 goes up to a high D) 

Duration: 31 minutes

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