Friday, January 2, 2009

"We Three Kings" Explained

Since the release of “On A Cold Winter’s Night,” your comments have indicated that this recording is quickly becoming a favorite. I knew from the moment I heard Rob Reider’s initial recording of that show in Madisonville, KY that this was a concert in which everything worked - music, audience, ambience - and should be offered as a CD. We are delighted that you are delighted.

Most of the music is fairly straightforward, but there is the obvious exception of my arrangement of the bonus track “We Three Kings.” Several people have mentioned that with their first hearing it seemed a bit odd, but it later grew on them as an eclectic arrangement not dissimilar to many songs on the 1959-60 recording “The Last Month Of The Year.” Now they’re interested in learning how it came about. Generally, I did the arrangement at the piano and then went to the studio on August 1st in Las Vegas to record four guitar parts and one banjo part. The vocals were recorded in Phoenix on August 15th. (Las Vegas and Phoenix in August -- perfect weather to put me in the mood for a Christmas song!)

More specifically, though, I am asked about how the arrangement evolved. This arrangement itself is a musical metaphor for the experience of the Three Wise Men as they followed the Star of Bethlehem, as I interpret it. There is no significance to the timing of each section, but the story breaks down like this:
• The opening 23 seconds suggest the Wise Mens’ discovery of the Star and their fear and wonder of it.
• During the next 33 seconds you hear the plodding of their camels as they begin their journey.
• The next 25 seconds indicate their conversation among themselves as they followed the star: what did it mean, why were they making this journey, why were they chosen, what if a camel threw a shoe?
• During the next 30 seconds their confusion and wonder mount as they arrive at their destination. The guitar arpeggio indicates that their Spirits and Consciousness are lifted up as Divine Knowledge exhorts them to continue.
• The vocal indicates their arrival and their introduction of themselves, why they came and the presentation of their gifts.
• The remainder of the song connotes their wonderment in observation of the Christ Child, the taking of their leave and return to their own countries, and, with the Picardy ending, the suggestion of ultimate Hope for the world.

I hope this is helpful, explanatory and entertaining to those of you who have asked about this arrangement.