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Russian Christmas Music

Alfred Reed

Russian Christmas Music is one of the most popular and frequently performed pieces of concert band literature. Commissioned as a tribute to the friendship between the Russian and American allies in WW II, it was composed in only sixteen days for a special NBC Radio broadcast on December 12, 1944. It was written to convey the sounds of Eastern Orthodox liturgical music, which uses the human voice exclusively. The musical impression is that of old Russia during the Christmas season. Its four distinct sections are: "Children's Carol", based upon a 16th century Russian carol; "Antiphonal Chant"; "Village Song" featuring English horn and string bass; and the majestic "Cathedral Chorus."

Alfred Reed (1921-2005) was born in New York City. Acquainted with symphonic and operatic repertoire from an early age, he played trumpet professionally in the Catskills while still in high school. During WWII he was a member of the 529th Army Air Corps Band where he produced over 100 compositions and arrangements. He studied at Juilliard and became a staff composer and arranger with NBC, then ABC. He later conducted the Baylor Symphony Orchestra and worked as a music editor. He taught at the University of Miami for 27 years and remained active as a composer and guest conductor during a long retirement.

Last updated on March 18, 2015 by Palatine Concert Band