The Twelve Days of Christmas by Robert and Nadia Sirota

The following post is by Robert and Nadia Sirota.  Robert’s program notes refer to a performance of the piece on December 11th, 2012 at an ACHT studio recital.

By Robert Sirota

Last December Nadia swept into town between performing engagements and asked me if I would be interested in writing an arrangement of The Twelve Days of Christmas for 6-track viola. She was about to go and do some recording in Iceland – one of her favorite haunts – and she said if I could get her something within a couple of weeks, she would record it, playing all six parts. I delivered on time, and true to her word, she made the recording. Tonight’s performance represents only the second time this piece has been performed acoustically, with a different violist playing each part.

I found Nadia’s request particularly appealing, because years ago when the kids were, well, kids – we used to record these little Christmas albums, with all four of us singing carols and playing instruments. We would send the cassettes we made, with case covers hand-illustrated by either Jonah or Nadia, as our Christmas card to friends and relatives.

Nadia plans to continue this tradition by assembling a bunch of quirky arrangements of Christmas carols and curating an eclectic Christmas album featuring works by a number of her composer friends. My next contribution after Twelve Days will be I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In.

Nadia says:
When I decided to construct a Christmas album [because a) the holidays are the best and b) I had some bonus studio time available in Iceland last winter], it seemed super fitting to ask my dad for a holiday arrangement. We settled on the 12 days of Christmas partly because it’s insane and emphatic and over-the-top and partly because the Rockettes do it some real justice in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular every year, which might be my favorite piece of entertainment (trust that I’m being unbelievably sincere; every year I see it and weep). I recorded this piece right in the middle of recording a whole record of music for multitracked viola (and incidentally, I’m developing quite the viola choir repertoire) and thus asked my dad to arrange the piece for six of me. When my whole family presented a concert in celebration of my dad’s retirement this past October, we decided a live version of this piece was a great way to end the show. The all-star cast assembled for the acoustic premiere included my brother and my former teacher, Hsin-Yun Huang, who immediately thought of the ACHT studio and requested parts.

In many ways, I went into the family business. As rarified a career path as new-music-commissioning-violist may appear, in context of a family of musicians wherein the patriarch is a composer and the elder sibling is a violist, my occupation of choice seems almost… safe. Almost. Throughout my life, my dad’s musical voice, the first music I was consistently aware of, has remained a sort of point of orientation around which all manner of other music, art, and thought has settled. The more expansive my palette becomes, the more I cherish my father’s perspective as a composer. I am so grateful that at this moment in my life I can have experiences working with my family as colleagues. This arrangement of the 12 Days of Christmas is representative of the great joy that I get from music and loved ones.

Comments RSS Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.