Sometimes two composers can take the same piece and the same medium and create two completely different works. Just recently I ran across two unique arrangements of the most recent Bond song. “Skyfall”, the theme song to the 23rd James Bond film of the same name, is an epic ballad by the performer Adele. First, if you are not familiar with “Skyfall”, take a listen to the original version. The haunting chromatic chords and big orchestration are indicative of any good theme song for James Bond. Your fun party trivia for the day: “Skyfall” was the first Bond song to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Alan and Gay Cooper
Our first arrangement is performed by the British duet team Alan and Gay Cooper. While pipe organ and piano accompany them, the duo performs the main theme on bells. The organ and piano do a great job recreating the thick, dramatic chords in the background, and when the organ sneaks in I get goose bumps every time.
Arranged by Jen Hayes, Bell Appeal’s version features the full bell ensemble along with cello, violin, drums, bass, and the beautiful voice of Sara Heron. In the Hayes arrangement, the bells play more of the accompaniment, producing the dramatic chords and counter melodies underneath the vocalist.
I like both of these arrangements for different reasons. In the duet version, the massive Bond chords on the full pipe organ are stunning. Nothing can compete with a grand pipe organ with all the stops pulled out. The melody on bells pops out in a haunting and fascinating way. However, the Bell Appeal version has the beautiful vocals which were the centerpiece of the original version by Adele. The bells accompanying a vocalist has a raw musical appeal that I personally really enjoy. With the addition of the strings and drums, this arrangement has so many layers I can listen to it over and over.
As an arranger, whether you use the bells as melody or accompaniment, and no matter what other instrumentalists you have at your disposal, there is no wrong way to arrange popular music for handbells. The important part is that we have arrangers who are brave enough to go out on a limb and create these unique arrangements.