Often as an arranger for a company, you don't get to choose what you arrange very often. You're given a list of songs that you're supposed to do and the type of group you're supposed to do them for. So imagine my pleasure when a group I've been arranging for for 2 years now requested "Total Eclipse of the Heart". The song is one of my favorites: written by Jim Steinman, the song is a pinnacle eighties power ballad. For me, it was one of the few times I didn't need to download an mp3 or look at lyrics (too much), I knew the song well and have been waiting to arrange it for quite awhile.
"OPENING WITH THE PERFECT LINE"
The opening starts with a simple vocal arpeggio mimicking the piano. Originally, I was going to give it a grander opening repeating the phrase "turn around" and simplify the verses, but the with a song like this, you want to give the audience as much of what they remember as possible. I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel - just trying to make the song sound good in a new context.
"BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER?"
End of first verse - bar of 2/4 replaces entire instrumental bridge
Of course, arranging a song of this magnitude comes with limitations - it is for an all women's group so I instantly lose the heavy bottom you need to make the song rock. There's also a huge instrumental in the middle - I opted to cut it out completely - the arrangement still runs well over 4 minutes. I go back and forth about instrumental sections in acapella tunes. They can be amazing (I had a friend in college who wrote great bridges), but if they fail, they fail big.
"REPEAT, OR NOT TO REPEAT?"
"and I Need you Tonight" first time through
Starting at section "D"
The toughest choice was whether or not to put a coda in the song. My mantra in arranging has always been, "Make it easy to learn and easy to sing - it will sound better". Try to keep it to four parts, and
put in repeats!
But this song is different, it needs to build, it's got a unconventional structure and while the last 2 minutes of the song is really a coda from 1 minute in, the arrangement in the recording is bigger. So, I took a chance, and did not repeat. Some examples are the first and second section of
"I need you now tonight, and I need you more then ever!"
"And I need you Now Tonight" second time through Starting at section "J" I am really excited about this arrangement and hope I get to hear it over the next year!