My Concert Band Repertoire, Spring 2009

Poor left hand technique!This Spring, I have purposefully programmed music that is easier than what I’ve chosen in the past. I’ve decided to err on the side of giving the students music which is more easily within their grasp instead of overwhelming them with difficult music. I still want to challenge them with new musical concepts, but not necessarily in the context of concert selections.

With that said, here’s what’s in my Concert Band’s folders:

Distant Journey by Paul Lavender. This is written at the Essential Elements Explorer Level, and correlates with page 11 of the method book. I’m drawn to easy music in minor keys, and this one fits both of those descriptions.

Intensity by Sean O’Loughlin. It’s labeled as “Very Easy Band,” although the ranges get pretty high. In my humble opinion, a written D for trumpet is not “very easy.” Nevertheless, the piece is well-written and rehearses easily.

Latin Fire by John Higgins. Essential Elements Performer Level, and correlates with page 24 of the method book. This is a good choice for young groups who are ready for a little challenge. It uses lots of the musical concepts from the later pages of the method book, including dotted-quarter/eighth rhythms, slurs, accidentals, accents, and dynamic changes.

Let’s Go Band  arranged by Andrew Balent. A perennial favorite. To give you and idea of how well-liked this piece is, I programmed it last year after hearing another school perform it. A colleague of mine heard my groups perform it and wanted to include it in her repertoire also. My students keep asking to play this one in rehearsals.

Pirates’ Cave by Mark Williams. Labeled as Grade ½, Very Easy, and correlates with page 13 of the Accent on Achievement method book. Similar in style to Distant Journey (and a million other pieces), this is in G minor and uses the only first seven notes typically taught in beginning band. My students ask for this one often.

Simple Gifts arranged by Jack Bullock. Belwin classifies this piece as “Very Beginning Band,” but the clarinet ranges make me disagree with that “very beginning” label. Coincidentally, Yo-Yo Ma and Itztak Perlman and company performed a John Williams arrangement of Simple Gifts at the President Obama’s inauguration ceremony. I plan to include this piece in my Spring Concerts, highlighting the fact that it was featured at the inauguration.

To read about music I’ve programmed in the past, click here or here.

Do you have any experience with the above music? Have you found a new gem for young bands? Share your thoughts!


6 thoughts on “My Concert Band Repertoire, Spring 2009

  1. I have not checked this out in a while Steve, my loss. I love checking out your thoughts, they are excellent. A quick story about Pirate’s Cave. It was the first piece I rehearsed with my Super Band last year. At the end of our first run through, one of the trumpets led the Super Band in a round of applause because he (and the rest of the band) was so excited about the piece.

    This year, I am doing a piece by Brian Balmages called Comet Ride, which has some very different kind of writing. I think that it is very creative and playable for young students.

  2. Hi…I’m wondering if you can tell me what the clarinet range is on Simple Gifts…I just ordered it for my 4th Grade band and I’m wondering what I need to be working on with them until it gets here…

    • I believe it goes down to a low G (written) for clarinet. It uses more of the low range than other typical beginning band pieces. It does not cross the break. The challenge, as you may know, is getting those tiny little 4th grade fingers to seal the holes all the way.

  3. Just a quick comment regarding Pirates’ Cave. This is a VERY well written piece. I’ve been using it for about three years with my beginning classes with great success. In addition to being a fun, easy piece, it introduces some very advanced concepts in a very short time. The students learn about motifs, counter melodies, contrary motion, augmentation, unity/variety, tension/release and song structure. (Intro, A, A, B, A, B, A, Coda)
    The four falling quarter note motif appears numerous times in the composition. It is inverted a couple of times to lead into the B sections, and it is shortened in B to two quarters and a half. In the Coda, the motif is augmented to half notes to increase the tension of the closing line. By the way, my students like to play it FAST, taking their tempo from the idiomatic bounce of the snare drums. (I guess that’s another concept… I SAID I really liked this piece.)

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