Christmas Music

December 7, 2007 at 6:58 am | Posted in Assignments, Music Education | 2 Comments
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Our Wind Ensemble just played a short Christmas concert in the Chapel today.  In my high school we had a “Winter Concert” every December but the band portion was usually just Christmas music.  I used to love this half of the year.  I loved playing Sleigh Ride every year.  My director also had a set repertoire of Christmas music and all the music was rotated so that we usually played each piece twice if you were in the band for four years.  Now I’m not going to talk about reusing pieces since that is a completely different subject.  Anyways, my sister plays Euphonium in the band now and over Thanksgiving break she commented to me that she likes the second half of band much more because of the music.  She said that the music for the Winter Concert wasn’t hard enough and wasn’t as good as the pieces that would be played in the Spring (e.g. Robert W. Smith’s “The Inferno”, Holst’s “Mars”, John Barnes Chance’s “Incantation and Dance,” etc.)  Well I would say that all of the Christmas music I played in these concerts was definitely challenging and very good music.

Two common examples of good Christmas music are Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride and Christmas Festival.  I would say that these pieces are easy to play badly and take time and hard work to be able to play them well.  Christmas Festival has a lot of transitions and a wide variety of styles.  There are a lot of little stylistic aspects of the piece that when payed attention to can be very effective.  Sleigh Ride is a piece that has to move.  It has to be clear and light and the fact that everyone knows it makes it even harder to play.  We just played Russian Christmas Music in Chapel today and that is by no means an easy work.  In high school, one of my favorite pieces we played one year started with Coventry Carol (gorgeous!) and then went into Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.  I tried to find who the arranger was but couldn’t find it online.  This piece is technically difficult because of what a big, emotional piece is it, but also because it is an endurance piece.  By the end of this arrangement the trumpets are usually exhausted, so you have to be careful where this goes in your program.  These are just some examples of different pieces that I can remember in more depth, but there are others that are just as difficult.

Along with saying that Christmas music isn’t as challenging, I have also heard that this music isn’t “good” music.  So much of this music is beautiful and very moving.  In Christmas Festival during the “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” part there is a gorgeous, soaring countermelody in the Horns.  Alfred Reed’s Greensleeves is also just really good music.  At the beginning the interchange between the clarinet solo, the flutes, and the melodic line is something that I could just listen to over and over.  Near the end of the piece the scoring is much thicker and there are a lot of good countermelodies and accompaniment that make for a very emotional and dramatic take on Greensleeves.  The end then goes back to the flute and clarinet ‘duets’ from the beginning.  The Coventry Carol/Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring is another piece that is very beautiful.  To start, I really like Coventry Carol.  It’s just a great melody and I don’t know what is is about it, but I just love it.  The transition from Coventry Carol into Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring is one part of the piecec I always especially enjoyed.  Like Reed’s Greensleeves, this composition has some very emotional moments in both songs that can really draw in the listener. (If anyone knows who the arranger for this work is, let me know, because I would love to find it, but haven’t been able to yet)  I could go on forever about all the different Christmas pieces I have played and what is so great and beautiful about each of them.  I would definitely give the ones I’ve mentioned a listen if you can find them online- they’re all really good!

 Well this is it for this post.  I will mention that I do have my Senior Recital this Saturday afternoon at 2:30 in Pew.  I’ll be playing music by Weber, Marty, Poulenc, and Finzi.  My recital partner, Kayla Carpenter, will be playing horn and singing as well.  I think it’ll be a good recital!  Until my next post!

Animoto Post from Pictures Outside of my Window

December 5, 2007 at 7:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This is a test post in my blog to try to embed animotos flash presentations.  This animoto animation is pictures of the Quad and everything else that I can see from outside of my window. 


Orchestra Seminar

October 28, 2007 at 3:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This post isn’t about Band Literature, but I thought that it was relevant enough that it could go in this post.  After all, this blog is first and foremost about music.

Since the beginning of the semester I have been in a Conducting Seminar in our Orchestra here at Grove City.  In the first week of classes I was assigned an arrangement of Bach’s Little Fugue in G minor.  It was a good arrangement and I really enjoyed the piece.  Starting in the second week of the semester I rehearsed the Fugue at every orchestra rehearsal.  I was video taped at all the rehearsals so I could go back and view what I had done in rehearsal.  This was very helpful and also very humbling!  At the end of every week I would meet with our orchestra director and he gave me pointers of what I could do to improve my conducting and make things clearer for the orchestra.  He also gave me tips on how to fix certain things that might not have been going well in rehearsal musically.  One of the things I really liked about what Dr. Konzen told me, was to constantly think of what I could do when something wasn’t going right instead of immediately saying what a section was doing wrong and what they needed to do.  We focused on how my conducting could fix a problem.

Just this part of the seminar was a great learning experience.  I had already taken three conducting classes at school and had also had small amounts of podium time with other groups, but this was more beneficial than any of the classes I had taken.  To be able to be up in front of the orchestra twice a week and get constant feedback was great.

The final part of the seminar was to conduct the piece in the Fall Concert which was this past Friday night (October 26th).  I had never conducted in a formal concert like this and I loved every minute of it.  For a good portion of the day on Friday I just kept thinking about the fact that I had to conduct that night.  I was wondering if I would trip walking to the podium or if I might forget to conduct one of those random 2/4 bars in the piece.  When it was my turn to conduct, as soon as I walked onto the stage and up to the podium (without tripping!) I felt very at ease.  The Fugue sounded great and it was a great feeling to be up there conducting the orchestra.  I could do that every day.  Before I knew it, I was back in my seat playing the last piece in the concert.  I felt like I had barely been up there for a minute.

In these past two months in seminar I learned so much.  Rehearsing the orchestra was an experience that really taught me a lot and conducting in the concert was a lot of fun and I’ll never forget it. 

Well my next post will go back to Band Literature or another composer.  I just wanted to write a little about my first experience with getting to really be a conductor and what it taught me. 

Robert W. Smith

October 15, 2007 at 7:36 am | Posted in Assignments, Music Education | 3 Comments
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After going through band programs for over half of my life and playing a lot of Robert W. Smith, I decided it was only appropriate to discuss him in one of my posts.  Robert W. Smith has written over one hundred pieces for Band and these all range from pieces appropriate for elementary schools bands to compositions that take a very skilled high school or collegiate ensemble to play well.  What he is best known for program music, which is music that depicts a certain scene, event, emotion, etc.  Some of his more commonly played pieces include The Divine Comedy, The Tempest, and Africa: Ceremony, Song, and Ritual.

Robert W. Smith actually came and spent two days with us here at Grove City College a little under two years ago.  With our concert band he worked on The Great Steamboat Race and Leroy Anderson- A Legacy.  He then worked on The Ascension- from the Divine Comedy and Monument with our Wind Ensemble.  This was especially good for pieces such as Monument and The Great Steamboat race where he has very specific images in his head of what the music is supposed to portray.  We all got a little history lesson about what each of the compositions were about.  This helped to make the pieces more memorable and meaningful.  He also introduced his new band method book “Band Expressions.”  Working with Robert W. Smith was a great and exciting experience that I, as well as the members of the Grove City bands, enjoyed. 

Going back to his music, Mr. Smith writes a lot of good music for intermediate bands but also very exciting and challenging music for better high school bands.  When I was in high school we played all four of the pieces in the Divine Comedy and they were a favorite of the band.  From the imagery in the piece to the different percussion parts (such as chains in the Inferno), everyone in the band loved playing them.  We also played “To The Summit!” when I was in high school.  This was another favorite, I think, because pieces with different images are usually very appealing to students, especially when different effects such as singing or unusual percussion parts are used. 

94979713_cd41884776.jpg (photo courtesy of yotophoto)

One piece that I’d like to talk to a little more in depth about is one that we did in the Concert Band here at Grove City.  It was called “The Great Steamboat Race.”  This composition is a perfect example of why Robert W. Smith’s compositions are so good.  This piece was loved by players and audience alike.  Mr. Smith explained the entire scenario of the piece to us in rehearsal and gave us a better idea of how to interpret our parts.  I think the favorite part in this might have been the waterjugs that the percussion got to shake in order to create the effect of the boats going off in the distance at the end of the piece.  There were also other things like a ship bell and a “foghorn” (created by the tuba) in the piece.  A composition like this is perfect for a middle school band because they can learn a little history while also making beautiful music.  Once students know more about a piece and where it is going, I believe it is easier for them to enjoy and really appreciate the piece.  Plus, this is just a really fun piece of music to play. 

 If you are a band director and haven’t done much Robert W. Smith I would definitely suggest to introduce some of his works to your students.  As I said before The Great Steamboat Race, The Divine Comedy, and To The Summit! are good choices, but I would also recommend: Monument, Africa: Ceremony, Song, and Ritual, Songs of Earth, Water, Fire, and Sky, and Twelve Seconds to the Moon.  Your students will love any of these compositions and they can also learn a lot from them.  So if you haven’t already, make sure to include some Robert W. Smith in your band program.

This blog is about Symphonic Band Literature

September 12, 2007 at 6:47 pm | Posted in Assignments | Leave a comment

This blog is going to be about different Symphonic Band Literature for bands of any age.  I will be introducing different composers and some of their compositions that might be new or old.  I will talk about for certain composers or types of compositions that are good for different age and ability levels of groups.

This blog will also introduce pieces that are good teaching pieces and also fun to play.  A lot of these pieces and composers will be ones that I am familiar with or have heard about recently.

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