New Music for Intermediate Concert Band

Mike Lawson • Archives • April 8, 2011

Share This:

This article is a review of music for intermediate concert band. Selections touched upon include new music for grade levels three and four, followed by established favorites at grade three. Each title reviewed has merit as a composition that is recommended for performance, and should be listened to online.

“Andromeda” – by David Shaffer (C.L. Barnhouse Company, Grade Three)

This piece is a high-quality addition to the concert band literature for developing bands. Named after the mythological princess, the Andromeda spiral galaxy is approximately 2.5 million light years away and one of the brightest objects in the sky. This composition paints a musical image of this spectacular celestial body.

This bold and dramatic piece opens with 18 measures of exciting and crisp marcato-style brass flourishes. An effective imitative build up of sound leads to the lyrical main theme stated by the woodwinds. In a total change of mood, this lyrical theme is in stark contrast to what was heard earlier. A brief brass fanfare interlude again leads to the lyrical motive, this time expertly conceived with different instrumental coloring. This expressive motive is woven throughout the piece in contrasting styles and musical colors. A lyrical middle section creates a antiphonal dialogue between the woodwinds and solo brass instruments.

Encouraging students to play solos within the confines of the full band is an excellent way to instill confidence and allows the transparency of the music to come forth. This piece is also a good way to teach fp and crescendos. “Andromeda” expands to a full and vigorous tutti before returning to the energy of the original “bright” tempo. The expressive theme is brought back and builds in intensity leading to a powerful coda bringing the entire work to a dramatic conclusion.

A large percussion section is required for this piece, consisting of timpani, plus six percussionists which include: xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, chimes, bells, snare and bass drum, tambourine, and numerous auxiliary percussion. The composition is scored for two of the following parts: clarinets, trumpets, and trombones, and one part for the horn in F. Andromeda is an excellent concert piece for developing bands.

Note: a partial audio version is available at J.W. Pepper online.

“Hadrian’s Wall” – by Robert W. Smith (C.L. Barnhouse Company, Grade Three)

Hadrian’s Wall is one of the great monuments to the power of the Roman Empire. The 73-mile wall was built by the Roman emperor Hadrian in A.D. 122. The characteristic themes bring forth both Roman and Celtic influences creating a unique and powerful musical statement for the concert band.

The lyrical opening unaccompanied solo by the alto saxophone should be played freely and with expression. Dark ominous sounds, which emanate from the ensemble following the saxophone solo, produce a somewhat menacing and dramatic effect. The composer has written some appealing moving lines for the horns and saxophones.

The piece begins at quarter note = 72 and accelerates in increments of quarter note = 80 to 112, and then returns to a tranquil, flowing section at quarter note = 88. During the quiet, legato section simultaneous solos for flute and alto saxophone create a conversation played against an open-fifth pedal point in the woodwinds. From here the piece builds in intensity with frequent pedal-points in the lower instruments. An intense, vibrant section at a quarter note = 144-152 follows. This stirring section deftly returns to the ominous sound at quarter note = 80. The piece concludes building in intensity and increasing in tempo ending with thrilling splashes of marcato chords.

Instrument ranges are comfortable and certain parts are limited to two players: clarinets, trumpets, and trombones, and there is one part for horn in F. Four percussion parts including timpani are necessary and clarity in the percussion section is required throughout the piece. The piece employs the use of grace notes, sfz, and rescendos. It is an excellent addition to the band repertoire.

Note: An audio version is available on You Tube with the Middletown High School Band.

“Flight of the Piasa” – by Robert Sheldon (Alfred Music, Grade Four)

The legendary Piasa is an enormous, graceful winged bird-like creature.

This heroic-sounding overture is a well-crafted piece of music that expresses the power of the formidable creature and those who challenged it. It is transparent in texture and the composer understands how to write for student groups and achieve successful results. The piece begins with Presto, quarter note = 152, in the key of E? major, and leads in imitation to the first theme. Rhythmic punctuation in the low brass adds intensity to the general sound.

The demand for dexterity and agility exists in the woodwinds as they actively play sixteenth note scales in the key of F major, while the percussion provides interludes of activity connecting the phrases. The tempo remains at 152 until the gentle contrasting theme begins in B? major, where tempo slows to quarter note = 77. In this section, there are numerous short solos for oboe (clarinet cue), trumpets one and two, euphonium (trombone cue), flute, alto saxophone, and clarinets. This is a wonderful way to help students gain confidence in solo playing within the band, thereby freeing them from the protective custody of the ensemble. This effect allows the music to “breathe” resulting in lighter, transparent scoring.

Instrument ranges are as follows: Flute to high “A”, trumpet to written “A” above staff, euphonium to “G” above staff (cued for bassoon) and horns to “G” above the staff. A return to quarter note = 152 occurs and leads to a very effective modulation from the key of B? major back to E? major highlighting the start of the last section. The ending brings forth the significant use of pedal-points, where the composer uses a G? major triad over an F pedal resolving to the final F major chord.

Imitative entrances and soaring melodic lines for the unison horns provide diversity of scoring and allow the students to hear high-quality, cleanly written contrapuntal lines. “Flight of the Piasa” is a very effective piece of music that is superbly crafted by a composer who really does understand the limitations and playing capabilities of student musicians.

Note: Audio versions are available on YouTube.

“The Symphonic Gershwin” – arranged by Warren Barker (Belwin Band Publishers/Alfred Publishing, Grade Four)

The opening four measure pyramidal effect culminates in a majestic statement of the theme from “Rhapsody in Blue.” The tempo is a brisk alla-breve half note = 132.

The first selection in this medley of songs is the delightful and jaunty “An American in Paris,” (which portrays an American tourist strolling along the streets of the city of lights.) The style, light and spirited, creates momentum and brings forth a flute solo, doubled an octave lower by the bassoon (tenor sax cue). This tutti section presses on in a steady way with a lot of rhythmic imitation and a couple of taxi horn effects in the trumpet section.

A solo on the clarinet and F. horn usher in the sultry and mournful Blues theme, played by a solo trumpet. This should be performed with great warmth and expression. When this section modulates up from A? major to B? major, the full sound of the ensemble elevates one’s spirits to a glorious level. The next section is the famous “Rhapsody in Blue” theme taken at a tempo of quarter note = 160. This spirited section brings forth solos for alto saxophone, and baritone horn. These solos should be performed freely. There is a superb balance of sound in the woodwind section as they bring forth the main theme. This is soon followed by the ensemble singing the theme against a second theme played in counterpoint with the baritone horn and woodwinds.

The third and last section is “Cuban Overture,” a bright rumba that sneaks in and builds in intensity. The bass line must be played lightly and not be overbearing. With the addition of Latin American instruments, this section develops into a fiery Latin dance. The medley ends with an extended pyramid with a D major triad over an A? triad, which rhythmically builds in power from p to ff, and ends with precision and fervor as it resolves to a short D? major chord. This piece should be performed with rhythmic intensity and precision. Close attention must be paid to the dynamic contrasts.

“The Symphonic Gershwin” is a jewel in every sense of the word. Students should be exposed to the great American music of the past and George Gershwin’s music certainly deserves a hearing.

Note: Audio versions are available on YouTube.

“Jubiloso” – by Robert M. Panerio (Southern Music Company, Grade Three)

“Jubiloso” is a composition that brings forth a freshness of sounds and introduces students to contemporary polytonal sounds. It utilizes manageable rhythms and comfortable instrument ranges.

A slow introduction of eight measure leads to an Allegro quarter note = 140. The percussion are active throughout most of the composition and must be tempered so as to not dominate the sound of the other instruments. The brass cleverly steal a variation of the theme from the woodwinds and create numerous polytonal chords leading to a tutti section where all instruments are actively moving quickly and with precision. A pedal-point in the woodwinds and low brasses usher in stacked chords in the upper brass. This effect continues to build to a slower section marked Adagio.

The Adagio section is written using tonal harmonies with many inner-moving lines. The dynamic level of mp should be adhered to in order to achieve the sonorous, flowing effect of this section. Finally the resonant Allegro section returns with gusto and bravado of style. The piece ends vigorously and forcefully on a D major triad over a C major triad.

“Jubiloso” is a superb piece of music and a great vehicle to teach the concepts and sound of polytonal music. The tonal palette is dissonant, but the rhythmic effects and effectual scoring make this a wonderful concert piece.

“Parade of the Tall Ships” – by Jay Chattaway (William Allen Publisher, Grade 3.5)

This piece was written to commemorate a large gathering of tall sailing ships on a July 4 holiday.

This march begins with a fanfare stated by the brass leading to a perky and mischievous nautical melody played by the flutes and piccolos. This is followed by calls from the horns and cornets. This imitation of the horn calls continues for several measures, while a moving pedal-point in the upper woodwinds stabilizes the sound of the melody brought forth by the horns (cued in cornets). The cornets are required to play numerous sixteenth notes using sharp precise tonguing by proficient players. The rhythmic intensity in the drums continues throughout most of the piece, and the snare drums must not dominate the rest of the ensemble.

The main theme is tossed like a wave back and forth in the brass section followed by a restatement by the high woodwinds. This is accompanied by rhythmic punctuations in the lower brass and woodwinds. These low brass articulated rhythms must be played in a marcato style, with proper separation between notes. The composer makes use of numerous suspended chords and pedal-points throughout the composition, as well as the frequent use of sequences and imitative entrances in close proximity. Changes of tempo indications are quarter note = 92, 112, and 100.

Particularly effective is the piccolo and flute playing an impish-sounding melody over an open fifth pedal-point while the snare drum plays an agitated rhythmic figure. The piece unfolds with an exciting ending. “Parade of the Tall Ships” will make an outstanding contribution to any concert.

Note: Audio versions are available on YouTube

“Tritsch-Tratsch Polka” (Chit-Chat Polka) – by Johann Strauss, arr. by Alfred Reed (C.L. Barnhouse Company, Grade Three)

“Tritsch-Trasch” means chit-chat or gossip in the Viennese popular dialect, and the effect of this musical two-part form with trio of a busy, nittering, nattering little group of people exchanging the latest bits of news and gossip in a never-ending rush of words and exclamations.

This tongue-in-cheek piece is a very well written transcription of a piece by Johann Strauss. It is a delightful change of pace for programming and would be a superb encore piece. The dynamic contrasts and the perky, lighthearted woodwind writing gives this piece buoyancy and charm. Observing the contrasts in dynamics is essential to achieving a proper performance of this charming and slightly sassy piece.

Instrumental ranges are comfortable for all players, and the horns are relegated to playing typical after-beats throughout the piece. Tritsch-Trasch Polka is a fun piece for all and a wonderful addition to any program.

Note: Audio versions are available on YouTube


The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!