Essential Repertoire: May 2014

Mike Lawson • ChoralRepertoire • May 19, 2014

This installment of core concert band repertoire features reviews of music suitable for an array of grade levels from composers Clancy Weeks, Jan Van der Roost, Bob Margolis, and Karel Husa. “Frank Ticheli’s List” is a compilation of outstanding repertoire for concert band selected by celebrated composer Frank Ticheli. These pieces have been reviewed by Gregory Rudgers, John Darling, and Lawrence Stoffel.


“In Sheldon Glen” by Clancy Weeks

Avalon Press

Grade 1

Duration: 1:46

With so much of level one literature for school band doing so little to develop lyricism and phrasing, it is a pleasure to discover a beautiful setting of an Irish folk song that is eminently playable by a level-one band. Clancy Weeks’ “In Sheldon Glen” accomplishes this rare feat with style and maturity. Employing long arching phrases and rich, warm colors, this beautiful work is often performed for its musical worth by bands that are far more advanced. Weeks controls the tessitura of the individual lines so that all instruments remain in their most comfortable ranges, thereby ensuring the best possible quality of sound from the ensemble.

Percussion writing is simple and elegant, much as the style demands. Orchestration here is fairly traditional and once again reminiscent of Grainger. Clarinets and saxes are joined by horns, trombones, baritone, and tuba in the opening statement, and true soprano voices do not appear until the appropriate mood has been established, with trumpets entering in measure 17 and flutes not until measure 25, a delightful departure from much of lower level literature. The richness and warmth of the opening measures joined by the clarity and brightness of the trumpet and flute provide a gorgeous tutti statement which is then followed by a brief interlude of piano and mezzo piano woodwinds, before a reprise of the tutti statement brings the composition to a most satisfying conclusion.

Reviewed by Gregory B. Rudgers.


“Orion” by Jan Van der Roost

De Haske Publications

Grade 2

Duration: 4:05

Jan Van der Roost labels “Orion” a slow march. Still, there is a tremendous sense of deliberate motion in this piece, leading towards an inevitable destination.

There is also an exotic flavor to this composition, although by no means is there any suggestion that it is authentic to any particular distant land or culture. But from the very opening percussion ostinato there is a suggestion of, perhaps, a Middle Eastern desert caravan. (Picture camels laden with men wearing flowing white robes.) This exotic flavor is largely conjured by the modal harmonic language in addition to the melody being harmonized in parallel thirds, both of which create a hypnotic feel.

The exotic flavor of the march is also achieved through a rich orchestration. Although “Orion” is certainly a grade two composition, the instrumentation is packed. Van der Roost calls for the full family of clarinets (including E-flat and alto), three trumpets, three French horns, three trombones, and a palette of percussion including glockenspiel, timpani, tom toms, and tambourine. The sensuous sonorities so critical to this composition are largely created with the band’s “color” instruments, such as alto clarinet, bassoon, horn, euphonium, and string bass.

Van der Roost provides a refreshing conclusion to the march, which he describes as optimistic and spontaneous. Its prevalent exotic flavor is quickly diverted to a rather playful, joyous (almost heroic) coda, bringing the processional nature of the march to a rousing conclusion in the relative major key.

Reviewed by Lawrence Stoffel.


“Color” by Bob Margolis

Manhattan Beach Music

Grade 4

Duration: 7:00

Anyone who is familiar with the music of Bob Margolis knows that he favors the music of the Renaissance. It should come as no surprise that the basis for the music in the five movements of “Color” is grounded in 17th-century English dance tunes, primarily from John Playford’s “English Dancing Master” (1651). With the abundance of arrangements of this genre already available, this is a piece that stand outs. First, Margolis took special care in choosing the melodies for this five-movement work. The melodies are not as familiar to those outside of the English folk song genre, therefore, the habit of comparing this work to the more familiar masterworks can be avoided.

Second, Margolis has chosen to set these melodies with a contemporary orchestration and harmonic pallet. It is the combining of these two distinct idioms that makes this work very attractive, both as a teaching experience for the students and as an aural experience for the audience. In fact, Margolis explains that it is the distinct settings and the carefully planned orchestrations of each movement that are more important than the actual melodies. The title of the work, “Color,” truly describes the tonal concept that Margolis was focusing on while scoring the piece. Unusual combinations of instruments that create unique tonal pallets are often highlighted with moments of modern instrumental techniques (such as note-bending and flutter tonguing).

Reviewed by John Darling.


“Music for Prague 1968” by Karel Husa

Associated Music Publishers

Grade 6

Duration: 18:30

This significant work for winds consists of four movements: Introduction and Fanfare, Aria, Interlude, and Toccata and Chorale. Husa describes the work as being bound by three main ideas. The first and most important is an old Hussite war song from the 15th century. The second idea references the sound of bells in the city, which is known as the “City of Hundreds of Towers.”  The third idea is a motive of three chords that appears throughout the work. The Introduction begins with the aforementioned chords accompanying the piccolo solo, displaying Husa’s creative use of the many colors and timbres available in the modern concert band. The Aria begins with a ground in the tuba and intermittent percussion in accompaniment to a lyrical yet angular saxophone and bass clarinet choir. The chorale accelerates through reduction of note value and becomes quite agitated. It is eventually joined by percussive and rapid articulation in the upper woodwinds reminiscent of the first movement.

The third movement, “Interlude,” consists entirely of percussion suggesting those bells that were alluded to earlier. The Toccata and Chorale follows its powerful introduction with staccato imitative passages that pass the melodic and rhythmic figures from voice to voice in rapid succession. A trumpet fanfare recalls the opening fanfare of the first movement and then is followed by a most powerful crescendo into a unison statement of the ancient war song at fortissimo – a truly breathtaking finale.

Reviewed by Gregory B. Rudgers.



Frank Ticheli is a professor of Composition at USC Thornton School of Music, and is the recipient of a 2012 Arts and Letters Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the principal judge of the Frank Ticheli Composition Contest, sponsored by Manhattan Beach Music. His works for concert band are among the most celebrated in the industry.


John Darling is an associate professor of Music at Bismarck State College, where he teaches theory and conducts the wind ensemble.

Gregory B. Rudgers of Ithaca College has spent his career studying, conducting, composing, and interpreting wind band literature from beginning bands to college and university levels.

Lawrence Stoffel serves as director of Bands at California State University, Northridge in Los Angeles.

“Frank Ticheli’s List” debuted in MBM Times, published by Manhattan Beach Music.


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