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Frank Ticheli’s List

Mike Lawson • Repertoire • January 26, 2015

This installment of concert band repertoire reviews features music in a range of difficulty levels by Bob Margolis, Leonard Mark Lewis, Carl Strommen, Timothy Broege, Michael Story, and Mark Williams.  “Frank Ticheli’s List” is a compilation of core repertoire for concert band selected by composer Frank Ticheli of USC. These pieces have been reviewed by Gregory Rudgers, Lawrence Stoffel, and John Darling.

“Greenwillow Portrait”

Mark Williams • Alfred Publishing • Grade 1 • Duration: 2:45

Upon hearing Greenwillow Portrait, one cannot escape the recognition that the principal melody is most reminiscent of the ancient folk song, Barbara Allen. Indeed the melody does  resemble certain elements of the familiar tune. However, this marvelous level 1 work is not another version of Barbara Allen, but more of a respectful homage to the haunting melody. The work is lyric in style in the tradition of British folk songs and the challenge here is one of achieving smooth, connected, and flowing lines, no small task for bands at level one. Instrumentation is traditional concert band with the exception of only two French horn and two trombone parts; percussion is limited due to the style of the work. Williams opens the work with a chorale scored in the middle and lower registers for all instruments, thus ensuring a warm, rich, and pleasing tone from the band. He does not shy from more open scoring however, often choosing to make statements with limited instrumentation — at one point, the work is maintained by three voices only: flute, clarinet, and triangle. This is a welcome addition for a work at this level — not to mention an act of courage by the composer. Instrument choirs are added gradually at this point to achieve a tutti statement that is more articulated and direct than the earlier statements. Williams once again reduces the instrumentation for a more delicate and endearing statement, which builds to a fully scored Maestoso that is as grand as it is beautiful. After a moment of silence, the original chorale returns gently and concludes with a reduction of voices and volume down to a single, quiet, staccato eighth note. With so many tunes resorting to volume and excitement for a final statement, it is indeed refreshing to discover a significant work for level one that does not succumb to the mundane.

Review by Gregory B. Rudgers

“Sakura”

Michael Story • Alfred Publishing • Grade 1 • Duration: 2:15

Michael Story’s “Sakura” is a simple setting of the ancient Japanese children’s song that translates as “Cherry Blossoms.” The tune is familiar enough that the listener will immediately understand its Asian origins. It works easily into any multicultural lesson plan and would be a good fit for an interdisciplinary school presentation. The multicultural aspect of this piece is further illustrated by Story’s use of traditional Asian percussion instruments: Chinese temple blocks, gong, and triangle.

Story has scored this piece with the technical requirements for young or beginning players clearly in mind. The piece is scored for standard instrumentation: flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, trumpet, horn, trombone/baritone/bassoon, tuba, and five percussion parts. The alto saxophone doubles the horn part; the tenor and baritone saxophones double the trombone/baritone/bassoon part. There is only one part for each instrument and no requirements for “divisi” in any part. Although scored for five percussion parts, four players could easily handle the parts. Besides the percussion already mentioned, orchestra bells, snare drum (no snares), and bass drum will also be needed.

Multiple unison lines between sections makes this piece an excellent candidate for teaching young players the importance of listening across the band and intonation. In addition, the naturally flowing melody provides the opportunity to explore legato articulations and note shaping. Because the orchestration is simplified, rehearsal strategies are unlimited. Teachers dealing with block scheduling will find this piece adapts well to that situation.

Although the key signature of the piece is g-minor, the first statement of the theme by the clarinets is in f-minor (through the use of accidentals), which allows the clarinets to play the theme without going over the break. In fact, the clarinets never go over the break throughout the entire piece. At the same time, there is a wonderful opportunity to teach the clarinets the beauty of the chalumeau register and the importance of tuning the throat tones: G – A – B-flat.

Audiences will find the simplicity of this piece attractive. Because of the simplicity, the musicians will work harder on this piece than the grade level indicates, but in the end, what they learn in the process will prove extremely beneficial.

Review by Dr. John A. Darling

“Rhythm Machine”

Timothy Broege • Bourne Music Publishers • Grade 2 • Duration: 3:20

“Rhythm Machine” is one of Tim Broege’s earlier works for young band and it helped establish him as a significant composer for elementary and middle school concert bands. Many of Broege’s works are in baroque form, and indeed this piece is set in the form of an old French “rondeau” in which repetitions of a refrain are separated by a number of contrasting verses. Broege points out that the contrasting verses could be characterized as: 1. urgent-exciting-pressing forward, 2. lyrical-gentle, and 3. martial-pompous. Broege accomplishes each of these disparate moods and styles with both ease and recognition of the limitations of younger players, no small task. The refrain consists of three different musical gestures: a lively dance figure, a straightforward staccato passage in minor mode, and a dotted eighth and sixteenth rhythm first offered by tutti ensemble at forte. Instrumentation is for standard concert band including piccolo, Eb clarinet, three distinct clarinet and trumpet parts as well as two each of French horn and trombone, though the work could be successfully performed by ensembles with less complete instrumentation. Percussion consists of the traditional snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, and timpani. The suggestions of the rondeau form are clearly present in Broege’s work, as the tunes are lively and energetic while maintaining a charming and elegant nature. The connotation of the title is also adhered to in that the rhythms employed, while not complicated, are driven and compelling. This work offers challenge in the form of rapidly changing instrumentation and voicing as well as many passages that move through several dynamic markings in quick order- one might envision the agility of courtly dancers in full costume executing complicated steps and choreography. The beauty of this work is that it represents genuine musical worth and substance while still being performable by younger bands. Indeed, mature bands and wind ensembles would find much of value in this charming piece of music.

Review by Gregory B. Rudgers

“Surfboard Blues”

Timothy Broege • Daehn Publications • Grade 2 • Duration: 3:35

Do not expect to hear reminisces of The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Dick Dale, or even The Halibuts. Surfboard Blues hints at none of these famous surf musicians’ trademark styles. This music is more at home in Chicago or even Atlantic City than in Malibu. Timothy Broege is most definitely an East coast surfer (if only on manuscript paper), and he dedicates this short band work to “the surfers of the mid-Atlantic coast.”

Despite the implausible title, Surfboard Blues is nonetheless cool music. Had Bob Fosse composed band music, it would have sounded like this! It is bluesy, but it also shuffles, slinks, wails, and shouts. The music dances in a style reminiscent more of Ann Reinking than of Frankie and Annette.

Broege’s blues is slow, swung jazzy music. The bass line walks, trumpets are muted, and the percussion parts mimic a drum set. While the instrumental ranges are conservative, the nuanced style demanded belies its grade 2 listing. This music requires patience in playing (never rushed), subtlety with jazz articulations (meticulously marked by the composer), and a mature rhythmic sophistication (to render the swung eighth-note).

Timothy Broege’s band works are always original, innovative, and intriguing. Surfboard Blues is no exception. While the slow blues style of this music feels at home with the concert band medium, it tickles the imagination to consider this work in its original form, as the middle movement of a suite for recorder ensemble! (Broege is an avid recitalist on recorders.) His well-known band work, Procession & Torch Dance, comes from this same recorder suite, as well. A recorder consort is admittedly an unorthodox medium for blues, but it is fitting testimony to a man whose music defies the ordinary and provides unexpected surprises and imaginative musical settings even in young band compositions. For everything that Surfboard Blues is not, the composition is undeniably catchy.

Review by Dr. Lawrence F. Stoffel

“Cumberland Cross”

Carl Strommen • Alfred Publishing • Grade 2 • Duration 3:15

Cumberland Cross, long a favorite of elementary and middle school bands for use at contest and festival, is also favored by many adjudicators as a work that is capable of demonstrating both technical proficiency and musical interpretation by young bands. Instrumentation is consistent with traditional concert band scoring with the exception of simplified horn parts, which are also doubled during brass choirs, a knowledgeable and generous accession to reality by the composer. There are essentially two ideas in this charming work, which captures early American music with an atmosphere of folk song and western dance. Strommen begins with a straightforward chorale, which is stated by two successive choirs followed by a tutti statement of a B theme. Both chorales as well as the tutti B theme maintain very reasonable ranges and technical difficulty for all instruments and offer young bands the opportunity to phrase and interpret without the burden of difficult notes and rhythms. The difficulty here is one of lyrical style and long phrases. He then proceeds to a delightful hoedown or barn dance with traditional and authentic American dance rhythms in both melody and accompaniment. Worthy of note is the skillful use of syncopation, which maintains the celebratory nature of the dance. Strommen uses the entire range of dynamic expression from gentle and delicate, to marcato and forte as the tune dances along, and after a brief return to delicacy and precision, he recalls the original lyric chorale style for a few brief measures before snapping off a three measure dance fling to end the work with a wink and a smile. Music for concert band at the lower levels cries out for quality and originality. Cumberland Cross provides the discerning band director and his or her students with genuine literature which is both.

Review by Gregory B. Rudgers

“Short Stories”

Leonard Mark Lewis • Manhattan Beach Music • Grade 2 • Duration 5:07

Leonard Mark Lewis has crafted a complex work using simple melodic and rhythmic elements that is at once eminently playable and quite sophisticated. This level 2 work contains many of the characteristics of advanced contemporary band literature without exceeding the limitations of young performers, no small task. His layering of musical fragments in this piece captures the listener and maintains that interest with constantly shifting colors and choirs. Though not specifically programmatic, Lewis does involve his listeners in a charming narrative with a compelling sense of variety within the unity of a consistent voice. There is minimalism here in the repetition of motives, but it is pleasing to note that the motives in and of themselves have musical value. Lewis begins with a staccato and stark mood that immediately captures one’s attention. The ensuing measures contain gentle and haunting lyrical counterpoint with constantly shifting timbres. Unlike much literature for this level, Short Stories has many changes of tempo, some quite abrupt, that will challenge the performers and at the same time provide blessed relief from band music that stays in the same pace throughout. It should be noted that, once again avoiding the clichés that so dominate band literature, Leonard Mark Lewis has crafted a work for young band that is not dominated by thundering percussion. Of course there are parts for that ubiquitous section, but they are sparse and appropriate to the overall nature of the work. That said, there is a delightful trio in the development employing timpani, bells, and snare drum. The final section of this intriguing piece once again layers melodic fragments that are reminiscent of earlier statements and resolves to a gentle and nostalgic conclusion. How refreshing to hear a work at this level end with restraint. Instrumentation is for conventional concert band.

Review by Gregory B. Rudgers

The Battle Pavane

Bob Margolis • Mahattan Beach Music • Grade 2 • Duration: 3:00

Bob Margolis has provided young bands with an authentic insight into both Renaissance style and form in his stately and powerful “Battle Pavane.” This arrangement closely follows a score by Tielman Susato, a composer and arranger from the mid 16th century. A Renaissance pavane was considered a staid music, intended for grave dancing. This particular work, however, should be considered as a battle piece in pavane form; young players will easily imagine soldiers marching forward to heroic deeds. Renaissance music might, at first thought, seem a bit challenging for younger players, but nothing is further from the truth. This music is straightforward, direct, well within the technical and range capabilities of young bands, and has become a standard in lower level band literature. The score can accommodate up to eight percussionists, but also includes directions for employing from four to eight players with logical part assignments. This majestic work begins with a middle and low brass choir accompanied by a lone tenor drum, gradually adding woodwinds and upper brasses in a quarter note half note chorale that is both confident and foreboding at the same time. The Pavane reaches a tutti statement before proceeding to a developmental section that calls for quite independent playing by smaller choirs within the band. Instrumentation in the developmental section is unusual for literature at this level. For example, the pairing of trumpet and bassoon single lines, trombone and bass clarinet sole unison, and antiphonal horn calls offer the band an opportunity to experience fresh new colors they would not encounter in more traditional “band” fare. (With acknowledgement to bands without complete instrumentation, Margolis offers ample cues for alternative instruments.) This serious and noble march then explodes with a brilliant fanfare, replete with clarion trumpets and substantial low brass and percussion. Percussionists and winds are charged with fortissimo and fortississimo passages, building to a stunning tutti finale. The profound nature and authenticity of this significant work will engage all.

Review by Gregory B. Rudgers

Frank Ticheli (c) Charlie GrossoFrank 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.

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

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.

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