Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice – Selections for Fall

Lesley Schultz • October 2021String Section • October 9, 2021

Ahh fall, the weather is cooling; the leaves are changing, and you have your first concert at some point this month. Although this article comes too late for this school year, I hope the variety of selections I suggest this year can give you ideas for next year. Fall is not usually the time most have a themed concert, but a themed concert can be a great way to kick off the school year. Do you go for Halloween? Fall? Hispanic Heritage Month? Combination? Here are some selections I have found to be tried and true for fall, and advance your students’ technique while we are at it, all organized by level for easy programming.

In the grade two range, we have many favorites for your year 2 to 3 players. First is Creatures by Brian Balmages, published by FJH. Creatures has a groovy rock ostinato bass line that hooks in the mystery and your players into learning some basic chromaticism. Beginning extensions in the cello, along with H2 vs. L2 reinforcement, make this an impressive addition to any fall concert. Second, a flexible full or string orchestra selection invokes images of a bright fall day in the mountains, with the beautiful color of leaves. Shannon Falls, by Ralph Ford published by Belwin, is a great slow movement selection, and if you have a harp player in your orchestra, there is a harp part! This would be a great piece to start learning vibrato for your entire string section as well. Last, in the popular music genre is an absolutely darling arrangement of The Monster Mash arranged by Bob Phillips and published by Highland/Etling. This would be an easy way to feature a principal as the singing is more sprechstimme than actual singing. Students will have fun being introduced into effects notation, and working with a soloist.  

In the grade three range, it was very hard to limit myself to three selections, as there are so many magnificent pieces for your third- and fourth-year orchestras. First is one of my absolute favorites in the entire repertoire, Dia de los Muertos by Richard Meyer published by Highland/Etling has been around a good while, but it continues to be a great piece to showcase Latin style and percussion, 5/4 time, ABA form in fast/slow/fast organization and col legno techniques. It also is a great selection for Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th to October 15th. Second, is Autumn Harvest by Chris Thomas, published by FJH. This festive selection has the happy feel of Vivaldi’s Autumn violin concerto, but with a more modern take. Fast lyrical 4/4 transitions into separated 6/8, providing contrast of styles and key. Great section at the end where the themes are combined in a 6/8 vs. 2/4. This is a great piece for showing students how they interact. Last, a Danny Elfman Spooktacular arranged by Douglass E. Wagner and published by Belwin is a great closer to any concert.  Can you say chromaticism? Your grade 3 orchestra will get a left-hand workout with some of Elfman’s famous chromatic shifts. Just make sure you don’t say Beetlejuice three times…

In the grade four or higher range for your advanced groups, again there are so many great choices. First, the Waltz from Masquerade Suite by Aram Khachaturian arranged by Lynne Latham published by Southern Music gives all of your violins practice playing in extended positions, and all parts have to have great left-hand facility. Perfect opportunity to talk about advanced off the string styles as well. Darkened Shadows, by Joshua Reznicow published by Kendor is a beautiful piece for your large orchestra. With strings divided to a maximum seven parts, this work contrasts a fast section that conjures the anxiety of running away from an unknown foe to a beautiful lyrical section in 6/4 time where the orchestra has time to breathe and reflect. This offers a chance for all students to work on double stops, harmonics, and an alternate type ending with a fadeout. Last, one of the greatest (or not) trips ever told in the story of music. March to the Scaffold from Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique is expertly arranged by J. Cameron Law, and published by Grand Mesa Music.  A great feature for a strong low string section, and featuring a technical cello solo, it is a great technique and left-hand workout for everyone. Splendid piece to work on ensemble rhythm technique.

I hope this journey through the wide variety of fall selections can give you some great ideas for your next fall concert. I wish I had more space in this article, because there are way more selections than I had space to write about. Until next time!

Lesley Schultz currently teaches secondary general music and orchestra at Princeton City Schools (Cincinnati, OH). She earned her Bachelors of Music Education from West Virginia University and her Masters of Music Education from Ohio University. Lesley is a Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Lesley keeps an active performing schedule around the state of Ohio, performing with several regional symphonies on viola. She is a member of TI:ME (Technology In Music Education) and serves as the Ohio Chapter president and on the National Conference Committee. 


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