[NEWSLETTER of DAVID E. SMITH PUBLICATIONS, LLC]
NEWSLETTER of DAVID E. SMITH PUBLICATIONS, LLC
NEWSLETTER of DAVID E. SMITH PUBLICATIONS, LLC
VOL 10, NO 3, Autumn, 2008 © 2008 Copyright of David E. Smith Publications
All Rights Reserved. Made in U.S.A.
Table of Contents
The Publishers' Space
The Brass Space
The Lone Arranger Space
The Percussion Space
Guest Writer's Space
Preach Christ Always
And As A Last Resort
St. Francis of Assisi
THE PUBLISHER'S SPACE
by David E. Smith
It seems that we continually discuss our web sites— www.despub.com and www.churchmusic.biz, but that’s where we constantly update information for you.
Also, you can call our office at 800-O’SACRED for answers to your questions on sacred instrumental music.
And too, you will find that we are increasingly stocking and having more vocal and pedagogical materials- see the back of this newsletter for the many catalogs to which we have access.
We have received many positive comments from our patrons regarding the increased number of musical samples, visual and aural, on our web sites. Please know, that we continually add more of these all the time. We have produced our new Christmas catalog of a 1000 items so give us a call for one, or download it from our web sites, or get it on a CD Catalog. We will be adding more Christmas samples on the web sites for your assistance. Another reminder, that you can gain access to files on the “Hot Links” menu bar on the sites. On www.churchmusic.biz you can do a “drilldown” to Christmas items by selecting the “Search The Catalog” and entering “Christmas” in the “Classification” field.
Please be aware of new pieces from our cooperating publishers- “Light Of The World Music.” “Trumpets of Praise” (LWBR1313) based on “To God Be The Glory” by Keith Kunda which is a trumpet duet with piano at a level four and priced at $6.00. Then a horn duet with piano by Paul French, “There Is A Fountain” (LWBR1314) at a level four and priced at $6.00. And finally, a brass quintet by Keith Kunda of “To God Be The Glory” (LWBR1315) at a level four and priced at $17.00 which includes optional parts.
New from DESPUB we have a horn solo in time for Christmas by Tom Brown entitled “I Saw Three Ships” (137127) with piano acc. at a level 3.5 and a price of $4.50. New by Dana F. Everson in time for Christmas is a brass duet for horn and trombone with piano entitled “Good Christian Men/God Rest Ye” (145211) is a level 2.5 at $5.50 price. Next a percussion quintet based on “I Would Not Be Denied,” (158504) at a 2.75 level and priced at $11.00 incorporating mallets as well as general percussion.
Now to pique your curiosity a bit we have two new projects for you to keep your eyes open for. First, is SmartMusic which was mentioned in “Lines and Spaces®” Volume 10, No #2 – more on that later. Then, a multi-purpose book that will lend itself to various venues in a lighter vein. This collection is aimed principally at schools, but the possibilities could be endless. Again, this will be more fully explained in time, but it has been in the project bin for years.
Finally, we have many upcoming exhibits where you can see the thousands of pieces we represent. On our www.despub.com site go to the “Exhibits/Conferences” menu bar to check them out. We look forward to seeing you at our booth! And there is always the “Dealer List” where you can find your favorite dealer.
To Table Of Contents
THE BRASS SPACE
by Phil Norris
Warm-up & Practice Approaches
Efficient, productive warm-up and practice techniques are essential to the success of musicians at any level. Musicians generally treat warm-up and practice as either one procedure or as separate facets of playing. Whichever view is taken, there is no disagreement about the importance of warming up and practicing.
The warm-up period is the first few minutes of playing or singing following several hours or more of rest from performance. The amount of time needed for warm-up will depend upon how in-shape, how active, what age, and what general state of health or fatigue the performer may have. Many highly-active musicians need little warm-up, though some feel it is always important for mental if not physical reasons. Young players generally need a longer and more gradually-paced warm-up to avoid excess physical tension and to develop good mental habits. But it is the mental process that is the most important and beneficial aspect of the warm-up.
Three primary goals come to mind concerning the mental side of warm-up.
The first goal is to wake up the mind to an alert state. This also implies a positive mindset of reaching for one’s best. At the outset, you want to establish an attitude of stretching yourself.
Second, rid yourself of mental distractions; let them remain outside the practice room. The essence of concentration is singular focus of attention. It is the key to quality practice and performance. A few minutes of concentration are worth more than much longer amounts of time in unfocused playing.
Third, clarify goals and set the direction for the practice. Have specific goals in mind, a battle plan for achieving objectives. It’s better to achieve one clear goal than to cover several things with no aim. The adage is true: if you aim at nothing, you’re sure to hit it. You want to get at something, not get it over with. Goals need to be simple, clear, purposeful and positive.
For the body’s warm-up, there are two principal goals.
First, practice “Low and Slow.” The low to middle registers are the easiest to produce. Slow playing is easy on the muscles which promotes the relaxed flow of blood. Slow playing also allows the mind to give focused attention on making the best possible sounds. Mind and muscle can work together at their best under these conditions, setting the mental example for the sounds that follow in the practice. When we elevate practice levels, we improve performance. Many fine small steps end in an excellent journey.
The second goal of the physical warm-up is relaxation which (as mentioned before) promotes good blood circulation to and throughout the musculature. This is essential for peak performance. The process of stress-relaxation is the way muscles build strength and then endurance. But if there is too much stress, muscles may be damaged. So without adequate physical warm-up, the damage may occur more readily. The amount of rest required during practice may vary from player to player, but in brass performance, rest is essential for both body and mind. The amount of time following practice or performance until the next session varies with factors mentioned above (vitality, age, health, etc.).
One more point about tone in warm-up should be mentioned. In the first few minutes of playing, do not be concerned about fuzz in the tone. The most important aspect of warm-up is physical relaxation and flow of breath. These must be relaxed for best tone. Sometimes, fuzzy tone is an indicator of excess tension in the lips or blowing.
… is hard work, mentally as well as physically. To maintain mental focus is sometimes more demanding than the physical requirements of playing. Practice motivation must come from within, for the public doesn’t directly pay the musician to practice.
The only way to perform well is to practice well. What follows is a list of proven principles for productive practice.
Be musical. Always make music and be thinking how you wish to express or phrase the music. Do this on exercises and etudes, not just on repertoire. When learning new material or developing new technique, there may be a temporary emphasis on the technical details, but switch to music-making as soon as possible.
Play with the best tone, pitch and rhythm possible. Rhythm and pitch (in that order) are the main reasons musicians are rejected in auditions. Make music from the musical thoughts, not from the muscles. Sing the part, then mentally sing the music as you play. If you can’t sing the music, you really don’t know it. High standards in practice make for better and better performances.
Concentrate on specific goals. Concentration does not mean “thinking hard.” It simply means to focus one’s attention, eliminating distractions. It saves time while producing quality.
Practice new and difficult things VERY slowly at first. One professional I know recommends playing only at a tempo where you can play 90% of the music accurately at sight. As soon as possible, play with good tone and musicality. As you play, the mind is developing neural pathways and the muscles form “memory.”
Once a wrong habit is fixed in the brain, it takes a great deal more effort to replace it with the correct habit. A habit (or reflex, as I call it) cannot be dropped; it can only be replaced. Therefore, it makes sense to develop a reflex correctly from the first.
There is necessary repetition. Good performing skills are developed through many successful repetitions. Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. There’s no shortcut to competence. Development of tone, scale and arpeggio patterns, tonguing, lip slurring and more requires months and years of rehearsing (notice the parts of the word: re, hear, sing). It’s repetitive, it’s listening and it’s singing. But once the craft is a consistent reflex, the mind has greater freedom to express the musical thoughts through the instrument without the distractions of technique. Technical development can be uninteresting and frustrating, but it can also be fun when it’s approached as music-making and when the outcome, performing facility, is kept in mind.
Be hard on yourself in practice, then enjoy performing. Make perfection a goal (but not an end!) for each practice session. Remember that the finest performers occasionally make mistakes, but they always strive to make music at the highest level possible. In addition, have some mental or physical rewards for good practicing.
Practice regularly if not daily. A little practice each day is better than larger amounts of practice less often. There are also times when a day off is more productive than pressing on, especially when playing has been intense. The mind as well as the body needs rest from time to time. The idea of the Sabbath is God’s idea for best living: work six days and rest on the seventh.
In each session, do some things you can do well AND do some things to challenge yourself. If all you practice is difficult material, you can become discouraged. At the same time, if there is no musical or technical challenge, you atrophy. All musicians need both ease and challenge.
Model excellence. Imitation of fine performers is an excellent way to practice. Imagine how a great player on your instrument would play this scale or articulate that etude or phrase a beautiful musical line. Sometimes imagine a fine singer and imitate that sound as you play.
Finally, daily practice routines should include, whenever possible, a menu of: 1) lyrical, song-like material, 2) technical material played musically, 3) sight-reading, and 4) solo/ensemble repertoire.
Make a list of all the skills you need for performing and work to touch on most if not all these skills each practice session. But if time is limited, do not neglect the lyrical aspect. This is the foundation for all fine playing.
(Reprinted from Lines & Spaces, Volume 6, No. 2)
Phil Norris is Professor of Music at Northwestern College in St. Paul since 1993. He holds the DMA from the University of Minnesota, MM/Trumpet, Northwestern University and the BME from Grace College. He is also a musician, teacher and elder in his local church.
THE LONE ARRANGER'S SPACE
by Dana F. Everson
Using Nature’s Radiant Chord
Why do some sections of your arrangements just “click?” Why do some chords seem to resonate and even glow with an aural radiance while others seem colorless and thin? Have you ever heard a quartet (SATB, TTBB, Strings, or Wind Instruments) settle on a chord (with perfect in-tonation) for a few seconds and produce a “fifth man sound” above the top part? From where did that bonus pitch come? Form, key, color, texture, volume, and tessitura may be factors, but one component which is sometimes overlooked is the vertical spacing of tones in a chord.
The Lord has built the harmonic series into the natural physics of sound so that when one pitch is played or sung, several other pitches are also being produced in a specific, predictable proportion. When one or more additional pit-ches are played along with the original, those additional pitches also produce other pitches in specific, predictable proportions. As these other tones are produced they either reinforce or clash with one another producing either a rich or dull composite effect.
The goal of the arranger/composer should be to learn the acoustical combinations of instruments/voices which produce the timbres which best fit the music he is expressing. Orchestration textbooks can help us with the technical information, but in the long run, it is constantly listening to and analyzing well-written music which will establish the aural foundation of timbre in a writer’s inner ear. There is no substitute for such “intentional listening” in order to build a thesaurus of timbres and colors.
Here is a simple rule of thumb that is a long-forgotten concept from freshman theory: Generally space chords in a proportion similar to the harmonic series.
Of course there are exceptions depending upon what you are trying to accomplish in a given arrangement. But when in doubt or when you intend to simply present a chord which is coloristically fulfilling and harmonically clear, and possibly even radiant, GENERALLY, use wider spacing between voices in the lower parts and a bit narrower in the upper parts. After this generalization, you will have to experiment and by experience decide which combinations suit your immediate needs in each section of your arrangement. Go for the glow!
Dana F. Everson holds: Associate of Arts--Delta College, the BME and Master’s in Saxophone Performance--Michigan State, Master of Sacred Music--Pensacola Christian College, and the Doctor of Sacred Ministry--Northland Baptist Bible College, with additional music studies at the University of Michigan and the California Institute of the Arts. He has over 350 published works.
by Harlow E. Hopkins, Editor
The Grass is Greener
The Shepherd & His Sheep
While traveling through Ireland many years ago, my friend lan MacPherson and I stopped at an old monastery on the southwest coast. We hiked up into the hills, toward a stone crucifix the monks had placed atop the highest bluff. By the time we reached it, the sun had descended to that magical place where all the colors of creation just seem to turn incandescent. The hillside actually continued on to a vantage point just slightly beyond and above the cross. From there we could gaze down and see the world from almost the same angle as the occupant of that cross might. Just thinking about that scene still makes my heart thump. Ireland, as you know, is famous for its 40 shades of green. Well, on that Spring afternoon I believe I saw them all at once, coloring those hillsides that cascaded away beneath our feet toward the sparkling sea.
But next to that cross its not those hills that I remember most. It was the hundreds of sheep that speckled those steep hillsides. The way the sun hit their wool almost made them seem to glow a pinkish white against the lush green carpet and the lengthening shadows. I'd always thought that sheep weren't particularly bright creatures, but you'd have had a difficult time that day making me believe it. For a moment they almost looked like supernatural beings. Those closest to us were lying down, many of them munching happily on the cool sweetness of the thick green grass, staring dreamily away into space. I know it sounds crazy, but those creatures looked as if they were onto something: A perfect peace. A spirit of contentment. A simple confidence in the future that I'd been searching for all of my life.
1 will never forget the image of that watchful One on the cross... of those sheep on the hillside... and each brings to life for me the words of the Psalmist: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures." It's a magnificent vision, isn't it? Who of us, in our right mind, doesn't want to be there? I mean really living it—the life of perfect peace, of pure contentment, of simple confidence in the fulfillment of our deepest needs. That's why I want to share some good news with any who may be too harried or hurried amongst us today. I want to tell you that there's something we can learn even from sheep —something about how we also can lie down in green pastures like that.
Free of Fear
But there's one thing we need to understand from the start. Sheep don't really find it much easier to get to that place than we do. In fact, do you realize that it is actually extremely difficult to get sheep "to lie in green pastures" or any place else for that matter? One reason is that sheep are tremendously timid creatures by nature. Now don't hold the sheep you meet at the zoo or Nativity scene to this standard, but in a natural setting even a jackrabbit suddenly leaping from behind a bush can stampede a whole flock. Sheep are such skittish beings that just being spooked like that can make mothers miscarry their young.
You sure wouldn't know that just looking at them. With all that fluffy padding to protect them, you'd think they'd be unafraid of much. Then again, I know plenty of people who are a bit like that too. They're apparently well-padded with money or prestige, with education or position - but when it comes right down to it they're sort of skittish too. They'll bolt quickly from committed relationships. They'll run from one job or church to the next. They see enemies, opposition, or reason for worry looming behind every bush. They find it hard "to lie down," to find real peace or rest, because to do so—it's a well-known fact—sheep must be almost free of FEAR.
Isn't it a good thing the Shepherd knows that? Philip Keller, a real-life shepherd, says that that's why a good shepherd doesn't just watch from a distance but walks among his flock by day and night. It's because nothing so calms the sheep as to see the Shepherd walking in the field. The very sight of him soothes their nerves and steadies their spirits. It lets them know that if anything really dangerous should come near, someone even stronger and wiser is ready to act on their behalf.
Do you think that might have anything do with why the God chose to become flesh and walk amongst us? Or why, in Psalm 121, David takes pains to remind us that the Lord "who watches over you will not slumber or sleep."1 Could it possibly be why Jesus said: "I will never leave you nor forsake you..."2 for... "Lo, I am with you always."3 Or why the message of angels and apostles alike almost always comes down to two words: "Fear not!"4 1 don't know any better way of saying it: The ground of your life may be uneven. The wind or the wolves may be howling. But the Good Shepherd is walking amongst us. It is safe to lie down and rest.
Free of Friction
But fear's not the only thing that keeps sheep from enjoying the peace and contentment most would like to have. I'm told that to lie down, sheep must also be free of FRICTION. By friction, I mean social tension. You see, sheep can't bear to be pressed up against one another. They almost never lie down till they've established their own space. Maybe you knew this from that Understanding Sheep 101 course you took at school, but I'm just learning. I found out that just as chickens have a "pecking order," so sheep have a "butting order." The toughest old ewe will drive others away from the best grazing or the best bedding ground by "butting" them with her head, or charging them with stiff-legged gait. Following her example, a descending order of rank will be established by the other sheep, using this same butting technique. When this tendency goes unchecked, this results in a tremendous natural tension within the flock. The sheep become edgy and irritable. All this direct conflict or subtle competition eventually compromises not just the health of individual sheep, but the well-being of the whole flock.
Aren't you glad that's a problem confined to sheep? I mean can you imagine if that was a problem people had too? If we were constantly fighting to see who the "Top Sheep" was; if we were subtly vying for position, charging each other, protecting our ground. Why we'd never be able to really lie down. We'd be continually "standing up" to protect our turf or our rights or our reputation. God forbid that should ever be so in our family or business or school or church!
But if it were, I pray that there would be a Shepherd to intervene. You see, I learned in my reading that that's exactly what good shepherds do; they intervene. Sometimes, the shepherd steps in to trounce the offending sheep. This may mean anything from a verbal reprimand, to a whack with his staff, to the ultimate penalty. Although it breaks his heart to do so, in the end a shepherd may actually be forced to destroy a sheep who insists—consciously or unconsciously—upon bullying others. Most of the time, however, the shepherd simply shows himself to the flock. I don't know why it works, but it is a certifiable scientific fact that the more the sheep see of the shepherd, the better they get along with one another.
I think that's true with us too. I believe that if we could fully tune in to the Shepherd's presence amongst us... if you and I were aware right now of the presence of Jesus Christ that is here in the room with us... a lot of our petty rivalries and social strivings would cease. Why is that? Because one look at the tears of compassion in the Shepherd's eyes will remind us that those we regard as "the least and the last" aren't in His sight. It is because we would see that Jesus, the Good Shepherd the One who is Savior today and Judge tomorrow - is not warmly inclined towards sheep that head-butt others of his flock.
Jesus offers this word of challenge to the head-butters: Remember, "the first will be last and the last will be first."5 And he offers this word of comfort to the ones who have chosen to back out of the game. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."6 As any shepherd will tell you, it is the especially those sheep who have been persecuted and not lashed back who gain a higher place of affection in the shepherd's eyes. But there's more. It is, ironically, the sheep at the bottom of the butting order that are frequently the calmest, the best rested, and the most healthy. For it's these ones, more than the others, who have time to lie down. Which kind are you?
Free of Hunger
Every one of us, I imagine, wants the contentment, peace, and fulfillment symbolized by that vision of those sheep resting and grazing upon the hillside. To gain that position means finding freedom from fear, from friction with others, but also something else. To lie down, sheep must be free of HUNGER. Until they are well-fed, sheep are as restless as a pack of middle schoolers after an athletic game. They will remain on their feet, foraging around for a better mouthful to fill their growling bellies. Finding sufficient food is sometimes harder than one might think, at least it was in the day when David wrote this Psalm. You've got to remember that the terrain near Bethlehem - where David kept his father's flocks - was nothing like that lush setting in Ireland. No, the land of the 23rd Psalm was naturally arid, brown, and sun-baked.
But please remember how much the Good Shepherd loves his sheep. He can't bear the thought of seeing his lambs thin, and restless, and miserable. And so, though the sun is scorching hot, he begins clearing the rough, rocky land. Though there are thorns and snakes to contend with, he tears out the brush and gnarly stumps. Though the ground is hard-baked, he deep-plows and prepares the soil. Though the expense is great, he carefully seeds the land with grains. Though the work is back-breaking, he painstakingly digs the trenches that will irrigate his pastures. And though a lesser shepherd would have given up long ago, and settled for scraggly sheep, the good shepherd daily tends the crops of forage that will feed his flocks.
That's also the vision that God, our Shepherd, has for you and me. He longs to see us well-rested and fed - lying down amidst luxuriant pastures, experiencing—in Jesus' words—"the abundant life."7 That's why God labors to clear our life of stony unbelief. It is why He works to tear out the roots of sin within some of us. It is because the Good Shepherd wants us to know life abundant that He strives to plow up the hard, proud heart which in some of us is set like sun-dried clay. It's love for us that makes Him sow the seed of His Word, which, if given half a chance to grow in us will produce rich crops of contentment and peace. He irrigates the ground of our lives with the living water of His Holy Spirit. He tends and cultivates the new life, longing to see it become lush and green and productive. In the words of one author: He longs to give to you and me a "life of quiet overcoming; of happy repose; of rest in His presence; of confidence in His management."
I Shall Not Want
What a Shepherd we have. In the end, I think that's what it means for a sheep to say, "I shall not want." It's sort of like that little girl who got the words to the Psalm all mixed up and said: "The Lord is my shepherd; I don't want anything else!" There's a lot of wisdom in that reading of the text. Those who have a relationship with the Shepherd don't worry so much about their other wants. They know that above all else they've been provided for in the one arena that counts most for sheep. They can say with serenity "I shall not want "for a Good Shepherd.
I wish it were that way for everyone. In his book, A Shepherd Looks at the Twenty-Third Psalm, Phillip Keller tells of viewing with sadness the mangy, dehydrated, underfed, parasite-ridden sheep that belonged to his neighbor. They were required to gnaw away at brown fields and impoverished pastures. They had only polluted, muddy water to drink. There was inadequate shelter or trace minerals needed to offset the effect of sickly pastures. They fell prey to dogs, cougars, and rustlers. Keller says: "I can still see them standing at the fence, huddled sadly in little knots, staring wistfully through the wires at the rich pastures on the other side." But they belonged to the wrong master.
Which side of the fence are you on? Martin Luther once said that the only way we can ever say: "I shall not want" is if we can FIRST say "The Lord is my Shepherd." Friends, it can be for you and me like those sheep upon that Irish hillside. We can lie down where the grass is greener, because we have not just a shepherd —but the good one—Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Let us pray...
Lord, there is probably not a person here today that would not like some portion of what I have said to really be true for him or her. We want to experience that refreshing peace, contentment, and confidence symbolized by those resting sheep of which Your servant David spoke.
We give You thanks O Lord that You have done what we could never have done for ourselves. Through Christ's sacrifice on the cross You have cut a permanent hole in the fence between the fields of the bad shepherds of this world and those life-giving meadows that belong to You.
Now we ask you to so fix our eyes upon Your daily, moment-by-moment presence with us, that we will be set free from our fears... set free from the need to fight one another for position... set free from our gnawing hungers. In this way enable us to more fully lie down in the green pastures of your loving provision. Through Christ the Lord, we pray. Amen.
1 Psalm 121:3-4
2 Hebrews 13:5
3 Matthew 28:20
4 Genesis 15:1: Genesis 26:24; Genesis 46:3; Deuteronomy 31:6; Judges 6:23; Isaiah 37:6; Jeremiah 1:8; Ezekicl 2:6; Matthew 1:20; Matthew 28:5; Luke 1:13; Luke 2:10; Luke 12:32; John 14:27; Acts 18:9; Revelation 1:17; Revelation 2:10
5 Matthew 20:16
6 Matthew 5:7
7 John 10:10
© 2007 Christ Church of Oak Brook 0507C (Used with the permission of Rev. Daniel Meyer, Senior Pastor, Christ Church of Oak Brook, 31st & York Road, Oak Brook, IL 60523 — www.cc-ob.org)
To Table Of Contents
by Billy Madison
Make Good Use of Warm-up Time
What is the purpose for warming up an ensemble or an individual? Many believe it is merely to get the muscles ready to play. Others understand that the warm-up time is for developing proper technique and fundamentals, gaining knowledge for future purposes, and preparing musicians to function on their own during practice sessions. The warm-up time is probably when we grow the most. Always take the time to improve through effective use of warm-up time.
A few years ago we had a Japanese high school band perform for our state organization and we were privileged to have their director do a clinic with his band and demonstrate their daily warm-up process. It was obviously phenomenal to see and hear high school students work and perform at such high levels. What stuck me first (as well as most others in attendance) was the amount of time devoted to warming up. It was longer than my entire class time. The material covered during this time was quite comprehensive. These students were definitely prepared for whatever music the director might give them because of the education they received during their warm-up period. I tell this story just to say, “Take the amount of time necessary for a good warm-up!” It is definitely worth it.
Include material that will prepare the muscles and the mind. Challenge yourself (and/or your students) with new material that requires a little extra effort. If you can go through the warm-up process without having to think about what you are doing then you are on dangerous grounds. Don’t get bogged down, as I find myself doing from time to time, doing the same things over and over to the point of redundancy. As soon as you recognize this problem change the routine. The warm-up period should not be boring, but should be fresh and require your full attention. Focus on what you are trying to accomplish and make sure you know what that is.
Since the warm-up time can potentially bring about the most effective growth as a musician always take it seriously. It’s what is gained during this time that makes the best performances possible. What is your purpose for warming up?
Billy Madison has taught instrumental music in the Arkansas Public Schools for 18 years. He holds both the BME in Instrumental Music and the MM in Music Theory and Composition from Arkansas State University. He studied composition with Jared Spears and Tom O’Connor. Madison has played percussion with the Northeast Arkansas Symphony since 1978.
GUEST WRITER'S SPACE
by Douglas Smith
Brass Bands of Great Britain (An 11-Part Series) — Douglas Smith8. LITERATURE: CONCERT FAIRE AND TEST PIECES
To lead a contending 19th-century brass band the conductor had to write much of his own music. The situation is similar to the job of an early church orchestra conductor. Not much was available through publishing companies, and if music was to be performed, somebody had to write it.
In the case of the brass bands in Britain, much of concert faire took the form of transcriptions of operatic and symphonic works of the day. For instance, conductor of the Besses O' Th' Barn Band was the gifted orchestrator Alexander Owen. He didn't write much, but what he did write was very effective. He scored an operatic medley for his band entitled "Remi-niscences of Rossini's Work." In all the "own choice" contests during the years 1884 through 1892 the band played this work a total of 27 times, and won first place in 19 of the contests. After the 27th performance, a committee came to Mr. Owen and informed him that his band could not compete again until they learned a new piece!
Actually, in 1870 the first music was prin-ted for brass bands, and this new resource aided immeasurably their spectacular growth during the following two decades leading up to 1890.
Original Sources for Band Transcriptions
As for the music rolling off these presses, there was an almost total commitment to 18 and 19 century opera transcriptions. Consider the following titles: Gounod's FAUST, Weber's DER FREISCHUTZ, Rossini's IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, Verdi's AIDA, Donizetti's LA FAVORITA, Wagner's DER FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER, Humperdinck's HANSEL UND GRETEL, and Nicolai's THE MERRY WIVES WINDSOR.
Such music had two things going for it: (1) high quality, and (2) virtuosity that helped show off the good players. There was something quite moving about seeing rugged working-class men, stepping onto a rough-hewn stage in an open field, playing exciting versions of good music that was already familiar to the audience. Even though the music was borrowed, its quality and excitement helped pave the way for a later era when music would be written specifically for the band.
As for difficulty, most of the parts were made to cater to medium ability players, but it was customary to write four of the parts on a virtuosic level. Out of such maneuvering came the phenomenon called the "four-comer arrangement," To play such a piece, the band would need outstanding soloists on four parts—(1) comet, (2) tenor horn, (3) trombone, and (4) euphonium—and on today's standards, those parts would be considered "Grade 6." The parts for the rest of the band would rate at approximately "Grade 3.” "Four-corner arrangements" made up a large part of the bands' repertoire well up into the second decade of the twentieth century, but players in the more progressive bands began wanting music that would challenge all the players.
"Labour and Love"
Subsequently, National Finals coordinator John Henry lies commissioned the talented Percy E. Flet-cher to write an original composition for a championship section test piece. According to Roy Newsome, in his essay "Development of Brass Band Music" appearing in a 1978 issue of SOUNDING BRASS, "Fletcher's work entitled 'Labour and Love' was first heard in the 1913 Championship Contest at the Crystal Palace, London.
"The music portrays the struggle between good and evil. The evil is the state of mind of man who, having no love for his work, finds his surroundings oppressive, and sees himself as little more than a slave. Good takes the form of the 'voice of love,' his wife, who pleads that she also has her problems, but she has faced up to them for the sake of the family. "The man sees her point and returns to his work happily, realizing at last that there is a purpose in it all. This subject must have been very close to the hearts of those who played the work in 1913, most of whom worked in a pit or a factory for upwards of twelve hours a day.
"Musically the piece resembled an operatic selection... .Technically it was less difficult than other virtuosic selections, but the non-'four-corners' parts took on new musical significance, new challenges and an escape from the role of mere accompaniment. 'Labour and Love' lasted for some nine minutes... but the influence of those nine minutes of music on later writing for brass band was inestimable."
How about other composers for brass band? Percy Fletcher is certainly not a household name outside the British Isles. Who else has written test pieces for the national contests?
Test Piece Composers
Granville Bantock's "Prometheus Unbound" was used in 1933. Gordon Jacob composed his "Pride of Youth" as the 1970 test piece. Malcolm Arnold's "Fantasy for Brass Band" was chosen for 1973. Edward Gregson had his piece "Connotations" selected as the test piece in 1977.
As for "big name" composers, perhaps the first was Gustav Hoist in 1928. His "A Moorside Suite," was written specifically for the brass band, but it has since been transcribed very effectively for concert band. As for Edward Elgar, he wrote his "Severn Suite" for the 1930 test piece. Here is a switch for you: Nearly all the works played by brass bands during their first hundred-plus years of existence were transcribed from other mediums, but Elgar's "Se-vern Suite" was conceived for brass band, and then transcribed for concert band and later for symphony orchestra. The test piece "Varia-tions for Brass Band" in 1957 was by none other than Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Neither Michael Tippett nor Benjamin Britten are represented in the list of test piece composers. As for Percy Grainger, this Australian, an adopted son of the English, was completely overlooked for the body proper of brass band literature. Many of his pieces for wind band were later transcribed veiy satisfactorily, but he never composed directly for the brass band.
"Blitz" by Derek Bourgeois
Derek Bourgeois, the composer of the 1981 national final test piece "Blitz," explained his own philosophy about what a test piece should do: "The essence of a good test piece is that it should test, and test to the full, both techni cally and interpretatively. When I wrote 'Blitz' I was of the opinion that no band would really be able to master it. As it tran spired I was quite wrong. At least eight bands gave exceptionally commendable performances that utterly transcended my expectations, but I fervently maintain that it really did sort out the finest bands from the merely good ones."
Of special interest was the subject matter of Mr. Bourgeois's work. He used music to re-enact German bombing raids over London and the English countryside during the Second World War. Essentially it was the ebb and flow of a fierce battle, and it was played in Royal Albert Hall by Championship Section brass bands 24 times in a single day!
Distribution of Test Pieces
Now about the distribution of test pieces for the National Competitions: On a certain day, exactly six weeks prior to the competition, the scores and parts are mailed to eligible bands. The freshly composed piece is not familiar to any of the conductors or players. No one will have ever played the piece and no recordings of any description are available. They all have exactly the same number of days to prepare it. One other stipulation: They may not perform it in public until after the competition.
The bands all rally to the test piece, however, because they realize how important it is to make them improve. It is their "spinach" that earns their right to successful "sweets." It was, we understand, an American whose theory the bands have thusly validated: "We set the standards for our groups by the music that we play."
October 8, 2006 Louisville, Kentucky
Douglas Smith is a Professor of Church Music at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville KY, where he has taught since 1975. His arrangements for various instrumental combinations have been published by DESPUB, Broadman Press, Theodore Presser, Lorenz, Hope Publishing Co., and several others. He holds the B.S. degree from Carson-Newman College, the M.M.E. from the University of North Texas and the D.M.A. from the University of Michigan.
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A DESPUB Writer
I was born on June 21, 1944, in Laredo, Texas. My father was stationed there during World War II. After the War, we returned to Kalamazoo, Michigan, my parents’ home town. My mother began to teach me piano when I was six. I studied piano with various teachers through ninth grade and then again after high school and finally in college. During high school I studied voice with Florence Otis. In college I studied voice at Chicago Musical College and a Western Michigan University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Music in public school music from WMU in 1968 and later with a Master of Arts in applied voice from WMU in 1973.
In 1963 I openly declared myself an atheist and vigorously pursued the writings of atheists. I wrote a few poems expressing my new "faith" and showed them to all my friends. However, I continued to feel the need for some kind of religious aspect to my life. I read into Buddhism, Hinduism, Humanism, pacifism, but I never really found any satisfaction in any of them. Nevertheless, I did take to pacifism with religious zeal.
I attended Chicago Musical College in the mid-sixties. Young men from Moody Bible Institute would visit me in my room at the Lawson YMCA to tell me about Jesus. I distained them, and gave them a hard time, but I also envied them. I wished to have the contentment and peace they had, but I thought that only stupid, naive people could do so.
While working in Detroit for two years at Henry Ford Hospital as a conscientious objector,
I bought a copy of Conjectures of A Guilty Bystander, a book by Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemane monastery in Ketucky. This book cracked my atheism.
I bought it because It was full of things that encouraged my pacifist notions, but what really struck me about the book was that somehow Merton made believing in God make perfect sense to me. My atheism dissolved.
I kept reading books by Merton. I began to make feeble attempts at prayer and reading the Bible. But though my longing for God increased, I had no sense that I was any better off believing in God than I was by not believing in Him. I was as miserable as a man could be. I started to attend the services at Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Detroit. I talked with two of the pastors there about my problems, but things didn't get any better. Eventually I decided that after my two years of service were up at the hospital, I would go to a Methodist seminary and become a pastor. Certainly, if God was real and there really was a heaven, He would let a hard working pastor in, but my misery level only increased.
When my time was up at Henry Ford Hospital, I returned to WMU as a graduate teaching assistant in vocal music. Looking for ammunition to fuel my pacifism, I began frequenting the Agape Book Store just off the campus. Frank Abelard, the manager, was a man who totally disarmed me with his confidence in the Bible, with his gentle way of pressing me to consider Christ as the only remedy for my problem, which, as he explained to me, was that I was an unforgiven sinner. Shortly after Nancy, my wife, and I were married, God's love and Frank's witness won me over, and I put my faith in Christ. My life would never be the same again. Nancy came to Christ believed unto salvation about a year later.
After graduating, I took a job teaching choral music and music theory at Coloma Junior and Senior High Schools in Coloma, Michigan for five years. I then took a position at Grace Christian School in Watervliet, Michigan, where I taught music and many other subjects. Through those years of teaching I began to feel a desire to preach God’s Word. Opportunities to preach came at a growing rate, and the desire to be a pastor also increased.
In 1990 we sold our home in Coloma and went to Bible College where I earned a degree in pastoral ministry. While there, I became seriously ill. The diagnosis was Lupus, the internal variety. I could not work to support my family. I could not attend my classes at the college. I could not bath myself or even feed myself at times. The thing I did best was stay in bed. I thought it was all over for me, but God brought us through, and I have pastored at three churches. At the moment I am not pastoring. Someday, maybe. It is in the Lord's hands. I now tune and maintain pianos and enjoy it.
I also compose, of course. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I tend to compose as a response to a request or as a way of encouraging someone by writing something for them. In the tradition of Alfred Burt I have recently taken up writing Christmas carols and sending them to friends at Christmas time. It is a little expensive, but it is fun. I just finished writing two children’s choir pieces for my oldest daughter's children's choir at High Country Baptist Church in Colorado Springs where our son-in-law is pastor. Someday I'd like to write a symphony and a few fugues and some serious larger choral pieces. I love composing, but I am slower than molasses in January at it, so I am not too prolific. I am so thankful for David E. Smith Publishing for the opportunity to see my music available to people.