News & Views Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Plethora of Programmatic Possibilities for Strings Monday, December 03, 2018

recommended by Dan C., Orchestra Specialist

When your high school winter concert is over, have a few of these outstanding titles waiting in the wings to keep the momentum going. In a wide range of styles, they have interesting, active parts for everyone, so no one will complain of boredom, plus technical elements that can be taught while everyone is enjoying the music and won’t realize they are learning something! Every title would be a outstanding adjudication option and/or a memorable concert addition.

fjh-st6457-fA Riverside Celebration by Brian Balmages, Grade 2.5-3
Written in honor of a retiring Riverside, Illinois music teacher, this rhythmic energizer captures the playfulness of students thriving under the direction of a great teacher and features a memorable melody intentionally designed to stay with the listener long after the piece is over, a reflection of how music teachers never really retire! There is optional percussion (splash cymbal, ride cymbal and tambourine) which would add nice color and stability, but the string writing is so infectiously rhythmic, that it could be done without the percussion, if necessary. All in first position, except for basses, there are a few accidentals and some doublestops using fingered notes with open strings, but otherwise the name of the game is rhythm! Taken in 2, with the quarter note = c. 200, there are a few bars in 3/4 time that create additional momentum, plus a few moments of slight restraint and others that are just carefree childlike fun. The rousing A Riverside Celebration is destined to become one of Balmages best-selling pieces. Don’t miss it!

alfred-46710-fMoment at Angels Landing by Bob Phillips, Grade 3
Written in memory of string teacher and singer/songwriter Jenny McGraw from Waverly, Michgan, here is a beautiful, lyric piece that gives every section melodic content and some shifting, even second violins! With hints of The Water is Wide and quotes of Amazing Grace, your cellos get some of the spotlight as the orchestra subtly wends its way through various meters in the keys of C major and C minor. You can also emphasize a sustained and legato sound with connected bow strokes and sensitive phrasing. A gorgeous change of pace for serious settings.

cfn-cas112-fUnleashed by Peter Terry, Grade 3
Capture the exhilaration of being set in motion with unlimited optimism and energy! Unleashed is a rhythmic and propulsive galop that spins off lyrical material as it drives to a climactic finish that is both exciting and fun. Subdivided counting is key, as well as keeping the pulse steady as the piece propels itself forward. Sure to be a showstopper!

Yumiweeus by Richard Meyer, Grade 4
Echoing the increasingly popular, youthfully mature notion of “coming together to common ground,” this joyful and jubilant piece has the sound of a celebration and a title that describes how music unites us all – (You-Me-We-Us!) Written primarily as a Theme and Six Variations, Richard Meyer puts your players through their paces with various time signatures (5/4, 3+3+2/8 among others), key signatures and modes (E Ionian and more) to keep them challenged. Duets featuring the first stand players of every section introduce the first five variations and a virtuosic final variation closes the piece. So many of Meyer’s pieces have that “it” factor that puts them in a class by themselves, and Yumiweeus does not disappoint. If you’re got the horses this year, be sure to consider this winner.

kendor-9961-fAria for Strings by Frank J. Halferty, Grade 4
To help your high school students build their maturity of sound and musicality, this gorgeous, singing selection will increase their awareness, through listening to each other, how their parts all fit together and whose line should dominate in the musical fabric at any given moment. Lower voices should lead crescendos for richness and fullness, but must not decay too slowly on decrescendos, leaving the upper voices unsupported. These are among the many subtleties in this piece that can be taught to make a group that much more musical – plus you’ll have a beautiful contrasting piece to your more lively literature in your repertoire.

grandm-gmmor194-fScherzo on Rising Water by Robert Moore, Grade 4
If you have students that have pretty good “chops,” love to tackle grade 4 material, and enjoy music off the beaten track, be sure to check out Scherzo for Rising Water. It’s crazily syncopated enough that at first it’s difficult to find the downbeat, but then, like storm clouds opening, the sun shines through and you are flowing with the tide. When all the parts fit together it’s got a great groove, much like quirky video game music, but it will take intense counting and subdivision from the start to make that happen. If your students are up to the challenge, they will absolutely love this one.

About the Author:
Dan C. has worked at Stanton’s since 1979, primarily with orchestra music and print promotions. A “working” musician, he’s a classical cellist, a rock & jazz bassist and a folk & country guitarist/singer. His free time is spent with family or reading, gardening, cycling and working puzzles. His series of musical puzzles (RP3 Rebus Puzzle Picture People) can be found on the Stanton’s Facebook page each Sunday. He also has a reputation as a pretty good joke teller. Seriously.

< Previous|Next >