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maecenas music - wind bands and ensembles


by Tim Reynish

for Schools, Music Centres and Community Bands

In this selection of works I have included three major works, which are already classics in their own time and which a good high school band would enjoy tackling. Martin Ellerby’s  Paris Sketches is a score full of film music effects with many quirks and surprises (rhythmical and melodic) of a type also found in Adam Gorb’s  Yiddish Dances and Stephen McNeff’s  Ghosts. Incidentally, the individual movements of all these three works can stand on their own as independent concert pieces.

In Song of Lir, Fergal Carroll has achieved the difficult feat of writing a seven minute piece at AB Grade 3 which keeps players interested, whilst Bill Connor’s  Tails aus dem Voods Viennoise goes further, providing Grade 3 – 4 groups with the experience of Mahlerian textures and emotional content in a twenty two minute work of great beauty and intensity. Edwin Roxburgh equals this feat by writing at about Grade 4 (Times Harvest) which is cast in a contemporary language suitable for the London Sinfonietta. The WASBE schools commission for 2003 from Marco Putz resulted in Dance Sequence, a fascinating three movement work which is never sentimental. Finally at Grade 3 – 4 Michael Ball’s  Saxophone Concerto and Adam Gorb’s  Euphonium Concerto cleverly pit a virtuoso solo part against an easier orchestral accompaniment. Why not try them?


Recommendations II

At the time of writing this article there are now over 160 scores and sets of parts in our catalogue, and most of them can be heard in full concert performances on our website, an incredible resource at all levels from Grade 1½ to professional. Here are some of my favorites from our most recent publications.

Nine works for beginner bands

An innovation in the last few years has been our genesis series, providing everything beginner bands require: original music by quality composers at AB Grade 1.5 / American Grade 2.5 or less in a wide variety of styles, scored, cued and doubled for almost any combination of instruments, number and ability range of players, with generous quantities of parts and at affordable prices. I like Fergal Carroll's  Dance of the Fir Darrig with its echoes of Riverdance and his Piper of Braffertonreminds me of his Song of Lir that wonderful piece that sounds like a melancholy folk-like tune. Malcolm Binney has contributed the gently lyrical Nancy's Lament and I enjoy the ebullience of Shaftoe's Hoedown.  Adam Gorb's triptych Treason and Plot, With Fire and Sword and Back from the Wars brings a note of the renaissance to the junior band and finally at this level, the quirky character of Gareth Wood's March of the Orcs is great fun. But it's worth listening to all 18 of them to find what ‘rings your bell'.

Eight works for bands with a little more experienced

Perhaps even more exciting is the number of works at about American Grade 3 - 4 level which are real pieces, works which can be played by any band in any situation as concert works of quality. My favorite is Passacaglia, by Timothy Jackson, I commissioned this after hearing the original as the finale of a Symphony for 32 horns, I immediately thought of it in wind band terms, it is a wonderful piece of sustained writing with an extraordinary climax. Three works at this level by Adam Gorb are very welcome, the slow movement of his Trombone Concerto, Downtown Blues, real mood music, and his Singapore piece Sunrise and Safari, a ‘Ravelian' start to the day interrupted by birdsong and a safari trip complete with trumpeting elephants, screaming monkeys and hissing snakes. Finally, Tranquility,an exercise in peaceful, low dynamics with some simple singing and a reminder of the pathos behind man's inhumanity to man. Bells toll and under muted brass and we hear simple aleatoric bird-song in the woodwind. Another of my commissions has also just been published, Deep Soul Diving by award-winning Emily Howard, a tripartite waltz with some energetic writing for all. There's also a suite of light music of the sort we used to hear on the BBC Light Programme in the fifties and sixties, Terence Greave's  Werneth Suite, really good tunes amusingly scored. Finally a work from our newest composer Daniel Basford; his Songs and Refrains is a four movement suite which can also be played and purchased as separate movements; Arkendale will whet your appetite as a starter.

Four works from the "Celtic Fringe"

At a more advanced level, a slightly revised version of one of my earliest commissions, Matthew Taylor's  Blasket Dances, a sea-scape with Irish folk-songs and a ceilidh worthy of Malcolm Arnold. Three further works redolent of Celtic high spirits have also been published recently. The 'Variations and Fugue on the Wee Cooper of Fife'byCedric Thorpe Davie has taken thirty years to get into print, but with its catchy tunes and infectious cross rhythms it's bound to be a rapid favorite. Fergal Carroll once again wonderfully exploits the fund of Irish folk melody with his Tipperary Rhapsody and William Sweeney casts a nostalgic look at the hills and lochs of Scotland in Lost  Mountain.

Final Choices

A slightly jazzy work is among my ‘forever favourites'. Chris Coleman's  A Jazz Funeralcaptures the legendary atmosphere of a New Orleans funeral procession including the high-kicking return from the burial! And finally, for ambitious ensembles, two works which I think are major additions to the contemporary repertoire, Adam Gorb's emotional Farewelland Davor Bobic's exuberant slavonic suite, Pictures from Zagorje.

Try any or all of them, you will not be dissapointed.

Recommendations III

Concertos and works for Soloist and Band or Ensemble

Planning a balanced programme will often involve a soloist. Here are a few ideas to help you find that important focal element, a concerto for an outstanding member of the group or for a member of your faculty or teaching staff. It is interesting that often composers chose to write more conservatively for the band in concerted items, making their works more readily accessible to most ensembles. Also many pieces have piano accompaniments available and so can be played as recital pieces. Click on each work as it is described to hear full performances, access all the works relevant information and view the scores.

Concertino Pastorale for Flute and Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Philip Wilby

Philip Wilby’s Concertino Pastorale was commissioned by Jim Croft and FSU as part of a series of commissions for every woodwind instrument. In a traditional three movement form, it is full of Wilby’s restless energy, contrasting with passages of peaceful lyrical beauty. It is beautifully scored and easy to balance.

Elegy for Ur for Oboe and Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Edwin Roxburgh

Contemporary music often demands repeated hearings and a degree of concentration, but Roxburgh’s Elegy for Ur is immediately accessible despite its idiom. Ur of the Chaldees is one of the oldest cities of the world, and its despoliation during the military offensive in the early years of this century have inspired Roxburgh to write an emotional work of great intensity. It is scored for orchestral wind and brass.

Clarinet Concerto  Sheng Sheng Bu Shi for Clarinet and Wind Orchestra, Philip Grange

Clarinet Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Orchestra, Stephen McNeff 

The two clarinet concerti represent strong contrasts, the Grange at the cutting edge of contemporary music, the McNeff using a more traditional language.

Saxophone Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Orchestra, Michael Ball

Concertino for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble, Adam Gorb

Tradition plays a big part in the two saxophone concerti. The Ball Saxophone Concerto makes spectacular demands on the soloists technique and musicality - much of the cadenza boldly goes where few altos have been before - but the band writing is more conservative and is within the range of most county players. The Gorb, (Concertino for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble) was written with honours band players in mind; again like the Ball, the solo writing is advanced, at Grade 6 level, while much of the wind orchestra is about Grade 4/5.

Downtown Diversions for Trombone and Wind Band, Adam Gorb

Downtown Blues for Trombone and Wind Band (Big Band), Adam Gorb

There are two concertos for trombone soloists by Adam Gorb; the Downtown Diversions opens with a trombone cadenza against jazzy finger snapping and clapping from the band and this sets the scene for a delightful three movement work with a “bluesy” slow movement, Downtown Blues, which is also available separately.

The City In the Sea for Euphonium and Wind Ensemble, Nigel Clarke 

Euphonium Concerto for Euphonium and Wind Band, Adam Gorb

The euphonium is perhaps the instrument that offers most to the brass family in terms of virtuosity and many composers exploit this with a dazzling array of passage work and instrumental fireworks. Not so Adam Gorb in his reflective, often pastorale Euphonium Concerto where he encourages the soloist to be musical and elegiac. The band writing is both practical and effective.

Tuba Concerto for Tuba and Wind Orchestra, Martin Ellerby

Here the emphasis is on musicality, and the two contrasting movements investigate the lyrical side of the instrument as well as allowing the soloist to show of their technical prowess. The band writing is both practical and effective.

Elements Suite for for Percussion Soloist and Wind Ensemble, Adam Gorb

Percussion Concerto for Percussion Soloist and Wind Band, Gareth Wood

Reviewing the world premiere of Adam Gorb’s Elements for percussion soloist and wind orchestra, given by Evelyn Glennie at the Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, Robert Beale wrote in the Manchester Evening News “This work does not let us down. It’s a substantial four movement piece full of inventiveness and an extraordinary sense of tone colour.” Elements has been recorded by Simone Rebello who also premiered the Concerto by Gareth Wood which was commissioned by the Welsh Amateur Music Foundation for the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Wales who gave the first performance in the Stiwt Theatre, Rhosllanerchugog in April 2007.

Renascence Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble, Christopher Marshall

Concerto for Piano and Wind "Homages" for Piano and Wind Orchestra, Edward Gregson

Featuring the piano as the solo instrument are two large-scale romantic concerti. Chris Marshall’s Renascence is a powerful romantic work written in a traditional form, Chris is one of the true originals of wind writing - the combination is both potent and irresistible. Edward Gregson’s serious but highly enjoyable, traditional three movement Piano Concerto could not be out of place in any concert hall or orchestral programme. While paying affectionate tribute to many of the giants of the century - Bartok, Poulenc, Stravinsky, Rachmaninov - it remains pure Gregson: accessible without artistic compromise, substantial without being weighty.

Five Folk Songs for (Mezzo) Soprano and Band, Bernard Gilmore

Image in Stone for Mezzo Soprano and Wind Ensemble, Stephen McNeff

We have two major works for voice and wind ensemble. Bernard Gilmore’s superb set of Five Folk Songs was written in 1967, premiered at a CBDNA Conference, and for many years lay unpublished. Each song is from a different country. The first major work for soprano and band, cited as Best Original Composition at the 1967 CBDNA conference, this important, pioneering piece is now available in definitive form incorporating Gilmore’s final revisions. Each folksong originates from a particular culture and is set in its vernacular language. Vocal range D-G’ it will suit either mezzo or soprano voice. In Image in Stone, McNeff brings all of his theatrical expertise to four contrasting poems for mezzo soprano and a small ensemble, a fanfare-like setting of an inscription on a Greek tombstone, a passacaglia to words by John  Donne, a charming folk-like melody for a text by Christina Rosetti and a poem by Walt Whitman which plumbs Mahlerian depths.

Recommendations IV

Choral Works with Wind Orchestra or Wind Ensemble

Eternal Voices for Narrator, Soloists, Chorus and Wind Ensemble, Adam Gorb words by Ben Kaye

Night Journey A Cantata for Baritone, Chorus and Concert Band, Daniel Basford

A New Songs Measure for Choir and Wind Band, Fergal Carroll

A Passion for Our Times for Narrator, Chorus, Youth Choir, Symphonic Wind Orchestra and Organ (with ad. lib. Dances and Audience / Congregation participation), Philip Wilby

Maecenas is proud to launch a new series of works for chorus and wind ensemble, ideal outings for the amateur or school choir. The most recent work is Eternal Voices by Adam Gorb, a moving cantata linked by a newscast commentary on the dangers of the war in Afghanistan, and the impact on a mother and her child of the death of their husband and father. In Night Journey, Basford's superb handling of his forces, choir, baritone soloist and large wind orchestra provides us with a substantial forty-minute extended secular choral work in the tradition of Elgar, Finzi and Vaughan Williams. His innate ear for colour and sure sense of architecture makes his eclectic collection of texts from a variety of poets including Longfellow, Poe, Donne, Fletcher and Blake an evocative and memorable depiction of the passing of time between dusk and sunrise. A New Songs Measure was commissioned by the Association for Music in International Schools, an organisation dedicated to giving young people opportunities for musical performance. Carroll's superbly approachable choral writing carefully takes into account the universal problem of choirs with more women than men making the work highly suitable for school and community use. Wilby’s Passion is a work of the greatest artistic, social and religious importance, a deeply-felt, gripping and moving experience with a message for our own time and for all times. It is appropriate equally for liturgical use or concert performance, giving opportunities for semi-dramatic presentation and inviting involvement by participants of every age and a wide range of abilities.


Recommendations V

Two brand new works for Christmas

One of the most attractive is A New Christmas Festival by Malcolm Binney called Christmas Extravaganza, ideal to open or close your December concert with many familiar favourites beautifully and sometimes suprisingly scored. Always the practical conductor, he includes much cross cueing for bands with smaller forces, the level is US grade 4-5, UK Associated Board grade 6-7. 

A newcomer to the catalogue is Chris Holmes with his three movement suite A Garland of Carols. Based on Past Three O'Clock, Noel Nouvelet! and I saw Three Ships Come Sailing in, it also has copious cross cueing and provides a contemporary and amusing slant on these favourite carols.  The level is similar to that of Christmas Extravaganza, US grade 4-5, UK Associated Board 6-7.

Music for less experienced bands

Writing music of some substance and interest but at an easier level is difficult; a composer who is unfailingly successful in this field is the Irish composer, Fergal Carol. He has given us two new pieces. Catherdral Variations was written for a residency at Susquehanna University in 2015 and was a resounding and immediate winner. Tallis' famous Canon is simply stated and then treated ingeniously in four variations at a level of about US grade 3, Associated Board grade 4-5. Only slightly more difficult at about US grade 3.5 (AB grade 4-5), is Spring at Nine Stones, a sequel to Fergal's popular Winter Dances, three interlinked movements, February, March and April, simply constructed with the material treated often in a contemporary way which will appeal enormously to the modern student. 

Another work with spring in its title is Adam Gorb's delightful Spring into Action written for Marty Allen and the Grand Island High School Wind Ensemble, a three movement work which is great fun and with all the fingerprints of Adam's mature music, great scoring, mixed metres and syncopations, infectious catchy rhythms and tunes which tease and of course it never quite goes the way you'd expect. About US grade 5 (AB 6-7). Definitely a stimulating workout for ambitious bands.

Gorb has the knack of writing for the full band but treating it as a wind ensemble with solos for all the players. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his Boat Trip. With hypnotic echoes of the second Gymnopedie of Satie, a suave tune boils up into quite a storm before descending into a final coda based on the opening material. As always, it's seven and a half minute span is beautifully and tautly constructed, another miniature masterpiece. US grade 4, Associated Board grade 5-6.  

Works for smaller Wind Ensembles

I am delighted that a couple of my earlier commissions have re-appeared in different guises; Judith Bingham's elegiac Bright Spirit, one of the earliest of my commissions in memory of our son William has been brilliantly arranged for woodwind ensemble by Roger Cawkwell, (Woodwind and Saxophones with an optional bass drum) an arrangement if anything that heightens the pathos of the original work. (US grade 4, Associated Board grade 6-7.)

Another wind ensemble recently published is The Darkling Serenade for clarinet choir by Stephen McNeff, a work of symphonic stature, 16 minutes of intense often introspective reflections on the poem by Thomas Hardy. US grade 5, AB grade 7-8.

Two new works by Daniel Basford

Some time ago we welcomed Daniel Basford to the catalogue with his charming suite based on English folk tunes, Songs and Refrains, a further suite which I commissioned, Partita Fantastica and the masterly cantata Night Journey for choir, soloists and concert band. We have now added his large scale Symphony No.1 'Prometheus', nearly forty minutes long and a charming set of Four Rossetti Songs for baritone or mezzo soprano and wind ensemble. He proves himself able to write equally well on large or miniature scale. You can find a full recording of the Symphony on our website. (Symphony: US grade 5, AB grade 8.  Rossetti Songs US grade 4, AB grade 5-6.)

Mahler for Wind Orchestra

I have always felt that working in a good wind orchestra is the ideal training for tackling the wind and brass parts of any Mahler symphony; now we have a twelve and a half minute work which I should have highlighted some time ago, the Rondo Burleske from Symphony No.9 by Gustav Mahler, faithfully and excitingly transcribed for wind orchestra by Adam Gorb. I was blown away when I first heard it played superbly by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Wind Orchestra under their conductor Nigel Boddice. Why not give it a try? US grade 5, Associated Board grade 7-8.


P.O. Box 629,
Godstone, RH9 8WQ
Tel: +44 (0) 1342 893963
Fax: +44 (0) 1342 893977

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