We have something special for you this week: a preview of our upcoming 2021 titles! All these titles will be available this summer, and we will have more information on each coming soon.
We start things off with a grade 3 composition from Daniel Lonie, Pinyon Mountain Trail. Pinyon Mountain Trail references the Pinyon Pine tree, which is indigenous to the southwestern parts of America. This piece was written in the summer of 2020 when many families could not travel and explore the great outdoors. It takes the performer and listener on a trip up a pine-lined trail to enjoy the fresh air, pine scent, and scenery. All sections of the orchestra join in the brief adventure and arrive safely home in the end.
Next is a grade 3 arrangement of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Song Without Words; Op. 8, No. 3 by Daniel Levitov. Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel was a composer and pianist from Germany during the early Romantic era. Her works include a piano trio, a piano quartet, an orchestral overture, four cantatas, and over 125 piano pieces. Despite being praised for her piano technique, she seldom performed in public outside of her family circle. Many of her works were published under her brother’s name in his Opus 8 and 9 collections. Her life and works have been the topic of more in-depth study since the 1990s. This work, originally titled “Lied,” comes from a set of works for solo piano. It offers students access to the music of an important and under-recognized composer. The dynamics and expressive markings of the original piano version have, for the most part, been preserved, but students may be challenged by notes such as F♭, F double-sharp, and augmented intervals. The challenges allow the director to discuss enharmonic equivalents and functional harmonic voice leading.
Mark Barnard has a new grade 1 work for beginner orchestra this year, The Low-Two Tango. The Low-Two Tango presents an enjoyable way to drill and reinforce new D minor finger patterns with both melody and accompaniment opportunities for all string sections. As well, the lively tango presents an engaging opportunity to showcase new performance skills for family and friends!
Marche de Triomphe is one of almost eight hundred compositions by the French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier, here arranged at a grade 2 level by noted arranger Robert Longfield. Composed in 1691, the march represents both the French and Italian styles of the period. Timpani and piano are optional for this arrangement, but both will add to an authentic sound. The orchestra can play it entirely in first position.
Dreamscape is the first of two new titles Tempo Press will be publishing from William E. Moats this year. Dreamscape is a song for orchestra that paints an imaginary story played expressively. This piece offers many opportunities for expression in the form of tempo changes and dynamics. At the marked tempos, Dreamscape runs for almost three and a half minutes. The piece has several divided notes in the upper strings before letter D and first violin and cello each have one note that will require a higher position.
The Allegro Vivace from Bizet’s Symphony No. 1 in C is a lively display of youthful genius. It has been arranged for a grade 3 string orchestra by Caryn Neidhold. This delightful arrangement celebrates Bizet’s genius and connects young performers with music from the standard repertoire. There is some third position for the first violins with alternate fingerings, allowing more advanced students to challenge themselves with second position.
Emperor in the Countryside is a grade 3 medley of themes from Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and his Pastorale Symphony from Kevin Sluder. Approachable arrangements of quality classical literature can inspire young musicians. Too often, the rich sounds of a composition’s original voicing are lost in the arrangement of student parts. The opening of the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto is a stunning example of his beautiful part writing: simple, yet profound. While the original key of B Major would be too daunting for young players, the neighboring key of C is more manageable (and resonates naturally on student-level instruments). The second half of Emperor in the Countryside is based on the main theme of the first movement of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. Once again, many of the chord and melody voicings in this arrangement are taken straight from the original score but transposed to the more approachable key of G major.
Jason W. Krug has arranged America the Beautiful for grade 3 string orchestra. The tune is a staple of patriotic celebrations for its lush textural imagery and its luscious, flowing melody. Smooth, even bowing and a delicate, musical touch are the name of the game here. All musicians should be aware of who has the melody while it moves from section to section.
Our other new Robert Longfield arrangement this year is the Tango from Espana. Espana was initially written for piano by Isaac Albeniz. The composer was known for his conducting and his virtuoso piano playing. Graceful melodies, rich harmonies, and classic tango rhythms characterized this piece’s understated elegance. This elegance and quiet beauty can be enhanced by an unhurried tempo and expressive melodic playing. All parts can be played in first position except the first violin, which has a high C.
At The Fair by William E. Moats was conceived as a somewhat light-hearted dance using traditional forms and harmonies. Musicians can play most of the piece in first position. Playing some passages in a higher position will significantly improve the intonation and facility. All sections except the contrabass play portions of the melody. At The Fair runs a little over three and a half minutes at the suggested tempo. The upper cello part requires being able to play a few notes above first position. The piece is in the key of D and G. It is a grade 3.
Next is a new grade 3 work from Marcia Stockton, Nordlys. The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are called Nordlys in Norwegian. Science says auroras occur when charged particles ejected from the sun strike the earth’s atmosphere. Those who have witnessed the ethereal curtains of dancing light describe the experience as surreal. This music evokes the aurora’s powerful otherworldly quality.
Three Yuletide Carols by Robert McCashin is a grade 3 setting of three well-known holiday songs: “Adeste Fidelis,” “Ukrainian Bell Carol,” and “Pat-a-pan.”
Jingle Bells Gone Wrong: A Shocking Set of Variations for String Orchestra (grade 2) by Mark Barnard provides an educational and entertaining opportunity to explore this seasonal favorite set in minor mode and five highly stylized variations. The result holiday fun for both students and the audience. Sleigh bells and optional drum set add to the performance experience.
This next piece was inspired by Dunscaith Castle, a ruined castle on the coast of the Isle of Skye in northwest Scotland. Also called “The Fortress of Shadows,” it is named after and was the home of the warrior maiden Scáthach the Shadow, a legendary Scottish warrior woman and martial arts teacher who trained the hero Cú Chulainn in the arts of combat. The Irish name for the fort, Dun Scathiag, was named after her. The Fortress of Shadows (grade 2) by Mark Barnard provides an opportunity for middle school or early high school ensembles to perform an epic-sounding work that is technically and musically accessible. With both lyrically majestic and driving musical sections, students encounter many opportunities to advance their technical, musical, and ensemble skills. The duration of this piece is approximately 4.5 minutes.
Mark Barnard’s The Ring of Brodgar (grade 3) is also about a location in Scotland. The Ring of Brodgar, located in the Orkney Islands of Scotland, is an enormous stone circle dating back to the 3rd millennium BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the great pyramids of Egypt. In addition to being an astronomical observatory, the Ring’s 60 stones served as a sacred, magical and mysterious ceremonial site. The majesty of The Ring of Brodgar is heard in the main theme’s opening statements and its musical evolution from a moderate 4/4 to a moving 6/8. A short reverent choral signifies the wonderment and power standing in and among the stones, which moves to an ominous development, building in harmonic and rhythmic intensity until the music returns to the main theme and a dramatic conclusion. The string orchestra encounters varied meters and many orchestral bowings, dynamics, and performance techniques which are all very accessible in this epic, cinematic-style orchestration. The optional percussion part is performed by one percussionist alternating on wind chime, snare drum, bass drum, triangle, and suspended cymbal, adding color and rhythmic drive to the ensemble.
Haunted Halloween Dances (grade3) by Ingrid Koller is a suite of three Halloween-themed dances for string orchestra. They can be played together, or each is long enough to stand on its own. The “Spooky Samba” (in a minor) has an atmospheric introduction with a catchy samba rhythm and some easy open-string harmonics. The violas and cellos get the first statement of the theme while the violins continue the samba rhythm. The upper strings eventually get the melody, and later you can hear this melody in canon with the cello section. The melody becomes altered at one point as the sections battle it out between Good and Evil as the melody alternates between A major and a minor. This passage provides a perfect chance to teach young musicians how changing one step of the scale can dramatically alter the melody’s character. Sure to be a favorite with your orchestra, the Spooky Samba gives every section a chance to play the melody, the samba rhythm, col legno, pizzicato, and harmonics. The “Terrible Tango” (in d minor) is a dramatic showpiece perfect for your next Halloween-themed concert. The unrelenting tango rhythms in the cello and bass and the viola’s tremolo set the tone for a dark and menacing dance. The tango melody is dramatic and sweeping and travels throughout the orchestra. Every section gets a chance to play the melody and also the vital tango rhythm. During the piece, a tutti piano section creates tension and drama and tests the dynamic range of the orchestra. Throughout the piece, tremolo, col legno, and pizzicato add color and interest for the players and the audience. The “Weird Waltz” (in e minor) is just that. The haunting waltz melody at times feels clumsy and awkward due to the occasional use of hemiola. In addition to brief hemiola sections, some very deliberate dissonances add tension and humor. Young musicians will enjoy leaning into their “wrong” notes. The Weird Waltz has something for everyone- every section gets a chance to play the melody and play with expression through their whole dynamic range.
Robert McCashin has arranged Giovani Paisiello’s Sinfonia in D Major: 1st Movement for grade 4 string orchestra. Paisiello was a Classical-era Italian composer who was the most famous opera composer of the late 1700s. His operatic style influenced Mozart and Rossini, and both Haydn and Beethoven championed his music. The majority of his over 80 operas are comedies with a simple, direct, and spirited style. His later works have more complex characterization, more vibrant scoring, and warmer melodies (features that influenced Mozart). While not written for an opera, this music is so dramatic that the editor recommends that you have your students write their plot to match the themes and read it to the audience right before their presentation. This type of exercise will bring the music to life, which will be enjoyable for all, including the audience!
Robert McCashin has also arranged La Poule (The Hen) (grade 4) by Jean-Philippe Rameau. Les Nouvelles Suites de Pièces de Clavecin first appeared in 1726 or 1727. La Poule is part of this suite for harpsichord and is surprisingly symphonic in scope. The simple clucking theme is developed extensively. This delightful character piece is brief but challenging. The opening theme (clucking) should be performed as ‘like a hen pecking for bugs on the ground”. Later, it appears that even the roosters (somewhat deeper tessitura) get engaged.
Our final Robert McCashin arrangement this year is Larghetto and Allegro from Sinfonia in G Major (grade 4) by Johann Stamitz. Written in the ‘Manheim’ style (utilizing unique dynamic effects) and completed sometime between 1741 and 1746, Stamitz’s Symphony No. 3 is actually likely his first completed symphony. It was attributed to Stamitz; only it may have, in fact, been completed by a close friend and contemporary composer, Antoine Mahaut (a Flemish composer and flutist). It is in the key of G Major. The Larghetto needs to be connected smooth and ‘fluid’ throughout. Shifting to the Allegro, be sure to bring out the moving lines in the upper voices. The lower voices need to be accentuated and cleanly articulated. Be sure to perform the dynamics with dedication.
Finally, we have String Noel! by Mark Barnard. Commissioned and arranged for a community orchestra, String Noel! is a holiday medley for string orchestra with an optional sing-along featuring “Joy to the World,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “I Saw Three Ships,” “Still, Still, Still” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”