Here is a GPO realization (straight out of Finale 2006) of an arrangement I just completed for a local high school band. It is a medley of national anthems to accompany a procession of flags at an MLK ceremony later this week. Six national anthems (Great Britain, Germany, Canada, France, Mexico, Japan) are tied together with a simple fanfare motif. It ends with a "utility modulation" to a pedal "F" as an intro to a separate arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner. The idea was to make it possible to cut to the SSB from several points in the piece depending on the length of the event.
Thanks for the kudos everyone. This is such a great community for support and inspiration!
This was a fun project to work on. After the band director and I agreed on which anthems to use, it was easy to pair off the first four tunes; the transitions and such fell into place easily. Unfortunately that left me stuck at the end transitioning from Mexico to Japan, which was a challenge but I think the simple approach comes off well.
No, I am not a band director but I do a lot of work for local high school and college bands. It's very rewarding of course, helping the kids to sound their best with custom material that suits them. And the challenge of working within the limitations of each group (or writing for a specific "grade") is something I enjoy. For example, this piece is written to Grade 3, which translates to specific instrument ranges (nothing too high or low), plus things like "timpani will not change pitches during the piece".
Is there an outline of these specifications (i.e., "Grade 3") somewhere, David?
I've looked but have never found any good description online of these classifications. Maybe it's because they vary from publisher to publisher (some, like Carl Fischer, are now avoiding the word "grade" in favor of terms like "medium-easy"). Plus it would be impossible to include every consideration in one document.
At the most basic level, Grade 1 is beginner, 2 is 2nd year, 3 is playable by good junior high or average high school, 4 requires excellent high school or above, 5 is college/professional. Instrumentation, instrument and dynamic ranges, musical complexity and demands on the musicians are extended at each higher level. Most of my knowledge has been from studying scores at the different levels and talking with music teachers.
I took a course on stravinsky when i was in grad school, and apparently he was actually arrested for his re-harmonizing of the SSB.
"In 1944, a version of the anthem reharmonized and orchestrated by Stravinsky (a dutifully patriotic act by the Russian emigre composer) got banned in Boston. Stravinsky's modernist retouchings ran afoul of Massachusetts law, and after the first performance, which left the audience 'stunned into bewildered silence,' Boston cops showed up at a later concert to make sure he didn't repeat the offense."
Nice job! I am becoming more and more intrigued by Finale's playback capabilities. I've resisted it for so long, and in fact haven't upgraded to the '06 version as of yet. I dunno...they are offering a free water bottle with every upgrade, though...hmmm...
I am very pleased with Finale 2006's human playback. I had to do very little to accommodate GPO and HP to get results. I created a separate pianissimo expression for the suspended cymbal (with forte velocity since cresc. is built in), and there are still minor problems (trills do not continue over barlines, percussion rolls don't release realistically).
FWIW, the SSB arrangement isn't mine - they are just playing the version they used during marching season. It is a custom version though - I really don't think there is any restriction on rearranging it any more. Now, we did get into trouble when I was in high school because our version had a tag on the end featuring a quote from Dixie. Someone wrote a letter to the local paper and we had to cut that out.