Exploring The Development Of Musicianship In Your Band
Through The Emerging British & European Repertoire

Discussion during my recent residency in Singapore often centred on the necessary cheesiness of repertoire at this level, with occasional moans about the dropout rate of students. I suspect that a surfeit of cheese is why they drop out; I believe that students need good musical nourishment. For my time with the school and college bands here I took out from UK the following:

Schools Repertoire For Singapore Grade

Title Composer Grade
A History of England in three Chapters Adam Gorb 2
Aue Christopher Marshall 4
Bridgewater Breeze Adam Gorb 3
Eine Kleine Yiddische Rag Music Adam Gorb 3
Gallimaufry Guy Woolfenden 4
Ghosts Stephen McNeff 4
Improvisations; Rhythms Andreas Makris 4
Metro Gnome Derek ourgeois 3
Song of Lir Fergal Carroll 3
Tales aus dem Vood Viennoise Bill Connor 3

I have added a rough guide to the grades. There are difficult passages, which might persuade you that some of these grades are too low, but these reflect the general level needed. 

Adam Gorb wrote A History of England in three Chapters for this trip to Singapore, and the work is deliberately conservative in its use of register and rhythms. We read it through almost at sight with a high school band of mixed ability. Aue is a wonderful Ivesian work, commissioned by WASBE Schools; technically the notes are not hard, but there are musical problems in counting, dynamics and balance. Bridgewater Breeze has five or so rattling good tunes, teasing in some of the twists of metre and phrase lengths but not difficult; nor is his splendid schools version of Yiddish Dances, Eine Kleine Yiddische Rag Music, but it is equally good fun to play. Gallimaufry was together with Philip Wilby's Firestar, one of the first wind band works I commissioned; it remains a favourite, and many of the brilliant passages in the 2nd and 3rd movements are effects which need not be played perfectly. You do need a good piccolo soloist but the cor anglais solo is cued elsewhere.

Ghosts is a kind of wind band answer to Enigma Variations, an easily recognisable tune, The Haunting which reappears in a final Chorale,  is the basis for seven variations, each with its own ghost and very strong character. McNeff writes:

Ghosts is intended for players of intermediate ability. It is conceived to be performed as a whole, though where sections prove too difficult, movements (complete) may be left out. Individual items may even be performed separately.

Improvisations; Rhythms I first heard in the Mid-West; I was very struck with it, and I asked the conductor when it would be published; he answered probably never, its 15/8 Greek rhythms were too hard for American school bands, but it has been published recently by James Syler for Ballerbach editions. The mixed metres are absolutely natural for any Greek peasant, dancing on the threshing floor, and should not cause any trouble to students who work with computers, advanced mathematical concepts, language laboratories and physics, biology and chemistry. The basic rhythm is easily characterised as:

Nash-ville Lex-ing-ton Lex-ing-ton Lex-ing-ton Chat-a-noo-ga

Metro Gnome is Derek Bourgeois' sequel to his Serenade, more teasing mixed metres for conductors courses. Song of Lir is a simple setting of a folk song with a good if sad story and some beautiful scoring. It is an extended piece for Grade 2/3 and, lasting about 7 minutes, and will be a welcome relief to shorter louder formulaic works.

One Man's Meat Is Another Man's Poison - Or Cheese

The composer Warren Benson warns against making lists of recommended music, and I certainly do not want to inflict my own passions onto any other conductor. However, here are two lists of repertoire which school bands might enjoy tackling.

School Band Repertoire At WASBE 1999

Grade 3/4 Repertoire Session

Session on repertoire organised by Jim Cochran of Shattinger Music Co,
1810, South Broadway,
St Louis, MO 63104
Tel 314 621 2408
FAX 314 621 2561

Composer Work Publisher Country
Broege, Timothy Sinfonia IX Manhattan Beach USA
Gorb, Adam Bridgewater Breeze Maecenas UK
Hogg, Bryan Llwyn Onn Brolga Australia
Mertens, Hardy Sa Oghe 'e su Bentu Wicky Netherlands
Nelson, Ron Courtly Airs and Dances Ludwig USA
Rudin, Rolf Der Traum des Oenghus editon flor Germany
Stanhope, David Little Ripper March HML Australia
Ticheli, Frank Shenandoah Manhattan Beach USA
Yariv, Nachman The Match of Hope Molenaar Israel

Other Musical Material

Much of it performed at WASBE Conference in 2003 in Sweden

Composer Work Country
A Child's Embrace Charles Rochester Young USA
A+, A Precise Prelude Thomas Duffy USA
An American Elegy Frank Ticheli USA
Aue Christopher Marshall New Zealand
Candlelight Procession Adam Gorb UK
Catcher of Shadows Philip Wilby UK
Dance Sequence Marco Pütz Luxembourg
Eine Kleine Yiddische Ragmusic Adam Gorb UK
Festal Scenes Yasuhide Ito Japan
Hambone Libby Larsen USA
Improvisations; Rhythms Andreas Makris Greece/USA
Loch Lomond Frank Ticheli USA
Molesworth's Melody Derek Bourgeois UK
October Eric Whitacre USA
Simple Gifts Frank Ticheli USA
Their Blossom Down Samuel Hazo USA
The Old Railway Station John Brakstad Norway
Time's Harvest Edwin Roxburgh UK
Ye Banks and Braes Percy Grainger Australia


Felix Hauswirth 1000 selected works for wind orchestra and wind ensembles (Emil Ruh, 1998)
Felix Hauswirth 333 easier selected works for less experienced bands (Emil Ruh, 2000)
Jonathan Good British Literature for Symphonic Winds (University of Bozeman, 1997)
Holland, Rundell, Reynish British Wind Music of Four Decades (RNCM, 1991)
Wallace/Corporon Wind Ensemble/Band Repertoire (Univ of Northern Colorado, Greeley, 1984)
Dvorak/Grechesky/Ciepluch Best Music for High School Band (Manhattan Beach Music, 1993)
Editor Richard Miles Teaching Music through performance in Band Vol 1 - 5 (GIA Publications)

Frederick Fennell

Dr. Frederick Fennell dedicated his whole life to the development of the wind ensemble and band, refining playing and improving repertoire. It was by chance that my notes for a conducting clinic shortly before his death began with a quotation from Dr. Fennell on choice of repertoire.

The Music We Choose Today Can Affect Students For Ever

We must learn to teach music - not band, not orchestra, not chorus, but music itself...Choosing music is the single most important thing a band director can do, and is the only thing a band director can do alone, made more important because of the substandard repertoire continuously being published. So many publishers in the business today are printers who don't care about quality, but only about what will sell. We must not allow them to give the band a bad reputation nor to make our decisions for us, since the music we choose today can affect students for ever. Frederick Fennell

Musical, Intellectual, Technical And Emotional

Since starting to conduct wind music, I have often wondered why our youth symphony orchestras play the "classics", from Mozart to Mahler, Bach to Brahms, while our youth wind orchestras often play rubbish. I also wonder what it is that players and audiences look for in a work, and I suspect that they are searching for music which is familiar and which packs an emotional punch. For the wind band, there are few classics, and many of those do not carry an emotional message, so we owe it to our players and audiences to seek out a new repertoire, with an emotional message, which will become familiar over the years.

I believe that we need to challenge our players, choosing works which are present musical, intellectual, technical and emotional problems for them to solve and yet it is essential to select music which bridges the ever widening gap between composer and audience. For me, music is essentially an emotional language, and I hope that any work I conduct, whether contemporary or traditional, will reflect this for both players and audience.

If you look at my library list on my website you will see details of all of my repertoire books. There are several published by Manhattan Press, edited by Bob Margolis with useful background notes on technical problems. There are two books of repertoire by Felix Hauswirth which are invaluable, but the simplest way to compare hundreds of works at American Grades 1 - 4 is to invest in Teaching Music through Performance in Band published by GIA and now in five volumes. With each you can also order CDs of all of the easier repertoire. The problem is that you will probably end up with a list of American material. The WASBE website www.wasbe.org, in the reviews of conference and in the School Band section will help in giving an international perspective, and I hope that my own will help in this search for good repertoire.

Peter Maxwell Davis

Because for the last quarter of a century and more I have been lucky enough to conduct some of the finest ensembles in the world, it has been relatively easy for me to programme great music and even conduct quite well with wonderful players. However, some forty years ago I taught at a high school for four years, admittedly without the burden of contests or marching band. I had no training as a teacher, but before starting I went to see the composer Peter Maxwell Davies teaching at Cirencester Grammar School; he had a class of 13 year old boys, who sang and played a Byrd 3 part mass, played some 16th century ensemble music he and they had arranged, and played some of his and their own "modern" music. When I taught, I tried to follow his example, we played and sang music by Byrd, Bull, Gabrieli, Schutz, Bach, Gilbert and Sullivan, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Menotti, Duke Ellington, Mick Mulligan and Dave Brubck.

For the second half of my career I have been involved with wind orchestra and band music on a ceaseless search for great literature at all levels and useful for all occasions. Lists only show the compiler's pet likes and dislikes. You probably will not win any contests with these works but you might teach musical elements of tone, dynamics, balance, phrasing, ensemble, solo playing and accompaniment, mixed metres.

Programme Notes For Singapore

My three works for tonight's concert were chosen deliberately as a contrast to material which might be selected for contesting or popular concerts, though two might be useful for those purposes. Adam Gorb deliberately writes in a popular mode, but his music is full of little surprises, twists of metre, shortening of phrases, unexpected orchestrations. Bridgewater Breeze is an arrangement of a Suite for wind ensemble, and explores familiar popular song types. Fergal Carroll is a former student of Adam, now teaching in Ireland. Song of Lir is a traditional setting of a beautiful song, with refreshing use of the orchestra and again a few gentle surprises.

Bill Connor divides his composing time between commercial work for television and outreach projects with professional symphony orchestras. His Tails aus dem Vood Viennoise is in my opinion the nearest that a Grade 3-4 level band can come to performing a Mahlerian symphony. Lasting 22 minutes, with no recognisable tunes and harmonic procedures which are almost Schoenbergian, this work has an intensity rare in educational band music.

Bridgewater Breeze (1996), Adam Gorb

Commissioned by Timothy Reynish

Russian Lament 
Hoe Down

Bridgwater Breeze is a transcription for band of an earlier Suite for Winds and was premiered in November 1996 by the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. Four of the movements are based on popular dance types, and the Russian Lament very sadly looks back perhaps to the early days of the century when the Gorbevskys lived in central Europe. The problems here are confidence in solo playing, counting bars rest, appreciating Adam Gorb's quirky phrasing and sometimes surprising dynamics and orchestrations.
Adam is Head of Composition and Contemporary Performance at the Royal Northern College of Music, but wears his learning lightly; he has often nailed his colours to the mast over "light" music. The hilarious trombone concerto, Downtown Diversions (2001, Maecenas) demonstrates the ease with which he skates near the thin edge of popular clichéwithout ever falling into that easiest of ruts. His Towards Nirvana was commissioned by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra and has been nominated for a British Academy Award. His major works for wind are Yiddish Dances; (1998) and Dances from Crete, (2003) which will be given its Singapore premiere on Monday 20th at the Esplanade. He has written some very accessible school band works, including Candlelight Procession and Eine Kleine Yiddishe Ragmusik.

Song of Lir (2004), Fergal Carroll

In memory of William Reynish 1966-2001

Commissioned by Hilary and Timothy Reynish
World Premiere by the Band of HM Royal Marines at BASBWE March 2004

Written for bands of medium ability, Song of Lir is a single movement work lasting just under seven minutes. It is intended to suggest an Irish lament of caoine, and much of the thematic material is derived from a 17th century harping tune called Captain O'Kane.

Lir himself was a king in the Western part of Ireland at the time of the Celts. He had four beautiful children, a daughter and three sons. When their mother died, he married again, but his new wife was evil and jealous, and cursed the children of Lir, changing them into swans. They lived for 900 years as swans until they heard the sound of the first Christian bell coming from a monastery newly built beside their lake. At the sound of the bell, the curse was lifted and they were restored to human form, but were now ancient, frail people. A monk baptised them, whereupon they were able to die in peace.

Song of Lir is not programmatic except that the sound of the bell, struck four times, is heard near the end of the work

The Irish composer Fergal Carroll is one of the newer voices in the wind music scene. His Amphion was written while a student with Adam Gorb at the Royal Northern College of Music, it was followed by a charming set of Winter Dances for an amateur wind orchestra, and he is now writing a series of short works for school band at about Grade 2 level for Maecenas. Song of Lir (Maecenas) achieves what is really difficult, a major extended 7 minute tone poem for Grade 3 band.

Tails aus dem Vood Viennoise (1992), Bill Connor

Commissioned and premiered by the Band of Richmond School, North Yorkshire,and their conductor Richard Jones

  • Cemetary
  • Dawn Assault
  • Just Retribution


Vienna, sometime when, a wood, mayhap the famous one...
... a noticeable silence... brooding... and time turns in on itself in
permanent replay... 'til the beaters come!!...

Dawn Assault

there once was a day that brightly dawned
and spawned 
some chaps 
some chaps and other chaps 
and these same chaps carried things 
and on that day brightly dawned
these same chaps that carried things
lifted the things that were carried
... and it happened...
a shout as unstoppable as any shout ever shouted
and on that day that brightly dawned
many were knocked down
to rise no more...

Just Retribution

and oh the pity...the overwhelming pity at the sight of these
astonishing creatures who toy with the existence of so many species
while at the same
time through wilful and calculated ignorance hussle their own species
to the edge of extinction with such opulence and hedonism... but what a hoot... ol' sport.
... as the last one tumbles
We're the king of the castle ... rpt... (dimin)...
... wasn't I...
... weren't we...?

All We Can Do Is To Make It Better For The Next Generations H Robert Reynolds