Whilst we are all waiting for the ‘green light’ to be able to hold those first rehearsals, here are some approaches I have used (but do not claim to be original) for whenever!
• Your excitement at returning to directing the band will be matched by the player’s anticipation and maybe to a certain extent some anxiety – this all needs to be calmed with confidence so that everyone feels the sense of musical achievement within the first segment of rehearsal.
• Getting an ensemble settled and ‘tuned in’ to the start of any rehearsal is vitally important even if there is only a limited time available.
• Some warm-ups based on B flat or F - longish notes of the major scale both ascending and descending, then extended intervals from B flat or F ascending using varying articulation and speeds etc are found to be most valuable.
• There are many books of chorales available, however using Bach and Before for Band (David Newell – Kjos Music Company) where each of the four parts is available for all instruments to play in unison (tough, but rewarding results) before progressing to playing in harmony (in small sections of like and unlike instruments, then whole band) allows for improved intonation leading to controlled ensemble blending.
• To spend time and patience on this aspect of ‘banding’ will pay dividends on the focus of the players as well.
• What will be your first piece to rehearse after such a long period away from the band room?
• Go for something fairly straight-forward that will sound musically satisfying and highlight sensitive playing as well as contrasting dynamics.
Here are some suggestions:
Infinity and Beyond (Philip Sparke – Anglo Music)
Simple Sarabande (Philip Sparke – Anglo Music)
Tallis’ Canon (Tallis arr Sparke – Anglo Music)
A Hymn for Africa (Peter Meechan – G & M Brand)
A Quiet Moment (Philip Sparke – Anglo Music)
When the Stars began To Fall (Fred Allen – Alfred Publications)
Whispers From Beyond (Rossano Galante – Hal Leonard)
With Each Sunset (Richard Saucedo – Hal Leonard)
As Tears Fall (Richard Saucedo – Hal Leonard)
Gently Touch the Sky (Robert Sheldon – Alfred Publications)
Ballad for Benny (Philip Sparke – Anglo Music)
The Irish Blessing (Stephen Bradnun – Winwood Music)
Horkstow Grange from Lincolnshire Posy (Percy Grainger – Ludwig Masters)
Lux Aurumque (Eric Whitacre – Hal Leonard)
Prelude from 49th Parallel (Vaughan Williams arr. Osman – G & M Brand)
Spirit of the Sequoia (Philip Sparke – Anglo Music)
A Glimpse of Paradise from Sinfonietta (Rob Wiffin – Trade Winds)
2nd Mvt. - The Year of the Dragon (Philip Sparke – Studio Music)
1st Mvt. - Fete Galante (Joseph Horovitz – G & M Brand)
2nd Mvt. - Curtain Call (Guy Woolfenden – Ariel Music)
Middle Mvt. - Behold, Go Forth and Be Joyful (John Rutter – bandmusicpdf.net)
3rd Mvt. - from Danceries (Kenneth Hesketh – Faber Music)
What to do next, with even more depth, contrast and fire?…..in Part 2.