Recommended Listening – Wind Band

Steven Legg NCBF Trustee


"From 2011 - 2019 I had the pleasure of conducting the Gloucestershire Youth Wind Orchestra. During this time, the band and I covered a wide range of music that was chosen for concerts, festivals, competitions and workshops. Many of the pieces we chose were as the result of a considerable amount of time sat at a computer listening to the YouTube recordings supplied by the various publishing houses and checking the PDF scores for suitability for the forces we had at that time.

Here are a few of the highlights which I could recommend as great pieces of music and works that were embraced by the students (most importantly). All three are suitable for bands who would usually work at the grade 3 - 4 (American band grade levels)."

Walking Into History (Richard Saucedo)

This work is by far the most memorable of Richard Saucedo works. The students chose this piece for a short list I had given them and they were spot on in their decision. This work is dedicated to the story of the 'The Clinton 12' and the story of desegregation in Tennessee. Saucedo often composes with strong programatic stories attached and he is able to pull on the heart strings. He also provides every player / section with their little moment to shine but do not be put off with the 11 (yes 11) percussion parts as many of the tuned parts are almost always doubled in the band. Whilst this work is marked as a 'grade 5' it is very approachable for bands who usually work at a grade 3-4 level. When we performed this work it was accompanied by black and white still photographs from the period. The story of 'The Clinton 12' is very moving and there was not a dry eye in the house. Check it out!

At Dawn They Slept (Jay Bocook)

Another strong programmatic work is Jay Bocook's 'At Dawn They Slept'. This work depicts the day of the Pearl Harbour attached on December 7th, 1941. Our band performed this many times (students loved it) and we added a recording of fighter planes over the top of the final section for dramatic effect. This work is an opportunity to allow students to find out a little bit more about this historical event and you could consider adding a narrator to highlight parts of the story. Bocook treats this work sensitively with the theme of reconciliation and hope permitting throughout.

Prelude from 49th Parallel (Vaughan Williams arr. Leroy Osmon)

This work was originally scored for string orchestra and used as the theme in the film of The 49th Parallel. This work requires the band to really listen and think about balance and intonation (as well as count like crazy). Whilst the work does climax to a forte at the end it really should be dealt with sensitively and with the sound of the string orchestra always in the mind of the conductor and players. Worth checking out the story of the film too!