Helping you with your music

Repertoire Development Program

10th August 2018

To Fail to Plan, is to Plan to Fail. Don’t leave it to chance!
By Russell Hammond

This is based on what I called my ‘Repertoire Development Program’ when I ran my own music programs. When I had a music program that had multiple bands that required multiple conductors, each conductor was expected to develop a similar RDP to ensure that it had the potential to achieve the goals that had been set.

They were expected to source and select repertoire for the next four years with no repeats apart from what were called ‘evergreens’ which stayed in the folders for as long as they were useful in achieving our performance and educational goals. This of course, included Chorales plus chorale-like pieces, as well as little ‘fillers’ that could be pulled out at a moment’s notice, particularly for outdoor performances of which there were many. It was just music that you knew mums and dads would enjoy no matter how often they heard it performed.

Here’s a sample of how it was set out. A similar table was created for each band.

Group2018201920202021
Symphonic WindsA Childhood Hymn – David Holsinger

Llwyn Onn – Brian Hogg

Toccata for Band -
Frank Erickson

Chant and Jubilo -
Francis McBeth

Symphony No 1 for Band – Claude Smith

Dedicatory Overture – Clifton Williams

Scenes from the Louvre – Norman Dello Joio

1st Suite in Eb – Gustav Holst
Air for Band – Frank Erickson

Come Sweet Death -Bach/Reed

Caccia and Chorale -
Clifton Williams

English Folksong Suite -Ralph Vaughan Williams

The Symphonic Gershwin - Gershwin/Barker

Liturgical Dances -
David Holsinger

Three Airs from Gloucester -
Hugh Stuart

An Outdoor Overture -
Aaron Copland
Allerseelen – Strauss/Davis

Australian Up-Country Tune - Percy Grainger

Chorale and Shaker Dance – John Zdechlik

Highlights from Exodus –
Gold arr Reed

Suite Francaise - Darius Milhaud

2nd Suite in F - Gustav Holst

Pageant - Vincent Persichetti

Sea Songs - Thomas Knox
Amazing Grace - William Himes

Blessed are They -Brahms/Buehlman

Variations on a Korean Folksong - John Barnes Chance

Phantom of the Opera - Webber/De Meij

Kaddish - Francis McBeth

Dedicatory Overture - Clifton Williams

Toccata – Girolamo Frescobaldi /Slocum
Incantation and Dance - John Barnes Chance

While the training/teaching of the students was of paramount importance in every rehearsal, the degree of importance placed on each piece was always a balancing act designed to ensure that a satisfactory performance level was reached while never neglecting the need for the students to be taught concepts and musical ideas unique to the particular piece of music.

Just as one cannot become a great pianist without learning the classic piano works of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin etc., I likewise believe that one cannot create and maintain a good band without including the great classic band literature of the past in their repertoire.

There is a huge quantity of really fine quality wind band literature available if we take time to research it. It is our responsibility as band directors/educators to expose our students to it and educate them in the great traditions on which wind bands have been built.

While it is absolutely essential that current composers be encouraged and that their music be played, the amount of new music, particularly for young bands that has been produced in recent years and can be classified as ‘Classic Wind Band Literature’ that will stand the test of time is, in my opinion, relatively small.

We have had, and continue to have great composers in Australia and I’ve performed and recorded much of their music over the past forty years or so. However, I don’t believe that Australian bands should play Australian music just because it is Australian music. My view is that the music must ‘stand on its own two feet’ and that it should be played if and when it meets the needs of the performers.

I am aware that many people will hotly contest some of my views, and they may be correct, but the people who give honest opinions, as opposed to those who attempt to put a positive spin on every situation regardless of the facts, in general share my views – but they don’t always express them.

To create the great bands of the future,
you must listen to the great bands of the past!

We have a problem, particularly in this country, in that band directors generally do not take the time to listen to those great bands. Obtaining recordings of them is not all that hard.

The general standard of bands, not only here, but internationally too, has been slipping or has remained static for some time. Of course there are stand-out examples of where this is NOT the case.

One of the reasons is that bands are not always created and built on solid foundations. Rather, the fast, loud, flashy music of the recent past and the present plays an important role in this demise. Until band directors recognise the need to develop their bands using the age-old techniques, and play some of the ‘standard repertoire’ on which the finest bands were built, and get back to the basics of good sound (or tone), good intonation, the basics concepts of balance, good phrasing etc. we will continue to experience this demise.

The loud, fast, flashy music will continue to be published but this can be kept for contests and festivals where the current criteria seems to be that if one can negotiate the mixed metres, the incessant repetition of unmusical themes (or should they be called ostinato) and play it loud enough and fast enough, and perhaps throw in a bit of choreography for good measure the adjudicator, whose credentials are sometimes not subject to any real kind of scrutiny, will award a gold medal or a place.

There are certain pieces of standard wind band literature that should be played by every member of a school or community band at least once in their time with that band. Pieces such as the First Suite in Eb by Holst, his Second Suite in F, English Folksong Suite by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Dedicatory Overture by Clifton Williams comes to mind and there are many others. Assuming most students will spend around 4 years in the band, they should play each of those, or similarly famous pieces, at least once.

Some schools and parent organisations place so much importance on achieving a place or gold that the pressure on the band director to ‘win’ at all costs means the playing of ‘quality’ music becomes less important because there is insufficient time, and it becomes forgotten.

For eight years I served as a jury member for the two top composition competitions in the United States where one of the criteria for winning was that the winning compositions had to be suitable for classification as ‘classic wind band literature’. There were several years during that time when the jury members decided collectively that none of the compositions submitted could thus be classified and so no ‘winners’ were announced.

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