Two Winter Sketches
Brian Balmages has put a contemporary spin on classic favorites, "The Holly and the Ivy" and "Jingle Bells" in our first multi-movement work. The composer states that the first movement draws from the Romantic musical period, including rich harmonies, while the second movement draws from the Baroque period. Our second movement is definitely an ear-opener, as Mr. Balmages takes the well known "Jingle Bells" and changes both its harmony and rhythm from those we have grown accustomed to in our holiday celebrations.
Classic bits and pieces
A piece arranged by Michael Story, this show-stopper includes bits of many famous songs for strings and symphonic orchestra. These pieces include "The Hallelujah Chorus" (Handel), "The Surprise Symphony" (Haydn), "William Tell Overture" (Rossini), "Russian Sailor's Dance" (Gliere), "Sleeping Beauty" (Tchaikovsky), "Largo" from the New World Symphony (Dvorak), "Swan Lake" (Tchaikovsky), "Can-Can" (Offenbach), and "Ode to Joy" (Beethoven).
This is by far the most difficult piece that we have attempted in sixth grade this year. Not only does it flit from piece to piece after each 4- or 8-bar phrase, but it requires each section of our orchestra to team up and "hold their own" against the other sections. We used this piece to begin learning about dotted-quarter rhythms as well as reviewing our work on slurs.
Jazzy old saint nick
To close our 6th graders' program this evening, we have yet another twist on an old favorite. This piece takes "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas," which is included as an exercise in our Essential Elements method book, and has the student orchestra switch between playing the piece traditionally and plucking their strings, pizzicato. The piano helps students along, twisting their carol into a jazzy rendition of the classic before helping them end in a rousing finale!
Brazilian Sleigh Bells
In this Lloyd Conley arrangement of a song by Percy Faith, we put another festive spin on our orchestra's norm. This piece is written to mimic a samba, with a little creative storytelling thrown in the mix. With the beginning, the audience (and director) need to be very careful they don't burst into spontaneous dancing while the orchestra sets an image of a sleigh ride through the tropical countryside. In the middle of the piece, falling chromatic notes and frantically shaking sleigh bells bring to mind a thrown horseshoe or a comedic carriage accident, breaking away back to the beginning theme as the riders pick themselves back up.
The Great expectation
This piece is originally included in "A Christmas Triptych," or three movement sketch. The composer was commissioned by a school in Kansas City to write a piece of Christmas music based on their favorite melodies, and this middle movement takes two traditional Advent melodies "Veni Veni Emmanuel" and a French melody "Picardy" that is typically included in "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent." From the composer, "One never hears either melody presented in its complete form or alone. Rather, the two melodies weave in and out and around each other being presented in their most complete forms toward the end directly against each other. Right at the end Veni Veni seems to dominate for a moment before fading away and we hear a last statement of the Picardy melody quietly in solo violin."
A Mad Russian's Christmas
Based on various movements of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite," this piece adds the theatrical rock flare of the Trans Siberian Orchestra. The audience will hear familiar excerpts such as Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, Trepak, Arabian Dance, and March. We feature our bass section on electric instruments as Chris picks up his guitar and Molly her electric bass to rock out the finale of our high school orchestra portion of the concert.
Spin, Dreidel, Spin
This traditional Chanukah melody is arranged by Andrew Dabczynski to make it easily accessible to string orchestra students. The minor mode, harmonies and rhythms reflect authentic characteristics of Israeli folk music and introduce students to important musical concepts (our favorite being differences between second finger sharps and naturals.) The playing becomes faster and faster throughout the piece, and all the sections get their turn with this playful melody.
Christmas in the renaissance
Christmas in the Renaissance is a modern day mash up of three pieces ranging from the 1556-1588. Robert A. Curry takes the songs "Riu Riu Chiu," "Dadme Albricias Hijos d'eva" and "Ding Dong Merrilly on High" and blends them together with tambourine to make a pleasant arrangement. It features traditional renaissance harmonizations and the jaunty tempos keep true to the dance-like nature of the original pieces.
A La Media Noche
This Puerto Rican Carol is subtitled "At Midnight." Aguinaldos is the Puerto Rican name for Christmas songs. Some of the songs are very religious and these are called villancicos. Some have a criollo flavor and they are called décimas navideñas. The rest are either traditional aguinaldos or popular Christmas songs. Our arrangment of A la Media Noche continues the upbeat tempo of the piece as well as including some festively spicey additions to our bass players' parts!