This is the time of year when I begin looking forward to next year’s repertoire. (I’m not even joking. I’ve got one new score in mind for our challenge piece next year. Spoiler alert: it’s not by Robert Buckley).
Here’s your chance to have your voice heard. If you have any suggestions (for brand-new pieces) or requests (from our existing repertoire – see the members page for two versions of our Library list), this is a good time to submit them for consideration. I can’t make any promises other than that I do take your preferences seriously.
I also thought that you might, perhaps, appreciate a bit of a glimpse behind the curtain (such as it is) into the sorts of things I take into consideration when I’m planning repertoire, as well as when things need to be done in order for your binders to be ready to go when we start rehearsals.
For the rest of the summer, I’ll be doing research (sporadically – this doesn’t consume my whole existence, but it is something I do at least a handful of times). Usually, by the time we’ve wrapped up for the summer, I know which two brand-spanking new pieces I think the band should acquire during the off-season.
I will spend the fall listening to these pieces and still poking my nose about (in case I discover something interesting), but mostly just sitting with these choices and considering them in context with the rest of what I expect we’ll play. Basically, I’m puzzling out how all the pieces might fit for a strong season’s concert programme.
By the time late February/early March rolls around, it’s time to get approval to make the purchases on behalf of the band. (I contact the Executive Committee and provide them with a rationale for the selections – what I think they’ll add to the band’s development and how they fit within our library – as well as listening links to help them determine for themselves whether they agree with my assessment. I usually have a back up plan in case they’re not thrilled about what I’ve proposed. That’s never actually happened). Once the choices have been approved, I place the order.
Next comes the Librarian’s job. When he gets the scores, he copies all the parts so that the band has pristine originals in case something gets lost or we give away all the flute binders and we need music in a hurry. By early April, he needs the complete list of repertoire that I expect to draw from for the whole summer, because organizing the binders takes time. He monitors whether we need to make new copies, replace banged up binders, build new binders, etc. What he also does (that you may not realise) is optimise the layout of pages as best he can so your page turns are as easy as he can make them. (Seriously – if you have a nasty page turn, it’s the publisher’s fault. You librarian has given you the least bad option).
Things I take into consideration for new pieces:
- level of difficulty – we should have one challenge piece (that we’re all learning together – even me) and one easier piece. That usually works out to a Grade 3 and a Grade 4 piece. (I also want to make sure that anything selected is something we should be able to master – I’m tough, but I want us to give awesome performances).
- instrumentation – I try to find pieces that feature multiple sections in prominent roles, and that don’t feature sections for long passages that we’ve historically had a tough time filling.
- the 2-year rule of thumb – I try (but don’t always succeed) to have a 2-year rotation. That means that we will likely play half our repertoire for two consecutive years, then give it a rest. For example, next year, you won’t see Bolero and Hallelujah (although Hallelujah will likely be one of our Hail Mary pieces – we’ll call on it if we’re in a pinch), and you can be guaranteed to see Arctic Fire, Moana, and Broadway Journey.
- other repertoire – This is where things get complicated. We need: easy pieces (for Victoria Beach and Bourkevale), at least one challenging piece to really sink out teeth into, things that seniors will love, things that children will love, at least one march, some slower music, contrasting tempos, a mix of art music (Classical, contemporary concert band) and pop music, Canadian content, music from different eras, music in different styles, etc. (Some pieces do check off multiple boxes: Arctic Fire is challenging, art music, and Canadian).
Because we are such a diverse group – we have some pretty new musicians right on through some seasoned ones – I have to examine my crystal ball (which doesn’t have a better warranty that your own) and imagine all possible scenarios for our make up in the summer. What happens if we have all newer players? Well, we need enough easier music so that they feel comfortable performing and we can play a double set at Victoria Beach. What about if we have no trumpets? I have to get my scores out and do some serious analysis to reassign those parts. How about if we have really experienced players? I need to have enough challenging music available that they feel they’re working.
We have a unique ensemble for a number of reasons: short rehearsal season, disparate playing levels, variable attendance, wide variation of audiences. These factors all have to be evaluated when it comes to choosing repertoire.
If you have in your possession a score that you would like us to read, please feel free to contact our Librarian (firstname.lastname@example.org is the best way) and he’ll make arrangements with you to work it into our sight-reading schedule.
On a final note, we resume our regular rehearsals on Wednesday, August 8. I hope everyone has had an enjoyable break, and I look forward to our reunion on Wednesday!