by Ken Tilger, Band Education Specialist –
While we are promoting 9 excellent new Christmas titles for young band this year, these 2 are unique stand-outs that you just shouldn’t miss! Both offer great opportunities to advance the musicianship of your groups, and are creative and interesting choices that will add variety to your holiday concert program. I’ve included our promotional write-ups as well as some additional commentary about each piece. I hope you find these recommendations helpful, and that you, your students, and your audience enjoy these pieces as much as I do.
Christmas at the Circus
Fun from start to finish! Combining themes from Thunder and Blazes and The Man on the Flying Trapeze with snippets of a ton of holiday favorites, this humorous work is fun to listen to and a blast to play. High-wire musicianship is a must – from layered themes and accidentals to key, style, and meter changes, and 8th note rhythm dished around the band like Christmas presents, no section receives a lump of coal in this piece! Christmas at the Circus is a great choice for advanced middle school or young high school bands.
O.K., so this one seems blasphemous not just for religious (or circus music) reasons, but also because the setting utilizes plenty of familiar Christmas songs and carols. No worries – it is very creative, puts an original programming spin on the Instant Concert concept, and gives your audience plenty to hang on to. It will be fun to perform, and don’t be fooled by the grade 2.5 difficulty – it requires enough musicianship that it is perfect for young high school bands and will be a hit with community band programs, as well.
Season of Peace
Inspired by Christmas 1914 when British and German troops in the midst of World War I held an unofficial truce that included singing carols and exchanging food and gifts, Season of Peace blends Dona Nobis Pacem with Silent Night for a moment of calm reflective peace. Besides being a stirring concert selection, the 3/4 meter, dotted quarter-note rhythms, 8th note and triplet runs, and lyricism provide ample opportunity to advance ensemble musicianship.
Two young band arrangements have been inspired by the 100th anniversary of this event, and this stirring setting stands out. Combining the Dona Nobis Pacem (“Grant us peace”) from the Latin Mass with the stillness and beauty of Silent Night is just brilliant, and our write-up says it all, “…for a moment of calm reflective peace.” That is exactly what this work will provide – a poignant moment of calm reflection amidst the celebratory jubilance (and hustle and bustle) of the season. Again, don’t be put off by the “easy” grade level. Musical maturity is always a must on lyrical works, and can be performed to great effect by more advanced ensembles – the challenge here is not technique, but musicianship. Season of Peace is a wonderful choice educationally (musicianship, music history, AND world history), and is perfect for religious school band programs.
About the Author:
Ken is a former band director, and has been with Stanton’s since 2004. He enjoys comic books, playing with his young son, and plays saxophone with Swing’s the Thing Big Band. You should check out their album Walk On Out the Door available on iTunes and Amazon.