On the Lighter Side – for String Orchestra

recommended by Dan C., Orchestra Specialist

Here is some “dessert” after the “meat and potatoes” of more serious string orchestra literature. The movie music, rock and blues offered here will give your students a nice break, but still keep them playing – and with pleasure! They can have fun and learn something about the idiosyncrasies of popular music as well. Spanning Grade 2 to 4, there is something for everyone.

leon-527964Remember Me (from Coco) arr. James Kazik, Grade 2
With a story of Mexican folklore and with characteristic music, here is a terrific setting of the main song, as Pixar Studios strikes gold again with their imaginative and original animated film Coco. The opening is in a lyric, ballad style, and then shifts to a faster tempo with a mariachi flavor.
TEACH • keeping melody out front • accidentals • pop rhythms
ORCHESTRATION • short violin solo, add piano & Latin percussion
PERFORMANCE • sweet song that movie goers and all will enjoy

leon-04492258-fMusic from Coco arr. Larry Moore, Grade 3-4
With four powerful new songs from the Pixar hit film, Larry Moore’s medley captures the rich heritage and cultural flavor of Mexican folk music, heard throughout the movie’s soundtrack. Includes Remember Me, Un Poco Loco, Lsa Llorona, Proud Corazon.
TEACH • Latin feel • watch the conductor • key and time changes
ORCHESTRATION • melody shared, can add piano & drumset
PERFORMANCE • folks will be smiling and tapping their toes

leon-527957Highlights from The Greatest Showman arr. James Kazik, Grade 3-4
The music from this blockbuster film has captured the imagination of the entertainment world, including countless awards and nominations. From the songwriting team who brought us Dear Evan Hansen and La La Land, the movie musical The Greatest Showman is based on the true story of P.T. Barnum with Hugh Jackman in the title role. Includes The Greatest Show, A Million Dreams, Never Enough, This Is Me and Tightrope.
TEACH • transitions • syncopation • accidentals • key/time changes
ORCHESTRATION • short cello solo, add piano & percussion
PERFORMANCE • movie medleys are always crowd favorites

leon-04492064-fFinn McCool by Robert Buckley, Easy
Over the past several decades, when writers attempt to write a fairly easy blues tune for string orchestra, it pretty much falls flat. Robert Buckley has changed all that! Man, what a great groove! Finn McCool is the coolest! Keeping an almost constant eighth note pulse in one part or another, he liberally passes around melodic material, then begins to layer the themes, with lots of “blue” notes (dominant sevenths) in a modified blues form, which is a music lesson in and of itself. Add dynamics, accents and staccatos for authenticity and everyone involved will have a guaranteed blast.

fjh-ST6447-fGrand Central by Rick Hirsch, Grade 3
With the popularity of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and other rock-oriented string groups, Grand Central is a real approachable number for better middle school and high school string players who want to get involved in the pop style, but may not quite have the “chops” for some of the tougher pieces. Calling for some “serious gusto,” you will instill your students with a driving sense of time and rhythm with this bluesy groover, bringing out accents with clear articulations and figuring out the syncopated rhythmic patterns. There is also an improvisation section, with the D Mixolydian scale provided upon which to base your students’ creative spontaneity. There are also suggestions on how to help students gain vocabulary and comfort level in playing “off the script” of the written music. To help propel the music along, add the optional drumset or orchestral percussion and have a blast with this bustling, energetic urban jazz/rocker.

About the Author:
Dan C. has worked at Stanton’s since 1979, primarily with orchestra music and print promotions. A “working” musician, he’s a classical cellist, a rock & jazz bassist and a folk & country guitarist/singer. His free time is spent with family or reading, gardening, cycling and working puzzles. His series of musical puzzles (RP3 Rebus Puzzle Picture People) can be found on the Stanton’s Facebook page each Sunday. He also has a reputation as a pretty good joke teller. Seriously.

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Categories: New Publications, Orchestra, Staff Picks

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