recommended by Dan C., Orchestra Specialist
Are your young students ready to climb to the Grade 2 – 2½ level? Here are four sparkling titles you should not miss. Each one has the feel of exciting movie music, plus great scoring to give everyone interesting parts and they are chock full of techniques to teach with – a win/win for everybody! Don’t miss any of them!
L’improviste Vignette by Michael Kamuf, Grade 2
L’improviste means “an unexpected episode” and this refreshing Vignette certainly reflects that concept. Sounding like a French travel film score, its well-shared, soaring, twin melodies float over grippingly syncopated accompaniments using surprisingly colorful chords that come across as very mature for your young players. Sounding way more difficult than it is, it is all in first position in E minor, right in the Grade 2 pocket. It is in 4/4 time, but when the accented syncopations are correctly articulated, it can almost sound multi-metered, adding to the maturity factor. Following the dynamic extremes will really make it come to life and the big ending makes it an ideal concert opener or closer.
Sparks by Chris Bernotas, Grade 2
There are some composers who have a “spark” in their writing that puts them on a higher plane than many of their contemporaries. Chris Bernotas is one of those composers. He had immediate success with his concert band material, and thank goodness he has stretched himself into writing for strings with ever increasing accomplishment. Not coincidentally, “Sparks” has that Bernotas “spark,” so you will definitely want to pay keen attention to this fiery formulation. A fabulous lesson in counting subdivisions, once your students feel the groove of the accents and syncopation, this piece will come alive! In the string-friendly key of E Minor, the melody, which is shared generously among the sections, is primarily step-wise with sharply contrasting E octave jumps that really give it momentum. With all these factors, plus the variety of textures that are woven throughout the piece, “Sparks” is destined to become one of those pieces that your students will want to play again and again. Light that fuse!
Northwestern Skies by Alan Lee Silva, Grade 2
Alan Lee Silva has been a favorite of Stanton’s staff for a long time. His music is always refreshing and often sounds like the film score to a travelogue. In “Northwestern Skies,” as in many of his compositions, his harmonies are colored with major sevenths and ninths, he gives snippets of melody to every section, and entrances are often on offbeats so there is always a forward motion to his pieces. This one will not disappoint. We bet that it will make adjudication lists throughout the country and could certainly be used as a select piece anywhere.
Incognito by Kathryn Griesinger, Grade 2+
Here is a great teaching piece for F and C naturals (low 1 and 2 in upper strings), offbeat rhythms, string crossing, easy slurred sixteenth-notes and hearing how effective a minor second can be for producing chills! In the keys of A minor and E minor (through the use of accidentals), it will keep the players’ interest with something for everyone to do and will make a fun concert piece for a late October Halloween concert or any time you want a lighter work that has educational value.
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.