Here is a quick rundown of the repertoire that I will be conducting tomorrow at Interlochen for ICO’s third performance of the summer of 2014.
We will begin with Fantasy on a Chinese Theme, by Francis Osentowski (published by FJH). This work is in two movements and is listed as a Grade 4. I stumbled onto this work at a reading session at the Florida Music Educators’ state conference back in November. I am always looking for works at this level that fit into a multi-cultural setting. There are also two percussion parts for this work, including suspended cymbals and tom toms. This work has two movements: I. The Golden Thread and II. Waking the Dragon. The Golden Thread is in a moderate tempo with a very relaxed feel. It is great for teaching syncopated rhythms and laying back on the beat, rather than on the front edge. It is not difficult and is also great for getting your violins into upper positions on the A and D strings for reasons of tone quality rather than high pitches. Movement II, Waking the Dragon, is a fun allegro that toggles between several time signatures. It is somewhat percussive in nature and comes together quite quickly. There are nice contrasts between rhythmic passages in the low strings and legato passages in the violins. It has a big, exciting ending as well. I think my students have really enjoyed this piece.
Next, we are doing Lyric Metal, by Brian Balmages (published by FJH). This piece is in the style of Apocalyptica and was commissioned as a tribute to a young man that passed away after a tragic accident. The piece if rhythmically driven and requires great attention to dynamics. There is divisi in many of the passages in the celli and violins, so a large section is fairly important. I have 14 celli in this group, so it was a great year to program this work! There are lots of high, lyrical sections for the first violins, so they really get to play up in the top part of the range. We have discussed the direction of a melodic line and passage at great length and this work provides many teaching opportunities that translate nicely to other repertoire. There are some really cool dynamic surprises in the work and students really need to listen across the orchestra to pull it off rhythmically. It is listed as a grade V and is a nice challenge for the group. I think this will be a show-stopper.
Finally, we are doing the first and fourth movements of the William Grant Still’s Danzas de Panama (published by Peer Music). This string orchestra work with a Latin feel is our technical stretch for this concert! There are several “2 against 3” and “3 against 4” rhythms throughout the work. It is also fairly thinly scored, so everyone has to hold down their own rhythmic and melodic part completely. This has provided many great rehearsals opportunities and I think the group has learned a great deal. We have also spent a great deal of time dealing with the subtleties of dynamic markings and the differences between and accompaniment forte (for example) and a melodic forte. Students have really been stretched to listen for key parts and to adjust their dynamics throughout. The Cumbia e Congo, movement IV, is fast and rhythmic. It includes knocking on instruments for percussion parts and ends with a bang! This will be our concert finale.
The performance is Wednesday, July 23, at 6:30 in Corson Auditorium on the Interlochen Campus.