Part 1 of this series is in the October-December issue (Vol. 21 #2).
How about band sonority? The band sound. This comes along last. Intonation, good tone quality, and proper breath support are the basic ingredients of sound and blend that the students need to produce this great sonority. Bob Wagner, University of Oregon from the 50's through the mid-70's, taught it this way: Have a clarinet and a comet play the same note. When it merges into one sound it is perfectly in tune and produces a sonority. The sonority of his University of Oregon Band at that time was truly great!
This is a gradual, on-going process which only takes a few minutes a day in rehearsal. The band participates in the listening and evaluation with different instruments and students involved each day. IT IS A CONCEPT.
How do I know I am selecting the best compositions? A good warm-up march is critical. It is the first thing a judge hears. Trying to be "arty" by putting the march at the end, replacing it with a short concert piece, or using a very exposed difficult march just puts more burden on your students. The warm-up march has been around for good reason for a long time. It is more relaxing and does what it is supposed to do: Warm up the band, build confidence, and give them an opportunity to get comfortable in the performing hall. Besides, let's face it, the march belongs to the band and should be played. CONTRAST between the two major compositions, like a contemporary and a transcription, is also recommended. Select numbers that emphasize the strong points and hide the weak (Don't use contest as a time to develop an inexperienced clarinet section by playing Poet and Peasant). The selections should be reasonable, technical challenges to the members. (Want to create real boredom? Select an easy technical number to "develop" tone, intonation, and phrasing.) Include these sections within a composition that also has twelve interesting technical and rhythmic actions. The contemporary selection should have demanding percussion parts. Even the grade 3 Festivo by Nelhybel has lots of exciting percussion parts.
Can the parts be adjusted? Within reason. For example, the following techniques are helpful, especially in transcriptions and overscored contemporary compositions.
Avoid excessive doubling of the melody.
Eliminate difficult technical passages in the back chairs. Give the players simplified parts that fit the rest of the parts and are easy to perform. (Example: Repeated 8th notes on a chord note for the 3rd clarinets
in the allegro sections of Poet and Peasant by Von Suppe.
Take out trills, tremolos, and other ornamentation for secondary players.
Thin-out sections and watch for doubling of:
(A) baritone/first trombone
(C) flutes and first clarinets.