Symphonic Dances from WSS

Discussion in 'Orchestra / Solo / Chamber Music' started by Derek Reaban, Oct 13, 2005.

  1. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    I posted this at the other site and I wanted to get feedback from this site as well.

    I had a fantastic lesson yesterday and I thought I’d share this with everyone (probably as a reminder for many of you).

    I received the play list for the Wind Ensemble that I play with last month and saw that we will be playing Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. I knew that this was going to be a challenge for me, so I asked my instructor for the 1st trumpet part to the orchestral version and I’ve been listening to the NY Phil recording of this for the past couple of weeks (even before looking at the music). Wow! These guys make this music sound effortless and extremely exciting! This was the Bernstein recording from 1961 with William Vacchiano, Nat Prager, John Ware, and Jimmy Smith.

    Well with this sound ringing in my head I picked up the part and when I looked at the music I could literally hear everything before I even played a note. Talk about engraining a fantastic sound model! Well, I quickly discovered that the Mambo section and the part that switches to Trumpet in D are going to be very challenging for me.

    I took this into my instructor to see how best to tackle this part and get the most out of my limited practice time. I am concerned with both range and endurance and wanted to target some exercises to make this part sound as easy as the model that I currently have in my head.

    He knows how I play and approached the WSS part from my strengths. After I played some of the Bai Lin flexibilities to show him how I was planning to get ready for my December concert, he simply had me transfer what I was doing with the Bai Lin book directly to the part.

    We moved to the Mambo section and he had me play (completely out of time), some relaxed flexibility drills using the printed WSS part. I was slurring everything and simply thinking of flow and connecting everything (which I do very well). Sure enough, I was playing through everything on the page without any difficulty. Nice and easy slurs 3 or 4 notes forwards and then backwards, connecting large intervals, ringing sound.

    He said I have to approach this literature from a vocal, lyrical standpoint so that I don’t get tense and just shutdown. He had me playing up to an Eb on my C trumpet with ease, and the top pitch is an optional E on Bb. That made me feel great!

    We worked through the piece in this manner, targeting each of the “challenging†lines, and each time I played the intervals easily (out of time) with a lyrical approach. After several of these examples I told him that this was a very slight variation on what Michael Sachs mentioned in his ITG presentation in Denver:

    My mind is getting a very clear picture of what the music sounds like by doing this (even though its very slow and out of time). My body is playing all of the notes with a freedom to sound production and good airflow (literally no tension). By working through the music in this way, I will be laying the building blocks to gradually add more complexity to the line when I’m ready. Once the notes and air are solidly in place, the rest can be added an element at a time.

    The part that I like best about this is that I’m not going to be adding a bunch of lip slurs and arpeggios into the higher register to my “maintenance†work to be able to be able to play this part (which would burn up all of my time and not allow me to get to the music). I’m going to simply do that work in the context of the actual part!

    So for the next month, I’m going to be working out of the Symphonic Dances lip flexibility book! Talk about some great combination of tasks and good time management!
  2. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona
    And then based on comments that I received from Larry Malin and Bartok, I found out that Mr. Vacchiano used as assistant on the really high stuff. A commercial player from NYC, possibly a player named Clyde Reissinger. When I found that out, I posted this message and would really appreciate any suggestions that you may have:

    I haven’t seen any of the music that I will be playing for our first Wind Ensemble concert this season, but I do have the play list. I’ve played a lot of this stuff before, and know that this is going to be one of the most demanding concert series that I’ve ever played with this ensemble:

    The Glory of the Yankee Navy.......Sousa
    Folk Song Suite ...........................Vaughan Williams
    The Promise of Living...................Copland/Singleton
    4 Dances from West Side Story.....Bernstein/Polster
    Raymond Overture.......................Thomas/Matsushiro
    Victory at Sea..............................Rodgers/Bennett
    The Girl I Left Behind Me...............Anderson
    The Pines of the Appian Way.........Respeghi

    I played through the entire Symphonic Dances in easy slurs last night just to see how I would feel. While I got through everything (with the exception of the several Fs towards the end of the piece) I can see how an assistant would be extremely helpful! I’m not even sure what the Wind Ensemble version of this piece is going to look like, but if it’s on par with the symphony version, I know right now I’ll need some help. After going through the 15 or 16 pages of this part I could really feel it! I know it will get better leading up to our first rehearsal in November, but Wow! What a challenging piece.

    What’s the best way to use an assistant on this piece? We have a new player joining the group this season that came to our new music reading session in September who I think would be able to cover the really high stuff. I just need to be ready to divide things up appropriately at the first rehearsal (this is typically a one per part ensemble).

    Thanks for any feedback!
  3. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    I think that for any piece on which you're going to need an assistant, you need to avoid playing the following:

    Repeated rhythmic figures that are accompaniment to a melody going on elsewhere and unisons with the other trumpets. Take care to stay in the musical flow, however, so that you don't grow cold.

    I rarely use an assistant, so, that's about as much as I know. Then again, I don't play in a concert band with the horn up to my face for an hour and a half!

  4. cornetguy

    cornetguy Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 12, 2005
    Saint Paul, MN
    [quote="Derek Having played most of this too,

    The Glory of the Yankee Navy.......Sousa use the assistant switch off every repeat except for last time through trio (ideally dont play at all 1-2 time through trio but that is a director call not yours it is customary though in the Sousa style. listen to Sousa band recordings or the New Sousa Band)
    Folk Song Suite ...........................Vaughan Williams can do some as above if I am not getting it mixed up with Sea Songs.
    Pavanne......................................Gould dont remember
    The Promise of Living...................Copeland/Singleton can do with out 4 Dances from West Side Story.....Bernstein/Polster as needed based on your and the assistants abilities.
    Raymond Overture.......................Thomas/Matsushiro Did a differnet transcription of this might be handy in some spots with repeated notes.
    Victory at Sea..............................Rodgers/Bennett do some switching off in the guadacannal (sp?) march and some of the more militaristic passages. save for the big solo in Southern Cross which is near the end of the suite.
    The Girl I Left Behind Me...............Anderson dont think will need for this havent played the band transcription of this.
    The Pines of the Appian Way.........Respeghi will need to have two on this part anyway as there are divisi if i remember right

    If this is one program you may even want to take of the Anderson or the Copeland compleatly off.

    Typically when I played in bands I would use the assistant to spell on repeats, endless repeated notes, afterbeats and section unisons, where by playing a f+ instead of ff but with good sound and in tune it actually sounds louder and broader without having to work as hard. Can also switch off by rehearsal numbers in some places.

    This looks like an ambitious program or year (wasnt clear what this was) have fun there is some great stuff on it.

    hope this helps

  5. B15M

    B15M Forte User

    Dec 30, 2003
    Monroe Ct.
    I have played the dances and I don't think the band part is as hard as you think it will be. I don't remember any D trumpet stuff. It has been a while but I think it will be ok.
  6. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    Thanks! I rarely use an assistant, but this program seems especially challenging. I’ll find out just how demanding it is after the first rehearsal, but I’m going into this thinking an assistant may be helpful so I’ll keep your comments in mind.


    All of these pieces will be on our first concert of the season. It’s a great ensemble and he always finds challenging pieces for us (a good mix between things the audience will enjoy and things that will keep the players coming back season after season).

    Thanks for the feedback.


    Yeah. I’m hoping that “4 Dances†is a much smaller piece than the full orchestral “Symphonic Dancesâ€. I look at the part again last night and it 18 pages for the 1st trumpet part. Wow! What a blow. I’m glad to know its not as demanding as the orchestral part (I’m sure it’s still plenty challenging).

    Thank you all!
  7. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    We had our concert tonight. Wow, what a show! There was substitution from the original list (the Anderson was swapped out for Shostakovich Folk Dances). I don't think I've ever had so many solos in a concert, and the Principal book was exceptionally challenging by itself. We had enough players to double the 1st part for almost every piece, and we ended up just trading on repeats. Even doing this it was a big blow!

    I had lots of nice comments on my playing after the show, and the best part was that my Wife's Parents were in town, and they all came (and brought my three little boys). My Wife won't come by herself to concerts with all three by herself because it starts well after bed time, but tonight with help, they all got to come! My 7 year old came on stage at the intermission and got to talk with the tuba player (he's 6'9" and has a 6/4 sized instrument). I took him on a tour of all the instruments on chairs (nothing like seeing the real think up close). My 5 year old made it to the last piece on the first half before he fell asleep, and my 3 year old got through the first 2! They packed up all the kids after the intermission and they were all asleep before they got home.

    All in all it was a great evening!

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