Sunday, July 22, 2012

Current Arrangements

Last Sunday, after the Kenwood Players performed some of the 18th and early 19th century music discussed in a previous post, we moved to some more contemporary fare in a second set. After starting out with the Playford dance tune "The Richmond Ball" as a transition piece, we played the following numbers that I've arranged for us.

Hello, Dolly

Pink Panther
Deep River Blues (the Doc Watson tune)
Hey, Good Lookin'
This Land Is Your Land
Georgia On My Mind
Tuxedo Junction
Ain't She Sweet

We had prepared, but didn't get to:
Lets Twist Again
The Saints Go Marchin' In

We closed the set with four Dixieland jazz tunes using standard arrangements.

In my arrangements there's always a bass line for the Eb tubas, which are more agile than big Bb tubas, but less so than a string bass. Whenever possible there are little syncopations and walking turnarounds to catch the audience's ear.

For basic harmony I'm playing either banjo or guitar. For the instruments not playing the melody there are harmony notes on a middle staff. Those pitches are usually just pitches in the chord or in simple thirds with the melody.

A primary characteristic of these arrangements is that we don't decide who plays what line until a performance is in view. A founding principle of the Kenwood Players is the recognition that not everyone will be able to make every performance and I'd rather make adjustments among the available players than call in someone at the last minute.

That really paid off for this performance because neither of our trombone players could make it, and while I really missed hearing that tenor middle of the sound, every tune came off well and got a good response.

The key to all this working, besides my having to write up a sheet of road maps for each tune for different performances, saying who plays what when, is that the players can elaborate and improvise on the bare bones I've given them for both the melody and harmony. Over and over at our performances I get the sense audiences are picking up on and enjoying just how much fun we're having making the music and that the improvisatory spark needed to make these simple arrangements come alive has a lot to do with that. 

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