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Pieces Worthy of A Concert Band Arrangement

Updated on October 10, 2010

I am an avid fan of concert band music - in fact, I even performed in one myself in the past (Am planning to join a community band as alto clarinetist if time and money allows.) as a clarinetist in all three years of my middle school tenure at Progress Village Middle Magnet School of the Arts. I like a couple of original works of the art form's literature, but the transcriptions and arrangements for band pleases me more. My favorite middle-school band arrangement is Philip Gordon's The King's Musicke, a series of short works by Henry Purcell's contemporaries Jeremiah Clarke (of The Prince of Denmark's March fame, who wrote his Minuet) William Croft (of "O God, Our Help in Ages Part" fame, who wrote his Sarabande) and Francis Piggot (who wrote his March), and my favorite alll-time other is Robert Leist's and Richard Franko Goldman's band version of Johann Sebastian Bach's Fantasia in G Major (Gravement), BWV 572.

Even though I'm in medical college as coder, I have opportunities to become a freelance composer, but I'll start off with arranging for concert band. It makes me discover new possibilities with the multifarious array of wind and percussion instruments as well as fulfill my love of the ensemble and the middle school memories of it. But many works previously composed by greats of old are yet to be transcribed for aerophone-tooting members of the legion to blow with expression, and one day, when I buy the Sibelius software, I'll arrange what I discern as a deemed piece to translate into a symphony of wind and percussion.

Paul Manz's Aria

Of all the pipe organ pieces written in the past century I have heard, Paul Manz's Aria is my absolute favorite. Because it's a fluent organ piece, I decided that upon repeated hearings I consider arranging for the concert band. Looking at the score online, I find it so full of complex harmonies and counterpoint that I would deem mine as a level 4 to 6 work.

To add to the fun, the instrumentation of the piece calls for a cor anglais (my proper dub for an English horn to avoid confusion). To me, having a member of the oboe family with a bocal and a bulbous bell play the first few lines of the melody brings out the melancholy air of the transcription. Using a a cor anglais in a band arrangement dictates my influence: Alfred Reed. He goes above and beyond the standard concert band instrumentation in some pieces, especially his transcriptions of many Bach pieces. Aside from making the alto oboe prominent in the score, I will transpose it down a whole tone, turning an A minor work into a more playable and feasible transcription in G minor. As soon as the Sibelius is purchased as well as the original score, I will pen this arrangement - possibly as a memorial piece.

Dedicated to Paul Manz

Toccata and Fugue in F Major, BWV 540

I have heard many arrangements of Johann Sebastian Bach's works, but despite how emotionally favorable that of Fantasia in G, BWV 572 by the likes of Goldman and Leist is to me, the very popular works, like his Jesu, Bleibet Meine Freude (the last movement of the Advent cantata Herz und Tat und Mund und Leben, BWV 147), and his other Toccata and Fugue (the Dorian, BWV 538, in D minor, which you hear a lot each and every Halloween and in the first installment of the Disney animated feature, Fantasia) are overused. The rich textures, harmonies, and counterpoints of the toccata part of BWV 540, such as the pedal solos for a long 60 measures, is a joy to transcribe for a high-level concert band, and I will be willing to do the fugue also, to make it so coherent and loyal to the original.

Again, the score of my proposed arrangement calls for not standard concert band arrangement, but for super-standard band arrangement, because I want to add two parts for the oboe d'amore, a rare type of oboe in which I'll bring to attention. By arranging an overlooked-by-band-arrangers work by Bach, it would come as a showpiece for a level 4.5 to even a 6 concert band.


Call me wacky, but i stem from a Filipino family, despite being a native New Jersey woman (I now live in the Brandon area, near Tampa, Florida.), and I used to listen to the tapes of the Mabuhay Singers my grandparents own. Besides "Paru Parong Bukid (The Butterfly)," another song playable by a concert band is the Carinosa. Their version of the national dance of my kin's native Philippines is very stunning and joyful to listen to. The main melody would be played by medium-to-high woodwinds because it provokes the daintiness depicted by the flirting interaction by the female dancer, bearing either a handkerchief or a fan. I want to transcribe the piece, as Filipino music don't get as much attention as most other genres.The instrumentation will be for a standard concert band, and the level will be 3 to 5, depending on how complex my arrangement will be.

Pachelbel's Chaconne in F Minor

As much as I’m a baroque music fanatic, many arrangers of band music often overuse many of the famous pieces, or excerpts of them. Of course, many who are married or attended a lush wedding have heard Johann Pachelbel’s Canon and Gigue in D Major. What about his other works – the Chaconne in F Minor is not exceptional to pieces that yearn for a band transcription. I have to admit that it’s a great organ work, because of its fugal harmonies and variations of the opening theme, but I think it would be absolutely excellent when it’s played by a level 4 (5 if I’m happy) or higher collegiate band. The piece would start off with a low woodwind introduction, with a cor anglais solo mournfully making its entrance a few bars later. I think it would also make a great transcription for a full, professional orchestra, with influential notes of the late, great Leopold Stokowski and Edward Elgar in mind. If you think that Pachelbel’s (ahem) "other work" is overrated, then this piece would entice you in your next spring concert.

Vergin Tutto Amor

I have to admit that this Francesco Durante sacred aria fits me like a glove, regarding my Catholic faith. I really love listening to the song, and it yearns for a band arrangement. If I realized it, it would have a style reminiscent of Alfred Reed's arrangement of Come Sweet Death. The instrumentation would be a bit like Reed's score, but I would omit the piccolo part because its piercing timbre would detract from the solemnity of the piece. (It's a Marian hymn - a song to the Virgin Mary.) The alto flute (like the contrabassoon, cor anglais, and the alto clarinet), albeit optional as many bands cannot afford one, would be a part of my scoring to reinforce the fluency of the upper woodwinds. Besides the kettledrums, the only other percussion instrument would be tubular bells, which create the right amount of sacristy in the arrangement. If such arrangement of the beautiful Baroque piece becomes reality, it would be given a 4 to 5.

I'm always a bold, dashing, and budding composer and arranger, even with a medical college education, and I'm willing to add my own transcriptions of uncharted-by-concert-band-directors to the ever-incrementing library of concert band literature. Although I have original concert band pieces to be composed, like my version of the Filipino tinikling, I will venture to the not-yet transcribed pieces the masters and minors of the classical music world contributed to our culture.


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