Middle School Musicians, Singers Perform “Melodies in March” Concert

As a way to showcase all they’ve learned so far in their musical education at SMUS, our Middle School music students – choir, band and strings – took to the University of Victoria’s Farquhar Auditorium to perform Melodies in March.

The Spring concert was a way to show family and friends that all the at-home practicing and school rehearsals pay off in ways that allow talent and developing skills to shine onstage.

It was a great show, and all of the performances were outstanding. Congratulations to all of our Middle School students, along with teachers Mr. Duncan Frater, Ms. Regan Livingstone and Ms. Mary Smith. And a huge thank you to accompanist Ms. Jane Edler-Davis.

The Middle School choir performed O Canada, Away From the Roll of the Sea and We've Only Just Begun.

Middle School Choir (Grade 6, 7 and 8)

O Canada by Calixa Lavallée, arr. Diane Loomer

The history of our national anthem is lengthy and a tad controversial. Although the original French version remains unchanged since its initial conception in 1880, the English version has gone through numerous changes, with more likely to come. After many years of singing God Save the Queen, O Canada was officially adopted in 1980.

Away From the Roll of the Sea by Allister MacGillivray

This challenging piece of Canadian music is a choral standard around the world. Although one will encounter many different arrangements on YouTube, we are performing the original version in four-part harmony.

We’ve Only Just Begun by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, arr. G. Eckhart

It is hard not to hear Karen Carpenter’s hauntingly mellow voice when listening to We’ve Only Just Begun. Although she and her brother didn’t write this chart-topping song, they popularized it in 1970, a few months after it was composed. This four-part version honours the original, while allowing for some interesting harmonies.

The Middle School jazz band performed Buffalo Head, Swing Fever and The Final Countdown.

Jazz Band

Buffalo Head by Dean Sorenson & Bruce Pearson

Funk music has come back to the main stream with such recent hits as Uptown Funk featuring Bruno Mars. Buffalo Head brings the quintessential funk sound to a Middle School chart using tight, unison rhythms played by the horn section and driving sixteenth notes in the rhythm section. The traditional jazz band horn section of saxophone, trumpet and trombone can be heard in other genres of popular music including ska and reggae.

Swing Fever by Dean Sorenson and Bruce Pearson

This up-tempo chart is known as a “flag waver,” demonstrating speed and precision while keeping the typical swing style rhythm. With familiar piano contributions, this piece is meant to be a toe-tapper!

The Final Countdown by Joey Tempest, arr. Paul Lavender

This iconic rock piece from the band Europe was released as a single in 1986 and reached No. 1 in 25 countries. With lyrics inspired by Davie Bowie’s Space Oddity from 17 years prior, The Final Countdown was originally intended to be only a show opener for live concerts, as the band never thought it would be a commercial success!

The Grade 6/7 concert band performed Tu Ungane and The Big Mambo.

Grade 6/7 Concert Band

Tu Ungane (Let’s Join Together) by Scott Watson

Based upon African rhythms, Tu Ungane uses a combination of syncopated rhythms and articulation to produce this celebratory piece. The Swahili phrase “Njoni tucheze” (en-JOE-nay too-CHAY-zay) that the musicians shout at the beginning of the piece translates to “Come! Let’s Play!”

The Big Mambo by Timothy Loest

The mambo style of music originated in Cuba in the 1930s and ’40s and became popular around the world when The King of the Mambo, Perez Prado, began recording this style of music in 1949 after he moved to Mexico. The syncopated bass line is accented by the Afro-Cuban rhythms of the percussion section.

The Grade 8 band performed Ancient Flowers and The Marches of John Williams.

Grade 8 Band

Ancient Flowers by Yukiko Nishimura

Connected, sensitive lines led by the clarinet section to open this work, the composer suggests the image of a beautiful and delicate flower slowly opening and responding to the light and its surrounding environment. Japanese pianist and composer Nishimura purposefully combines European and Asian musical sounds to create this beautiful yet challenging work for young bands.

The Marches of John Williams by John Williams, arr. Johnnie Vinson

Many of the works of John Williams have a characteristic driving rhythm that is nearly impossible to forget, but always easy to identify as one of his compositions. As a master composer, John Williams knows the importance of the march style and has brought this musical form to many film scores. Concert bands originated from military marching bands, therefore this is an integral style for band members to understand. In this medley, four iconic March themes take us from blockbuster movie hits to the 1988 Summer Olympics.

The Grade 6 string ensemble performed Calypso and Gavotte.

Grade 6 String Ensemble

Calypso by Martin Norgaard

Calypso music had its beginnings in the West Indies. Often it was presented through song among the plantation workers on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Many early calypsos were sung in a French-Creole dialect called “patois” (pat-was). These songs, usually led by one individual called a griot, helped to unite the slaves. Calypso is sometimes used to speak the voice of social conscience and is often laced with humorous satire on current events. It employs the power of rhythm to create joyous and energized music. In the instrumental version of the genre, some percussive sounds are added.

Gavotte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, arr. Johnson

A Gavotte is an old French dance in common time beginning on the third beat of the bar. It originated in the French Alps where the inhabitants were known as gavots. It often appears as a movement in suites written for instrumental ensembles or soloists.

The Grade 7/8 string ensemble performed Fantasia on an Original Theme and Transcendence.

Grade 7/8 String Ensemble

Fantasia on an Original Theme by Joseph J. Phillips

In the world of music, a Fantasia denotes a composition free in form and inspiration, usually including several melodies. In England, the term was applied especially to compositions based on melodic imitation. Well known fantasias in the orchestral repertoire include Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; Fantastia on a theme of (G. F.) HandelFantasia on British Sea SongsFantasia on Greensleeves. The SMUS students are fond of referring to our fantasia in reference to Hobbit shires and the character Bilbo Baggins (from The Hobbit).

Transcendence by Lindsey Stirling, arr. LaRiviere

It is believed that when you achieve transcendence, you have gone beyond ordinary limitations. The word is often used to describe a condition of moving beyond physical needs and realities. This composition by Lindsey Stirling was arranged for our Middle School strings in such a way that the violin and viola parts supply a steady rhythmic pulse, a long lyrical melodic line and a virtuosic finger exercise. We use two electric violins in this ensemble piece.

The Grade 7/8 orchestra performed Turkish March and Sheep May Safely Graze (from Cantata 208)

Grade 7/8 Orchestra

Turkish March by Ludwig van Beethoven, arr. Goldsmith

The Turks were well known to the citizens of Vienna where Beethoven lived. When Turkish music was scored for orchestra it used percussion instruments such as the bass drum, triangle and cymbals. These instruments were used by Ottoman Turks in their military music. Beethoven wrote his Turkish March as incidental music for a play that debuted in 1810 entitled The Ruins of Athens. There is an interesting mixture of connecting details in this presentation: a Turkish March written for a play about a place in Greece, by a Viennese composer, presented at the inauguration of a theatre in Hungary.

Sheep May Safely Graze (from Cantata 208) by Johan Sebastian Bach, arr. Brubacher

J.S. Bach wrote many sacred cantatas for use during the church year. Some have disappeared but others are often sung. In 1713 he wrote a secular cantata to honour the 31st birthday of a local duke. It is known as the hunting cantata, with text such as: “The lively hunt is all my heart’s desire.” The selection Sheep May Safely Graze is the most familiar part of this cantata.

Check out all the photos from the Middle School’s Melodies in March concert at the SMUS Photo Gallery.

(photos by Kyle Slavin)


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