Hope this brings you a smile, and fond memory of a tradition or two from “back-intha-day”, when you were in the JFHMS Bands. Happy Holidays!
It’s that time of year again…the weather has changed, the lights are going up in Heritage Park, and the stores have been decking their halls since what seems like July. Each year the fall season is kind of a blur to me; with school in full swing and Pep Band playing at home basketball games, BHS football games on Friday nights and Marching Band competitions on Saturdays, October in particular seems to fly by for me. I am always a bit surprised when all of sudden, it’s Thanksgiving.
The music in our Band folders transitions gradually during October and November, from Pep Band and Veteran’s Day program music, into a collection of holiday music for the Tree lighting, Concert, and even a little caroling. Our winter Concert program will be selected from traditional music for Christmas and Hanukkah, along with holiday music from other countries. There will be something slow, something fast, and very likely something silly for each group. The music is familiar and filled with favorites, but there are a couple of titles that the kids really look forward to that are part of our annual Band traditions.
Each year seventh and eighth graders enjoy playing the Ukrainian Bell Carol (arranged by Robert W Smith). It is a traditional setting of “Carol of the Bells”, and is written in a way that makes it easy and fun to play for the kids while still sounding like mature, “grown up music”. It also offers the kids a chance to play hand held jingle bells as well as their instruments, which is fun (though a little chaotic at times). It’s also a great piece of music for teaching volume changes, breathing and phrasing–gotta sneak in some learning there too!
Sixth graders get a special tune too, a title that has been around for as long as I have been the JFH middle school Band Director. If you have been a member of the JFH Band, you know which piece of music I am talking about, since every Band member who has come through the sixth grade Band program at JFH has played it. We use a silly song (or a series of silly songs) to go with it, to help the beginners to learn and retain all of the details in the music. This is real “on the job training”, since we leave the method books for a few weeks, and learn lots of new things from a real piece of sheet music instead. It’s got a little of everything in it, and it is a beast for beginners–but they can do it– every single year. Even during last year’s Covid weirdness with only one concert that was performed in May, we kept the tradition going and programmed it –in May–, so the newest generation of Band members were included in our “First Christmas Overture” (arr. O’Reilly) tradition.
“HEY BAND” (“Hey what?”)–Does this bring back a memory or two? :o)
- “First it’s the woodwinds, then it’s the low brass, now it’s the trumpets and we land at 5” This starts us off in all the right places at the beginning of FCO. This is revisited again (but in a different order) later in the music, after we all go “Up on the Housetop” for a while. “First it’s the uppers, now it’s the flutes, low brass will bring it down ~ REST~ half note!”
- Woodwinds play “Jolly Old St Nicholas, leans an ear this waaaaay–aaaaa”….to go along with the brass section’s “O Come All Ye Faithful…. BUT NOT YET”
- The next line is a favorite every time, apparently even popping up in high school Wind Ensemble rehearsal at one point a couple of years ago, much to the surprise of BHS Band Director Becky Ford. (That was a fun phone conversation!) Good King Wenceslas tells us that “Woodwinds play this part right here, then low brass will join them! Woodwinds play this part again, then low brass will join, a-gain”
- At this point in the music, the brass are featured on “O Come All Ye Faithful’, while the woodwinds create (what we hope will come across as) a sparkly little snow storm (“no ice pellets, please!”)
- The First Christmas Overture ends with “Jingle Bells”, complete with the “big Hollywood ending”, “One, (one), Horse (horse), O-O-Pennnnn, SLEIGGGGHHHHH, jingle bells, jingle bells, 5 4 3 2 1, HEY!”
Once the Sixth grade Band can play the “First Christmas Overture”, they are likely to stick around awhile. This is when Band becomes real, and it becomes what Band is supposed to be–us, altogether, working hard, and creating and sharing, making memories. I hope a few folks enjoyed this flashback, and that everyone will take a moment and join us at an upcoming performance during the holiday season.
UPCOMING PERFORMANCE DATES:
JFH and BHS Bands and Choirs at the Broadway Tree Lighting Ceremony
Wednesday, Dec 1 (music at 7:00pm), Heritage Park
Broadway HS Music Department Holiday Concert –
Thursday, Dec 9, 2021at 7:00pm, in the auditorium of BHS
- Frank Hillyard Choral and Theater Concert –
Wednesday, Dec 8, 2021 at 7:00pm, in the auditorium of JFHMS
- Frank Hilyard MS Band Concert —
Wednesday, Dec 15, 2021 at 7:00 pm, in the large gym of JFHMS