Dance Celebration by Robert W Smith – By Kathleen Mulligan
Dance Celebration by Robert W Smith is an astonishingly complex-sounding piece using only the notes of concert B♭ and simple rhythms. Gorgeously melodic and highly rhythmically energetic, it is one of the favourite pieces for my young band of 8- to 14-year-olds.
At grade .5, it presents challenges for young players through variations of crotchet and quaver patterns which could trip up any musician, has percussion parts that are simple yet super fun to play, and, most importantly, is a sophisticated but fun piece.
It starts off with an introduction of long, lyrical notes (my band keeps playing this section too slow so we use it for subdividing like crazy!) incorporating lovely expressive crescendos and decrescendos which are so intuitive my kids did it nicely the first time!
Canonic entries in this section begin to build energy and we launch into the main theme in the 17th bar. The rest of the piece is phrased logically in four-bar sections, everyone gets the tune, and layers of two-bar ostinato create energy and a polyrhythmic state. The melody is very much an earworm and we usually sing it for hours after the rehearsal.
There is a short restful contrasting section featuring reeds, warm and lush, then it springs back to the main theme, roaring to the end in a musical flurry, again with fun canonic entries in the outro.
Dance Celebration is a wonderful example of skilful writing for a young band. I cannot recommend this gem enough. It is a first-year piece for young and old to love.