Opononi Music Camp 2018 – The Music

He waiata whakahonohono

Music connects us

The intensity of the Opononi Music Camp means we get through a lot of music. We sightread multiple other pieces in addition to the 14 pieces (pictured) which were presented at the final concert.

Celtic Ritual – John Higgins

This stirring concert-opener is a good introduction for players to transition into 5/4. The brass gets to sing, and percussion gets to do what percussion does best; hit lots of things, loudly. It’s a classic with a distinctly Celtic flavour.

The Jungle Book – arr. John Moss

This cheerful medley covers all the hits from the movie. From a tuba player’s perspective, this piece had lots of fun “bomp-bomp” dixie bass lines, as well as some sneaky, slithery details that were delightful to play.

Theme from Swan Lake – Tchaikovsky, arr. Andrew Balent

A well-known classical theme, arranged into a form that showcases each section of the band, with an intense centre that shows off the lower brass? What’s not to love?! It’s accessible for both players and listeners, and would make a good concert piece for relatively inexperienced bands, though more experienced musicians can bring the details to make this really shine.

Winter in Emerald Bay – Alan Lee Silva

When handed this piece, I looked at the multitude of triplet figures, and said “Shouldn’t this piece be in 12/8, not 4/4?” Don’t let that put you off – this is an exuberant ear-worm of a piece that will have the audience tapping their toes, and the triplets are not at all difficult once you’ve got the feel for the style. An absolute pleasure to play, with a tune that dances through your head afterwards.

Theme from “Schindler’s List” (with solo) – John Williams, arr. Calvin Custer

The haunting theme was familiar to both players and audience. The challenge here was for the band to adapt to a background role, and provide a delicate base for our talented flautist, Bella.

Symphonic Highlights from “Frozen” – arr. Stephen Bulla

This medley had the audience singing! The solos throughout the piece gave musicians opportunities to step outside their comfort zones and be a soloist for a moment. This is another piece which had something interesting for every player in the band, from haunting flutes, to deep descending tubas, to unison “tick tock” sounds! Great harmonies, beautiful melodies, and a challenging work for the band.

Rain – Brian Balmages

This piece was new to all of us, and was recently an “Editor’s Choice” on JW Pepper.  Its evocative themes require sensitivity from players, and allowed us to work on good tone and balance as a band, through the rich harmonies. The quiet central section gave our percussionists a chance to demonstrate their subtlety, with the effects of raindrops and distant thunder.

The Oregon Trail – Michael Story

Another “Editor’s Choice”, this piece brings to mind an old Opononi favourite, “American Riversongs”. This simple but effective piece sandwiches a rollicking Western-style theme around a lilting core. It’s a toe-tapper which allows the brass to sing out the tune.

Dreams and Proclamations – Roland Barrett

Though the opening chimes are delicate, this piece commands attention. Although I found the theme too reminiscent of the traditional “Star of the County Down”, the intensity builds to an enjoyable finish with solid brass chords (I keep writing about the brass; natural bias, I’m afraid).

Largo from New World Symphony – Dvořák, arr. Johnnie Vinson

A superficially simple arrangement allows the band to focus on the challenges of balance and intonation. Beautiful trumpet and flute solos build to full band intensity, and then taper away to a gentle ending. It’s more difficult to play piano than forte!

Reverberations – Brian Balmages

This piece was written specifically for concert band, and as the set piece for the Competitive Category in the NZCBA Festival 2017, it was familiar to a number of players. The conductor, Kathleen, says “This was my favourite!”  It is quite minimalist with constant minor third alternating quavers in xylophone, punctuated by a minor third falling outburst from sections.  It has an eerie feel, reminiscent of driving through night, as barely perceptible objects come into view, then sink away into the dark.

Just a Closer Walk With Thee – arr. Calvin Custer, Don Gillis

This is a wonderful arrangement of the hymn of the same name. Starting off as a New Orleans funereal march, it leaps into action at the halfway point, now as a Dixieland-style rejoice.  Super fun, and featured excellent solos!

(Risk) Everything for a Dream – Richard L. Saucedo

Saucedo by name, saucy by nature.  Cheese sauce, at that. The multiple climaxes in this piece, while stirring, are a little overwrought and overdone. That said, it’s a good piece to concentrate on dynamic consistency and balance across the band.

Flight of the Thunderbird – Richard L. Saucedo

Once the band was familiar with this piece, it practically played itself. Cheerful, loud, typically American, this spirited piece was a great way to end an exhilarating week!