Importance of Method Training for Flexible Ensemble and Band
"Chorales" suggests hymn tunes for Protestant churches. Originally written in only one voice, hymns evolved to harmonize a soprano melody with other voices. Many chorales we enjoy today are J. S. Bach arrangements having four voices-soprano, alto, tenor and bass, a form standardized by Bach. Today, even they are not Protestant hymns, if they have a religious sentiment with four or more voices, they are considered chorales. Especially for chorus and band, many new chorale works are written.
Why are there so many band chorales? A main reason is that more than anything, bands enjoy blended harmony. In other words, chorales are the necessary path for band musicians to make beautiful harmony and achieve musical excellences.
In fact, harmony is made with layers of voices-especially with bands. One voice is supported by multiple instruments. So, various instruments are blended to make one voice and it becomes an ensemble. Achieving that requires listening to each other, understanding each instrument's role, and having a certain image of sound in mind. That is the most important fundamental of ensemble performance. That is why chorales are often used in band exercises.
However, chorales (and bands) are not only about beautiful notes lined up. Chorales are multi-voiced music. Each voice has a specific role with varied phrasing, and characteristic tone color. Due to the relationships between different voices, harmony resonates more beautifully and meaningfully. By understanding that, a composite sound from various instruments can be created. Chorales are not only to balance and blend but to study musical fundamentals.
Having talked about the importance of chorales and fundamentals, hymns tend to be similar in style and harmony. Thus I have decided to arrange something familiar (especially for Japanese) in chorales. Chorales based on Japanese traditional harmony, minor keys, and atypical chord progressions that we often hear. I intentionally utilized various time signatures, tonalities and tempos, helping musicians learn to read music and musical signatures.
Moreover, these are scored with flexible instrumentation to accommodate current social settings. There are 1-4 parts with soprano, alto, tenor and bass. The combinations of instruments are infinite. Depending on the level and skill of musicians, it can be adapted in many ways. For example, Bb clarinets can play parts 1-3, but don't have to be split up, and can play one part. In another way, it's up to you to decide what role you would like musicians to take. If you have a large group, I suggest that you split the band into multiple small groups. It will be instructive to form them in various ways to learn about balance and blend. Balancing is also misunderstood as thickly blended. When all the various sounds are heard [in tune], band sonority is finally achieved.
Again, chorales are originally hymns. Without understanding the beauty of harmony, not only the part playing harmony, but other parts also won't perform musically. Before playing the chorale, try having all instruments play the harmony parts thinking of character, rhythms, interval characteristics, and phrasing. Each song should have lyrics; you may sing along as well. Finding connections between harmony and lyrics will help establish the significance of detailed phrasing. There is an attached accompaniment part.
Each chorale presents the harmony twice. The harmony, roles of each part, and percussion rhythms change. This will also help you discover new expression.