Movement 2 - Night Watch
Movement 3 - Making Merry
Spotlight series by Jim Coyle
The Spotlight series consists of short concertos for young soloists with concert band accompaniment. The solo parts (the initial offering has concertos for flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, trombone and piano – more may follow) are challenging for many a young soloist, but by no means virtuosic. They are intended for the familiar situation where a school or community music program has an individual of exceptional talent. The accompanying band parts are suitable for most middle school bands, or bands in smaller high schools. Their parts could be reasonably judged to be about grade 2-3. In addition, there are much more elementary (rookie) parts for certain instruments (flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, trombone, percussion) to enable the participation of musicians with less experience than the others. This, too, caters to the ‘small school, everyone plays’ scenario.
The pieces themselves are all 6 minutes long and typically in three movements, following the fast-slow-fast Classical model. Although they contain musical and technical challenges, there is a strong intention that all of the band members should enjoy playing these pieces and an element of fun is rarely too far away.
Each of the concertos is scored for its soloist plus the following line-up:-
3 flutes (3rd is a rookie part), oboe, bassoon, 3 clarinets (3rd is a rookie part), bass clarinet, 3 alto saxes (3rd is a rookie part), tenor sax, baritone sax, 3 trumpets (3rd is a rookie part), 2 horns in F (identical parts are provided for horns in Eb, but do not appear on the score),3 trombones (3rd is a rookie part), euphonium, tuba, timpani, 3 percussionists (3rd is a rookie part)
The rookie parts are optional except the percussionist. The parts for oboe, bassoon and horns are cross-cued on occasion to allow for their possible absence. Further flexibility in scoring is provided in two ways. Firstly, each piece comes with a keyboard part which is a condensed version of what is going on in the score. This part, ideally, is not intended to be played (a good deal of it is impractical for one keyboard player in any case). It is there, however, as a sort of optional continuo, to allow an experienced musician to fill any gaps there might be in an incomplete band.
There is also a generic bass part (which does not appear on the score) which is a digest of the parts intended to be played by the bass instruments in the ensemble. In the regrettable but all-too-real situation of nobody in the school band playing anything longer than a metre and a half, this part can be taken by a bass guitar or keyboard and plug this gap.
Both of these parts are ideally omitted, but they are provided so these works have maximum accessibility for all school and community bands.
In scoring these small concertos, the composer has tried to strike a balance between the muddy sound of overly cross-cued band music and players having too little to do. With the exception of the percussion parts, nobody has to count more than sixteen bars of rest at any one time. On the other hand, a great deal of consideration has been given to player and sectional independence and the clarity of colour and texture this can bring. For this reason, and because at no point is a drum kit included in the music, these pieces stand apart from the run-of-the-mill charts for bands of this standard. The percussionists are often asked to play only one instrument in each movement, but their contribution is an important one and they are often called upon to work together as a unit to provide rhythmic energy.
The overall pedagogical aim of the Spotlight series of concertos is to provide stimulating and enjoyable pieces of music in which young players of widely differing standards of technical ability can all make a meaningful contribution to the musical whole.