Featured Content: Frank Ticheli’s Amazing Grace

Featured Content: Frank Ticheli’s "Amazing Grace"

This month we feature Frank Ticheli’s classic arrangement of Amazing Grace. This powerful grade 3 band piece is suitable for middle school through college bands, and community bands.

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Frank Ticheli on Amazing Grace 

I wanted my setting of Amazing Grace to reflect the powerful simplicity of the words and melody – to be sincere, to be direct, to be honest – and not through the use of novel harmonies and clever tricks, but by traveling traditional paths in search of truth and authenticity.

I believe that music has the power to take us to a place that words alone cannot. And so my own feelings about Amazing Grace reside in this setting itself. The harmony, texture, orchestration, and form are inseparable, intertwined so as to be perceived as a single expressive entity.

The spiritual, Amazing Grace, was written by John Newton (1725-1807), a slave ship captain who, after years of transporting slaves across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World, suddenly saw through divine grace the evilness of his acts. First published in 1835 by William Walker in The Southern Harmony, Amazing Grace has since grown to become one of the most beloved of all American spirituals.


Measures  Section Key
1-8 Introduction Eb
9-24 First statement (chamber) Eb
25-38 Second statement (tutti) Eb
39-46 Episode Modulating to Bb
47-69 Development Bb…Db…F…
70-82 Transition Bb (pedal)
83-98 Final statement (climax) Eb
99-106 Coda Eb

Performance Notes

  • All parts are indicated as “one only” in measures 9 through 24 for a more chamber-like The melody, played by solo alto saxophone, should always be heard in the foreground.
  • The “breath mark” indicated just before measure 43 should not be interpreted as a musical pause, but rather as a slight phrase
  • In the development section, each independent entrance must be heard, and the many lines comprising the texture should be carefully balanced.
  • The final statement of the melody is accompanied by a countermelody given to the flutes, oboes, first alto saxophone, and first trumpet. This countermelody should be heard in the foreground, but it should not overpower the melody. The crescendo and ritardando molto indications in measures 89-90 may be interpreted very dramatically and the climax beginning in measure 91 should be played with full force. Make sure that the quarter-note triplets come through at measure 92, and that the horns come through in measure 93.

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