This month we feature Frank Ticheli’s Joy. This uplifting grade 2 concert band piece is well suited for middle school and junior high school bands.
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Frank Ticheli’s Notes on Joy
Above all, Joy is an expression of its namesake: simple unabashed joy.
A boisterous, uninhibited quality is implied in the music, not only at climactic moments, but also by the frequent presence of sudden dramatic stylistic contrasts. The main melody and overall mood of the work (and its companion piece, Joy Revisited) were inspired by a signal event: the birth of our first child.
The intense feelings that most any father would feel on such a day were, in my case, accompanied by a simple little tune which grabbed hold of me in the hours preceding her birth, and refused to let go throughout the day and many days thereafter. Indeed, until I jotted it down in my sketchbook, it did not release its grip.
Seven years and two children later, I stumbled upon that old sketch and discovered (or rediscovered) that it would serve perfectly as the foundation for a joy-filled concert band overture.
About Joy and Joy Revisited
Joy, and its companion piece, Joy Revisited, are the results of an experiment I have been wanting to try for many years: the creation of two works using the same general melodic, harmonic, and expressive content. In other words, I endeavored to compose un-identical twins, two sides of the same coin – but with one major distinction: Joy was created with young players in mind, while Joy Revisited was aimed at more advanced players.
Joy is more straightforward than its companion piece. Where Joy sounds a dominant chord (as in the upbeat to measure 10), Joy Revisited elaborates upon that chord with a flourish of 16th-notes. While Joy Revisited moves faster, develops ideas further, and makes use of a wider register, Joy is more concise.
Despite these and many more differences between the two works, both come from the same essential cut of cloth, both were composed more or less simultaneously, and both were born out of the same source of inspiration. In short, Joy and Joy Revisited serve as two expressions of the feelings experienced by one expectant father (who happens also to be a composer) on one wonderfully anxious and exciting day.
Main Theme (mm. 1-17)
Built on a series of rising thirds, the main melody is stated in two parallel phrases, the second one being in imitation at the octave. Strive to keep the melody bright and lively. On the second phrase (m. 6-9), it may be necessary to encourage the flutes to play out so that the imitation is heard.
The melody is answered by a joyous outburst of sound (mm. 10-13), which then dies away through a series of calm, legato-style descending scales.
Episode (mm. 18-27)
The legato scales from measures 14 to 18 are now marked staccato, stated twice as fast, and running in both ascending and descending directions. Note the use of hemiola in much of this section – the use of two-beat patterns separated by quarter-note rests, suggesting a 3/4 meter. Sometimes all of the parts conform to this pattern (mm. 18-19 and mm. 22-23), but on one occasion (mm. 20-21) the parts are in opposition to one another, some conforming to 314 while others suggest 4/4. These simple rhythmic techniques – hemiola and polymeter – help to keep the music alive and unpredictable, and they might serve as fun and interesting topics of discussion with your students.
The music gathers strength, bursting out at measure 24 as the tonality shifts suddenly from Bb Mixolydian to C Major. Be sure that the accents are observed in the fanfare-like calls stated by the first trumpets and flutes, and imitated by the altos, 2nd trumpets and horns.
Theme 2 (mm. 28-38)
Once again, a new section ushers in a dramatic change of style, the tempo being slightly held back, the texture made calmer and more lyrical. Free, cantabile lines are passed from the flutes, to the low brass, to the tubas and bass clarinets, and finally to the horns and second trumpets. As an accompaniment, simple eighth-note patterns undulate in the woodwinds. Note the manner in which these patterns are offset against one another (e.g., mm. 34-38, alto saxophone pattern is offset by flutes and oboes) as a way of hiding the seams and enhancing the sense of continuous flow.
Episode (mm. 39-50)
The music swells and accelerates back to the main tempo, ushering in the joyful second episode. A brief percussion section solo passage concludes the episode. (Note that all of the percussion parts are marked forte in measure 47 except for the crash cymbals, marked mezzo-piano).
Recapitulation of Main Theme (mm. 51-68)
The main theme is essentially the same as in the beginning, the most notable exceptions being those of simple orchestration changes and the addition of a one-bar extension.
Coda (mm. 68-74)
The timpanist should command the most attention at the coda, and none of the players should be timid in their interpretations of the crescendos, as well as the subito piano indication at measure 70. A final reminder of the main tune is shouted out in octaves, bringing the piece to an exuberant finish.
Looking for Something Else?
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