Piece of the Week: Pure Imagination

Pure Imagination

“Pure Imagination,” by the songwriting team of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, is best known to audiences as the theme music from the beloved 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (itself an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic 1964 children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”). Bricusse and Newley garnered an Academy Award nomination for the film’s score and original songs, and this piece makes it easy to hear why. From its optimistic opening strains to its yearning main theme and lush harmonies, “Pure Imagination” portrays the excitement and anticipation of a child entering a magical world of candy. This piece continues to capture the imaginations of children and inspire nostalgic memories for their parents, and has racked up millions of views on YouTube.

SmartMusic offers two different ensemble versions of this piece, both from Alfred Publishing: Douglas Wagner’s arrangement for concert band, and Craig Skeffington’s arrangement for jazz ensemble.

 Audio Sample: “Pure Imagination” for Concert Band

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

Notes on the Concert Band arrangement by Douglas Wagner

“Pure Imagination” surfaces three times in the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” First, it plays during the opening title sequence, then as the feature number by Gene Wilder as he leads his assembled golden ticket winners into the chocolate room, and finally, as part of the “Wonkavator” music at the film’s end. The piece is great fun for all generations, and all generations to come.

All of the limitations in the range and rhythm areas for easy level band have been carefully observed in this arrangement. Breathing points are amply provided, as well as musically enhancing dynamic nuances. This work will make a wonderful introduction to ‘ballad’ form, with abundant opportunities for helping students recognize and effectively interpret the horizontal aspects of music. Percussion has been lightly scored, and at the conductor’s discretion, the Timpani part may be omitted.

 Audio Sample: “Pure Imagination” for Jazz Ensemble

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

 Notes on the Jazz Band arrangement by Craig Skeffington

This arrangement of “Pure Imagination” was commissioned by the Brewer Middle School Jazz Band, Brewer, Maine, co-directed by Lanissa and Brian Nadeau.

In preparing the piece, the introduction should set the tone. The opening should be light and not more than mf. Direct the players to bring the moving lines out against the harmony.

Overall, the chart does not necessarily demand a strong brass section, but more importantly, a well-balanced ensemble. Blend and balance the group as you would a wind band, with emphasis on the tuning of the bottom voices and close tuning of any matching pitches across the sections.

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If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at [email protected]. Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

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