Chamber Music for Youth: The Woodwind Quintet
by The Navy Band Woodwind Quintet
- MUC Luellyn K. Dollard
- MUC Richard F. Reed, Jr.
- MU1 Jon F. Agazzi
- MUC Michael A. Curtis
- MUC Eric D. Moore
- Music and Repertoire
This article is based on a clinic given at the 2007 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic by the United States Navy Band Navy Band Woodwind Quintet. Formed in 1985, the group presents recitals at concert halls, churches, libraries, museums and parks throughout the metropolitan Washington area. In addition, they participate in the Navy Band’s Music in the Schools program, demonstrating instruments for elementary school students. The original clinic was primarily musical examples played by the group, with short discussions preceding each example.
A woodwind quintet is a great place to develop musical confidence and leadership in a high school musician. Flutists in particular have to come out of their shells a little bit, because they have to cue the beginnings and endings of the major sections of a piece. When you form a woodwind quintet from your band players, the flutist will probably need a lot of coaching to learn how to communicate tempos and cutoffs. Breathing audibly and in tempo is particularly important and requires practice in and of itself.
After your high school quintet has a good start and has had several "supervised" rehearsals, encourage them to have some rehearsals on their own. This gives them the confidence to make their own musical decisions as a group and also forces them to listen to each other to figure out what went wrong after the inevitable a train wreck.
Chief Musician Luellyn K. Dollard, flutist and group director, has been a member of the Navy Band since 1993, and studied at the University of North Texas and Northwestern University.
Wind quintet participation is a great way to develop your students’ musical and technical abilities. This intimate chamber music setting affords young musicians an excellent opportunity to work on balance and intonation while developing their most important musical skill: listening.
Have your students identify their musical role in a specific passage (melody, harmony, accompaniment, etc.) and balance accordingly. Train them to listen for and match pitch, tone color, dynamics, note lengths and style.
Exposed scoring and independent part-writing in the chamber music setting also gives students an opportunity to expand their technical abilities. Have your students identify the scale patterns in difficult passages. Working on these types of passages, such as the chromatic scale patterns of Eugene Bozza's Scherzo, can give students fresh perspective on the importance of these critical technical exercises.
Chief Musician Richard F. Reed, Jr., oboist, has been a member of the Navy Band since 1997, and studied at Louisiana and Florida State Universities.
One of the most extensive sources for a wide range of woodwind quintet literature is found in the Andraud twenty-two woodwind quintets. This collection includes pieces which range in time from 1 minute, like the Haydn Minuet, to the full Beethoven Quintet, which lasts about 15 minutes. There is also a large variation of difficulty, ranging from an easy Mozart Minuet to a full Moritz Quintet with a lively molto vivace finale.
The great thing about the shorter and slower quintets is that they can be used in many different ways to work on group cohesiveness. One of the first things a new group should work on is getting through a piece without supervision. Cueing among different members and listening to pitch and phrasing around the group are just a few things that are possible with the wide range of repertoire in the Andraud book.
The Mozart Minuet is one of the entry-level pieces a young group could play. It shows how different members of the group are responsible for leading different sections of the piece and helps each student learn to be more musically independent.
Musician 1st Class Jon F. Agazzi, clarinetist, has been a member of the Navy Band since 2003, and holds degrees from Northwestern University the Cleveland Institute of Music. Petty Officer Agazzi is the Eb clarinetist with the Band.
Hopefully many of you have made it a priority to make sure you have a bassoonist in your ensemble. If you are still hoping to achieve this, please consider that your best players will make the most qualified choices for potential bassoonists. Maybe you can present it as a challenge to a talented player in another section that is underachieving or a student who has been trying to learn different instruments as a way to stay interested.
My first concern with the middle and high school bassoon students that I come in contact with is that they often don't know the "extended" high register fingerings. These should be taught alongside the "standard" range fingerings so that they are incorporated early as an element of basic technique. When students don't learn these until later, they become intimidated. The first movement of Hindemith’s Kleine Kammermusik, provides an opportunity to perform some of these notes without the upper level difficulty usually associated with music that would incorporate them.
Secondly, please make sure your bassoonists have a reed that will allow them to be successful when attempting to achieve basic proficiency on the instrument. A teacher once told me that the definition of a good reed was one that played in tune and responded easily at all dynamics. Don't concern yourself with sound quality at this stage. It too often becomes a priority that further mystifies the whole reed "thing". Besides, a reed that fits the first two criteria WILL produce a sound that is within a range of acceptability. The last movement of Darius Milhauld’s La Cheminée du Roi René, provides an opportunity to test if a reed will produce in tune at the lower end of the dynamic range.
Chief Musician Michael A. Curtis, bassoonist, has been a member of the Navy Band since 1996, and studied at San Diego State University and the University of Minnesota.
As a horn player, I have always valued my opportunities playing with a woodwind quintet. Unlike in the band setting, where I am forever being asked to give more volume, the woodwind quintet challenges me to take my playing in an entirely different direction.
While band playing develops good air support through sustained loud volume production, woodwind chamber music, in general, assists the hornist in learning how to use the same kind of support at far softer dynamic levels. In the quintet I never play louder than a band mezzo-forte, and I also do not allow my sound to achieve the edge that is characteristic of loud band playing. If given the opportunity to participate in such a group, your best high school aged horn students, over time, will learn to adapt their embouchure to produce a fully supported, transparent tone color. 80% of the time when I play with this group, my goal is not to be distinctly heard, but rather be felt, so-to-speak, as part of the background.
Along with the softer dynamic levels and timbres that need to be achieved, a woodwind quintet horn player also needs to learn how adapt to woodwindesque types of articulation. Trying to model what the other players do around you is paramount to achieving good balance within the group. Unlike the sharp DAH and TAH (more percussive) tonguing characteristic of louder band playing, I have learned to improvise and use more du and tu syllables to achieve the crispness and lightness necessary to play within the texture of the woodwind ensemble. Much of this happens through trial and error and should help your student expand their musical potential through more detailed listening and experimentation. The first movement of Malcolm Arnold's Three Shanties definitely displays the concepts just mentioned and is always challenging for me.
Musical examples performed by the Navy Band Woodwind Quintet during the clinic
Gyorgy Ligeti pub. Schott
Trois Pieces Breves
Jacques Ibert pub. Alphonse Leduc
Eugene Bozza pub. Alphonse Leduc
Minuet from 22 Woodwind Quintets
W.A. Mozart pub. Southern Music Company
Paul Hindemith pub. Schott
La Cheminée du Roi René
Darius Milhaud pub. Southern Music Company
Malcolm Arnold pub. Carl Fischer, Inc.
Other recommended repertoire
Three Nautical Characters
George F. McKay pub. C.L. Barnhouse Co.
The Easy Winners
Scott Joplin pub. Shawnee Press
Suite for Woodwind Quintet
Robert Washburn pub. Elkan-Vogel, Inc.
Country Dance No. 1
L.V. Beethoven pub. Carl Fischer, Inc.
Joseph Haydn pub. Boosey & Hawkes
arr. Vollmers pub. Neil A. Kjos Music Company
Richard Strauss pub. Musicians Publications
Fugue in G Minor
J.S. Bach, arr. Rechtman pub. Belwin Mills
Arthur Frackenpohl pub. Shawnee Press
Vincent Persichetti pub. G. Schirmer
Variations Sur un Theme Cors
Henri Tomasi pub. Alphonse Leduc