African Festival

Quincy Hilliard
Neil A Kjos Music Company, 1999


African Festival (1999) is written in correlation with the Standard of Excellence “In Concert” series.  It is designed to be performed by students who have reached page 26 of book one in the Standard of Excellence band method.  There are several teaching tools, warm-ups, and rhythm studies included with this piece as a part of this series.

The piece opens with four measures of percussion intro leading into the flute and alto saxophone introducing theme 1 in Eb Major for the first time at measure 5.  At measure 13, low brass and saxophones introduce a second theme.  The piece continues in an ABACADA… form, returning each time to theme 1.  At measure 61, though the key signature never changes, the composer uses accidentals to play the final time through theme 1 in the key of F Major.

Performance Notes

Commissioned by and dedicated to Judice Middle School band in Lafayette, Louisiana, African Festival (1999) is based on a folk song entitled Siyahamba which was written when South Africa was governed by apartheid.  The lyrics to Siyahamba repeat “…we are marching in the light of God.”

Composer Quincy Hilliard would like to thank Rene Boyer-White for her assistance in researching the folk song used as the basis for this concert piece.

Musical Challenges

The biggest challenge for performers in this piece is to find a way to play all of the repetitions slightly differently so that the audience doesn’t find the performance too tedious.  There is some concern with an unmarked key change at measure 61, but once the students are made aware of the transposition to F Major, even that should be pretty easy to negotiate.  While the percussion parts are very repetitive, 7 performers are necessary to cover all written parts.

Instrument ranges, key signature, and time signature all should have this work as a Grade 1 piece.  I’m not sure why it isn’t.  A band capable of other Grade 2 level pieces may find this piece a little too repetitive to keep focused.  This may be a nice challenge, though, for a Grade 1 ensemble.  It also may be worth a try to adjust the tempo a little faster than what is marked.

About the Composer

Quincy C. Hilliard’s compositions for wind band are published by a variety of well known publishers. He is frequently commissioned to compose works, including one for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and a score for a documentary film, The Texas Rangers. In 2008, he was commissioned by the Library of Congress to compose a work in celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. For many years, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) has recognized him with annual awards for the unusually frequent performance of his compositions. Hilliard is regularly invited to conduct, demonstrate effective techniques, and adjudicate festivals throughout the world.

Hilliard is Composer in Residence and the Heymann Endowed Professor of Music at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. Previous teaching positions were at Nicholls State University, Florida International University, North Marion High School (Sparr, Florida) and White Station Junior and Senior High School (Memphis, Tennessee).

He holds the Ph.D. in music theory and composition from the University of Florida where, in 1999, he was recognized as the Outstanding Alumnus of the School of Music. He holds the Masters of Music Education from Arkansas State University and the Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Mississippi State University where he was designated College of Education 1998 Alumnus of the Year.  Hilliard’s early music experience was as a trumpet player in the public elementary and high school of his native Starkville, Mississippi. Dr. Hilliard is also president of Hilliard Music Enterprises, Inc. a personal consulting firm, which has a corporate board of distinguished music educators. He and his wife Rubye have two sons.