Chorale & Caprice

James Curnow
Curnow Music Press, 2003


Though the title refers to a two-movement work, this composition is actually divided into three diverse sections.  The piece opens with an original chorale which continues to move back and forth between the g dorian mode and g minor tonal centers, and which features an exchange back and forth between the band colors of woodwinds vs. brasses.  The chorale also focuses on expressive playing, which is later contrasted with the caprice.

The caprice features high energy, fast tempo, and many styles of accented
notes. After the initial introduction of the caprice by the full band, references to the chorale are occasionally heard over the caprice melodic and rhythmic lines.  After
a fairly lengthy development, the chorale returns at twice the length of each note, while various motifs from the caprice are juxtaposed over it.  This last section of the piece helps to draw the entire composition to both an exciting and musical conclusion.

Performance Notes

The most important character of good musical performance is tone.  Tone affects the sound, intonation, and the overall characteristic quality of the ensemble. Spending time on tuning will not help intonation without quality individual tones.

Musical Challenges

The opening chorale of this piece presents a wonderful opportunity to work on tone.  From measures 1-11, the woodwinds carry the chorale.  Spending time on this section, developing good tone, balance, and blend will help with intonation.

In measures 11-14, the brass takes over the chorale.  This section will help to correct the same problems that were in the woodwinds.  Measure 15-22 feature the entire ensemble playing a full forte and will require full, well-supported tones from each individual performer.  Remember, if the individual and small ensemble tones are not well developed, the loud ensemble sound (and intonation) will not be good.

In the caprice, the style of playing is far more important than the exact tempo.  The parts are heavily marked with style articulations and must be observed closely; otherwise the tempo will be greatly affected.  The caprice also presents many opportunities to teach style, articulation, and dynamic contrast, which when working together appropriately, create energy and drive for this movement.

Percussion is extremely important throughout the piece, whether delicate (chorale) or accented (caprice).  Time must be spent on individual and ensemble technique and on listening to and playing with the full ensemble.

This is a great educational vehicle, but a very difficult Grade 1 piece.

About the Composer

James Curnow was born in Port Huron, Michigan and raised in Royal Oak, Michigan where he received his initial musical training in the public schools and The Salvation Army Instrumental Programs. He lives in Nicholasville, Kentucky where he is president, composer, and educational consultant for Curnow Music Press, Inc., publishers for concert band and brass band. He is also Composer-in-residence (Emeritus) on the faculty of Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, and is editor of all music publications for The Salvation Army in Atlanta, Georgia.

His formal training was received at Wayne State University, B.M. (Detroit, Michigan) and at Michigan State University, M.M (East Lansing, Michigan), where he was a euphonium student of Leonard Falcone, and a conducting student of Dr. Harry Begian. His studies in composition and arranging were with F. Maxwell Wood, James Gibb, Jere Hutchinson, and Irwin Fischer.

James Curnow has taught in all areas of instrumental music, both in the public schools (five years), and on the college and university level (thirty years). He is a member of several professional organizations, including the American Bandmasters Association, College Band Directors National Association, National Band Association and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. In 1980 he received the National Band Association’s Citation of Excellence. In 1985, while a tenured Associate Professor at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Mr. Curnow was honored as an outstanding faculty member. Among his honors are inclusion in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the South and Southwest, and Composer of the Year (1997) by the Kentucky Music Teachers Association and the National Music Teachers Association.

Curnow has been commissioned to write over two hundred works for concert band, brass band, orchestra, choir and various vocal and instrumental ensembles. His published works now number well over four hundred. His most recent commissions include the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra (Symphonic Variants for Euphonium and Orchestra), the United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own, Washington, D.C.-Lochinvar, Symphonic Poem for Winds and Percussion), Roger Behrend and the DEG Music Products, Inc. and Willson Band Instrument Companies (Concerto for Euphonium and Orchestra), the Olympic Fanfare and Theme for the Olympic Flag (Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, 1996), the Kentucky Music Teachers Association/National Music Teachers Association in 1997 (On Poems of John Keats for String Quartet) and Michigan State University Bands (John Whitwell, Director of Bands) in honor of David Catron’s twenty-six years of service to the University and the University Bands (Ode And Epinicion).