Evening Prayer

David Shaffer
Birch Island Music Press, 1997


Evening Prayer (1997) is dedicated to the middle school band directors in the state of Georgia who provide the initial instruction to young students of instrumental music.  This dedication is appropriate in that this piece is an excellent vehicle for helping young students to better understand legato playing.

Throughout the composition the accompaniment tend to be half note dominated harmonies that support lyrical, flowing eighth note melodies.  The piece begins in the very comfortable key of Bb Major, and transitions to another very comfortable key of Eb Major at measure 30, with limited use of accidentals to provide a bit of color and voice-leading.  Shaffer builds a “slightly faster” section into the middle of the piece (measure 23) to add some musical variety, but this chorale-style work pretty much maintains its relaxed tempo throughout.

Performance Notes

Demonstrate your band's expressive abilities with this wonderfully touching, original chorale prelude. Quiet and emotional, this is a great vehicle for teaching legato style, and will help your band develop a more mature sound. Parents will be amazed at the lush sounds the band can produce, and the soft ending will cause everyone to catch their breath!

Musical Challenges

Before performing this piece, the band must review the rules of chorale-style playing!  Long, flowing, lyrical passages should always dominate the texture over the harmonic half note accompaniment.  Note values should be held through and emphasis should be placed on having no gaps within phrases.  Students should also lean on moving rhythms, and follow the rise and fall of their melodic line with their dynamics.

As new melodic voices take over, they should strive to have their sound soar above the texture of the half notes.  Shaping the dynamics to fallow the contour of the melodic line would also enhance the musical expression in the piece.  As the ensemble approaches the climax of the piece at measure 34, students should be careful not to overplay the fortissimo dynamic.  It also happens that leading out of the climax is where the brass and saxophones have the most accidentals.  Take care that the piece doesn’t become anti-climactic due to wrong notes!

Percussion should be careful never to dominate the texture.  While the parts are sparsely written, the wind chimes and suspended cymbal play vital roles in establishing a lyrical setting.  The snare drum roll leading into measure 30 and then again into measure 34 should be played with a nice, tight buzz roll and should simply contribute to the crescendo.  The snare should definitely not overplay the ensemble.  One weakness in this piece is that the percussionists are not given much to do.  Try to balance the program with something more exciting for them to avoid rebellion!

About the Composer

David Shaffer was born in Columbus, Ohio and attended Grove City High School, Grove City, Ohio. He holds a Bachelor Degree from The Ohio State University and a Master of Music Degree from Miami University (Ohio). Mr. Shaffer has taught in the Hamilton, Ohio; Northridge, Ohio; and Wyoming, Ohio schools. Mr. Shaffer has been associated with the Miami University Marching Band for 30 years as Graduate Assistant Director (1978-80), Assistant Director (1980-97) and has been the Director for the past 11 years. Under his direction, the Miami Band has performed twice at the University of Michigan, West Virginia University and the University of Cincinnati. In 2000 and 2005, the Miami Band performed a combined half-time show with the Ohio State University Marching Band. The Miami Band has performed for seven regional Bands of America Contests and is currently hosting one of these yearly events at Miami University. In 2003 the Miami Band performed as the “Santa Band” in the 77th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

In addition to his involvement with the Miami University Marching Band, Mr. Shaffer has over 250 compositions and arrangements in print. His compositions have been used at clinics and music festivals around the world and have been placed on contest required-performance lists in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Mr. Shaffer has been the recipient of the ASCAP Standard Award in Music Composition for 18 years.

Under the direction of Mr. Shaffer, the Wyoming High School String Orchestra performed as the opening group at the 1984 Mid-West National Band and Orchestra Director's Clinic in Chicago. Additional Mid-West conducting appearances were in 2000 and 2001 when Mr. Shaffer guest conducted his compositions with the Robinson School Band, Fairfax, Va., and the South Central Middle School Band, Carterville, Ga.

Mr. Shaffer is in demand as a conductor for new music reading clinics, music festivals, and music education seminars. During the Summer of 1986 and 1992, he served as instrumental director for the Saskatchewan School of Fine Arts. In February of 1997 he conducted a program of his music, with the China Youth Corps Band in the National Concert Hall, Taipei, Taiwan. Mr. Shaffer is a past adjudicator for Drum Corps International and Drum Corps Midwest and has judged championship events for both organizations.