The Sword of Lancelot

John Moss
MusicWorks, 2004


The style of the introduction and primary thematic material is that of a bold and decisive nature.  Attacks should have impact without overdoing it.  The notes, particularly consecutive half notes, should have the appropriate decay to provide an overall linear cleanliness.  Regarding the eighth notes at measure 10, the tendency will be to play  them too short.  Strive for the full eighth note value, yet with proper attack.

The musical contrast conceived at measure 20 is stark. Pay close attention to the mezzo piano dynamic in the accompanying voices.  The playful flute figures at measure 20 become warmer and somewhat sentimental with the addition of the clarinets at measure 24, thus providing lyrical relief before a return to a stronger, more intense version of the original theme.

Performance Notes

For well over a thousand years the legend of King Arthur has provided an unceasing flow of inspiration for artists, composers, authors, and poets. The king, his wife Guinevere, the Knights of the Round Table (including Sir Lancelot), and Camelot is rich subject matter for countless tales of quest, glorious battle, travel to distant and exotic lands, and, or course disastrous romance.

The Sword of Lancelot (2004) musically describes the times and daring exploits of the medieval knight and suggests the knightly qualities of courage, courtesy, bravery, and valor.  Modal harmonic progression is the chief musical element utilized herein to conjure thoughts of an earlier historic era.

Musical Challenges

The mode of f dorian may provide a tonal challenge to the performers, but it is close enough to Eb Major that they shouldn’t struggle too greatly.  A strong familiarity with the key of Eb Major would be a good start, then practicing “F in the key of Eb” would be a good way to introduce the dorian mode.  Emphasis should be made to the sustaining voices at 7 that they need to stay underneath the eighth note melody in the trumpet. At the 2nd ending, the mood and pace of the piece change considerably to a more flowing, woodwind led melody.  Rehearsing from the 2nd ending through measure 31 (where the brass returns with the original theme) would be a great way to familiarize the performers with the different style.  Similarly, 44 though the D.S. al Coda could cause style issues.

The use of stylistic percussive elements, the mode of f dorian, range in the trumpets (extending to the written “D” at the top of the staff, slightly outside the normal Grade 1 range), and the greatly contrasting sections make this piece one of the more challenging on the Grade 1 list.  I might even list it as a low Grade 2.  The energy and excitement of the piece, however, will ensure that your students enjoy the preparation and the performance.

About the Composer

John Moss is active nationwide as a composer, arranger, and orchestrator in a wide variety of musical styles and formats. As a composer, he has an extensive background creating original music for documentary, educational, and promotional films. As an arranger, he has provided music for many live large-scale musical revues and production shows. John recently created the arrangements for Speak Low, a CD featuring Las Vegas trombonist John Haig with a 46-piece studio orchestra.

John's educational background includes undergraduate study in instrumental music at Central Michigan University and graduate work in theory and composition at Michigan State University. He has taught at both public school (band and choir) and university (theory) levels in Michigan.

John is currently a major contributor to the band and orchestra catalog of educational music publisher Hal Leonard Corporation and has several hundred published works to his credit. He also serves as arranger for the Disney educational project "Magic Music Days," where young performing musicians are introduced to the film scoring/recording process. In recent years he has accepted numerous school band and orchestra commissions, and has enjoyed writing for the Detroit Symphony Pops, the Canadian Brass, and the Detroit Chamber Winds. In 2004, John and three fellow orchestrators transcribed approximately 90 minutes of orchestral music by film composer John Williams for a Kennedy Center concert featuring the United States Marine Band, with Mr. Williams conducting.

John resides in East Lansing, Michigan.