Wood County Celebration

John O'Reilly
Alfred Publishing, 1983


Wood County Celebration (1983) is indeed a musical celebration.  The eighth note melody with the interspersed dotted eighth/sixteenth pattern that pervades the piece has a very uplifting feel to it.  Oddly, for a piece written in c minor this composition is quite cheery!  Also of note, though all but one measure of the piece is in 4/4 time, John O’Reilly does an excellent job with placing accents and ties across the bar line in interesting places and pulling the piece out of a “4/4 grid” and giving it a sense of lighthearted freedom.

Performance Notes

Wood County Celebration (1983) is an exciting, vibrant composition by one of America’s most performed composers of band music.  There are three distinct moods represented in this composition.  The first is characterized by biting, repeated chords and active percussion.  Following this introduction the trumpets present a dramatic melody that is further developed by flutes and clarinets.  The third section features a playful flute melody accompanied by syncopated clarinets and low woodwinds.  This idea is extended to the full band leading to the return of the introductory material and the exciting conclusion.

Musical Challenges

As the key never changes from c minor ( a relatively accessible band key) and the meter only leaves 4/4 (for 2/4!) for one measure, those are not areas in which the band is likely to struggle.  This piece has three potential stumbling blocks: Balance between melodic and accompanying lines, counting rhythms, and technical facility.

Oddly for a Grade 3 composition, there is a lot of rhythmic unison.  When I compare this score to James Swearingen’s Invicta, I wonder how they can be on the same level of difficulty.  That said, I really enjoy this piece! Melodic lines are light, flowing, and uplifting.  This is partly due to the way that O’Reilly combines rhythmic elements in his lyrical lines.  Students should count all parts before playing the piece!  Accompanying voices can help the character of the piece by playing light, crisp, articulate notes.  As soon as the melody has to struggle to be heard, this piece will lose its whimsical nature.

This piece is a great vehicle for working on rhythm, particularly the dotted eighth/sixteenth rhythm.  The tune is catchy enough that your young ensemble members will find them singing it to themselves when they daydream! Syncopation will be easier if the students observe the written accents.  Also, the melodic lines could become quite boring if the piece is played in an unaccented fashion.

Finally, students should start slowly on the faster technical passages, and then work for speed.  I’m already excited about when I can program this piece for my band to perform!

About the Composer

John O'Reilly is one of the most-performed composers of band music in the world today. A recipient of numerous ASCAP awards, he has studied composition with Robert Washburn, Arthur Frackenpohl, Charles Walton and Donald Hunsberger.  Mr. O'Reilly graduated from the Crane School of Music, State University of New York at Potsdam. In addition, he is the recipient of a Master of Arts in Composition and Theory degree from Columbia University. His years of teaching experience at elementary through college levels has provided him with insights and sensitivities to the needs of both student and educators. As co-author of Accent on Achievement, the Yamaha Band Student and Strictly Strings, Mr. O'Reilly has made a major impact on contemporary instrumental music education.