TITLE: THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY
COMPOSER: Arranged by John O’Reilly
PUBLISHER: Alfred Music
GRADE LEVEL: ½ (VERY EASY)
The percussion section begins this piece with sleigh bells, triangle, tom toms, and bass drum creating a natural crescendo. Much in the same way as the Baroque technique of “terraced dynamics” where the volume increases as more instruments are added and vice versa.
The low brass and F. horns following the percussion introduction play an effective pedal point on B-flat. This effect continues for the first twelve measures, while the woodwinds and bells state the melody.
A modified fanfare is tastefully written for the trumpets, and adds a new color to the musical palette.
The woodwinds play in octaves throughout the piece and state the melody with the similar trumpet fanfare interpolated at the end of the phrases.
The bells play the melody throughout. Perhaps they could rest occasionally ( tacet) as a change in instrumental color and to avoid tonal monotony. They could outline the significant notes in the melody.
The snare drum part presents no challenge in that it repeats a two-measure figure almost throughout the piece.
O’Reilly makes excellent use of pedal points throughout, adding the fifth between the octaves for added sonority and color. This compositional effect is skillfully used for thirty-five of the sixty measures in this arrangement.
The low brass and woodwinds effectively take up the melody, in octaves, allowing them to stand out.
A piano accompaniment is wisely included to help fill in areas where instruments may be missing or are weak. The left hand of the piano is valuable for reinforcing the low bass notes, and this is the area where bands often have the weakest or an insufficient number of players.
This is a good quality piece for a young band to grapple with legato style, both from an articulation and air management standpoint. Playing lyrically without slurring is one of the great challenges a young band faces.
Purchase at Alfred Publishing: THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY