Brass Does Broadway
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
If I had a pound for every time I listened to a musical theatre song and wished that someone somewhere could arrange it for brass band, I would be richer than Donald Trump (despite the fact he doesn't know how to pay tax). In the banding world, we are lucky to have so many wonderful, talented, marvellous composers, who can take a song we know and love and make it better by arranging it for brass band. This is definitely not me stroking the egos of brass band composers to persuade them to arrange these pieces. However, if a composer did stumble upon this post and decided to make any of these a reality, wouldn't that be a wonderful coincidence? So without further ado, this is just a shortlist of some pieces that I would love to be arranged for band.
'The Old Red Hills of Home' from 'Parade'
'Parade' is a musical I became obsessed with at the beginning of the year when my lovely colleague, Laura, introduced me to it. 'Parade' is a vastly underrated musical by Jason Robert Brown and the music is something I have never really experienced before. I think it is one of those musicals that you either love or hate. The subject matter is controversial and the music contains songs that are quite musically complicated. He has a brilliant talent of merging 2 or more songs together or incorporating themes from other parts of the musical into a single song, but it's not really like Les Miserables where it fits perfectly. It's hard to describe, I urge you to listen to the full musical on Youtube (click here to listen to the full soundtrack - you're welcome). Anyway, this opening number is my favourite song of the musical. I'm not a particularly patriotic person and I'm not American but it stirs the kind of emotion similar to when I play pieces like 'Jerusalem'. It is so rousing and I can visualise a band playing it - bear with me...just imagine click on the track above to listen whilst you read my idea. Just imagine:
Start with a solo snare drummer in the middle of the stage. Two solo players appear to play their respected 'verses' and the band gradually enters the stage behind the soloists and drummer before the full band plays the full rousing chorus at the end.
Oh I'm getting excited just thinking about it!
'Burn' and 'You'll Be Back' from Hamilton
There are so many songs from 'Hamilton' that I would love to play, but as so many contain rap I imagine they would be pretty difficult for a band to perform. I would love to see 'Burn' written for flugelhorn. It's a beautiful emotive song that I think, especially when performed in a venue with an echo, would be simply stunning.
'You'll Be Back' is a comical song sung by King George and there is so much that could be done with this in terms of performance if it was arranged for a soloist. It would make a really good piece to perform as part of an entertainment programme with the soloist dressed up in a crown and cape, whilst acting bratty when performing. It's a total opportunity to act like a complete diva! I know some players would jump at the chance for this! It's me...I'm some players who would jump at the chance to be a diva on stage.
'With One Look' from 'Sunset Boulevard'
This was a song I heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago and I could not believe I've never heard this soundtrack before! It was a version sung by Barbara Streisand, whose voice I just love, because of her sweet tone and the sheer amount of musicality that woman has - it is simply criminal. Anyway, as I was listening I was just imagining it being played on cornet or euphonium. It is such a stunning song and it would ake a really emotive slow melody. I know that this has already been arranged as ensemble piece for brass band as an ensemble piece, but I would love to hear it as a solo.
'Defying Gravity' from 'Wicked'
I know that there are various arrangements of excerpts from 'Wicked', but again this would make an amazing solo piece. I think it would feel amazing as a solo player to be stood in front of the band playing the melody with that uplifting, motivating band accompaniment behind you, especially if you got to play this at the first performance we are allowed to do. After all the crap our community has and is going through this year, it would be like a phoenix rising out of the ashes type of moment. Whether as part of the ensemble or as a soloist, I would cry. The front row of the audience would need ponchos, I would cry so hard.
Haben Sie Gehört Das Deutsche Band from The Producers
This would be EPIC if arranged for brass band! It is such a fun song and would be a real foot-tapper. I reckon a band could have a lot of fun playing this and it would be something really entertaining for the audience. Can you imagine the whole band shouting 'KEY CHANGE!'. Simply hilarious. However, I would strongly advise against band members dressing up as nazis or the display swastikas...I don't think that would go down quite so well.
Something a little bit different
Broadway/Musicals/Films are often picked as themes for concerts, but a lot of the arrangements we pick have been done to death (Breezin' Down Broadway etc) and are not very inspiring to play anymore. I think, not only would these arrangements be something different for us to play, we could introduce something a bit different to the audience. Who doesn't love being introduced to new music?! Furthermore, there is a lot of room for interesting entertaining antics that can be injected into the performances of these pieces. We have time to think since we still can't perform properly. Why don't we use this time to continue to think imaginatively and use arrangements such as these to give our performances a new lease of life and to give our audiences something different? Who knows, it may even persuade new people to watch us.
Let me know what you think? Are the other musical theatre pieces that could work well for brass band?
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