Looking for a Solo & Ensemble Festival selection? I’ve collected some of my favorites – all of them are approved on the MSHSAA prescribed graded music list, and yet they’re not the same ones that everyone plays in this book and this book (so the judges aren’t sick of hearing them!).
Béla Bartók: Evening in the Country
Why You’ll Love It: Bartók was a Hungarian composer who lived 1881-1945. His compositions often use folk melodies, as is the case with “Este a székelyeknél” – sometimes translated as Evening in the Country and other times as Evening in the Village. Originally a piano solo and then the first movement of his orchestral work Hungarian Sketches, Bartók’s take on this melody proved so popular that it’s been adapted as a solo for many instruments. As you listen to the sample below, note how you’ll get to play contrasts between long, rich held notes and short moving notes – it’s got the best of both worlds!
Paul Hindemith: Echo
Why You’ll Love It: Hindemith was a German composer who lived 1895-1963. This piece, which is in ABA form, takes its inspiration from a Thomas Moore poem that begins, “How sweet the answer Echo makes/to music at night/when, roused by lute or horn, she wakes/and far away, o’er lawns and lakes/goes answering light!” It’s a great selection if you want to really hone in on your ability to make decisions about how to interpret phrases – and how to communicate about those interpretations with a pianist, since you’ll both be imitating each other.
Three Traditional Spirituals (arr. Marlatt)
(MSHSAA #: 15626 | Buy online at JW Pepper)
Why You’ll Love It: Spirituals are a distinctive African American art form created by enslaved people who combined African musical elements with European hymns. Like many forms of folk music, they are primarily passed down via an oral-aural tradition (by ear) – making it what we sometimes call a “living” tradition. That said, you can look at the Library of Congress’ collection here, which labels them the “one of the largest and most significant forms of the American folksong.” The three spirituals arranged here are: 1)Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, 2)My Lord, What a Morning, and 3)Steal Away. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find a video of this exact arrangement, but you could learn a lot by watching my friend Michael Morton playing two spirituals here:
All the Pretty Little Horses (arr. Pappas)
(MSHSAA #: 14795 | Buy online at JW Pepper)
Why You’ll Love It: This beloved lullaby, believed to originate during slavery in the American South, has been turned into children’s books and covered by bands from Peter Paul and Mary to Joan Baez. This arrangement is beautifully done and gives you a place to show your phrasing and shimmering tone. It’s got a quicker middle section that will give you some nice practice in the key of E Minor, too. While I couldn’t find a flute video of this one, you can enjoy the incomparable Rhiannon Giddens singing this song here:
Christophe Willibald Gluck (arr. Voxman): Gavotte from Don Juan
Why You’ll Love It: Gluck, who lived from 1714-1787, was a prolific composer of Italian and French opera – but over half of his work was destroyed in a catastrophic fire in 1809. Don Juan was one of the works that survived, and happily so, since the ballet pantomine was groundbreaking in its time. This gavotte, a French folk dance, is cheerful and bright. It’s written here in D major, which is a great way to stretch yourself if you’ve primarily been playing in Bb and Eb for school band!
A small disclaimer: While I’ve done my best to be accurate here, please remember MSHSAA is the expert on its own festival and might update their rules at any time. So be sure to check their website and verify your plan with your band teacher!