Learning: Gustav Holst
Ah, looking at his name, he looks a German composer, but he was born in Cheltenham, England, on September 21, 1874 and died in London on May 25, 1934. He was British through and through and spent much of his creative life writing music based on English folk songs, much like his good friend Ralph Vaughn Williams (a quick aside about Mr. Vaughn Williams. First, his last name is Vaughn Williams, not Williams. Second, his first name is pronounced "Rafe" with a long vowel sound on the "a".)
Mr. Holst was a trombonist, thus his interest in bands. His First and Second Suites for Military Band are really the beginning of serious music written for concert band. (Our modern day concert bands grew out of the military band - the current instrumentation is slightly different; for example, we use mostly trumpets, not cornets.) The two suites and Mr. Holst concert band work, Hammersmith, are the first pieces origianlly written for band and transcribe for orchestra (usually it went the other way around - John Philip Sousa transcribed many orchestral works for his band). Mr. Holst didn't just write for band, he was a very famous British composer and wrote many pieces for orchestra, 8 operas, many choral works and over 40 songs.
Holst, like many composers, recycled his melodies and arrangements. All four of the movements in the Second Suite have at least some of the sections included in his other works. There are links below to choral or string orchestra versions and it is interesting to listen to them and see how similar the arrangements are! The Second Suite in F for Military Band was composed in 1911, before the sections were used in other music.
INFORMATION ABOUT EACH MOVEMENT
Knowing the songs from which Mr. Holst took his inspiration helps us to more accurately interpret our music and to more easily find the emotion in the arrangements of the tunes. Each of the movements in the Second Suite (and the First Suite) are based on British folk songs. If you know what the song is about, you can more easily put the emotion into your playing.
Mr. Holst uses four folk songs in this movement.
The opening of the first movement (“March”) of Holst’s Second Suite is the Morris Dance tune, Glorishears. Below is a link of Morris Dance group, Cyprus Morris, dancing to Glorishears.
Blue Eyed Stranger is the second folk song used in the March (starts at Letter B); it too, is a Morris Dance.
Swansea Town (starts at letter E). This song is what is called a "Riley Ballad". A Riley Ballad is a type of song/story where the man leaves town (to go to sea, war, adventuring), then returns in disguise to see if his sweetheart has remained faithful. The lady-love scorns him saying she will wait for her love and he reveals himself either by saying her name, or showing a broken token of which each has half, and of course they walk off into the sunset together and live happily ever after.
Holst also created a choral version of Swansea Town, which is included in his “6 Choral Folksongs, Op.36”, composed in 1916.
Claudy Banks This song is an Irish folk song, also known as Banks of the Claudy. There are several rivers of similar names and it is not known to which this song refers. The song is another Riley Ballad.
SONG WITHOUT WORDS (I'll Love My Love")
Odd that the movement is called "Song Without Words" when it is based on a song that HAS words! The song is sometimes called "I Love My Love" and is about a woman who ends up in Bedlam (insane asylum) because her love's parents sent him off to sea to separate the two of them. He finds her and they live happily ever after.
Holst also created a choral version of “I Love My Love”, which is included in his “6 Choral Folksongs, Op.36”, composed in 1916. Follow the link for a performance of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLTqb-fMHIA
SONG OF THE BLACKSMITH
Also known as “A Blacksmith Courted Me” this traditional English folksong, like others, has several sets of words and even different melodies.
Holst also created a choral version of “Song of the Blacksmith”, which is included in his “6 Choral Folksongs, Op.36”, composed in 1916. It is interesting the way he creates the sound of the blacksmith’s hammer clanking on the steel by using the same rhythm he used in the opening of the suite, but having the chorus sing the words, “Kang, Kang, Kang, ki ki kang kang…” Below is a link to the choral version.
FANTASIA ON THE 'DARGASON'
A “Fantasia” is a piece of music that doesn’t follow a particular form and is more a “free flight of fancy”
Dargason is a late 1500s English country dance (also known by “Sedanny”, “Sedany” and other names), and was popular at the court of King Henry VII.
If you are interested in folk dances, here is a link to the history and most common dance steps/form used for the Dargason: http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/lod/vol2/dargason.html
Greensleeves was a very popular Elizabethan Ballad during the time of Shakespeare and is first mentioned in 1580, although it may have been written earlier. It is a song of unrequited love — a dying man (rather well off) is expressing his sorrow that his love of “My Lady Greensleeves” has never been returned.
There are theories that Lady Greensleeves was a prostitute and also another that the song was written by Henry VIII about Anne Boleyn. Neither story really seems to fit with what historians know of the piece.
DARGASON + GREENSLEEVES
Dargason has a feeling of two beats per measure with each beat divided into three parts, which is called compound duple meter. Compound means the beat divides into 3 equal parts and duple means that there are 2 beats per measure. In this case, it is two groups of 3 eighth notes - written in 6/8.
Greensleeves, on the other hand, is in simple triple meter. Simple means the beat divides into two equal parts and triple means that there are three beats in a measure. Greensleeves has three groups of 2 eighth notes because it is written in 3/4. (To answer the question some of you are asking in your heads, yes, Greensleeves is often written in 6/8, but Mr. Holst chose to do it in 3/4 here to make it work the way he wanted it to work; it would be a very different sound in 6/8 and actually wouldn't work harmonically with Dargason!)
The two pieces have two things in common (this gets a bit technical... skip it if you wish):
1- Both have 6 eighth notes per measure, so even though one has three beats in a measure and the other has two beats per measure, we can play them together if we all think only the downbeat of the measure and REALLY concentrate!!! This happens twice -- at letter C and letter G.
2- Both are based on the same chord progression, kind of…
Dargason is in F major and the whole tune can be played over just two chords, F and gm (F major and g minor), each for two measures.
Greensleeves is in D dorian (Huh?). It can mostly be played over two chords, gm and dm (g minor and d minor), each for two measures.
OK... those don't look similar, but Mr. Holst starts the Greensleeves melody on the 3rd measure of the Dargason, which happens to be a gm chord! Ah, but what about the F chord and the dm? They are related and can be substituted for each other. F major triad = F A C; d minor triad = D F A. Notice that two of the three notes are in both chords (F and A). So with some substitution chords, the two can work together. Substitution chords are quite common in all music as it adds variety to the harmonic structure.
To set up our ear for the addition of Greensleeves in both sections C and G, Mr. Holst uses the d minor chord (instead of the F major) to start the Dargason.
Holst also used this arrangement of the Dargason and Greensleeves as the fourth movement in his “St. Paul Suite” for String Orchestra, composed in 1912. Here is a recording of the string orchestra version; notice how similar it is:
A Riley Ballad. Below are the lyrics that Mr. Holst used in his choral arrangement:
Oh farewell to you my Nancy, ten thousand times adieu;
Oh it's now that I am out at sea, and you are far behind;
Oh now the storm is rising, I see it coming on;
Oh it’s now the storm is over and we are safe, are safe on shore.
Another set of lyrics for Swansea Song - interesting contrast:
It was down by Swansea barracks
I said, "Fair maid, what brought you here,
"If eight years ago he left you
"On his left breast he wears a scar
Soon as she heard him say these words
On coming to herself once more up
'Twas on a pleasant morning all in the month of May
I boldly stepped up to her, I took her by surprise
It's on the way to Claudy's banks if you will please to show
He's crossing the wide ocian for honor and for fame
Now when she heard this dreadful news, she fell into despair
Now when he saw her loyalty, no longer could he stand
I LOVE MY LOVE
Abroad as I was walking
Oh cruel were his parents
Just as she there sat weeping
She said: “My love don’t frighten me,
So now these two are married,
THE SONG OF THE BLACKSMITH
For the blacksmith courted me, nine months and better;
But where is my love gone
Strange news is come to town
Don't you remember when
Oh, witness have I none
A blacksmith courted me
Alas, my love, ye do me wrong,
I have been ready at your hand,
I bought thee kerchers to thy head,
I bought thee petticoats of the best,
Thy smock of silk, both fair and white,
Thy girdle of the gold so red,
Thy purse, and eke thy gay gilt knives,1
Thy crimson stockings, all of silk,
Thy gown was of the grassy green,
Thy garters fringèd with the gold,
My gayest gelding thee I gave,
My men were clothèd all in green,
They set thee up, they took thee down,
For every morning, when thou rose,
Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,
And who did pay for all this gear,
Well! I will pray to God on high,
Greensleeves, now farewell! adieu!
Here are some hints to get you ready to REALLY PLAY the Holst. if you will truly follow my suggestions, you will find that most of it is pretty easy (at the tempo we will be taking it) and you will learn more about the music and understand it better. My number one suggestion is, KNOW THE SCALES involved. Most of the first movement is scalic (meaning it goes up and down the scales with very few leaps and no accidentals outside of the key).
Without exception, EVERYONE should get a recording of the piece (download or purchase a CD) and listen to the whole thing MANY times (not just once or twice). Put it in your car and listen to it over and over to get it in your soul and aural memory. At least do the first two movements for now, as that is what we will be playing for fall.
“But I’ve played this before! I don’t need to do that!” No, but you’ll learn even more about the piece and have more fun playing it if you do!!! But sure, if you’ve played it before you can get away with just showing up at the first rehearsal with very little review. It is up to you, your timeframe and your goals for your learning and playing. But listening to it and getting to where you are really hearing the inner parts, harmonies and rhythmic expressions will increase your joy of playing this piece at least 10-fold! Listening to a piece is ALWAYS part of a pro’s practice, so if they need it, it will help us, too!
1-What scales? Concert F major and Concert Bb minor.
--The beginning of the piece is in cut time and I’d like to get to metronome marking 84, so practice your scales so that you can play four notes to a beat (8th notes in cut time) up to 84 or 88 (we will not try to get it totally up to the tempo you hear on the recordings).
--Harmonic structure of the 1st movement (please feel free to skip this part and jump to #2; this explanation is for our more musically advanced members skip this part):
Throughout, I am speaking in concert pitches (click here for transposition reminder).
The first two sections, "Morris Dance" (beginning to the first beat of the measure before E) and "Swansea Town" (pickup to E to H), are in F major and there is no straying from the key of F major. "Swansea Town" ends on a strong 1 chord and the tonic pitch, F (1st note of the scale, “do"), becomes the 5 (“sol”) of the Bb minor section (5 always leads our ear strongly to the 1). "Claudy Banks" (H to the DS at the end of the movement) starts with a strong statement of the new tonic chord, Bb minor, then a pickup on the 5 of the new key (which, remember is the 1 of the old key, or the F). " Claudy Banks" is in Bb natural minor all the way through. The section ends on the tonic chord, Bb minor, and guess what!? Bb is the 4 of the original key, so it makes sense to our ears when we go back to the F major in the jump back to the beginning! (Although you wouldn’t normally hear a minor chord as the 4 to a major key!).
Follow the link to download a copy of the condensed score if you'd like to see more about the piece.
1-What scales? Concert F minor
2-COUNTING is the most important thing in this movement. You must know where your part of the accompaniment starts. Ex: at the beginning, some instruments start on beat one of the measure, and some overlap starting on beat three. At letter A and all the way to the hold, there is an unbroken series of eighth notes, but the runs are passed back and forth among the instruments. Sooo... you MUST know what beat the band is on at any given moment, AND what beat you are supposed to be on! So work on the counting.
1-What scales? F major
2-But this section isn't too difficult note-wise; the difficulty lies in the off-beats and some of the tricky rhythms (which we will go over in the first Monday afternoon rehearsal in case anyone is interested in coming).
It is really written in 7/4, but Mr. Holst has divided it up to be alternating measures of 4/4 & 3/4 which is easier to see and keep track of.
BRASS (and Bassoon, Bass Clarinet and Bari Sax off-beats later in the piece): DO NOT play the beginning until you have worked out the off-beat rhythm thing VERY SLOWLY. Speak the parts over and over while keeping the beat in your body. It is REALLY difficult to relearn things you've learned wrong, so do yourself a favor and practice the rhythm alone, keeping the beat, before trying to play it. Don't fool yourself - you can not accurately play the off-beats without tapping your foot, your toe, moving an elbow or somehow keeping the beat physically. Even the BSO players have to keep the beat to play this section accurately.
That said, go ahead and work on the notes in the off-beat section, but do not play them in rhythm, practice them as if they were all eighth notes. When you are solid on the off-beats, it will be easy to add the notes and put them in correctly.
BRASS: DO NOT TRY TO PLAY THE BEGINNING WITH THE RECORDING (unless you are working with SmartMusic and there is a count off click). Why? Because there is no downbeat played, so it ends up sounding like the opening melody begins on the beat, but it doesn’t -- it begins on the “and” of beat 1. However, you can play along when you get to letter A because at that point the upper reeds, saxes and horns have the song melody (pickup to A) and it is then easy to hear the beat. As well as I know this piece from playing it, conducting it and studying it, I find it near impossible to get my foot tapping correctly without at least 2 measures going by! You do not want to learn this feeling like the note comes on the beat, so be careful!
MELODY SECTIONS: First, see if you can find where the quarter note beats fall in each measure and make sure that you have identified the correct number of beats in each measure! If not, try recalculating! Watch out for the 32nd notes! Except for the 6th measure of the melody (where there is sometimes some syncopation), all of the notes are grouped by beat (but watch for the 8th rest - it goes with the pickup that follows it).
Once you have figured out where the beat is in each measure of the melody, listen to the recording (you should have purchased one by now! I really like the Edmonton Wind Ensemble version which is available by the movement on Amazon)
Anyway, with the recording, see if you can keep the beat and be able to follow along and keep your place at least measure by measure. (This is easier done if you get the Amazing Slow Downer and slow it down - a lot!)
Then, see if you can follow beat by beat and make sense of what you see and hear. Do that a whole bunch of times, and pretty soon your eyes will understand better than your brain! :-)
Also, listen to it a lot in the car or while exercising or in the house...
1-What scales? Also the F major scale (after all, this piece is called, "Second Suite in F"!). By now, you should have the F scale nailed, so work on the arpeggios for the I, IV, V chords, then add the ii and the vi. (I can hear your, "Huh?". Read on about the chords.)
2-You may have the Dargason melody in more than one octave. Work on all presentations of it, but if you find that you can play it one octave, but not another, at rehearsals play it whichever way you can.
CHORDS: In music, chords (3 or more notes played together) can be built on any note of the scale. A chord built on the first note of the scale is called the "one chord" and indicated with an upper case Roman numeral "I" if it is a major chord, or lower case "i" if it is a minor chord. To build the "I" triad (chord with three notes) you start on the first note of the scale, skip the second, play the third, skip the fourth and play the fifth note - every other note. That is less confusing than it sounds; look at the example below:
F major scale (if you are a transposing instrument, this is not the scale you would play to practice the Concert F major scale; this is YOUR F major, but not concert F):
F G A Bb C D E F
Let's do the IV chord. Start on the fourth scale step (Bb in the key of F):
If you play the notes all at once (like you can do on piano, or like we do at the end of our scales in band), you have a chord. If you play all of the notes in succession, one after another, you are playing an ARPEGGIO. An arpeggio is a chord played one note at a time. If you look at the Dargason melody, or the Greensleeves melody in movement 4, you will see a lot of back and forth between the scale and the arpeggio. Much of the accompaniment is also partial arpeggios, like at letter B and E where some instruments have only the 1 and the 5, or the 1 and the 3.
So the chords mentioned above are built by using the following scale steps, stacked on top of each other so that the next note is always higher than the one before. The formula for all instruments in any major scale is:
Learn those arpeggios (over more than one octave is best!) for the scale that is your Concert F Scale
ADVANCED EXTRA ON CHORDS (Feel free to skip this section)
The chords for minor scales are built the same way (every other note), but have different results.
Major scales are built as follows: Root (first note of the scale - also called the tonic) whole step, whole step, half step, whole, whole, whole, half (which puts you on the root/tonic an octave above where you started).
F G A Bb C D E F
Let's look at the formulas for all seven chords (see below for some terminology if there are terms you don't know):
Minor scales are built in 3 ways, but the natural minor form is: root, whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole, so the relative minor scale for F major is:
d minor = D E F G A Bb C D (relative minor means the two scales (F major and its relative minor, d minor), share a key signature. Follow the link above to learn more about scales.)
d natural minor scale = D E F G A Bb C D
So, with this different whole step/half step formula for the minor scales, the chords are still built the same way, but they have different qualities:
Chord - 3 or more notes played together
Triad - a chord made up of three notes
Arpeggio - the notes of a chord played in succession, one after another
Interval - Distance between two notes (a few intervals are below)
Chord Qualities - the combination of intervals and how that sounds to the ear
Each scale degree (note of the scale) has a name, which is also used to refer to the chord built on that step. The most important to know are Tonic, Subdominant and Dominant
You can find more information on scales on the following two pages of my Bandnotes website:
Building Scales which includes major and minor (all three forms), chromatic, circle of 5ths/4th
More Scales which includes dorian, mixolydian and all of the other "church modes" or basic jazz scales.
OK… now, for those of you thinking, “Huh??” to the scale stuff:
1-Scales needed in the first movement (F major is needed throughout) are Concert F major and concert Bb minor
The first two sections, the "Morris Dance" (beginning to the first beat of the measure before E) and "Swansea Town" (pickup to E to H), are both in concert F major and there is no straying from the key of F major. "Claudy Banks" (H to the DS at the end of the movement) is in concert Bb natural minor all the way through. Then it goes back to the beginning and we are in concert F major again.
The minor scales are major scales played by starting on the 6th step of the major scale, so Bb minor is built on a Db major scale:
Practice scales slowly to be sure you are accurate - not just one octave, but two or one and a half if two isn’t possible. When you get very accurate and you no longer need to think about it much, speed up a bit. Try it with a metronome — slowly at first and gradually setting the metronome faster and faster. Aim for eighth notes at 160 (or for the first rehearsal, 100). Ultimately, you’ll try to work for 16th notes at 84-88.
Enjoy your practicing!