Fourth Section Test Pieces

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Andrew Norman, Aug 25, 2015.

  1. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    I am looking for suggestions for pieces which have been used as fourth section test pieces and which are interesting for audiences.
    Something with a strong narrative works well - Four Cities Symphony for instance is always well received.
    We are a non-contesting band with the usual strengths and weaknesses of fourth section bands but we like to include something more substantial in all our church/bandstand concerts (2 or 3 each year).
    Recently we have used:-
    Four Cities Symphony
    British Isles Suite
    both Arnold Little Suites
    both Holst Suites
    Vaughan Williams Folk Song Suite
    Malvern Suite
    Indian Summer
    Various Overtures
    Percussion requirements should be minimal.

    I look forward to you suggestions - thank you.
  2. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Gordon Jacob's Suite in B Flat has always seemed to me to have a superior quality about it. Likewise, Philip Sparke's The Four Noble Truths, which (in my opinion) is something of a departure from many of his earlier works, although I suspect the percussion parts are more demanding, given that it's a more recent work. And if you are willing to extend your search a little further beyond the technical limits of the Fourth Section, Granville Bantock's The Land of the Ever Young is a little gem, for which (I think) the percussion parts are restricted to snare, cymbals and BD.

    Having said that, I would not do the composers of any of these works the disservice of labelling them as testpieces - they are all well-crafted pieces of music, no more, no less, which would fit well into any enterprising band's concert programme.
  3. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    The piece used for Butlins this year - 5 French Masters - is a nice little piece, 5 movements that can be played together or separately. 2 perc parts - Kit and a bit of tuned
    English Pastorale (Areas this year) again separate movements, although a little heavier on percussion
    Malvern Suite or Music for a Festival if you fancy a bit of Philip Sparke
    Bit of Goff Richards - Saddleworth Festival Overture, or if you fancy a little more difficult Oceans or Three Saints
    Was also going to mention Indian Summer but note you'd already mentioned it....
  4. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    Thank you for the above comments - Malvern Suite is one which we have used and very much enjoyed playing.

    My "labelling" as Test Pieces was merely a means to identifying pieces which would give us a little challenge but keeping within our fairly modest abilities.
    I always like to play something which can stretch both band and audience (we are easily stretched,,,).
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2015
  5. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    Facets of Glass is one that I had thought about but I saw a comment somewhere about needing a strong Baritone - ours has a lovely tone but is reliable as a British Summer.
    Any thoughts ?
  6. Ianroberts

    Ianroberts Well-Known Member

    Thats you short of a Baritone player then !

  7. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    He's reliable as in he is there - but like the British Summer you never know what you'll get.
    Lovely man, beautiful tone.
  8. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    We have also used Rhapsody on Negro Spirituals and worked on Saint Saens Variations (which I think is an absolute masterpiece) but we haven't had the courage to play it out yet.
  9. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Land of the Ever Young is a great shout. Fantastic piece. I quite like Michael Ball's Cambrian Suite, and the Eric Ball Divertimento is a reliable classic (and my first ever test piece, in common with a lot of people I suspect). Simon Called Peter (Vinter) and RSA'a Stantonbury Festival might also be worth a look, although I can't quite remember how hard they are. I seem to remember Drake Rimmer's Othello being OK, although it's a dog's age since I've played it, and assuming you haven't yet done it the overture to Pirates of Penzance is a belter and very playable.
  10. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    Divertimento is certainly in the library - don't think we've played that and can't for the life of me think why not !
    Land of the Ever Young sounds like a popular choice with a certain irony considering the average age of my band...
  11. bigcol

    bigcol Member

    Lydian Pictures
    Stantonbury Festival
    Chorale and Toccata (although that has lots of perc?)
    Pennine Moors
    Legend in Brass
  12. Cornet23

    Cornet23 Member

    I loved "An English Pastorale" which was the 4th section areas piece for this year. I was mostly alone in my love for it at band, though.. but you never know, it's worth a listen!
    second_horn likes this.
  13. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    I thought English Pastorale was a great piece, and most of our band loved it as well. Especially so compared to Visions for the Final.....(although we've grown to love that too, over time)

    Stantonbury Festival definitely - slightly less melodic but still a challenge would be 3 Haworth Impressions (Langford?)
  14. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    I'm not looking for too much of a challenge but what is important is to be able to explain it to the audience and help them on a journey to enjoy the music.
    We play to strictly non-brass band audiences.
    Something like Four Cities Symphony is great for this as was British Isles Suite (although I thought the music far less interesting).
    Shipbuilders we have tried and struggled with.

    I seem to remember The Journeyman being ok ? Anyone else ?
    Euphonium Lite likes this.
  15. iancwilx

    iancwilx Active Member

    I agree "The Shipbuilders" by Peter Yorke is an excellent descriptive piece and I would think a good test for a decent 4th Section outfit. I reckon "Chorale & T. would be a step too far. The "Shipbuilders" is more tuneful and good to rehearse IMO.
  16. bassmittens

    bassmittens Member

    Oregon by Jacob de Hann. The band will love it, and it's a bit different for an audience to listen to.
  17. midlandman

    midlandman Member

    Lydian Pictures for me
    It has a challenge yet still paints some accessible musical pictures
  18. bigcol

    bigcol Member

    Haslemere Suite is descriptive if a little corny in places.
  19. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Saint Saens Variations is great, and very audience friendly..... go for it :)

    Have you looked here? Test Pieces By Section - Brass Band Results
  20. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    Yes I have seen the above list but it doesn't give me the information I need on what pieces can take the audience on a journey with us..

    Saint Saens Variations is an incredible piece and we will manage to play it one day - we would need all our better players together in one go and that doesn't happen often enough.

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