Students at Sir Jack Hayward Junior High School Grand Bahama Island (via their teacher Janet Russell) have challenged me to write them some music for steel band which they can play to mark Commonwealth Day, 9th March 2015.
So, I’ve been arranging My Guardian Angel for the band. I’m not a complete newcomer to steel pan writing – my Shakespeare cantata, Storm, has a prominent solo part, which I’ve re-edited over the years, as I’ve learned more about how the instruments sound. But writing for a whole band was quite an education; fellow composers, if you find yourself having to master this ensemble in a hurry, I recommend this site. The key fact is obvious – the lower the notes, the bigger the drum, the fewer notes on that drum, the more drums one player has to play, the further physical distance the performer has to cover – so, slowly moving bass parts and harmonic motion are recommended.
As usual, having to rethink my own music from an unusual perspective was a rewarding activity; thank you, Sir Jack Hayward students, for that. And, as the London winter temperatures struck, I rather envied my music getting into an envelope which would shortly be flying off to a sunny place with palm trees.