Ever since my teen years in high school, I've been drawn to music for large forces, specifically, concert openers and closers that bring together all of a music department's choral and instrumental students and directors. Not only do these works provide a heightened air of excitement for audiences, the performers also greatly benefit from being part of an invigorating musical whole. There is no better confidence builder for individual players and singers at any level than participating in a well-rehearsed massed offering.
My own extensive choral and instrumental background puts me in a unique position to deal with these rich textures, having performed in, written for, and conducted a variety of bands, orchestras, and choirs from elementary school to college in my career. As a composer and arranger, I cannot think of a more exhilarating experience than the creative process of writing a combined choral/instrumental work and then ultimately hearing it come to life.
Educators who regularly program these important opportunities for their students will quickly tell you that if the choir and band directors thoroughly rehearse their respective parts during the daily class time, a single massed rehearsal should be enough to coordinate the combined ensembles shortly before the performance. It's also a good idea for all directors involved to sit down with scores and pencils in hand before placing the sheet music in front of their students, making sure that they are on the same page when it comes to basic style, phrasing, and interpretation. Breathing points throughout the work should especially be discussed, decided on, and taught consistently.
In my three decades as a secondary school music educator and administrator, I witnessed hundreds of combined choral/instrumental performances involving our students. I can tell you that seeing the smiles on the faces of the proud performers leaving the stage and hearing the positive afterglow comments from the audience was enough for directors to collectively say: "Wow, we've got to do that again!" If you've tried this yourself in your school, I'm sure my comments ring true. If you haven't yet, consider making this happen for your students next year.
Click here for a listing of Alfred publications for Chorus/Orchestra and Chorus/Band.