Replacing a Wenger Legacy Basic Acoustical Shell Panel

File under “don’t try this at home.”

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Last year, someone damage the top panel of one of our Wenger acoustical shells. It’s the panel that folds up and down and can be set at one of several angles, and my guess is that someone was too rough with it. The braces connecting the panel to the joint where it pivots were pushing into the panel itself and didn’t seem safe to use any more. So, this summer I called Wenger to ask about getting a replacement panel.

Although the shell has a label that says something like “Don’t try to remove or repair this panel!”, there were no other options for us. After the panel arrived, our facilities manager and I took a closer look at the shell to figure out how to safely remove the old panel and replace it with the new one.

First up, we had to remove the top panel. We tried to careful to relieve pressure on the gas lift supports, but it didn’t matter much. When the panel is folded down, they are close to being fully extended. While I wouldn’t want to take one in the eye, they didn’t seem to pose a lot of risk.

Second, we had to remove the pins that held the top panel to the middle panel at the hinge. A pair of pliers were helpful to grip the pin guide at each end. This is where things get a little dangerous and difficult. Without someone holding onto the top panel when you remove the pins, it will fall to the floor. Worse, if there isn’t anyone keeping tension on the crank on the back, the lift arm will shoot up to its maximum height very quickly when the top panel is removed. (We may have learned this the hard way). If you mess up this part, you have to put enough tension on the lift arm to allow someone to turn the hand crank slowly back to the bottom position.

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It probably requires 4-5 people to do the job. After the old panel was removed, we put the new one back, replacing the pins first and then reattaching the lift supports.

Favorite pieces: All Ye Young Sailors

Another of my favorite pieces for 2nd year band is Pierre La Plante's All Ye Young Sailors, an arrangement of the sea chantey "Blow the Man Down." Of course, the moment the students hear the melody, they recognize it as the theme from Spongebob Squarepants. Since I'm not a fan of the show, why do I like the piece?

Melody

While some composers and styles minimize melody, most people (and that includes most students) thrive on good melodies. Recognizable, hummable melodies stick with band students for days, weeks, and months (and yes, years for some), so great tunes are high on my list of priorities when I select music. La Plante's skillful scoring provides every section with the opportunity to play at least part of the melody, so even the low brass players and saxophones have a chance to shine.

Time Signature and Rhythm

There aren't as many pieces in 6/8 for young band as ones in 4/4. All Ye Young Sailors has a great mix of beginning 6/8 rhythms, and there is just the right amount of independence in the parts. Note and rest values include eighth, quarter, dotted quarter, and dotted half. There are no offbeat entrances. Some instruments play a staccato quarter (or a single eighth) followed by an eighth rest (or two), but everything else looks pretty much like the early exercises in 6/8 from common method books. The most complicated section rhythmically is a round at the end.

Compositional Techniques

The round at bar 41 is not the only cool compositional technique in the piece. The melody travels between sections in two bar segments as a call and response (for instance, 13-21). There is an example of stretto at 19. Trumpet 1 plays an augmented version of the melody at 23. I don't dig into all of these with my sixth graders, but I'll spend at least some time on the ways La Plante disguises the melody. After all, knowing who has the melody is an important part of playing your own part, no matter what you have!

Be Prepared

I always start working on All Ye Young Sailors with a review of 6/8 in the book and then take brief sections of the piece with the ensemble. We may speak or clap some parts before playing them as well. If a group is doing well with 6/8, they can likely get through the whole piece on the first read-through, but watch out for the tempo changes at 35 and 37. I typically conduct 35-36 in 6 and watch the flutes carefully--once they can play their eighth notes with me, I make sure the clarinets and saxes are watching and listening to sustain their pitches. Good cues at 41 and following for the round are also important.

If you're interested in purchasing All Ye Young Sailors, doing so through the affiliate link below benefits my school.

Cover tiny file look inside All Ye Young Sailors Composed by La Plante. Score. Published by Daehn Publications (DH.DP2509-SC).

Picking Music for Contest

Judges have often commented to me that they appreciated my music selection. Perhaps it's just something they say to everyone, but I take it as a sincere compliment when it happens regularly for adjudicated performances for both concert and jazz bands. Here are my basic guidelines and then a couple great sample programs for contest.

Be respectful of the given time and style guidelines

If there is a required music list, choose from it. If a ballad is asked for, play one. These things seem obvious, but listening to other groups at events we have attended tells me that not everyone thinks of this.

Choose music that makes your group sound as good as possible

Sometimes we directors are used to having a certain level of group, but it may not always be possible to sustain playing that level of music. While I agree that it is good to make a group stretch, music selection for a contest needs to be within the reach of the ensemble. The feedback a group receives can be uplifting or devastating based on the difficult of the music, and the students should not be penalized for a director's poor choice of music. [As an aside, if you realize too late that something is too hard, own up to it! Let the students know your own failings.]

Value variety

Your selections should provide as much contrast as possible with each other. Possible areas include: key center and tonality, tempo, style, time signature, time period, cultural influence, weight, length, and more

Sample Programming

Here are two sample programs and my considerations in picking each.

Jazz Band at a Competitive Jazz Festival

Punta del Soul
Together Houses
Better Get Hit In Your Soul

With these three tunes, we fit the requirements of the festival really well. A Latin chart, a ballad, and a 3/4 gospel swing gave us three contrasting styles. All three tunes stretched the band in different ways, but none was out of reach. Punta del Soul required a level of timing and execution (and some woodwind doublings) beyond anything they had previously played, but they really liked it and worked for it. I knew that Punta and Together gave us a strong 1-2 in the program, so I looked specifically for a closer. Better Get Hit was exactly what I wanted--energetic from beginning to end, and the 3/4 swing feel worked great with the straight eighths in 4/4 from the previous tunes.

Concert Band at State-Sponsored Contest

Prospect - Pierre La Plante
Symphony No. 4 - Andrew Boysen

I think it is really important to play a good ballad at contest. Sometimes an inner movement of a longer work will be sufficient, but I didn't think the slow movement of the Boysen Symphony would be enough for this program. Adding Prospect made the program 15 minutes long, though, and so I chose not to include a third piece! [If I had, I it would have been a march--we were working on Sousa's The Gladiator March around that time.] At this particular festival, each group has only 30 minutes to set up, perform, and receive a critique from a judge, so it seemed worthwhile to keep the program shorter to allow for a little more face time in our critique.

The Boysen Symphony was a fun work for students to dig into. Though it was technically not as difficult as some other music we worked on, it happened to fit the instrumentation of the group well and made them sound great at contest. The contrast of Prospect's simple calm and the rage and chaos of the Symphony was a big part of the program's success.

If you have a particularly successful program, send it my way! I'm right in the middle of looking at new repertoire for next year.