Never Before

Year of composition
Easy (Grades 1-3)
6 minutes
Modern classical music
Brass quartet
Instrumental parts

I was commissioned to write this piece in October 2005 for a special purpose: a group of my friends (all music degree students at The University of Manchester) were organising a sponsored "Grade-1-athon".

They were all picking an instrument to learn that they had never played before and were teaching each other these instruments with the aim of passing their grade 1 exam in a couple of months, and getting sponsored to do so.

They also wanted to put on a concert showcasing all the new talents that had been forged. There were enough players (almost) for a brass quintet to be formed, and I was asked to write a piece for them.

A tricky task, but a pleasant one nonetheless. I was asked to write a piece which was 5 or 6 minutes long (even though most grade one pieces are no longer than 30 seconds!).

It was an interesting challenge - I knew these people were all very musical (in reading and performance) but would be limited (very limited in some cases) with actual skill on their instrument. So I tried to choose themes that would be easy to play, but still musically interesting, which used only the notes required from the grade one syllabus. (As it happens, a few extra notes crept in.)

In the end, the piece was much harder than I had intended (both range and complexity) but the group that performed it did a sterling job - the first trumpet player nailed her part with no problems (and she was really a 'cellist!).

The tuba part was the exception - nobody wanted to learn the tuba, so a "normal" player was brought in, hence the tuba part being of a much extended range than required in grade one and much more complicated technically than would be required of a grade one tuba player.

Maybe this piece will be of use to another group of similar people some time? I provide parts as is, but I certainly wouldn't be averse to re-jigging it for another particular group - please contact me.

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