Music Ensembles: Many Possibilities
The majority of instrumental players started their music journey playing in school bands, wind ensembles and/or orchestras.
One of the main differences between playing in a typical band and a chamber ensemble is in the scoring of the parts. Often, players in smaller ensembles are required to hold the fort for their individual parts. A missing note from a player is a missing note for the entire ensemble (imagine a missing or inaudible suspended 4th, minor 3rd, etc.), without back up or reinforcement.
Whereas in a typical band, multiple players are often playing the same melodic, harmonic or rhythmic progression. The rise of the chamber ensemble category also allows the individual musicians to showcase their “soloistic” talents. Everyone is a soloist.
Chamber ensembles in general can be defined by:
1) Number of musicians (duet, trio, quartet, …. octet, nonet, etc.)
2) Music type (chamber, popular, classical, worship, etc.)
3) Instrumental (strings, flutes, clarinets, saxophone, percussion etc.)
4) Hybrids (fusion, a-typical instrumental set up, etc. )
No matter what the definitions or the types of ensembles are, the commonality is in the highlighted importance of individual musicians and focus on developing specific sound spectrum of their instrument.
During the recent 2017 Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) Arts Presentation, we saw the introduction of the Brass Ensemble, Wind Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble category under the Band Category.
Below is the collated number* for the number of groups (Band and Instrument Ensemble) for 2015 and 2017 SYF Arts Presentation.
*Chinese Orchestra Mixed Ensemble and Sectional Ensemble participation were excluded from the comparison.
**Based on consolidated opinions gathered from existing school band programme owners, band directors and instructors.
Our roots in Singapore’s Band Movement started from the 4 brass bands in government-aided secondary schools, and 9 bugle bands functioning under the Boy’s Brigade and Boy Scouts in Singapore. While there is increased tension or even a dystopian view for the band community with closures and/or mergers of school bands, a positive outlook on the rise of ensemble music would definitely prepare us better for the brave new world ahead.
After all, our humble roots began in brass bands and bugle bands ensembles. Also to add, never before in the history of the Singapore Band Movement have we seen the formation of numerous alumni, community, independent and professional groups like what we are experiencing now, the impending wave of change would likely point towards the emergence of community ensembles, amateur ensembles and professional ensembles.
Cultural changes, fashion change, customs change. Great music is immortal.Michael Jackson
However Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) our environment has become, let us focus on making great music and continue to engage the community for support.
For a relevant read, do refer to this article by David Foley from University of Michigan “Chamber Music on the Rise“.