Knights of the Round Table! The words alone evoke images of
the majesty and grandeur of King Arthur's Court, whose trusted band of
loyal knights protected ladies and damsels, honored and fought for kings,
and undertook the most dangerous quests.
Can these images be translated into music so that they are clearly
recognized by everyone who listens?
Is not music the art most capable of expressing emotions and their
resonance within us? Knights of the Round Table conveys the spirit
associated with King Arthur's Court - splendor, magnificence, power, and
NOTE TO THE BAND DIRECTOR
Knights of the Round Table will work well for a wide range of
instrumental configurations. While the work uses reinforced voices for
sureness of performance and to create a sound that is always strong, the
way the voices are reinforced varies throughout, so that a fresh, shifting
color palette is heard.
Although the score includes some instruments that are less common in
the beginning band (namely, oboe, alto clarinet, and bassoon), the score
is designed to work well without these instruments - they are welcome,
but they will not be missed. The trombone/euphonium part is divided in
a few measures. Based on the ensemble's capabilities and needs, the conductor
should choose who plays which part. The upper part can be left out entirely
if there is only one player or if the players are less capable. The lower
notes generally double the tuba at the octave and should be well supported.
If there is no tuba in the ensemble, extra emphasis should be placed on
the lower part of the trombone and euphonium part, which is usually the
bass line of the ensemble.
If percussion resources are limited, the snare drum and bass drum parts
are most important, followed by bells and timpani. The percussion instruments
should be balanced and tastefully integrated into the ensemble. No single
percussion instrument should stand out over the ensemble blend. Be especially
careful with the bells. This instrument participates regularly throughout
the score, so a sound that is present without standing out above the ensemble
While the technical demands of the work are very limited, I have tried
to capture a grown-up sound that will appeal to young performers. Without
adding additional technical challenge, I have included some harmonies and
contrapuntal results that are less common at this level.
The first performance of Knights of the Round Table was by the
Owensboro, Kentucky, Sixth Grade Bands A and B on September 23, 2002, at
the first Fall concert. (The students who first performed the score had
started band the previous fall as fifth-graders.) I have known the director,
Paula Humphreys, since 1997, and admire her work as a teacher and flutist,
and I am most grateful for her seasoned and wise advice as I finished composing
PERFORMING THE WORK - COMPOSER'S SUGGESTIONS
Knights of the Round Table is marked "Allegretto, majestically"
with a metronome marking of approximately 108. Played too fast, the music
loses its majesty and is less noble and dignified. Played too slowly, it
loses its bold energy and becomes dull and plodding. M.M. = 108 feels just
right to me.
Fanfare-Canon (measures 1-4)
The two-bar fanfare phrase in clarinets, saxophones, and trumpets begins
the piece. For support, the first-measure entrance of the fanfare phrase
is doubled. New, overlapping entrances of the fanfare phrase begin each
measure, as the ensemble is gradually introduced.
Main Theme (measures 5-12)
The Main Theme, a descending melody, is heard in alto saxophone 1,
horn, and bells, with a suggestion of canon in the flutes. In measures
7-8, trumpets and timpani respond with a rhythmic, fanfare-like statement.
The rhythm of these measures, which I have nicknamed the response
rhythm, returns periodically throughout the score. Measures 9-12 repeat
5-8, but with a conclusion that leads to the Second Theme.
Second Theme (measures 13-20)
The Second Theme, played by flutes, oboe, clarinet 1, and alto saxophone
1, is more lyrical and rounded in shape than the Main Theme. Here the harmony
also veers toward the subdominant key of Eb. In measures 17-18, the chordal
response interrupts before the Second Theme concludes in measures
19-20. Here the lower brass gradually return, with a crescendo to
Fanfare-Canon reprise (measures 21-22)
A statement of the two-bar fanfare phrase, with an overlapping entrance,
serves as a bridge into the return of the Main Theme.
Main Theme varied (measures 23-30)
In measures 23-24, the Main Theme, with one less eighth note, is played
by the lower instruments, while the upper instruments play an inverted
variation of it. This is answered in measures 25-26 by a trumpet statement
of the two-bar fanfare phrase. The harmony of the chordal response
is preserved, while the response rhythm is heard in the timpani
and percussion. Measures 27-30 repeat the previous four bars, with a conclusion
that leads to the Second Theme, as before.
Second Theme varied (measures 31-43)
The Second Theme returns without percussion (except for triangle).
The trumpets (and optionally the horn) overlay a noble canonic countermelody,
and the Second Theme concludes as it did previously, except now the silent
percussion join the crescendo of the returning lower brass. The percussion
soli of measure 39 leads to a
varied restatement of the conclusion of the Second Theme.
Variation of the Fanfare-Canon (measures 44-48)
The melody of the fanfare phrase begins, but is altered to create a
repeating, one-bar melodic pattern. Set against this is a second, one-bar
melody with the same rhythm but an inverted melodic profile. The percussion
soli of measure 48 leads to the Conclusion.
Conclusion (measures 49-55)
The beginning of the Main Theme returns in measures 49-50, heard once
again in the lower instruments with the inversion in the upper instruments.
These two bars lead to the cadential statement of measures 51-55, over
which the Fanfare-Canon appears in the trumpets. Take care not to ritardando
into the final measure fermata. The rhythm has been chosen so that
a built-in slowing takes place, and a further ritardando at this
point is unnecessary.