THE VANISHED ARMY
by Kenneth J. Alford
arranged by David P. Miller

 

ABOUT THIS ARRANGEMENT:

First, this march was originally written in 1914, and is therefore in the public domain. Consequently, it is open for anyone to arrange.

Second, while the original setting of this march by Kenneth Alford was quite good, the bands Alford wrote for were quite different than today’s bands. He wrote parts for Solo, first, second, and third clarinets, and he wrote separate parts for solo, first, second, and third cornets (four different parts), as well as first and second trumpets, and for flugelhorn. His piccolos were in Db and his horns were in Eb. He often wrote separate parts for euphonium and baritone horn.

Not only is this arrangement scored for today’s concert band instrumentation, it includes parts for baritone TC, string bass, timpani, and bells as well.

Besides the scoring, I have taken “poetic license” with the arrangement itself. I have strived to keep the emotional tone of the piece as I imagine Alford himself would have wanted, and perhaps might have scored were he writing for today’s concert band, and not the parade bands of 1914.

Here is a summary of some of the changes I made to this arrangement.

The introduction is tutti, as befits the “attention grabber” section of the piece, as Alford wrote it.

The first strain introduces the somber tone of recognition for a hundred thousand dead British soldiers. This can be nothing but somber, and the emotional tone for somber indicates quietude. I therefore scored this section very sparely, with the melody only in the low register of the clarinets, accompanied by tubas, string bass, and with trombones on rhythmical chords. The first strain is gently reinforced later by adding low woodwinds on the repeat.

The second strain gets a bit stronger and is in a major key. I envisioned this strain as a salute to the remaining soldiers on the front lines, those continuing to fight despite the loss of their comrades. However, there is still a somber note reflected in the quietness and thin scoring, this time with trumpets and high woodwinds unison on the quiet melody, accompanied by the tubas and string bass with horns on the rhythmic chord figures.

At the end of the second strain is the full band forte excerpt from “A Long Way To Tipperary,” except done in a minor key as befits the overall somber tone of the first half of the tune. Alford frequently quoted snippets of popular tunes of the day in his writings.

Following the second strain, Alford brings back the somber first strain, somewhat quieter, but stronger than the final repeat of this melody, which follows. For the stronger section, I repeat the high woodwind and trumpet scoring of the second strain, and for the final iteration, I scored the unison melody back in the clarinets’ low register, this time reinforced by the horns. Rhythm is scored into the tubas and string bass, with fanfare-style chords in the trumpets, in their low and middle registers to reduce the volume.

Alford wrote a solo muted cornet to play fanfare type figures in the repeat of the first strain, and again in the final repeat of the same melody before the trio. Having listened to quite a number of recordings of bands playing Alford’s original arrangement of this piece, I could only hear this solo muted cornet on one recording, and I suspect that particular recording had the solo cornet miked and amplified. After nearly two decades of experience directing bands, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that a single muted cornet in a concert setting would be virtually inaudible to the audience. Therefore, I decided to eliminate this figure from the first strain at the beginning of the tune, and to add the entire trumpet section on the fanfare figures the final time through the melody before the trio.

For the trio, my toughest decision was whether to alter the time signature from the 2/4 time in which Alford wrote it to the 6/8 time it obviously should be in. I eventually decided to keep it in Alford’s 2/4 time, and write all the triplets where needed, because of the few instances of dotted eighth and sixteenth notes whose nature I felt it was important to keep. There is still a voice inside me saying it would have been just fine to do the entire trio in 6/8 time.

The scoring of the trio section is mine, not Alford’s, for the first time through. I gave the melody to the clarinets in their low register, and to the horns, with the accompaniment in the basses and trombones.

The scoring in the final, tutti section of the work is mostly Alford’s but enhanced. The principal melody is played in three-part harmony, by the trumpets, duplicated by the high woodwinds an octave up, and again by the trombones an octave down.

Sousa frequently scored his marches with the final trio being unison for all cornets and trombones, with gingerbread in the woodwinds and accompaniment figures in the basses and horns.

Alford, bless his soul, did NOT give the horns nothing but afterbeats in this section – instead, he gave them longer notes and fanfare-type figures, and I kept them.

Sousa would frequently put a countermelody in the tenor brass and woodwinds, but in this tune, the function of countermelody and gingerbread is served by the bass line, which fills in the long notes of the melody with triplet scale runs.

The final change I made to Alford’s arrangement was the ending.

The way Alford wrote it, when he got to the end of the tune, he simply finished the trio’s melody with a slight ritard, then quit.

To me, this ending seemed too abrupt, to the point that the band would stop playing at the end of the tune, then the audience would wait a moment, then think, “Wait – what? Is that it? Is it over?”

To soften this abruptness, I have added a four-measure extension to the ending of the piece to give it more of a Coda feel. I worked as much on these four measures as I did on any other section of the piece, endeavoring to keep Alford’s tone, style, and even chord structure, as the work winds to a more satisfactory ending.

Finally, this arrangement is fully SILVER EDITION ready, meaning the technical difficulty of the piece should be well within the abilities of most of today’s community and high school bands. It is a Grade III difficulty piece, with a plus added to the III only because the trio is in the key of Gb, and intermediate-level players might find it to be something of a challenge to remember those concert Cb’s.

Other people, particularly those who write music themselves, might disagree with what I have done in this arrangement. But as I said in the beginning of this explanation, I admit to taking poetic license with the arrangement while doing my best to keep the emotional tone of the piece as I envision Alford (Ricketts) himself wanted, perhaps as he would have written were he writing for today’s concert bands.

I hope you enjoy the arrangement.

David P. Miller
January, 2018
100 years after the end of WWI

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