Concerto for Wind Ensemble “Games”


Grade 6

For wind ensemble

SKU: Concerto for Wind Ensemble "Games" Category:


James M. Stephenson


  3. ILINX – altered perception
  4. ALEA – games of chance
  5. AGON – competition

Duration: approx: 26 minutes


piccolo – flute 1-3 – alto flute
oboe 1-2 – English horn
Eb clarinet – Bb clarinet 1-3 – bass clarinet – contrabass clarinet bassoon 1-2 – contrabassoon
saxophones: soprano – alto – tenor – baritone

french horn 1-4
Bb trumpet 1-3 (trumpet 1 includes Bb piccolo trumpet) B flugelhorn
trombone 1-3
bass trombone
euphonium 1-2
tuba (minimum 2 players)

piano – harp timpani

6 percussion:

mallets 1 (all shared):
vibraphone, xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, + sus. cym.

mallets 2 (all shared):
marimba, vibraphone, crotales, glockenspiel, + triangle

percussion 1:
sus. cym., snare drum, cabasa, tam-tam (shared), wood blocks, triangle, maracas, china cym., congas/bongos (station) crash cym., 2 quarters on wood slab, 2 polished rocks, 2 dice, 2 decks of cards, + shared mallets: glockenspiel, chimes

percussion 2:
sus cym., snare drum, tambourine, crash cym., claves, temple blocks (5), 2 quarters on wood slab large sheet of paper, 2 dice, 2 decks of cards, slap-sticks, triangle, wood block, ratchet, wind chimes,

percussion 3:
tam-tam (shared), sus cym., quint-toms (shared), drum set, crash cym., (concert) snare drum, triangle
2 quarters on wood slab, scissors, 2 dice, 2 decks of cards, wood blocks, tambourine, rain stick + mallets: chimes (shared)

percussion 4:
bass drum, slap-sticks, tam-tam (shared), wood slab, vibra-slap, egg shaker, quint toms (shared), sus. cym., triangle 2 quarters (on wood slab), bingo ball machine, 2 dice, 2 decks of cards, crash cym.

Program notes:

What is a “concerto for wind ensemble”? This is something I constantly asked myself before beginning this piece.
The first thing I decided is that a show-off of virtuosity would be the entire group entering at once, softly; hence the opening of the piece. After that, I decided some obvious things besides ensemble tutti: instrument family virtuosity/expression, section virtuosity/expression, and finally, solo virtuosity/expression.
Addiotionally, shortly before beginning work on this piece, I was reading a book called “Flow”, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
In the book, a description of four games was put forth: games that help us achieve flow, or “the zone”. I thought these games might
be perfect for a piece of music, where musicians are often seeking that sense of flow while performing. Additionally,
the four games immediately spoke to me musically, and I knew I wanted to set them to music.

After a short first movement INTRODUCTION, the first game to appear is “MIMICRY” (movement 2). While somewhat obvious, I decided to explore many forms of this: players imitating each other, sometimes one beat apart, or at other times, several measures apart, or even a tuba mimicking a piccolo, several minutes later. Sections imitate other sections, and families mimic other families. As a whole, there are even times where the entire wind ensemble mimics sounds that might occur in other arenas, outside the formal concert hall space. And of course, there is a fughetta, the ultimate form of mimicry, which culminates in main themes layered over one another, mimicking what other players had done before them.

The third movement, Ilinx, explores altered perception. Initially it opens with another opportunity for ensemble virtuosity, that being intonation amongst many players at once, while executing a long drawn-out crescendo. Subsequently I tried to create “worlds” where a listener might be transported to a different sense of time and space. Patterns are created to perhaps confuse the listener as to what the pulse might actually be.

In ALEA (movement 4), I decided to take a chance. Pun intended. After some cadenza material (one form of “chance”), several sections ensue where the outcome will be different every time the piece is performed. Percussion players use actual “instruments” from games of chance: coin-flips, dice, decks of cards, rocks/paper/scissors, and a bingo ball machine. These direct what players actually play, with
the music created so that whatever is chosen, the music works out, and is hopefully fun. Which was a main directive for me in composing it – that it be fun to play!

Finally, AGON (competition) ends the concerto, where almost every type of “battle” I could imagine gets employed: rhythmic (2 vs. 3),
key vs. key, high vs. low, loud vs. soft, slow vs. fast, counterpoint, harmonic (major vs. minor), instrument vs. instrument, section vs. section, and family vs. family. The piece finally ends with the entire ensemble demonstrating loud ensemble playing in unison, essentially
answering the question posed by the soft opening chord at the onset.

~ Jim Stephenson; October 27, 2022

I would sincerely like to thank Andrew Yozviak, and Timothy Holtan for spearheading the creation of this work, and the following ensembles and directors for joining in and exhibiting the faith in me to create a large scale work such as this:

Arkansas Tech University Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Daniel A Belongia, Conductor Augustana Symphonic Band, Dr. James M. Lambrecht, Director of Bands
Central Michigan University Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Christopher C. Chapman, Conductor Eastern New Mexico University Wind Symphony, Dustin Seifert, Conductor
Indiana Wind Symphony, Charles P. Conrad, Music Director
James Madison University, Stephen P. Bolstad, Director of Bands
Kansas State University Wind Ensemble, Frank Tracz, Conductor
Maryland Winds, Timothy Holtan, Artistic Director
Missouri State University Wind Ensemble, John Zastoupil, former Conductor
The Ohio State University, Russel C. Mikkelson, Director of Bands
Rutgers University Wind Ensemble, Dr. Kraig Alan Williams, Conductor
Texas A&M University-Commerce Wind Ensemble, Phillip Clements, Conductor
Texas Christian University Bands, Bobby Francis, Director of Bands
Troy University Symphony Band, Dr. Mark Walker, Conductor
University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble, Cormac Cannon, Conductor
University of Florida Bands, David Waybright, Director of Bands
University of Kentucky Bands, Dr. John Cody Birdwell, Director of Bands
University of Tennessee – Knoxville Wind Ensemble, John Zastoupil, Conductor
University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Wind Symphony, Dr. John R. Stewart, Conductor
The UNLV Wind Orchestra, Thomas Leslie, Artistic Director and Conductor
West Chester University Wind Ensemble, Andrew Yozviak, Conductor
Western Illinois University Wind Ensemble, Mike Fansler, Conductor

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