Friday, December 24, 2010

The Dance of the Reed Flutes

Happy Christmas Eve to those celebrating the holiday, & a happy Friday to all.  It’s time for our Alice in Wonder Band song of the month; I probably should point out that this is the penultimate song in the series, which will wrap up in January. 

The last Alice in Wonder Band show ever was a Christmas show at the Alpine Playhouse in McCall in December 2004.  At this point, the band had five members: Art Troutner, who played oboe & mandolin; Bob George, who played clarinet, mandolin & guitar; Deadre Chase, the singer; Eberle Umbach, who at this point was playing flute, melodica, glockenspiel, & occasionally throwing in something wild like the lap steel; & yours truly,  playing guitar, baritone uke & plectrum banjo. 

I’m happy to say we went out on a high note: the show was one of our best, & I think a lot of this was thanks to some inspired arranging by Eberle; & among all her good arrangements for the show, none surpassed her distillation of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Reed-Flutes” from The Nutcracker into a piece for a quintet.  In case you’re curious, the original score calls for an orchestra with 18 distinct instruments, as follows:

  • Flutes (4)
  • Oboes (2)
  • English Horn
  • Clarinets (2)
  • Bass Clarinet
  • Bassoons (2)
  • French Horns (4)
  • Trumpet
  • Tenor Trombone
  • Bass Trombone
  • Tuba
  • Timpani
  • Cymbals
  • Violins (two sections of course, which could be up to 32 players)
  • Violas (as many as 12)
  • Cellos (as many as 10)
  • Double Bass (as many as 8)

She managed to pare this down to the following:

  • 1 flute
  • 1 oboe
  • 1 clarinet
  • 1 voice
  • 1 electric guitar

I don’t recall now exactly how the parts were absorbed—I do know that my guitar part drew heavily from the cello music. 

I hope you enjoy the music—it was a lot of fun to play!—& that you have a joyous holiday season.  Oh, by the way: Robert Frost’s Banjo will be on the air tomorrow with the final installment of the Old-Time Holiday Train series!

Note: All images in the video are in the public domain except the intial photo of the Nutcracker.  This photo, entitled "Nußknacker aus Seiffen," is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported by Bernd Reuschenberg
The photo at the top of the post is from the original production of The Nutcracker. Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, 1892.


  1. Well, that was certainly an interesting version of an old classic! But I never really heard the guitar in that mix.

    Have a great and
    (knowing you guys) musical holiday!

  2. As always, lovely music. Happy Christmas to you both and thanks for providing me with one of my very favourite blogs. Have a great holiday.

  3. Great music - thank you for that, Merry Christmas!

  4. Hi Roy, Alan & Jhon

    Roy: Thanks--yes, the recorded mix isn't good, & I noticed yesterday the guitar part is pretty well swallowed. You can hear it at the beginning--it's sort of like a bass part in many ways. Merry Christmas to you as well!

    Alan: Thanks so much--I'm glad you like RFBanjo so well--News From Nowehere is also a terrific blog! Happy holidays.

    Jhon: Thanks, & Merry Christmas to you. Willful Resemblances is an interesting site--I'll be back to check it out more thoroughly.

  5. Enjoy your holiday; I hope it's filled with happiness and warmth.

    And it sounds like you guys had a lot of fun with that arrangement. It's pretty cool to have condensed everything to only a handful of instruments.

  6. Hi HKatz: Glad you enjoyed it, & many thanks for the kind holiday wishes!

  7. Very nice, John. Here's wishing you and yours a happy Christmas, from me and mine.


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