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International Trombone Association Review
The Stars and Stripes Forever
Arranged for four trombones by Brad Howland. Lassus Publications, 1999. Playing Time, 3:45. Score and Parts. Reprinted with the kind permission of the International Trombone Association Journal. This review originally appeared in the ITA Journal's Fall, 2009 issue.
I must admit a great deal of skepticism upon receiving this arrangement by Canadian trombonist Brad Howland. I have seen too many attempts to arrange this composition that have resulted in either a work beyond the reach of most players or one that loses the essence of the original. Brad Howland however hits the perfect mark with this attempt.
Ranges are easily workable, trombone 1 to c2 and bass trombone down to only pedal CC. This arrangement requires a quartet of well-balanced abilities as part three demands solid technique and range up to b-flat1.
Score and parts are easily readable and have sufficient rests for even younger players to attempt. All parts are in bass clef, which does lead to use of multiple ledger lines, but not unacceptably.
Howland spreads the melody around quite nicely, allowing for rest and keeping all parts interesting. The highlight is, of course, the piccolo solo. Howland inventively moved the key of the work to B-flat major and places the solo in the BASS trombone part. This is not only an interesting, but also a smart choice as the player can use the trigger to effectively mimic the trills of the original.
I would make one alteration in performance, that being to repeat the break strain and the last trio as performed in the original to allow the bass trombone solo to shine. The break strain is a bit thin sounding compared to the original but still effective enough.
I highly recommend this arrangement. It is fun, interesting, playable and a great closer to a quartet or choir concert.
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Dr. Thomas W. Zugger is currently the Associate Professor of Trombone and Euphonium at the Capital University Conservatory of Music in Columbus, OH. He spends summers teaching at the International Music Camp on the border of Canada and North Dakota (at the International Peace Garden), performs as Principal Trombone in the Newark/Granville Symphony, and has appeared with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, Richmond (IN) Symphony, Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, and at the 18th Macau China International Music Festival.