So, how much arranging goes on in an average session? My current annual concert diet is as follows:
NBHS: Christmas Concert (x2), Burns Supper, Spring Concert, occasional item for prize giving – one or two items per event
Knox: Christmas Concert, Spring Concert – one or two items per event
MGS: Christmas Concert, Summer Concert two items per event for large group and occasional small group items; occasional music for P7 parents evening and/or prize giving (usually small group or solo).
Campie PS: Musical Evening – large group mixing P5 – P7 pupils – usually three or four items
Wallyford PS: Usually one concert in the summer term. Last session we inaugurated a short concert where former pupils (now at MGS) perform alongside pupils from the primary – eight items. Reassuringly, participants have been asking when we can do it again.
East Lothian Guitar Ensemble: One concert per year – two items in previous years. We have now increased our rehearsal count from two to six and may offer more items – or simply more substantial ones.
I tend to use the same items in all three secondary schools although not all in the same year. As MGS always requires two items (one in each half of the concert), they tend to be the trail blazers for new arrangements. If they go well – I re-use them. I also know how best to rehearse these works in the future.
When does the arranging take place? Group teaching results in very few free periods as it is unlikely that all pupils in the group will be absent simultaneously. The period of exam leave (festival of sudoku) affords some time. Other than that, I tend to arrange in the same manner that I encourage pupils to practise – to make use of any free moment, no matter how small. A spare two minutes may not be long enough to rework musical ideas, but it can profitably be spent of matters of layout, all of which help to clarify thinking when more time becomes available. My own personal preference, although frowned upon by most educationalists, is to sit down and finish an arrangement in one go – even it this means five or six hours without stopping. Constant stopping and starting reminds me of my old Amstrad PCW (which, strangely, I remember with some affection) where not only did you have to reload files from a floppy disk but also the programs and even the operating system. It’s easier to remain switched on.