Dear friends in the horn community


In a brass forum there was a request for a brass quintet setting of The Star-Spangled Banner supposed to back a very low contralto voice preferring the key of Eb.


I looked at this tune from a strictly musical point of view and found that in this key it would be possible for a natural horn in Eb to play it, if the hand horn skills known in BeethovenÕs era were applied. Furthermore it would be possible to write a second horn part for a similar instrument.


Writing a modern harmonization hadnÕt been in my plans anyway, so I let the vocalist act as first horn, the quintet horn as second horn, the trumpets as natural trumpets in Eb, the trombone acts itself, and the tuba acts as a serpent or a bassoon.


The requiring player didnÕt like my setting of the trumpets and asked for large portions of their parts being removed. I tried, but any coherence in their voicing disappeared and so did their support for the harmonic framework, so I kept the trumpet parts and changed a bit in the trombone part, so that it in some passages plays in three parts with the horns.


I like the American National Anthem, but I have hated some performances of it (think Roseanne Barr and the like).  In the planned for performance there would be no conductor, so it was important to make a setting, where the quintet could control the vocalist harmonically and rhythmically. This has had two implications on my setting:


The bass line is very active.


There has been applied a certain trick to make it possible honouring a fermata towards the end and at the same time keeping a steady pulse throughout.


The horn parts in Eb are fairly simple, so I havenÕt attempted offending anybody by transposing them to F.


Not everybody has an Eb trumpet, so there are alternative parts for modern Bb trumpets.


The trombone part comes in tenor clef as well as in bass clef.


Whether using period instruments or modern instruments some of you hopefully will enjoy this retro setting:


John Stafford Smith: The Star-Spangled Banner in a setting by Klaus Smedegaard Bjerre (2010) for Beethoven era military brass ensemble - 2 natural horns in Eb, 2 natural trumpets in Eb (transposed parts in Bb also), trombone (Tenor and Bass Clefs), and serpent (tuba):


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