Band director publishes fifth musical arrangement

Robert Curry, band director at Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg, has published his fifth musical arrangement. Rich Cooley/Daily

Band Director Robert Curry of Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg has published his fifth musical arrangement.

The variation on “March of the Toys” from Victor Herbert’s movement featured in the film “Babes in Toyland,” is published through Tempo Press in Madison Heights, Michigan.

“I tried to adapt the instrumentation so it could be played by a smaller orchestra and still sound good,” Curry said. Stonewall Jackson’s band has 24 members and its orchestra 23, he said. Students performed the movement two years ago.

The new song follows others he’s written to simplify more difficult work or arrange it in a way that made better sense for students at the high school level to perform.

They include “Old World Christmas,” an 8-minute long collection of holiday songs from Europe; “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” based on a Polish Christmas Carol and Johann Sebastian Bach’s “In Dulci Jublio,” originally dating to the 12th century.

He also published an arrangement for strings of the third movement of “Scheherazade’s The Young Prince and the Young Princess,” by Rimsky Korsakov.

Curry writes by necessity.

“Generally it’s by what I think my students can perform, what might fit a concert we have coming up,” he said. “That’s kind of the way my writing started.”

For years he’s also been dissatisfied with the quality of music available for high school holiday concerts.

“If I like these [songs] and think they’re worthy,” he remembered thinking, “maybe somebody else will, too.”

But publishing music is a frustrating practice, and not all of his songs have been accepted.

Two years ago he sought publication of an arrangement of “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1” ¬- best known as a graduation march.

“You don’t know the other half of the march, which is a really decent piece of music,” he said.

He also wrote a new arrangement on Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty Waltz.”

“I don’t think you know this waltz at all,” he said. “It is not the waltz that Walt Disney uses.”

He said publishers didn’t want his arrangements because the originals were selling too well. They didn’t want other works competing against them.

But being published has its downsides, too.

Unlike in the case of book authors, Curry didn’t receive any free copies of his published work.

“I have to buy them just like everybody else,” he said, laughing.

He also never would have known that “March of the Soldiers” was published if he hadn’t discovered it while searching through music catalogues for new pieces.

“When I signed the contract, it’s basically not mine anymore,” he said. Though he earns royalties whenever anyone buys his work, he has no say in when it will be published.

This year, band students planned to perform Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” among other holiday tunes. The orchestra planned Curry’s arrangement of Christmas lullabies, “A Chipmunk’s Song” and Irish Yuletide dances.

“I do probably do more secular music than sacred for holiday concerts just because I don’t want to take the risk of offending anyone,” Curry said. But so far, he hasn’t heard any objections when he does choose more sacred selections, and he makes sure his students are comfortable performing the music.

“We’re doing this because it’s a good piece of music,” he has told them, “not because I’m trying to tell you anything.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com