Great and Small is a programmatic work comprised of two delightful movements for solo keyboard percussion with optional audio accompaniment. These vignettes depict the powerful beasts Leviathan and Behemoth when they were still young, whimsical, and childlike. Deemed ‘’medium-easy” by the publisher, it is appropriate for older middle school or younger high school students and works well as their first solo piece.
As an educator, I found several benefits to studying this work with students. The length is ideal for younger percussionists, as each movement in the set is approximately two minutes. Neither movement requires four-mallet technique or similar advanced concepts, and the programmatic nature encourages conversation about character interpretation and expression. The entire piece is written using sixteenth notes as the smallest subdivision, exploring syncopated rhythms and interplay between the hands. This is especially noticeable in the second movement, “Budding Behemoth,” with many of these figures beginning on the left hand with a large leap. The first movement, “Little Leviathan,” includes phrase markings in the right hand to highlight the melody, something difficult to find in compositions for this ability level. Perhaps my favorite musical concept is the detailed use of dynamic contrast. Developing this at a young age is vital, and I am pleased to see an appropriate amount throughout both movements.
From a logistical point of view, the flexibility of Great and Small is wonderful for many public school situations. Herndon has composed the work so that any movement can be performed on a vibraphone, xylophone, or 4-octave marimba. While he recommends vibraphone for the first movement and marimba for the second movement, the option encourages students to take their own liberties bands on the equipment they have available. Furthermore, even through the audio accompaniment greatly enhances the piece, it is not necessary for performance. This allows for students to still gain from the work even if they are unable to meet the technological requirements, Very well priced, this composition is worth adding to your repertoire for younger students.
Vol. 57, No. 2, May 2019
“Guac is Extra” serves as a fun way to introduce students to the instruments and style of salsa music. John Herndon does a fantastic job of making the style accessible to younger players, as each uses two drums and an accessory instrument. The performance notes indicate the drums to be played with swizzle sticks; however, more advanced players are encouraged to use their hands for the congas and bongos.
The piece begins with a brief introduction and then layers the different instrument entrances as the groove is built. Once all the players have entered, the bongo, conga, and timbale players take solos. Although solos are written out for each player, there is room for players to embellish the solos or even create their own. Although not indicated in the score, it would not be difficult to extend the solos for the players, if needed. The middle section is made up of straight eighth notes with the players accenting certain notes to create a fun melody around the ensemble. The piece ends with a return to the original grooveand a brief coda.
This piece will help students to not only learn the style, but also work on ensemble sensitivity, listening, and groove. The piece will make an excellent addition to the repertoire for younger groups. With all the guac and salsa they will be playing, the only thing missing would be a side of chips!
Vol. 53, No. 1, March 2019
In addition to being a fun piece to play and program on a concert, it is also a great way to introduce young students to multiple-percussion score reading and basic extended playing techniques and notation.
Vol. 56, No. 3, July 2018
You can check out the full review here.
Middle school directors looking for a simple melodic work for their program would find a good candidate in Close Your Eyes and Dream. The possible addition of vocals also makes it a great opportunity to collaborate with choral directors, and the option to augment the forces with flexible instrumentation makes this a good piece to have in your library.
Vol. 56, No. 3, July 2018
You can read the entire review here.
The following is from Percussive Notes, Vol. 55, No. 2, May 2017:
The repertoire for beginning students is thankfully expanding, and Begin Transmission by John Herndon is a fantastic addition for providing students an opportunity to apply skills learned in the first year of percussion study into an accessible and lively piece.
Although written for 13 players, Herndon provides the performing ensemble with options to omit parts for smaller ensembles of eight players.
Begin Transmission takes a fairly simple theme derived from the first five notes of the D-minor scale and manipulates the timbres and textures around it to create a very fun and engaging ensemble work lasting just over two minutes.
It is the perfect piece for a young ensemble, using only eighth-note rhythms and larger—with the exception of the snare drum’s use of sixteenth notes at the end of the piece.
Another great feature of the work is Herndon’s use of timbral changes for the percussion parts, where players are asked to either switch instruments or play on the rim instead of the head.
The mallet parts are simple and repetitive yet entertaining, providing a great experience for players and audience members. The accompanying players often lay a groundwork of steady eighth notes under the melody, providing the piece with constant forward momentum from beginning to end.
Herndon successfully wrote an exciting piece for students to apply newly learned skills.
This one is worth a look!