Larry McDonough has been composing and arranging music for school music programs off and on for thirty years. He began writing for his Lincoln High School in Bloomington, MN, while still a student in the early 1970s. He
continued his writing for high school concert, marching and jazz ensembles
while earning his Bachelor of Science in music education at the University of
Minnesota, and during his work at Minneapolis Edison and Bloomington
Lincoln High Schools.
McDonough started writing and arranging again as his daughters progressed through elementary and secondary school music programs. He has written for chamber groups to concert bands and jazz ensembles, focusing on exposing young musicians to jazz harmonies and rhythms, and uncommon time signatures. Most of McDonough's arrangements began as arrangements for his own solo piano and group performances. Since he does not mass produce his arrangements, they can be written for common instrumentation, or customized for a particular ensemble.
"Summertime" is a challenging arrangement for jazz ensemble. It is in the meter of 7/4, and unusual meter for music in general, and jazz in particular. Each bar has the feel of a 4/4 bar followed by a 3/4 bar. Summertime has been performed in many different styles which appealed to McDonough, so he arranged it to draw on a number of these styles.. The piece also moves between several rhythm patterns or “groves,” including New Age (light feel with straight 8th notes), Latin (louder and intense, with heavy percussion and straight 8th notes), and Swing (swing 8th notes). The arrangement challenges the musician to fucus both on the odd meter and the constantly changing groves. The original piece “A Rose for Two” is from the SpecAbilities Project, in which compositions are based on melodies written by children with disabilities with adaptive computer equipment. “A Rose for Two” is based on melodies written by Larry’s daughter Rosie, and Jennifer and PatrickMoffatt. Rosie wrote the A section melody, Jennifer and Patrick wrote the B section melody, and McDonough placed them over shifting minor harmonies and a 5/4 meter. “My Favorite Things in 5/4" is an avant garde arrangement for jazz ensemble. It is based on the Coltrane version, but in 5/4 time and a bass line emphasizing a tritone (E and Bb) to add to the dissonance. The structure goes through the piece with solos in between the verses, ending with an explosive drum solo. McDonough’s quartet recording of it will appear on the upcoming CD “Simple Gifts.” The original piece “Namekagon” is named after the Northern Wisconsin river, based on the concept of a Jobin melody, harmony and rhythm applied to the environment of North America. It begins with the illusion of 3/4 in the percussion and cascading lines and 3/4 and 4/4 over a tritone progression of FM7 and B7 before moving into the main body of the piece, with each section of the jazz ensemble taking the melody at different points, ending with the introduction repeated. The St. Paul Central High School Concert Band performed the concert band version, and Minnesota Youth Jazz Band performed the jazz ensemble version.
“Moanin’” is McDonough’s second arrangement for the Lake Forest Central 6th Grade Jazz Band, under the direction of Joe Baione, one of the few elementary school jazz ensembles in the country. Last year, McDonough arranged for Lake Forest “I Remember Clifford” as jazz waltz as a present to its composer, Benny Golson, who performed the piece with McDonough and Lake Forest. The arrangement begins with the classic Art Blakey small ensemble arrangement, and then extends out to the full ensemble.
"I Remember Clifford" was commissioned by the Lake Forest Central 6th Grade Jazz Band, an arrangement of the legendary saxophonist and composer Benny Golson standard. McDonough arranged it in 3/4 time, starting with long tones and gradually becoming more rhythmic. The piece includes optional solo sections and cadenzas. McDonough premiered the arrangement with guest performances by Golson and trumpeter Duane Eubanks. Golson commented that it was the first time he had heard his piece done as a waltz, and he approved.
Review: "Larry McDonough is a master at writing for jazz band ensembles at any level. He has new and exciting ideas in his arrangements, not just the everyday arrangement that you normally see.” Joe Baione, Lake Forest Central Jazz Band Director and Jazz Vibraphonist.
For "We Shall Overcome", McDonough started with his jazz ballad treatment of We Shall Overcome from his CD, “Tuscarora: Short Stories for Jazz Piano,” arranging it for middle school choir and strings. Strings take one verse as an introduction, adding the choir to sing three verses above the strings counter melody, ending with a round of all three verses. The jazz harmonies challenge the strings and choir to listen carefully and focus on intonation.
McDonough recreated the "Star Spangled Banner" as a jazz standard, keeping the melody intact but applying the harmonies of George Gershwin pieces. The major and minor chords of the original are replaced by 7th, augmented and diminished chords with descending bass lines. The change in harmony changes the mood of the piece, while keeping it completely recognizable. McDonough changed the time signature from 3/4 to 4/4 to teach students how a time signature affects the rhythmic structure of a piece. The introduction and ending apply a similar treatment to melodies from the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "America the Beautiful." Finally, as in all of McDonough's works, every instrument carries the melody at different points in the piece.
Review: "The arrangement of Star Spangled Banner was a classy version with interesting harmonies and a very cool Latin style groove over the B section that kids and adults both will enjoy. Overall the students and I enjoyed playing it and the comments from the audience after the concert were nothing but rave reviews!" Jeff Levine, St. Paul Ramsey Middle School Concert Band Director, and Jazz Trumpeter.
"Getting to Know You" is McDonough's arrangement of this familiar tune from "The King and I" as a jazz waltz for 6th grade through junior high and middle schools. The arrangement teaches students to hear a song they know as in 4/4 time in a different meter, in this case 3/4 time. Students also learn the jazz waltz rythmn of 2 beats against 3, using a bass line of dotted quarters and the harmony rythmn of an 8th rest, quarter note, 8th note, and quarter note. The harmony relies on poly-chords, such as F/Eb, which stretches the tonality beyond just major and minor chords. Finally, as in all of McDonough's works, every instrument carries the melody at different points in the piece. For "Here, There and Everywhere" McDonough took a New Orleans march arrangement from the jazz band Bozo Allegro and converted it to a concert band setting. The piece retains the melody and harmony of the original Beatles' tune, but places them over the two bar rythmn of dotted quarter, dotted quarter, quarter, quarter rest, quarter, quarter, and quarter rest. Finally, as in all of McDonough's works, every instrument carries the melody at different points in the piece.