Suite of Old American Dances
Year: 1949 / 1952
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Chappell & Co., through Hal Leonard
Cost: Score and Parts - $115.00
1. Cakewalk – 4:05
2. Schottische – 3:00
3. Western One-Step – 3:35
4. Wallflower Waltz – 3:40
5. Rag – 3:55
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet Solo-I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornet I-II-III
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
String Bass (optional)
Percussion I-II-III, including:
- Bass Drum
- Crash Cymbals
- Snare Drum
- Suspended Cymbal
- Wood Blocks (2)
Suite of Old American Dances was inspired after the composer heard a performance by the Goldman Band in 1948. The original title was Electric Park, an amusement park Bennett went to while growing up in Kansas City. Each movement of the work is based on a dance from the beginning of the 20th Century.
Suite of Old American Dances demonstrates that folk music can be both entertaining for listeners and musically substantive for performers. This rhythmically challenging piece is suitable for both high school and university ensembles, and select movements can work well for strong honor bands. Extended syncopated lines, frequently disjunct melodies, and parallel ninth and eleventh chords give this piece a ragtime sensibility that audiences generally enjoy.
- Program Note from Great Music for Wind Band
The Cakewalk dance originated on the Southern plantations, where slaves often imitated their plantation owners. The dance of “strut” was danced to jig-like banjo/fiddle music, usually done by a couple who, with a backward sway, strutted in a medium high step or low kicking fashion. Plantation owners would encourage their workers by presenting prizes for the best couples. The prize was often a cake, usually shared with the other participants. The men would often dress in long coats with high collars and the women in frilly gowns, to mimic their owners.
Although the title of this dance suggests that its roots lie in Scotland, the Schottische is actually a German variant of several Bohemian dances that later developed into the polka. The schottische features quick shifts from foot to foot and striking of the heel. These movements resemble the Scottish reel and may have inspired the name. Because the polka was at one time called the “Scottish Waltz,” it is also possible that this earlier dance inspired its namesake. Either way, the dance came to the United States by way of England when polka dancing became the rage among continental society in the 1840s. The music for the early schottische was usually written in 2/4 time, and many describe the dance as simply a slow polka.
The Western One Step included in the Suite of Old American Dances, is a somewhat misleading title. As Frederick Fennell points out, “The composer informed me that this is also a dance known as the Texas Tommy, an obviously bright-eyed tune with an equally bright-eyed tempo.” Little is known about the Texas Tommy, one of the obsolete forms of the one-step. This dance, from the early 20th century, is believed to have originated in brothels and saloons, where ladies of the evening were known as “tommies.” There is a record of the Texas Tommy appearing in the New York Lafayette Theatre production of Darktown Follies in 1913.
Although the beginning of the 20th century represented a new cultural era, replete with new dance steps, the time-honored tradition of the Wallflower Waltz still reigned as king of the ballroom dance scene.
It seems fitting that Bennett chose to end his suite with a Rag. Although there is no one specific dance that can be associated with the rag style, Bennett’s choice of music is representative of the era as a whole. The ragtime era coincided with the beginning of the century, and with a new generation which was harshly criticized by its elders for embracing novel ideas.
- Program Note by Edward Higgins
- Audio: Reference recording. Ensemble and conductor unknown
- Audio CD: Naniwa Orchestral Winds (Shigenori Nakagawa, conductor) – 2017
- Audio CD: Lone Star Wind Orchestra (Eugene Migliaro Corporon, conductor) – 2008
- Audio CD: Rutgers Wind Ensemble (William Berz, conductor) – 2004
- Audio CD: University of Michigan Symphonic Band (Michael Haithcock, conductor) – 2002
- Audio CD: Cincinnati Wind Symphony (Eugene Migliaro Corporon, conductor) – 1995
- Alabama: Class AA
- Arkansas: III
- California: V Class A
- Florida: V
- Maryland: VI (Any three mvts.)
- Massachusetts: V
- Minnesota: Category 1
- New York: VI
- North Carolina:
- V: play any three movements
- VI: play four or more movements
- Masterworks: play all
- Oklahoma: V-A
- South Carolina: VI
- Tennessee: VI
- Texas: III (any two movements)
- Wisconsin: Event 3000 Concert Band.Class A Std Rep
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Orchestra (Luke Camarillo, conductor) - 26 April 2023
- University of Oregon (Eugene) Wind Symphony (Tim Vian, conductor) - 2 February 2023
- University of Rhode Island (Kingston) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Brian Cardany, conductor) - 9 December 2022
- Luther College (Decorah, Iowa) Concert Band (Cory Near, conductor) - 11 November 2022
- California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Wind Orchestra (Nicholas P. Waldron, conductor) – 27 May 2022
- Contra Costa Wind Symphony (Walnut Creek, Calif.) (Brad Hogarth, conductor) - 20 March 2022
- Lamar University (Beaumont, Tx.) Wind Ensemble (Andrew McMahan, conductor) – 26 April 2021
- University of North Dakota (Grand Forks) University Band (James Popejoy, conductor) – 22 April 2021
- Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Wind Symphony (Rubén D. Gómez, conductor) – November 2020
- Kent State University (Ohio) Wind Ensemble (Mason Smith, conductor) – 15 March 2020
- University of Oregon (Eugene) Wind Symphony (Jason Silveira, conductor) – 12 March 2020
- Atascadero (Calif.) Community Band (Randy Schwabe, conductor) – 8 March 2020
- Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro) Symphonic Band (Craig Cornish, conductor) – 5 March 2020
- University of Nevada Reno Wind Ensemble (Scott Miller, conductor) – 4 March 2020
- Texas A&M University (Lubbock) Symphonic Winds (Travis Almany, conductor) – 1 March 2020
- University of Wisconsin-Madison Concert Band (Corey Pompey, conductor) – 18 February 2020
- La Sierra University (Riverside, Calif.) Wind Ensemble (David Brennan, conductor) – 15 February 2020
- Bob Jones University (Greenville, S.C.) Symphonic Wind Band (Bruce Cox, conductor) – 14 February 2020
- University of Southern California Thornton Wind Ensemble (H. Robert Reynolds, conductor) – 28 October 2016
- Eastman Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Frederick Fennell, conductor) – 17 December 1954
Works for Winds by This Composer
- Autobiography (1979)
- Carousel Waltz (as arranger) (1945/1957)
- Christmas Overture (1981)
- Cinderella Waltz (as arranger)
- Concerto Grosso (1958/1959)
- Down to the Sea in Ships (ed. Glaser) (1954/2016)
- SS Eagle March (1969/2016)
- The Fabulous Country (1975)
- Fanfare for the AWSO
- Four Preludes (1974)
- Gigi (as arranger) (1957/)
- The Gondoliers (as arranger) (1889/1962)
- King and I, The, Selections (as arranger) (1951)
- The Many Moods of Christmas (arr. Rehbein) (2002)
- The Many Moods of Christmas, Suite II (arr. Rogers) (1971/2019)
- The Many Moods of Christmas, Suite IV (arr. Rogers) (1962/2019)
- March of the Siamese Children (as arranger)
- Oklahoma! (as arranger)
- On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (as arranger) (1970)
- Picasso Suite Sketch (as arranger) (1974)
- Porgy and Bess: Selections (as arranger) (1934/1942)
- Rose Variations (1956)
- Selections from "Suite of Old American Dances" (arr. Curnow) (1950/2005)
- Cake Walk (arr. Curnow) (1992)
- Western One-Step (arr. Curnow) (1989)
- Western One-Step (arr. Curnow) (1989)
- Soap Box Derby March (1966)
- The Sound of Music -- Selections (as arranger) (1959/1960)
- South Pacific Symphonic Scenario (as arranger; adapt. Rogers) (1949/1999)
- Suite of Old American Dances (1949)
- Suite of Old American Dances (ed. Higgins) (1949/1952)
- Symphonic Songs for Band (ed. Ferencz) (1958)
- Three Humoresques
- Track Meet (1961)
- Twain and the River
- Victory at Sea
- White Christmas (as arranger) (1940/1948)
- Bennett, R. (1952) Suite of Old American Dances: Concert Band [score]. Chappell: [s.l.].
- Fennell, Frederick. "Suite of Old American Dances." The Instrumentalist vol. 34, no. 2, September 1979, pp. 28-40. Reprinted in Conductors Anthology, Volume II. The Instrumentalist, 1989, pp. 102-114.
- Goza, David. Bennett's Suite of Old American Dances: An Orchestral Conductor's View.. Resources for the Instrumental Music Teacher. ASBOA (Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association), 2006.
- Knight, Michael D. An analysis of harmonic and orchestrational techniques in Robert Russell Bennett's Suite of Old American Dances and Symphonic Songs for Band. 2004. University of Iowa, DMA dissertation.
- Miles, Richard B., and Larry Blocher. Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 1. GIA Publications, 1997, pp. 715-724.
- Mollison, Mary K. Robert Russell Bennett's Suite of Old American Dances: An Historical Perspective and Errata Study. 1997. Florida State University, masters thesis.
- Nicholson, Chad. Great Music for Wind Band: A Guide to the Top 100 Works in Grades IV, V, VI. Meredith Music Publications, 2009, pp 20-21.
- Pease, Andy. "Suite of Old American Dances by Robert Russell Bennett." Wind Band Literature. Accessed 21 September 2022.
- Suite of Old American Dances, Wikipedia. Accessed 21 September 2022.