Background: When Harry James decided to follow the lead of fellow bandleader Artie Shaw and add a string section, he had to build a book quickly. Besides originals, new pop songs and older songs (one of which, You Made Me Love You, would make his ensemble one of the most popular in the country), his book included arrangements of classical or concert music, three of which were piano pieces that James particularly liked: Arabesque, Golliwogs Cakewalk, and Clair de Lune. The Music: Debussy wrote Clair de Lune as early as 1890, but was published in 1905 as part of Suite Bergamasque. It is possible that the piece was slightly revised by Debussy between its original composition and publication. By 1941, it had become quite a popular piece among piano students and soloists, and James felt it would be recognizable enough to be added to the dance book. The late James Maher often reminded me that big bands during this era played all styles of music for dancing. Even bands led by Fletcher Henderson and Benny Goodman played tangos and waltzes if they were requested; Sy Oliver told me that there were waltzes in the Jimmie Lunceford book, one of the hottest swing bands of the era. So a waltz was hardly a novelty for a big band, particularly one with a string section. It appears that chief arranger Jack Matthias arranged this title, along with Debussy's Arabesque. The original score of Clair de Lune exists, and was used to prepare this edition; unfortunately, there is no name on the score, and no extant parts. The score is filled with note errors, suggesting that the arrangement was prepared in a hurry; perhaps it was one of the first batch of scores created when the string section was added to the James band. Notes to the Conductor: This score was never recorded and there are no airchecks available, so the editor must make a number of decisions so that it can be played. The obvious first step is to find any wrong notes and correct them. The second is to determine the tempo, which is missing; it is not unusual for tempo markings to be missing on music for big bands from any era (Ive examined far too many scores where the tempo must be guessed at, using available information and many years of experience studying and directing this music). Because any score written for a big band was fair game to be recorded (and Arabesque was, but not released until many years later), I've determined the tempo to be quarter note between 132-148 bpm. There is little more than a verbal sketch for the drum part, so I suggest that the part be played by brushes as subtly as possible (this is hardly a Viennese-style waltz). Dynamics and articulation have been added to all parts (elements all-too-often missing, as such information was communicated during rehearsal). Doubles: The reed section features 3 clarinets and 1 bass clarinet throughout.
3 Clarinets, 1 Bass Clarinet, 4 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, 2 Violins, 1 Viola, 1 Cello, Guitar, Piano, Bass, Drums