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"Moon River"

Title Moon River
ComposerH. Mancini (arr: F.G.J. Absil)
Instrum.Concert Band
Date1986 (re-orchestrated in 2011)
KeyC - Eb
Tempo72 BPM


A musical score excerpt
  • Piccolo, Flute 1-2, Oboe 1, Bassoon 1-(2), Eb Clarinet, Bb Clarinet 1-2-3, Bass Clarinet;
  • Alto Saxophone 1-2, Tenor Saxophone 1-2, Baritone Saxophone;
  • French Horn 1-2-3-(4), Trumpet/Flugelhorn 1-2-3-(4), Trombone 1-2-3-(4), Baritone 1-2, Tuba;
  • Guitar, Piano/Keyboard, Acoustic Bass, Drums;
  • Timpani, Percussion (2 players: bar chimes, conga, finger cymbals, suspended cymbal, tambourine, tam-tam, triangle), Mallets (glockenspiel, vibraphone).


This arrangement for symphonic wind band of Moon River (film music classic by composer Henry Mancini for Breakfast at Tiffany's) is a relaxed, flowing ballad. The introduction and transitions are based on motives from the song theme. The first chorus features a solo alto saxophone (m. 17, [B]), followed by solo lead trumpet (m. 33, [C]). The lead plus accompaniment together form a four-part chorale setting (french horns, low clarinets and bassoon. Later, at the second statement, trombones and saxophones) with lots of appoggiaturas and suspensions. This chorus creates a somewhat solemn mood.

The transition (m. 53, [D]) shifts from C to the new key Eb, and the mood changes. The second chorus is for the ensemble, playing in parallel diatonic chords. First the woodwinds take the lead (m. 61, [E]), later doubled by trumpet section at the lower octave (m. 77, [F]). The whole has an impressionistic flavour, with a climax at mm. 84-90, before cooling down, and closing (m. 96, [G]) with a bitonal final statement of the main theme.

The arrangement is also suitable for smaller size bands; non-essential parts have been provided for oboe 2, bassoon 2, 4th horn, 4th trumpet and 4th trombone (bass trombone). The introduction has flugelhorns (may be replaced by trumpets), and there is frequent use of mutes for trumpets and trombones. The bass line is written out for acoustic string bass (pizz/arco); if this instrument is missing, a tuba must play the bass line.

The mood of the piece will benefit from the rhythm guitar and piano/keyboard player. The guitar occasionally doubles melodic phrases. The drummer starts with brushes, then switches to sticks (m. 56) and at the coda (m. 97) returns to brushes. Perform this ballad with generous rubato.