Sailing The Nile

by Dan Thieman

"Sailing The Nile" brings your recorder players on an African adventure! The sound of this symphonic excursion reveals an ancient world, yet we mix in newer contemporary rock flavors for an exciting expedition on the Nile River.

Before your recorder players learn this piece, we recommend discussing at least a few Nile River facts with them to enhance their musical experience. There is a lot of historical, cultural, and scientific information surrounding the Nile River. If you want to, you and your students could use this piece to launch into a full-blown unit on it. Consider collaborating with other classroom teachers to do this, making it a cross curricular activity. Here are just a few facts that could help you get started:

The Nile River...

  • flows from south to north through 10 different countries in Africa.
  • is over 4,100 miles long.
  • is used for fishing, agriculture, transportation, trade, and recreation.
  • floods annually.
  • provides hydroelectric power.
  • has a depth of 26-36 feet.
  • flows just east of the Pyramids of Giza.

The music shoves off with a steady drum beat on the toms. Low woodwinds and strings enter at measure three, setting the mood by borrowing from the Arabic scale (flattened 2nd and 6th scale degrees). Full orchestra enters at measure 11 with grand melodic statements for recorders to harmonize with. A thinner orchestral texture calms things down at measure 29. One could imagine slower moving water in this section. Then the electric guitar solo enters at measure 35, guiding us out of this calmer middle section back to the grand melodic statements as before, except now with the powerful rock band leading the orchestra. Everything culminates in measure 52. Then, measures 53 to the end are calm and subdued again – a distant memory of previous adventures down the Nile River.

Regarding the recorder parts, you have a few options: recorder 1, recorder 2, and alto recorder. The recorder 1 part uses DEGABCD'E'. The high E' (measure 39) is optional. If your players haven't learned that note yet, substitute with A instead as the written music indicates. Recorder 2 is simpler and uses only the notes G and A. Alto recorder uses GACDEF. The rhythms are not too difficult for any of the parts. The three parts sound great together, but if you want to use just one or two of them, that works also. Feel free to choose the parts that work best for you and your players. With such a wide range of options, it's our hope that this piece is accessible to all abilities.

The piano/recorder score is available online if you would like to follow along.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.