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If I was Dictator Maximus...
Five Banding Decrees for a Happy New Year
By Howard Snell

1. Players must sign for a Band for twelve months, August 1st to July 31st. A simple job-move/address-move clause will deal with life-related moves within those dates.

My Aim
To give stability to personnel for the sake of each band. No leaving, no sacking.

My Thinking
To encourage conductors to (learn to) train players rather than sack them, and to encourage players in responsibility to a Band.

2. The Setting Up of Democratic Forums for each Banding Country, using the New Zealand model. One Band, One Vote.

My Aim
To encourage bands to take responsibility for banding.

My Thinking
Please, oh please, stop grumbling about other people and do something.

3. All Bands and Record Companies to itemise concert programmes and Recordings to PRS and MCPS, in full.

My Aim
To encourage talented young writers, of all types, to write for bands.

My Thinking
Composers and arrangers need a fair crack. They don't get it from banding. There is very little encouragement for young music writers to enter Brass Banding on the scant rewards available. Not all writers can have the good fortune that I had, namely, to write for my own very good bands. For most music writers, sales and performance royalties will buy no more than the occasional bag of dog biscuits.

4. The Conduct of Contests

  • Forums will license all contest promoters, who will be required to meet minimum criteria for the treatment of participants.

    My Aim
    More respect for the musicians

    My Thinking
    Upgrade of contests

  • Repertoire will rotate in six year cycles.

    Year One: an original commissioned work by a composer chosen by band players.
    Year Two: an existing major arrangement.
    Year Three: an Original commissioned work by a composer chosen by the relevant contest organiser.
    Year Four: a band classic original.
    Year Five: a new, commissioned arrangement.
    Year Six: a band classic original.

    Commission fees will at the going rate, not a bygone rate from the days of shillings and pence, and composers will write to instrumental and time specification. Prize money will be inflation linked from the rates in 1980, when the link was broken. The main contest organisers will co-operate to run their cycles from different start-points so that, each year, there is constant variety of types of repertoire.

    To ensure, firstly, that bands keep in touch with the full width of banding repertoire, both composed and arranged. Secondly to ensure that the repertoire is refreshed and expanded in the future. Thirdly, to aquaint the young with banding's full repertoire.

    My Thinking
    Banding has three basic constituencies: musicians, audience and composers/arrangers. This system has something for everyone. Composers will be well-rewarded, but must write for contests and bands as specified - (Bach, Haydn and Mozart did it, every day) - within those specifications they will have complete musical freedom. For their part, players and audience have the responsibility to recognise that the point of creative composition is not to provide something that is a copy or cover version of something written previously, but quite possibly the opposite.

    Composition is a journey into the unknown like no other. Apparent 'failure' is part of the process, and is not helped by players and audiences flaunting their ignorance without any shame or sense of stupidity. (From time to time '4barsrest' comments page contains some blistering offerings of this sort of thing!)

    The history of music is littered with pronouncements about how terrible such and such a piece is, only for posterity to deliver a special laurel to that very piece. In banding, remember that Vinter's Spectrum was assailed, Howarth's Fireworks assaulted and McCabe's Images insulted!

    Further afield, Bach was told that his music was too complicated and Mozart was informed by some inbred, idiot royal that he used too many notes. His reply - that he used exactly the number he needed and no more - instantly reduced his career prospects by some 99%.

  • The European Contest will be returned to the slim-line format of the 1980s when it was fun.

    My Aim

    My Thinking

    Rules, Rules, Rules, Rules, Rules.

  • The British Area Contests.

    Repertoire will be chosen by band-ballot from four pieces submitted to the Bands and their conductors. Squalid facilities will not be tolerated any longer: they must be brought up to at least basic Animal Standards at once. (see above) (There will an outbreak of human foot'n'mouth if things don't improve.) Any backstage official speaking rudely to a band member about to go on stage will be painfully liquidated to the strains of the trombone fanfares from Life Divine, fortississississimo.

    My Aim

    My Thinking

  • All contests will be adjudicated by one person sitting in the open, who, in turn, will be judged by the audience at the end of the contest. Cumulative rankings of judges will be made public.

    My Aim

    My Thinking

  • No Alchohol available at any Contest venue

    My Aim
    Better behaviour

    My Thinking
    They'll listen to the other bands, Ha! Ha!

    Overall Aim of this Contesting Decree

    To focus on Contesting's real values.

    Overall Thinking
    Look after the musicians and the composers, expect something back … and banding looks after itself.

5. All Members of the Houses of Parliament (the Commons) will, for the whole duration of their appointments, play in brass bands in their own constituencies, two rehearsals per week and absence on medical certificate only. No expenses paid for travel as they are in receipt of plenty already, and must provide own instrument and stand. Not allowed to speak at any time. All affairs of State will have to wait.

My Aim
To educate and enlighten MPs in the values of music, the usefulness of music performance, individually and socially, to re-balance their self esteem to realistic levels and bring them back from their lives of virtual reality to the real thing.

My Thinking
Members have plenty of time on their hands, as obedience to the Party Whip is their only work. Those in the Government will not be excepted and certain appointments are non-negotiable. The Prime Minister, however musically untalented, male or female, will, ex officio, hold the position of assistant Second Baritone, (might stop the odd war), the Deputy PM will be The Shifter of the Instruments (might start the odd war) and the Chancellor of the Taxchequer will do handwritten accounts for his Band, and will make up all taxes that impinge on any British Brass Bands, in any way, out of his own pocket.

The inability of any Minister or MP to pass all and every one of the Five Banding Tests - on Repertoire, Sight-Reading, Scales and Arpeggios, the History of Banding, and Banding Trivia - will result in the permanent reduction of their wages and perks to the national average.

Compliance Officer in charge of the Five Tests will be Dr David King, as Ozzies are good at Tests, and he is obviously qualified to prescribe headache pills for the poor dears.

A Happy New Year!

Previous articles by Howard Snell:

• Article 5: Regulation Junkies - licensing laws - more
• Article 4: Judge for yourself - more
• Article 3: The whole truth and nothing but - more...
• Article 2: The gang of four, or was it five - more...
• Article 1: Hours with the Masters - more...

© Howard Snell 2003 [© 4BarsRest]

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