Association of Brass Band Adjudicators AGM
British Federation of Brass Bands Headquarters, Barnsley
Sunday 4th January
Malcolm Brownbill reports on Derek Broadbent's seminar
about the role of the adjudicator at today's brass band contests.
During the last twelve months, Derek Broadbent has travelled around
the country speaking to various brass band associations, on the
subject of adjudication. What was the motivation for this unprecedented
course of action? In Derek’s, own words. “I held these
seminars in order to search out band problems and concerns in an
effort to procure a more trustworthy atmosphere in our world of
The Association of Brass Band Adjudicators held its Annual General
Meeting at The Headquarters of The British Federation in Barnsley
on Sunday 4th January 2004, and Derek was invited to address the
meeting with the results of his findings.
In his opening remarks, Derek stated that there was no secret mystique
about how adjudicators judged performances. They simply hoped to
hear a good standard of performance containing the basic quality
essentials of sound, tuning, rhythm and balance. Only when these
vital ingredients were achieved did additional items such as interpretation
and musical shape enter the equation. He had stressed these points
to delegates attending his seminars. However, on his trips around
the country, a number of questions had been raised. Derek had decided
to bring the main concerns to the attention of ABBA members, and
these were discussed hoping to clarify the situation. Members of
Association bands raised questions at Association level, and answers
given by ABBA were directed primarily towards them.
I have listed the ten points that Derek raised, and attempted to
answer each one capturing the thoughts and feelings of the meeting.
One: The Concern of bands receiving early draws, particularly
number one and two.
Answer: At the highest level an early draw is
currently perceived to be a disadvantage. Adjudicators are aware
of this and it is a problem, which is being addressed by ABBA. However,
instances of success from early draws in lower section contests
are quite common. Bands in these sections should have no fears about
an early draw, as a perusal of results from a spread of these proves.
Two: Observance of metronome marks by adjudicators. (Some
appear to stick to them rigidly while some appear to take no notice).
Answer: Following serious discussion of this point,
the consensus of ABBA members was that reasonable licence should
be allowed regarding metronome marks. It was noted that the use
of circa alongside the marks was on the increase and this was seen
as sensible. It was also noted that wide deviation from the given
mark could change the character of the music and may well be penalised.
Indications which appear alongside temp marks, e.g. Andante maestoso,
Allegro spiritoso, etc., should be strictly observed.
Three: The lack of consistency in adjudicating.
Answer: This point was also discussed at length.
Consistency between adjudicators is an ideal, but not a very practical
one. ABBA periodically organises mock adjudication sessions, followed
by interactive discussion in an attempt to establish a unity. However,
it is always likely that there will be some difference of opinion.
Four: The need for more explicit and helpful remarks.
Answer: Bands should be aware that comments are
written during the actual performance. Detailed comment is difficult,
if not impossible, but remarks ought to reflect both the good and
the bad elements of a performance. Often, the first person to read
the remarks is the adjudicator, who may need to refer to them in
the later stages of the contest. ‘Untidy at C’ may not
convey the full picture to the band but will help the adjudicator
as he or she tries to ‘place’ the band in the correct
order. ABBA does not subscribe to the view held in some quarters
that written remarks are superfluous to requirements. They are a
valuable reference to assist greatly in establishing an order of
merit. ABBA also feels that bands are entitled to have access to
the thoughts of the adjudicator – whether or not they agree
with them! It should be the aim of adjudicators to be constructive
and encouraging in their comments.
Five: Too often adjudicators’ stage comments differ
from their actual result.
Answer: It must be appreciated that at the end
of an exacting day adjudicating performances, speaking from the
stage can be quite an ordeal. However, it is an essential and important
part of an adjudicators’ role at the majority of contests.
At our A.G.M. this year, there was a lecture on this subject by
Brian Buckley. He emphasised the importance of communicating to
an audience the thoughts of an adjudicator on the day’s performances
in relation to the remarks that he had written and the actual result.
It was also vital he said that the audience clearly understood
what the adjudicator was saying. Too often, they can perceive something
completely different. The wise adjudicator organises his thoughts
before actually speaking from the stage.
Six: The assessment of adjudicators’ (Who judges
Answer: As an association, we have internal educational
discussions to assist all members. This helps to enhance standards.
We expect all members to act in a professional manner and will investigate
any legitimate shortcomings brought to our notice. If administrators
and contest promoters are completely satisfied with the services
provided by an adjudicator they would almost certainly re-employ
them on a future occasion. If this is not the situation, the exact
opposite will apply.
Seven: The problem of putting all the
bands in the correct order.
Answer: Following each performance the adjudicator
awards his points and, even more importantly, builds up an order
of merit. In simple terms, after one band has played you have a
winner. After two bands have played you have a 1st and 2nd, and
so on throughout the contest. Referring where necessary to earlier
remarks, each performance is ‘placed’ relative to others
already heard. This is part of the ‘mechanics’ of adjudicating,
though it is dependent on the artistic judgment of the adjudicator
in deciding precisely where to place the performance.
Eight: Own-choice contests – assessment of difficult
and easier pieces.
Answer: As in a set piece contest the basic qualities
of sound, tuning, rhythm, balance, etc., still apply, but the degree
of difficulty of the piece is also a factor. In discussion, the
consensus of the members of ABBA was that prizes should not be awarded
merely in accordance with the difficulty of the music. Though a
fine performance of a difficult piece should be rewarded, a good
performance of a less difficult piece should have every chance of
being placed higher than a less good performance of a more difficult
one. The balance between the two is obviously a question of judgement.
‘Own Choice’ pieces should be chosen with the strengths
and weaknesses of the band in mind. Obviously, the best performance
should always win.
Nine: Concerns over the issue of part swapping.
Answer: Though there are differences of opinion
amongst adjudicators about the ethics of part-swapping the majority
of members accept that it does happen, that it would be very difficult
to police and that basically, it is up to the conductor to produce
the best possible performance with the material available. If the
changing of parts or the unauthorised use of mutes detracts from
the musical quality of the performance then it should expect to
Ten: Concerns about how bands can legitimately raise questions
over the behaviour or ability of adjudicators.
Answer: If a band has a genuine reason to question
the behaviour or ability of an adjudicator, it can make representation
though its association or directly to the contest promoter. ABBA’s
position is quite clear. It will not discuss individual results
given by an adjudicator, because every adjudicator is entitled to
give his or her honest opinion. However, it will certainly examine
any complaints against members if it is thought that they have not
displayed professional standards expected as members of the Association.
The Association of Brass Band Adjudicators fully supported the
efforts of Derek Broadbent in
spreading the gospel on the subject of adjudication. We are continually
striving to improve overall standards of adjudication and foster
good relationships with all brass band contest promoters and other
bodies who support and encourage brass band activities. We trust
that in offering our thoughts on the important points raised during
the various seminars held throughout the country, we have removed
a little of the air of mystery surrounding the subject of adjudication.
A number of other important items concerning contesting were discussed
at the AGM, and it is requested that they be published for general
One: It was essential that the practice of adjudicators
supplying comprehensive written remarks continue. It was also felt
necessary to only award points to the prizewinners in contests,
the remaining bands being placed in order of merit. It was considered
that in contests with large entries that it was perfectly acceptable
on occasions to award ties, outside the prizewinners.
Two: For the information of all bands, it was
felt necessary to publish the fact that there is in existence a
recommended table of maximum points normally to be awarded in Regional
Contests. There are:
Championship Sec, 197. First Sec, 192. 2nd Sec, 188. 3rd Sec, 184.
4th Sec, 180.
Three: The practice of some contests in requiring
adjudicators to complete ‘tick boxes’ qualifying performances
in such qualities as dynamics, rhythm, balance, and soloist, etc.,
was not favoured. It was felt that properly written remarks were
all that was required.
Four: It was considered ‘to be good practice’,
for adjudicators to be informed in advance of the event, of the
titles of pieces to be used in ‘own choice’ contests.
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