5 Steps to Revolution - Sandy Smith's quintet of manifesto proposals


4BR asks leading banding personalities to tell us what 5 proposals they would like to see implemented if a banding revolution is to be kickstarted in the UK...First up is Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith4BR is asking is number of leading personalities for the five ideas they would like to see implemented to kick start a revolutionary change in the brass band movement.

First up is Sandy Smith, former solo horn with Black Dyke Band, one of the movement’s leading arrangers, and currently resident conductor at Brighouse & Rastrick Band.

Proposal Number 1: 

Lower section regional and national finals up to and including at least the Second Section to be ‘own choice’ test piece competitions with a time limit for each section.

There are endless complaints both before and after contests about the suitability of test pieces. Throw the ball back to the bands and give the conductors the task of choosing suitable music to show off their perceived strengths.

Basically - if you can’t play or don’t like it, then don’t choose it.

There may be the odd car crash of a performance where totally unsuitable music is used, but these will be weeded out by any decent adjudicator and the time limit on each section should help bands to avoid the temptation to try some of the more extended top section pieces.

Time limits, infringements of which would result in penalties in points or placement, would also help the logistics of running the contests.

A variety of music on show should create more interest in listening and the chance for more neglected or newly composed music, which would have to be published and available to all bands, to be heard.

Own choice music choice works in other music competitions both amateur and professional so why not brass bands?

Proposal Number 2: 

If funding for new contests is to be pursued from a central body then it should be channelled into the establishment of a National Entertainment Contest with a particular emphasis on Sections 1 - 4.

Get bands to focus on the factors that will ultimately determine their survival - the ability to provide an invigorating, entertaining musical product to a paying audience.

Proposal Number 3: 

Although my first two points would on the surface dispute this, I would like to see bands spending more time focussing on the music rather than the contests, especially the minutiae of results.

Own choice test pieces and bigger and better entertainment contests force bands to really examine what they play and why, instead of waiting to be force-fed a diet which they don’t like.

There is almost an inverted snobbery within the movement about what we should and should not play. We all need to remember that ultimately no audience = no bands.

Proposal Number 4: 

High profile competitions with two or more adjudicators to have said adjudicators separated with no contact during the contest. 

If I compete I want to know each individuals thoughts of the performance not a compromised, watered down amalgam of opinion - especially one skewered by some ‘stronger’ personality.

The ‘we all agreed’ scenario doesn’t hold water when you read the often wildly differing remarks.

The oft quoted remark that the system used at the All England Masters a few years ago was a failure just isn’t true. All it did was highlight the fact that different people have different opinions about the same performance.

Is the current system really that good that it can’t be improved upon? 

Conductors and players stand or fall on the contest stage by their own efforts - adjudicators should to.

Proposal Number 5: 

I would like to see more reporting on sites such as 4BR of success stories from bands in all sections throughout the country of musical events which they have staged, perhaps involving other local arts groups which have led to increased audiences and fundraising opportunities for those involved.

A sharing of ideas if you like which bands may take and adapt to their own circumstances in their own local area to bring brass bands to a wider public.


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