Comments ~ 2001: July


Comments from July 2001

A Song for Grimey!
One LP I long to see re-issued on CD is a long-standing favourite... "Grimethorpe Aria" of the mid to late 70's by Elgar Howarth and the Colliery Band of Grimethorpe. This recording was of immense proportions having pushed Brass Band repertoire into truly the modern era. As well as the only recording of "Fireworks" with narration, the debut of composers into the brass bandy world such as Harrison Birtwhistle (title track), Hans Werner Henze (Ragtimes & Habaneras) and Toru Takemitsu (Garden Rain, although a transcription) was more than welcome at the time. Howarth was already changing the movement with his direction and exposure of bands (e.g, the "Proms" at that time) and this album was a signature of the changes to come!

Tom D

4BR Reply:
A great choice Tom! A bit of a rare record to get however, but what a fantastic series of original and transcibed works. Grimethorpe have always tried something a bit different over the years and the influence of Elgar Howarth has been immense and nothing but good for Grimethorpe and the banding movement as a whole. We'll try and track this one down.

Golden GUS!
Can't remember the name of the L.P. but G.U.S made a fabulous recording that I was the proud owner of many years ago. Think it was something like World Champions Play Test Pieces (like a lot of things my memory is going with old age!) The record contained Variations On A Ninth,Carnival Romain,Energy etc. G.U.S. were a truly awesome band at the time - technically brilliant - with great players right around the stand including one of my all time favourite euph players - Trevor Groom. Trevor's playing in Carnival Romain and Variations On A Ninth is an object lesson to all euphonium players on the 'lost' art of lyrical playing. I think it was a compilation album made from different recordings one of which features the Soprano playing of a Welsh boy made good - Emlyn Bryant! Emlyn later returned to Wales to run the Pengelly Inn in Cwmparc!

Rob Burnett

4BR Reply:
We do know about this one Rob, but we'll have to look into the lost cupboards and dusty recess's of our collections to find and review it. GUS were a brilliant band at the time and had some of the finest players (most as you point out had a bit of Welsh in them!). As soon as we find a copy we'll get it on the site. If anyone can help and send us an image and details of the recording we would be delighted!

Come on the Albion - please!
Hi! I would like to say what a great site this is! I am a reader living in Norway, and it is good to get some BB stories and not just rumours... Can you please write something about "Albion", by Jan van der Roost? This is the testpiece also in the Norwegian championship. Thanks.

Haavard, Stavanger Brassband

4BR Reply:
Haavard, We will be hopefully putting our review of what seems to be a very interesting test piece to say the least in the near future. Albion is an interesting choice and a piece that will certainly test the very best bands out, as well as the organisers who will, we are sure have enough problems setting out the stage to accommodate a percussion section that includes everything you can hit, beat, slap, ring, thump, kick, hammer and smack. All this and just 12 minutes long!


Revised adjudication better?
Interesting article [regarding the revised adjudication system for the Masters]- always good to read new ideas, but I feel that you have designed the system to eliminate a rogue bad mark from an adjudicator (eg. YBS), whilst ignoring a rogue good mark, for example Imps getting 9, 10, and 1, which in your new system would have given an overall third place. surely your proposed system is equally as flawed as the existing system?

The system you described weights the results in favour of higher placings, but who is to say that the higher a band is placed the more 'correct' that placing is likely to be? At least at the moment one rogue placing out of three will not have any weighting favour over the two other placings, but in your proposal this would not be the case. The one rogue high placing would be weighted, accentuating it's effect. In this respect it could be argued that the proposed system is in effect worse than the current one.

Perhaps it would be better to devise a system around the idea of calculating the average mark awarded by the three judges, and then the difference between this average score and the highest and lowest individual scores, and then weighting the individual scores inversely according to how far they deviate from the average. Then recalculate the average using the weighted individual marks. I have not tried any calculations based on this but you can see that it would decrease the weighting of YBS's rogue 7th and also the rogue 1st of Imps. Whether or not it would have much effect on the final placings who knows?

The point about the system as it stands is that it works on averages, the only way in which it is flawed is that there are not enough judges to flatten out the results, so 1 judge giving a significantly different placing to the other 2 can have a dramatic effect on the final positions (as we have seen). For the current system to work better we need more judges. Having said that, I don't think the system is working badly at all, in my opinion it is infinitely better than having just one adjudicator like we still do atthe area contests.

I don't believe that there is such a thing as a perfect adjudication system, but long may the debate continue!

Phil Spencer

4BR Reply:
You may be right or wrong Phil but you have certainly added to the debate. We think it could be time for a change and have published a system by our very own J. Casey to try and make things a bit fairer. We know one thing though. What ever system used, it won't please everyone!

Read the article here...

Festival - not competition!
Regarding the article on the Festival of Music for Youth. This festival is not a competition, it IS a festival and it celebrates the talent of all the kids who perform. Yes, there is an Outstanding Performance award and also a Highly Commended award but these should not be seen as first and second prize.

For one, the size/age of ensembles within each class varies massively: how can you judge the performance of a band of 60 with sixth formers against a band of 25 eleven to fourteen year olds? There is simply no comparison - therefore the Outstanding Performance could go to a band that, whilst not as technically excellent, played out of their skin.

Secondly, the Highly Commended award normally goes to an ensemble that shows promise or had a programme of special interest, not the second "best" performance. It's to encourage the lesser skilled groups to continue performing. I feel I can comment on this as I've been active at most of these events since 1982.

The reason I feel the need to comment isn't to play down the performance of the winning band or any other OP awarded band. It's because on the day that I attended (the Jazz Ensemble day) the foyer was filled with crying kids who hadn't "won" the OP award as they had the previous year. Surely, if we could instil into the kids the fact that all performers at this festival are winners and try to get away from "winning" bands there would be a lot of happier, more satisfied children next year and in the years to come at this great event.

Competition is a great thing, it encourages excellence and keeps/maintains standards but there are specific competitions for most youth ensembles. This festival isn't one of them and 4BarsRest, with it's vast readership, should help celebrate this.

Phil Green

4BR Reply:
Thanks for pointing out that the Festival is not a contest at all Phil. However, we don't know a fantastic amount about the Festival itself and so we are a little puzzled why then they actually give out prizes? It's seems to defeat the very nature of the undertaking.

Why the competitive element, in what ever form, if as you rightly state it's a celebratory Festival? Why not just have the ensembles play and perform and not give out any gongs at the end. But perhaps then the bands and the teachers wouldn't go - would they?

Read the news item here...

Scotland to be controversial...
An undoubted number one for your 'Controversial Brass Band Contests' article.

The 1995 Scottish Championships. Bo'ness & Carriden (celebrating the centenary of their win in the 1st Scottish Championships) drawn no.1, conductor Brian Hurdley - Bram Gay in the box. Percussion bloomer in the very first bar. Solo Cornet had a nightmare in the Un Vie de Matelot solo. Generally a poor performance.

To quote the late Archie Sutherland, bumper up cornet player immediately after the performance, 'Well at least we can go the the f.....g bar now'.

Of course Mr Gay was looking for something else all together - such as the best 2nd baritone part and gave them 1st - despite a strong performance from CWS with Webster and Peter Parkes in his pomp and the Whitburn Band winning general approval from everyone but Mr Gay as well.

Definately the most ridiculous result I have ever known. For info - Newtongrange were 2nd !!!, CWS 3rd !!!! and Whitburn 5th !!!!!

R Watson

4BR Reply:
Well, well, well. Mr Gay gets another mention.

To totally misquote George Bernard Shaw "[To be mentioned] once is unfortunate, twice careless, but three times strikes me as being downright bonkers!"

We are sure Mr Gay thought the result was right - and who are we to think anything otherwise?

Got out of that didn't we?

Read the article here...

Getting a bit nostalgic...
Hi. Having read the bits about 1959 finals and Geoff Whitham's ten greatest [euphonium players] what about a bit more nostalgia.

Chris Helme

4BR Reply:
Thanks Chris. Great that you enjoyed these articles - and the good news is that we will be continuing to bring you our so called "nostalgia" items. In the near future we will be publishing articles on past contests, old LP's (remember them!) and interviews with some of the great players that have made a real mark on the banding world over the past years.

Read the 1959 finals article here...
Read the ten greatest euphonium players article here...

Flawed rankings.
I'm writing to put my perspective on your ranking system, which whilst worthwhile is (in my opinion) flawed. I understand the rationale behind giving the more important contests a higher weighting but one thorny issue arises: it is (arguably) easier to qualify for the national finals from some areas than others - and therefore provide an opportunity to score some big points just for getting there.

Any band that regularly attends the British Open is also potentially going to score well - but the battle at the Grand Shield every year shows that there's a depth of bands knocking on the door who on there day can be very bit as good as the lower half of bands competing in the Open.

In the case of my own band, we withdrew from the English Masters a couple of years ago on financial grounds a couple of years ago and are therefore denied the opportunity to compete there until the organisers issue us with an invitation that corresponds with our ability to pay to attend the event. On our last trip there we finished in the top ten and played extremely well. Arguably the band now is stronger than it was then.

It is frustrating to see us languishing low down the rankings when I know full well that in reality we deserve to rank at least 10 if not 15 places higher... I know of other bands in a similar situation, bands of very similar ability who also deserve to be much higher up the rankings...

How do you resolve this? In short, it's nigh on impossible. The only meaningful part of the ranking is the top 10 - i.e. those bands that are competing against each other on a regular basis in the big scoring contests, outside of the top 10 the positions are pretty meaningless and they simply serve as a baseline for your scoring system.

One suggestion may be to spliy the rankings into 2 divisions - a Premier league that encompasses the top 10 of the current system and then a further ranking that covers everyone else - but with the system modified in some way so as to lessen the impact of the bigger scores available at the bigger contests. This would potentially have an effect of flattening out the effect of qualifying for London from a weaker area of clinging on to an Open position by the skin of of your teeth - and provide I believe a much fairer representation of the lower order rankings.

Of course it's more work! Having said all of this, I accept that this is just a bit of fun that adds spice to the average contest day and I'd rather have such a system than not have one at all.

Those people that know me, know that I play for Wingates Band and I should stress that these views are my own and not those of the band! I hope these views are of interest. Kindest regards

Andy Wyatt

4BR Reply:
We don't at any time believe we have the fool proof rankings, but we do think we have the most up to date and accurate rankings that reflect the true positions of the top bands in the country.

It is difficult to reflect in pure numerical terms the differences between bands, but over the years (as we have done) it does tend to show who are the good, the not so good and the ...

As for a 1st and 2nd division - this might work, but would any band (like any football team) not be happier being ranked lowly in the Premiership than higher in the Nationwide League?

We are happy at our stats and believe they are the best on offer. If however someone has a better system, then why not let us know.

Reply by J Casey:
I am delighted that the 4BarsRest World Rankings have already aroused substantial interest but I would like to clarify a few points that have recently arisen.

Andy Wyatt of Wingates is naturally unhappy about his band being placed considerably lower than in other similar ranking tables over recent years, but his justification for a higher position is itself flawed. Wingates do indeed compete in a strong region which has 2 top 5 and 4 top 20 bands, but he should be aware that 6th place in the North West area is worth as much as 2nd or 3rd in some other areas. Qualification for the National or Open doesn't guarantee a high score either. It's the bands that finish in the top half of each of these contests that really score well and you can't do that without beating some bands from relatively strong areas. The band that wins the Grand Shield will also score as many points as a band that finishes around 10th or 11th in the Open so the bands finishing in the prizes are well rewarded there too. 'Clinging on to an Open position by the skin of your teeth' actually says something about the quality of any band that has the ability to do that but I would reckon that 15th place every year should be enough, roughly the equivalent of finishing 5th in the North West area.

The rankings are purely a measure of achievement in band contests with the emphasis being placed on most recent results and while I don't wish to take anything away from Wingates, who have always been a very good band in my experience, their recent achievements have been sparse in comparison with bands ranked above them. 9th in the Grand Shield (6th in 2000), unplaced in the area (5th in 2000), 2nd at Pontins in 2000 and last in the 1999 Open are results that bear all the hallmarks of a band ranked higher than 30 so perhaps 36 isn't so far away.

How do they resolve this ? Answer - qualify from the Grand Shield, play in the Open and finish as high as they have in the last 10 or so years, get into the frame at the area and they would probably get an invitation to the Masters. In 1997 Wingates would have been ranked 10th but I'm sure even Mr Wyatt would admit that their recent contest form is nowhere near as good as it was then.

As for splitting into 2 or more divisions, I can't really see what difference that would make. If we had a top division of 10 then Wingates would be placed 26th in division 2 or 6th in division 4. Would that make them feel better?

Finally, the writer has absolutely nothing against Wingates Band, in fact they are a very good example of a band that shows great variations in form that result in a fluctuating ranking position. Bands like this were invaluable in the setting up of the rankings table to let us see how quickly the system reacted to a run of relatively poor form, but I would be interested to know which 10 or 15 bands Mr Wyatt thinks Wingates deserve to be ranked above on the basis of recent contest results.

See our rankings here...

Inconsistant search results
I've notices this several times before but have forgotton to write to inform you. When using the search facility on your pages, it doesn't always bring back all the results. For example, when I entered 'Cambridge' it fails to return the news stories you have relating to the Masters. Are you aware?

Kath Woodward (email address supplied)

4BR Reply:
Thanks Kath for this. We were aware that this was happening and as you are not the first to point this out, we thought it was about time we told everyone why and provided a solution.

We apologise if we get a little technical but it's the only way to explain. When you search using the search box that appears on every 4BarsRest page, the results you get are for the static (html) pages that make up the site. However, the news stories under news desk are held in a database (as are the results in the results archive) so are not queried in the same way.

To overcome this problem we have now added a separate search facility for the news desk section. We also hope to provide a search facility for the results archive in the near future.

Read it as Read
My great friend David writes an excellent article in his look back to he 1959 National Finals, it brought back happy memories for me too, however his memory fails him a little as Carlton Main were 2nd not 3rd, I know because I played with them, we were also 2nd at the British Open the same year, having won it the previous year!

David Read (email address supplied)

4BR Reply:
Thanks Mr Read for pointing out the mistake. Carlton Main were in fact placed second at the Contest just behind Black Dyke's memorable performance.

Even though it was a little way back in 1958 we should have made a proper check (you can always trust our top judge to pick out the mistakes). David James thought he got it right, but perhaps his memory was playing tricks.

Hope that you enjoyed the article even if we didn't quite get it 100% right.

Just for the record, the top four at the 1959 National Championships were as follows:

1. Black Dyke Mills
2. Carlton Main Frickley Colliery
3. Fodens Motor Works
4. Munn and Feltons

Read the article here...

Prestige review lacks dignity
After reading your "Prestige" cornet review I'm unclear as to whether this is a review or an advertisement. Please don't take this as a "knock" against Roger Webster [as] he is an outstanding player and from reading his words in BBW most likely a great guy, but he was "deeply involved with the development with B&H". I don't see how he could give the cornet an objective review with his B&H connection.

The problem with B&H cornets for the last ten years has not been the design it has been the build quality. I don't see how the build quality will improve just because a new model comes along. If I does improve why was build quality a problem in the past ?

I would encourage to look some cornets that would put the "Prestige" into perspective. Cornets by Courtois, Kanstul, Lawler, Monette, Smith Watkins and Taylor would shed some interesting light on the B&H cornet line.

Ted Sparks (email address supplied)

4BR Reply:
4BarsRest are very grateful to Roger Webster for explaining the background of the development of the new "Prestige" cornet for us.

However, he did not do the "Roadtest", which we ourselves undertake and mark. We stick by our findings and were pleasantly surprised of the much improved build quality - especially as we agree with you about the problems they have had in recent years.

As for other cornets - we'll keep asking the makers for a lend so that we can do the tests, but they seem reluctant to let us get our hands on them to give our verdict. We'll keep trying though!

Read the article here...

A Bunch of Rankers!
Well done for the rankings at last we have a more accurate picture of the best bands but how on earth can you put such a band as Eikanger as low as you have? Everyone knows they are one of the best bands in Europe, so how come they are ranked 32nd? It doesn't make sense.

P. James (email address supplied)

4BR Reply:
We knew we weren't going to please everyone! We have taken the rankings seriously and we have given a full explanation of how they are worked out. There are always some anomalies, but overall we think they give a pretty accurate picture of who are the best bands around.

Read the article here...

Not Quite the Top 10 Euphoniums of all time
The top 10 Euphonium players seem to have more than a few omissions for me. Why no Robert Childs or John Clough? These are perhaps the two greatest euphonium players of the past 30 years or more, yet they don't get a mention. Come on 4BarsRest most people haven't even heard of some of your choices!

Mr John Cardwell, Huddersfield.

4BR Reply:
We asked Geoff Whitham to give us his choices and he decided to nominate the best euphonium players of their given generation from the start of the 20th Century to it's end. If you had read the introduction to the article in full you would have possibly realised this. Again we can't please everyone, but we respected his choice and printed it. Perhaps we'll do another list of the best players in the near future.

Read the article here...

Masters Coverage
Great coverage of the Masters, but the bias towards Yorkshire Building Society by your team was something else! Brighouse were brilliant and deserved to win in my opinion, but all you could do was belittle their victory.

K. Beven (email address supplied)

4BR Reply:
We put our cards on the table before, during and after the contest and we stick by our pre and post match comments and analysis. We thought YBS were outstanding and should have been clear winners, but we also gave Brighouse a damn good write up in praise of their performance as well. We don't accept the accusation of bias not unless there are any Welsh bands competing (only joking!). Read the feature again and we think you'll see we were pretty fair towards all the bands (winners and losers)

Read the article here...

What about the Lower Sections!!
Great site folks but what about all the bands in the lower sections. I play for a band in the Third Section and we don't get any coverage about our contests in the same way in which you cover the Masters, Open etc. Are you going to do something about us!!!

Bob Ward (email address supplied)

4BR Reply:
Yes but only if we have the time! We will be trying to expand the site over the next few months to give more coverage to the bands in the lower sections and we'll definitely be at the National Finals to give full coverage. Sorry we can't do it all at the moment but be patient and we'll get there in the end!

More Reviews please!
Thanks for all the good work especially at the contests, but can we have some more critical reviews? Even the top bands don't always play brilliantly at all times, but most reviewers in the band press seem scared to criticise in case they upset the so called "important people". So far you seem to be doing a good job can you assure us that you will keep up the good work.

Mr Paul Heath (email address supplied)

4BR Reply:
Thanks Paul for the kind comments. We can assure everyone that we will review concerts, contests, CD's, instruments etc in an unbiased and forthright way. It may upset a few people (Mr Gay included) but we think it's about time we cast a critical eye over the way in which the movement and its bands are heading.

About these comments

We will not print anonymous letters and we will not print your email address 4barsrest has a responsibility to inform our readers of our opinions concerning the many topics of the banding world we cover, and we are proud that we give the opportunity for people to comment with their thoughts about certain topics (including contest results). However, we are very clear that these comments are those of the individual who has written them, and in no way do they indicate that 4br agrees with the sentiments, observations or perceived injustices that are highlighted in them. We will continue to inform and report to our readers, and will give our own opinions and thoughts. We will also continue to give the opportunity to others to do the same, but by allowing people to air their opinions does not, and will not mean that they reflect in any way the responsible and informed opinion that we ourselves hold.

About these comments...

We will not print anonymous letters and ... Read more.