Comments ~ 2002: July


Comments from July 2002

Vinter Wins it
A very wise decision to place Gilbert Vinter above Eric Ball. I remember as a young lad listening to every band at Belle Vue in 1968 and also the disparaging comments from my older peers who could not get to grips with what they claimed to be discordant music. But as you rightly state, he changed the face of brass band music and certainly paved the way for back row players to have some of the fun. What was once regarded as discordant is now seen as exciting. Unfortunately, we seldom here John O'Gaunt played nowadays.

Brian Crook

4BR Reply:
Thanks Brian. We had to think long and hard about our list (honest), but it had to be Gilbert Vinter for us. No other composer has so changed the way in which brass bands could play, whilst still maintaining the essence of what they are renowned for - great sounds, great tunes and great big tests of nerve and character. It's about time his works had a major reappraisal - John O' Gaunt is a great piece - and a nightmare for trombone players at the beginning of the piece -"The Bells!, The Bells!"

Life's a Lottery
Our band is currently in the early stages of applying for a lottery grant to get a new set of instruments. There are so many requirements to fill and forms to fill in it is difficult to know where to start! I was wondering if you would be interested in writing an article about applying for lottery grants as there must be many bands out there who would appreciate the help. It could also create a contact for bands who have had successful or unsuccessful grants to meet with bands currently applying and share their advice. Do you think this could be possible?

Helen Morgan, Tewkesbury Town Band

4BR Reply:
Thanks Helen. We know first hand how bloody complex it is to make a successful application for Lottery Funds. We'll certainly have a look at doing an article on it, and possibly ask for someone at the Lottery to explain things in simple terms to us as well. Leave it with us and good luck with the application.

What about the Bourgeois then?
I appreciate the reviews and comments of 4BR and read with interest your Top 10 Contest Composers article. As for Elgar Howarth (who's done much to widen the musical scope of bands in general but whose compositions seem more to be clever pastiche) at No. 4 yet no place for Derek Bourgeois (e.g. "Blitz" and "The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea", etc.) - I rather think not!

Brian Bowen

4BR Reply:
Got to disagree with you Brian. "Devil" contains more copies of other peoples ideas than a market trader dealing in dodgy tee shirts. "All Kinds of Everything" by Dana for heavens sake!! His output is a very mixed bag - from the truly great in "Concerto Grosso" to the rather tame and more than disappointing, "Concerto Number 1". Worthy of serious consideration though, and someone knocking on the door for entry into our Premier League. As for Howarth though - we stick by our assumption that his was a great loss to the movement - his works such as his "Five Pieces for Spielberg" and his "In Memoriam R.K" are works of immense stature.

And Horovitz and Graham?
Not a bad list boys, but you seem to have missed a couple of composers who possibly should have made the top 10. What about Joseph Horovitz and Peter Graham? Horovitz gave us two very underated pieces in "Ballet for Band" and "Theme and Cooperation" which were lighter in character than the norm and all the better for it, whilst Peter Graham has given us "Harrison's Dream" and "Montage" - perhaps two of the finest test pieces of recent times. How didn't they get in?

Philip Newsome.

4BR Reply:
Two fine composers Philip, and ones that did get a worthy mention in our discussion. We liked the two works from Horovitz, but neither were challenging enough for the bands in our opinion and didn't really break new ground. Peter Graham could well be up there - our jury is still a little undecided at present, but his portfolio is mightily impressive and perhaps his next major work could well get him in the top 10. We'll have to wait and see.

And the Europeans don't get a mention!
What about the European composers then?

Morten Galsein

4BR Reply:
What indeed!! We are big fans of some of the recent test pieces from the likes of Jan van der Roost, Torstein Aargaard Nilsen and Piet Swert, but we need to hear more of their output - and that seems to be the main problem. The Brits don't yet have the appetite for their works, even though many are top rate pieces. Ever heard "Seid"? Perhaps one of the most difficult test pieces of recent times and one that deserves another airing.

Don't Kid Us!
Are you lot kidding!!! How come you manage to place the likes of Robert Simpson and Elgar Howarth on your list, but completely ignore the composing genius of George Lloyd and Arthur Butterworth. Come on guys - do a bit more homework - could it be that neither of you have ever played any of their works??

Neville Bloomfield

4BR Reply:
Another two composers worthy of mention - and they very nearly got on our list. Lloyd's works are fine pieces - "English Heritage" especially, but the two other works used at the majors - "Royal Parks" and "Diversions on a Bass Theme" are not quite in the same league overall, and so he didn't quite make it. As for Mr Butterworth - a great composer for brass, but the two pieces that have made it to the major contests aren't possibly his best. "Odin" is a fine piece, but "Caliban" isn't quite top notch for us. Still - that's just our opinion isn't it?

Heaton and Farnon - what a loss
I really enjoy the articles that you provide on the site and this is another one that got me thinking. It's a pity you couldn't include Wilfred Heaton - but perhaps that tells us more about the narrow minded people who failed to recognise the mans talents years before they finally did. Just the one piece - what a pity.

Also, the same could be said of Robert Farnon - just the one piece again. What is it about the brass band world that we don't recognise sheer talent when we hear it.

Keep up the good work - I agree with Gilbert Vinter, even though he was also shamelessly treated by the banding world towards the end of his life.

Dr. Ian Thompson.

4BR Reply:
You are quite right Doc. Nothing much more to add really - one of the greatest miscarriages was the decision not to use "Contest Music" at the 1973 Nationals, whilst just the one fine work from the pen of Farnon seems absurd.

CD Heaven?
Just a note to thank you for the quality of the recent reviews of the European Championships from Brussels and the latest release from BAYV Cory. On the strength of them I purchased both and have spent some time listening to them at length.

You are spot on with the European - great playing, but more than a few mistakes (something other publications didn't quite note!), but the overall standard is the best I have heard from the contest. (I have CD recordings from the past years back to 1996). As for the BAYV Cory release, I was a little disappointed with some aspects of the playing (personal preference though), but I would congratulate Robert Childs on his interpretations. As you stated, they are very "neutral" and give the listener the chance to make up their minds about the pieces without having "whacky" affectations spoil them.

Keep up the good work - nice to read sensible unbiased reviews for once in the banding press.

Paul Stapleton.

4BR Reply:
The European was a great event, and the CD does it justice we think. There are mistakes in just about all the performances, but the overall playing was perhaps the highest ever. The BAYV Cory release is one of the most interesting for a while - a very personal choice of set works that really raises the question about their standing. Are they really that "Classic"?

Nice one Willie!
Many thanks for the article by Chris Helme on Willie Barr. I was lucky enough to have listened to him on numerous occasions and can tell your readers that he was a superb player and one who would have graced the end chair at Black Dyke. However, I understand he wasn't that interested in the position at the time and had better offers elsewhere, so he never took up the post.

Great that he is remembered though after all this time. Congratulations on a fine article.

Mr Colin Dunstan.

4BR Reply:
Thanks Colin. By all accounts, Willie Barr was on hell of a player and we are very thankful to Chris Helme for highlighting him. Look out for further articles by Chris - it shows we are trying to look back into our past as well as forward into the banding future.

What, Where and When please?
Thank you for your most excellent website.

Wondering if you had considered the possibility of publishing a "Who's on where' type calendar of the concert schedules of some of the best bands. I think it would be of interest to many to know in advance where they could hear some of the best bands in concert. I realise there may be issues of where to start and finish on this (who to include etc.) but think if you focussed on say the top 10 ranked bands that might provide an objective cut off point.

Russell Davies.

4BR Reply:
Just a bit more patience and hopefully we will be able to provide something along the lines you are talking about Russell. Anthony has been working hard and long into the night and will be unveiling something very soon to try and cater for this type of thing. Watch this space…..

Dinosaur Death?
Not having visited 4BR recently, due to holidays, I was surprised to read of the current points system (out of 200 for most contests) being "another old dinosaur about to die a death".

Not subscribing to, or regularly reading any other band magazine, I'm extremely puzzled as to what system is being brought in as replacement...

I'd be grateful if anyone could shed a bit more light on this one, and extremely grateful if the new system should involve more than one adjudicator!

Jack D Smith, Chalford Band

4BR Reply:
Thankfully, the old points system at the highest level is starting to die a death. The Masters and the British Open have replaced the traditional system and others we hear are due to follow suit. At the top level it just doesn't seem to have a relevance anymore for us - the judges are more than able to place the bands in order of merit to decide a winner, so why do they need to "score" their performance as well.

The replacement systems have their plus and minus points as well, but overall they seem to be a fairer reflection on the prime purpose of contesting - to place bands in order of merit. As for more judges - we'll leave that one for another day.

Just a quick one but has anyone else noticed how similar the voices of Major Peter Parkes and Baron Greenback from Dangermouse are? Sorry if your reading this Major.....

Nick Sharpe, Eb Bass, Desford Colliery Band,

4BR Reply:
You have been watching too much television mate. Get out more (preferably to the pub), but if we were you, we would hide pretty sharply when the Major next conducts the band. Very funny though, and who does his sidekick Penfold remind you of…..

Putting us in the Picture.
I have written on a couple of occasions now and I have also read with interest the comments on the brass band movement and especially the now infamous Boardman Balls to try and gauge the strength and depth of banding in Britain today. The general impression seeming to be one of mixed fortune. Bands in some areas are doing well, others not so well.

Furthermore music making generally seems to have taken a dive over the last few years, but now appears to be enjoying a renaissance in light of the latest think tank ideas on the benefit of music in education.

For what it's worth the brass band movement is a quality product (warts and all) and that's something we should never lose sight of. It's been said many times before, that strong grass roots are essential. Hence amongst other things the need for committed leadership and a sturdy youth policy with the availability of instruments and tuition.

Also is there an award scheme in being to help encourage the youth (as per many youth organisations) and to aid the well-intentioned band member charged with bringing on the kids.

Therefore fingers off the SELF DESTRUCT BUTTON, stop moaning, whinging, whining, carping, bleating, etc., but be positive, kick ass and go for it.

As for Boardman he deliberately set himself to be shot down and if that is not being a sad person of doubtful parentage, more him than us.

John Bray

PS. The government has now made available £125m to spend on voluntary organisations.

4BR Reply:
Thanks for letting us know John. There does seem to have been a bit of a hit and miss approach around the country over the years - mainly due to the fact that there has been no Government structure in place so that funding could be utilised properly. This seems to have been sorted out now and hopefully the future is looking a bit more rosy, but we do have a habit in the movement of being very complacent. If there is £125 million up for grabs then surely we should be making efforts to get our hands on it, but can anyone tell us if there is anyone in the movement coordinating this in any way?

So Inhumane!
Dear Mr. Boardman,

Are you a musician? Obviously not.

People with this attitude towards others do not deserve the title HUMAN, let alone MUSICIAN.

I suggest you live and let live, and keep your opinions to yourself. If you really think that we as bandspersons are this worthless, why bother wasting your valuable and far more important time on decent people.

Stuart Chappell

4BR Reply:
A bit strong Stuart!!! It looks like Mr Boardman has got your gander up a bit.

A Special Needs Case!
Regarding Adrian Boardman's comments:

We've never met, how does he know I have a 'closeted...outlook on life'? Did someone tell him, or is this just a remarkable feat of personal insight? Coupled with his obvious eloquence and deftness of expression, Mr. Boardman is clearly a very special case indeed.

Yours always impressed by inarticulate tub-thumping,

A closeted bandsman.

David Elliott Smith

4BR Reply:
You've certainly come out of the closet on this one David!

Belgium Rankers
How do we manage to become a ranking as a Belgian band. We, Kortrijk Brass Band, came several times to Folkestone in the SCABA contest and we have been for 25 years championship section in Belgium?

Lieven Maertens, MD KBB

4BR Reply:
We hope to be able to produce a top 100 soon, so you never know. Just keep up the good work, get a few results and you never know. Keep your eyes peeled!

Young Bass Trom looking for a Scots home.
I hope that somebody can help me. I play Bass trombone at the moment in Shaw youth band, very soon I will be moving to college in Dumfries so will have to stop playing in Shaw youth. I want to carry on playing if possible because I enjoy it very much. Can somebody please help me to find a band to play for. Thank you

Andrew Taylor

4BR Reply:
Right - Who needs a bass trom?

Foreign Holidays anyone?
I know how well read 4barsrest is all over the world so I am hoping someone can come to my rescue. I have the opportunity of taking our youth band on a foreign tour next June. I hoping to find a Music Festival that we could take part in. Any countries would have to be the end of June as the Scottish exams don't finish till then.

Hope someone can help.
Moira Ross   
Conductor: Aberdeenshire Youth Brass Band

4BR Reply:
Can anyone help? We've picked this one up.
30 APRIL - 03 MAY 2003

To Elland back
Thanks for the mention. We have had some interest in the position of MD . I wonder if you get us another mention, just to let everyone know that we are starting auditions mid August. If there is anyone out there looking for a progressive 2nd section band we would love to hear from them. We are up for a challenge and ready to get stuck into some hard graft

Regards, Kathleen Harrison. (otherwise know as mother superior.)

4BR Reply:
There must be someone out there looking to start a career - get in touch

One Moment in Time
With regard to a request in your comments section for 'One Moment in Time' arranged by Duncan - I think I may be able to help.

Ray Tennant

4BR Reply:
Get in touch then.

Boardman's Balls
I was intrigued by the comments of Adrian Boardman and I would just like to say that I agree with him, to a certain extent. However, one important point I feel is being forgotten is that bands are amateur organisations, with some being more or less amateur than others! It is pretty good that band's get the airtime that they do under the circumstances and, although I would love
to hear more band broadcasts, it is a tad unrealistic, considering in mainstream classical music the amount of coverage is pretty poor, with only the standard classics being played generally.

As a young music student studying conducting and composing, I have had the pleasure to compose in a variety of musical styles and conduct a wide range of ensembles. I have found that banding is becoming more and more modern and, despite the dodgy "cloth-capped aged miners" reputation, I feel that
this no longer applies. In every organisation I have had the privilege of working with, I have found them very accepting of change and anything but closed-minded. This could naturally be due to the young age of many of these ensembles, yet even the more mature members have been more than forward looking.

Yes, banding is a dying tradition, yet through young players and encouraging youth development, standards will increase and, hopefully, we will see banding thrive in maybe even 20 years to come! Oh yes! Music wise, many of the modern brass band compositions would easily stand up in most contemporary
concerts I've seen as original works. Yes, there is a lot of yellow music lingering around, yet many top orchestral composers are writing for band (Harrison Birtwhistle for example) with great results. This is very encouraging to see! Personally, I mainly write more avant-garde music yet I also can write the more conventional tonal music too and I have found that, unfortunately, the tonal stuff has made me a great deal more money and many more sales. Particularly my work for band, as cheese tends to sell! In addition, I have found band conducting to be not only more rewarding than other ensembles, but an excellent way to keep my bank account in the black!

Ok, so banding may be still a small community of mainly amateur musicians, yet the general standard is exceptionally high for amateur music and the vast number of young people showing an interest today is very encouraging. If we encourage the youth in bands and embrace change, I see no reason why banding shouldn't be going strong for many more years to come.

Alan Duguid

American Balls!
As a former brass band player I read Mr. Boardmans ahem inane letter with some interest. I'm sure, whilst trying to keep up with brass band news from afar, that there may be some merit to some of his assertions about the brass bands place in the media today in the UK.

What I do not understand Mr Boardman, and forgive me if the unrelenting summer heat of the Nevada desert has fried my brain, is that you "personally enjoyed many years in the brass band world"....i'm assuming that the musical prostitutes, redundant repertoires, those "helpers" and the uninformed guests weren't around in your playing days?. Or didn't you care at the time? And as for the Royal Albert Hall bit...thankfully you achieved that success. I didn't, and it has always been a disappointment to me that I never got the chance to play there even once. I never realised that ambition I had was so parochial and small-minded.

Some of us joined brass bands to enjoy the "brass band music", the camaraderie, the rivalries, banding in general. And that includes the gripping about the adjudicators, the " we were robbed at the Regionals " arguments in the pub etc etc. Maybe you have a point that it is small minded, but if the majority of the players of what ever calibre wanted to play some Other style of music, more power to them. I just hope for their sake there are no "musical prostitutes " etc etc in some other field.

But please do not denigrate a whole movement because of what you perceive as its faults. Maybe if you put your criticisms in a more dignified way, then maybe you may just start a more serious discussion on ways that the movement we have all enjoyed for years, maybe improved to the betterment of all who enjoy it so much. In that I mean more media exposure, a wider repertoire, better finances, better contests, better players..whatever is needed.

I sit here Mr. Boardman, after not playing for ten years, with one old tape left in my car of Black Dyke playing " Connotations ". A wonderful recording of a great band playing a great piece of music. You know something...during the whole performance it never occurred to me once that the composer never hit the big-time. Am I missing something?

Anyway, obviously you won't post this as its far too anti-Boardman, but if you've got the balls....

Alun Richards, Nevada. USA

Welsh Balls!

I have just re-read Mr. Boardman's letter as the first time through I misjudged it as a wonderful piece of ironic writing, but on second thoughts decided he shouldn't be allowed to get away with such uninformed, unintelligent tripe.

Of course Brass banding is a minority but so too are many other equally enjoyed forms of music. Why does this pose a problem?

There is no doubt that brass banders talk about bands, it is after all their common ground. Has Mr. Boardman never shared a conversation with golfers or anglers or gardeners etc.........?

His comment about current players is frankly laughable. At the Welsh area this year he would have seen John Hendy (WNO trombone) and a certain Andrew Berryman as well as many many other players who play many other forms of music in this area ranging from soul bands to orchestras. I am sure this would have been repeated throughout the country.

I have no idea who Mr.Boardman is (perhaps this is his main problem!!) but to criticise adjudicators and conductors the way he did then he must be one hell of a player/musician! I was amused to hear him describe, say Bram Tovey for example, as a 'part time music pro with now't to do in the evening' (I assume use of a northern vernacular either as a dig at the movement or an attempt to establish credibility for himself). We all can name many more not deserving of such vitriolic stupidity.

I guess by his criticism of treasurers etc he was one of those players who just turned up and expected his stand to be in place (cornet player?.... only joking guys!!)

But we really see his musical credibility late on. He obviously judges success by monetary rewards. How shallow. Mr Boardman Mozart died a pauper and I am sure he is the most listened to composer ever. Yes I generalise but I am sure I can find evidence to support this claim unlike the majority of your diatribe. Oh yes I have heard of Mozart and not because I think he wrote the 1789 Austrian Championship section test piece!!!!

Criticise by all means, but do it fairly.


Balls as Art?

I'm sure you've had many respondents to the email you posted from Adrian Boardman, but here's my tupenny worth. I saw his tirade as being one often levelled at Banding and especially at Contesting. Basically I'd like to make a case for the Brass Band competition as an art form.

When I rejoined the banding fraternity after a 10 years absence by going to watch the 2000 nationals I realised a few things. It reminded me that there are faults with band competitions; yes they can stifle musical expression; yes test pieces are all very similar stylistically; yes, generically brass bands are great at playing fast and loud, not so great [except for the absolute elite] at playing high, slow and quiet.

But I also saw that the contest was just as valuable as any music expression. Imagine it - what other musical form tests interpretation to the extent an Open/national does? In last year's open there were 5 performances of absolute brilliance - all giving you a different rendition of a great piece of music. OK we don't have Sawyer/Turnage/McMillan test-pieces, but then major orchestras still stick to the C18th and C19th staples of the repertoire for the same reason as Brass Bands commission so many test pieces from the likes of Phillip Sparke - they ensure an audience. A good test piece needs not only to be a good piece of music - it must work well within the context of a competition where performers are speaking to a specific audience [both inside and outside the box] in a specific way.

The clincher for a major Brass Band contest as art form for me is the eccentric periphery; the fact that you also always have a number of bands struggling with the piece; the often terrible uniforms; the gasps as famous players split top notes; the mass rustling as the audience turns a score page in unison; the way the draw and order of play give each contest day its own dramatic 'story'; the inevitable elation/disappointment at results time; the realisation at the end of it all that the music won no matter the results [e.g. - Fodens' performance of 'Les Preludes']. This isn't nostalgic claptrap - it's the stuff that characterises a Band competition and make it more vital than many a Prom concert.

If for whatever reason band contesting isn't for Adrian, then I'm sure he will get his enjoyment from other musical forms. As for me I am itching to see the Story of "The Maunsell Forts" and the 2002 British Open unfold in September...

Daffydd Jones

And finally - Professional Balls

Dear Mr.Boardman,

I'm amazed by your comments about our minority movement. You've moved on from mediocrity and don't belong anymore! So what gives you the right to judge? It seems that where you have moved to, you can get free introductory gifts of pomposity and arrogance. Our people enjoy themselves and are friends. It might not be perfect but it's ours and we like it! If it's so sad, then why do you read our pages with interest? Go and gloat somewhere else that's elitist enough for you. You don't have any suggestions about how we should be and your comments are purely guesswork. No empirical evidence to support your outrageous claims about the sociology of brass bands - in research circles you would be rejected - my band is nothing like the one you hallucinated about! As for our poor composers and arrangers, I'd wager that some of their music is still being played long after Westlife's. I'm judging because I'm in it! I've got a right too! These comments are mine and not my band's.

John Ludden - conductor, Parr band St.Helens,
(AKA classically trained semi - pro with nothing else to do in the evening).

And not forgetting Wolf's Balls!
For some time now I followed the comments from Mr. De Wolf and I must say that I've had it now.

I was chocked by the initial article from Mr. De Wolf; what an arrogance!! Not to talk about his explanations about cornet playing etc… He must be a hell of a musician; only nobody seems to know him, quite amazing indeed!!

Surely YBS was the band of the day in Brussels and Dyke didn't perform as everybody expected they would, but after I read the articles from Mr. De Wolf I was ashamed to be a Belgian!!
First off all I have never heard of anyone with any authority within the Belgian brass movement listening to the name Dirk De Wolf, and I've been playing with a top section band for over more than 15 years now!! So I can assure all the bandsmen of GB: "Dirk De Wolf is not God himself", he's only a pseudo brass-intellectual. If the man has any dignity left, he should apologise to the Dyke band personnel.

On the cornet matter: what's wrong with the cornet sound of Mr. Webster?? By the way, the performance of Dyke's bumper up was meant to be played that way!!!! Surely Mr. De Wolf must have noticed that??? Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it Stuart Lingard that played principle cornet with YBS in Brussels and not Ben Godfrey??

As to his critics on the gala concert program: one should listen to concert programs of some top bands in Belgium once in a while - that would really make Dr. King smile!!!

Piet Callens

A Load of Balls!!

I have read with some interest over the last few months the gripes and groans of exponents of the brass band movement, on your site - re. the lack of TV and media interest in the brass band movement ( vis-a-vis Best of Brass, RIP, etc). I have to say, as an ex-bander, that the issue is more than transparently clear (is that possible?!).

As a musical movement, from a national perspective, you are clearly a minority. Add to this the closeted approach most of you have to your outlook on life, pastimes and banding (unless it includes talking about banding etc!) then the future looks gloomy to say the least.

I have personally enjoyed many years in the brass band world as a player, (even appeared in the finals on the Royal Albert Hall stage, whoop-de-do) but unfortunately the moment you diversify, as a player and musician, into other fields, it really does put it all in to perspective. So I'll sum up.

Brass bands are for: current players (one field, one sound, one repertoire); current adjudicators (the 'paid' element, otherwise known as real musos- ha ha! Perhaps more appropriately musical prostitutes!); Conductors (aka part time music pros with now't better to do in the evening); friends and family ( to include ex players, doting parents and grandparents at most); and those who really are in the 'pastime' category (ie secs., treasurers, helpers, you name it); oh, and listeners ( I d hazard an uninformed guess at approx 0.1% of the population (prove me wrong with stats if you like but I want age range inclusive!)

I generalise of course...

As for composers and arrangers - well, sorry folks but you really haven't hit the big time - sorry to break this news to you but Westlife's writers earn more for their supposed 'composing' (sic).

Anyway, obviously you won't post this as its far too anti-brass band movement, but if you've got the balls...

Adrian Boardman

4BR Reply:
Talking Balls eh?

What about Hugo Turpe then!!

lived 1859 - 1891 and performed in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago,
Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Cincinnati, Plymouth and also in the "STAR COURSE". 1886 - 1888 ... born in Germany he performed before the Russian tsar and the emperor of Brazil!

André Teichmann

4BR Reply:
Just checked the website out - what a guy!! Our German isn't good enough to know exactly if he did play for the Russian Czar - and we didn't really know that Brazil had an Emperor, but he still looked the business - a bit like the composer Schubert in looks, with a natty line in bow ties and those specs that rested on the nose. Old Hugo had a short life though (just 32 when he popped his mortal coil and went to the great cornet section in the sky - although there weren't many there when he went - he had to battle for the Principal chair with Jean Baptiste Arban who died in 1889!).

The Big Bad Wolf!
I have been trying my best not to get drawn into the opinions of Mr. Wolf, but last letter has tipped the scales. As a principal cornet player of a championship section band, I must express my own views on what Mr. Wolf has decided to be so negative and highly critical about: cornet playing.

Firstly, let me say that Roger Webster is arguably the finest cornet player in the world at this moment in time. To criticise his playing totally amazes me. This is not I feel an opinion, but a personal swipe. For Mr. Wolfs benefit (in the event he does not know) today's composers and arrangers write music today (particularly for championships bands), which require cornet players to play various styles, sounds, etc. Rightly or wrongly this is what composers nowadays look for. Cornets are now being manufactured with various lead pipes to adjust to these styles and sounds, so even manufacturers recognise that today's cornet players need to adapt to specific composers and music.

Cornet playing today is not only about playing beautiful melodies. This is only one aspect of cornet playing. If Mr. Wolf wants to hear only beautiful melodies from a cornet then that's fine, but it is ludicrous for him to personally criticise players who are performing what has been composed for them.

Lastly can I suggest that Mr. Wolf buys a personal CD if he has not already got one, obtain a copy of some of Roger Webster's solo albums then sit and listen to the whole spectrum of what cornet playing is all about. It will contain some of the best slow melodies he will ever hear, but it will also contain and show other aspects of cornet playing.

Mr. Wolf must be some player and conductor himself to criticise an individual like Roger Webster and a collective ensemble of musicians like Black Dyke. Criticising music and arrangements to me is acceptable (I don't particularly like every piece I have heard Black Dyke and Roger Webster play) but to criticize them as musicians is totally unfair and not merited.

Stuart Macualay

4BR Reply:
Now, now Boys!! Lets have a good clean fight - no gouging, lip battering, false fingering and hitting below the stave. It's great for the rest of us to just sit back and let them go for it!!! Great stuff lads!

Roy - The Little Imp
Thanks for a good article but what about Roy Roe?? He was absolutely superb in his days with Yorkshire Imps and must have had some constitution etc for such a small character. I remember him taking his solo turn by playing the penultimate piece of their programmes! After he had played almost a full programme he would then play something like "Musetta's Waltz" flawlessly. One occasion which sticks in my mind was the 1979 Open at Belle Vue when the test piece was "Carnival Romain". Roy Roe sat on his own behind all of the other cornets and was a dream to hear. He always seemed to really enjoy his banding (unlike some of the miserable faces on band stages these days!)

David White

4BR Reply:
Roy Roe seems to have made more than a name for himself - and has got a pretty decent fan club as well. Well deserved we must say, and he was pretty damn close to getting on our list - he was only beaten by some really fantastic players, but for many it seems, he should be up there with the very best.

Looking for a bit of "Deep Harmony"?
I was wondering if any of you have any information regarding Parkers 'Deep Harmony', it's origins when first performed and any interesting history about the playing of the piece in brass bands.....this is for a project I am doing.

Thanks for any insight you can give and for making a great web sight!

Paul Holford

4BR Reply:
A real classic, but one we know not of its origins. Can anyone help Paul - no prizes but it would be interesting to know more about the piece.

And what about something more modern?
Do you know where I could purchase the Brass arrangement for "One Moment in Time" arranged by Duncan. I heard it recently and it was great.

4BR Reply:
Anyone to the rescue?

The Bleeding Last Ballet!!!
Ballet for Band is also available on:

Joseph Horovitz Music for Brass
CWS (Glasgow) Band
Recorded 1994
Conducted by the Composer

Available from the band or Polyphonic DPRL901D

Iain Chisholm
CWS (Glasgow)

4BR Reply:
Please, please, please everyone - no bloody more!!!!
We think the original request has now been met - in full.

Feels like Chicken Tonight!
Great comments about Eric....but he's no's CapRon.

Cool site...keep it up.


4BR Reply:


Feels like Chicken Tonight!
Great comments about Eric....but he's no's CapRon.


4BR Reply:
Sorry, but that's the way the correspondent wrote it! Apologies to all concerned though - 4BR does have a Fox in its ranks so we should have known better. Reminds us though - one of us was in school with a girl called Eunice Chicken. What ever happened to her we wonder?

Sacre (not so) Bleu!
I thank you very much to have published my message! I'm only very surprised by your title "French FURY"!!! I was absolutely not "furious" and it was just an opinion!

Congratulations for your fantastic work,

Daniel Zumbrunnen, Switzerland

4BR Reply:
Thanks Daniel. We know you weren't that furious! Remember, the Welsh are experts at a bit of stirring - that's why we have all those so called "Love Spoons" on our walls!!

Parking Places are available.
Mark Bryant wrote that he was seeking a website with details of bands playing in parks. The Brass Bands Events Diary lists many such events including other concerts and contests throughout the year. It has published details of over 4,500 events in the last 15 months and lists some 1,700 future events. Submissions or suggestions for free entries are always welcome. It can be found at: as part of the IBEW.
Gavin Holman

4BR Reply:
Thanks for reminding us about one of the most valuable brass band resources on the net. If you need to know more we heartily recommend you have a look. We are sure they will be able to give everyone some information.

Do bands need their own Association?
I too was dismayed to see the withdrawal of support from one band of the memorandum allegedly signed by 5 representatives on behalf of their respective bands.

Whilst I personally do not support the entirety of the memorandum I wrote to each band inviting them to become the pioneers of a new association called 'The National Association of Championship Bands' (NACB).

Adjudicators and Conductors have each formed their own respective associations (ABBA & NABBC) to open dialogue and it is my view that the bands themselves should now be considered in the consultations that steer our movement.

The bands who instigated the memorandum cannot be criticised in attempting to open discussion and interaction between those that run the movement and those that perform.

I would be interested to hear from any Championship section bands interested in forming the association on e-mail: ''. The NACB

Simon Oates

4BR Reply:
Do bands really need an Association Simon? Just a consistent voice that the bands can all agree upon would be a bloody good start!

What about the rest then?
How about inviting every other band in the country the opportunity to sign up.. (if they agree)

Michael Pickin

4BR Reply:
Now we really are on Fantasy island Michael! "Der Plane! Der Plane!" 5 couldn't agree, so what hope would close on 100?

Looking for a Contest?
I searched your site for forthcoming contests. Venues, dates etc.. Couldnt find a single reference.

My band is trying to find a contest in the Southern area between now and Xmas. We have been through a bad patch, are trying to regroup and need something to aim at. Any Info you can supply me will be much appreciated.

Thanks for an excellent site but put in a forthcoming events feature please.

Peter Ault

4BR Reply:
One of these days soon we'll have a forthcoming features section Peter, but just a bit more patience and you will be rewarded! Anyone help with a contest though?

Not quite Norway's right way.
You write that all band in the championship section need to qualify to stay there. After my eyeballs popped back in their sockets, I checked the webpages of the Band Union and they write that all bands will be placed in the section they managed to qualify to or by the basis of last years results. *phew*

To sum it. There are 10 spots in the champ section, nine of them are reserved and the last spot is reserved for a qualification which is send out to the top five bands in the first section (if one band don't accept, the invitation to qualify for the champ section is given to the next band on the list etc)

Hope you understood what I was trying to say here ;-)

Thomas Kristiansen
Percussion, Ila Brass Band

4BR Reply:
It seems to be a rather complex system, but now that you have explained it to us it all comes clear! It shows that the Norwegians are leading the way again doesn't it?

Sorry to harp back to what might be regarded as old news, but on the 1st July, I finally found the time to pay a quick visit to The Victoria & Albert Museum, South Kensington, to see for myself that much talked about piece of art. Cornelia Parker's 'Breathless' is stunning, absolutely brilliant and very moving. I went with two friends, none of us particularly agreed with Ms. Parkers written background to her creation indeed, we all had our own quite differing thoughts and interpretations of the piece - just what great art (and music for that matter) is all about really. With the summer holidays just a few weeks away, I'd recommend any one planning a visit to the old smoke to take a look a this work, like it or love it, I'm sure you'll never forget seeing it!

Ian Brownbill

4BR Reply:
Nice to see and hear from someone who recognises good art when they see it Ian. All that fuss from people (especially those from the Churchill Society) highlighted how narrow minded the "Daily Mail" brigade can be when riled. Lets hope more people get to see "Breathless" - it is well worth it.

Jubilee Snubs
John Bray said something about brass bands being comparable to orchestras. Why? I may have only played for four years, but I'm fairly sure we're supposed to be comparable to brass bands. Oh, and I agree about the crap on TV.

I can't tell you exactly which bands played in the Queen's jubilee, even though I was there. I think we were the second band on, St Helens Youth that is, and from watching the BBC coverage I notice they carefully cut out our music as well as any picture of us to show the cathedral instead. Truly fascinating, watching nothing happening instead of listening to my band. I know Black Dyke were there, and Cory, Whitburn and... the irish champions? I'm sorry, I truly can't remember their name. No offence. Anyway, all five had a fantastic rehearsal the day before, and it was wonderful to hear some of our ex-players again. Oh, and I think its possible to get coverage of the bands from the BBC and ITV if you try hard enough.

Please email me if you disagree, or just think I'm stupid, because I'm not as devoted to this site as I should be.


4BR Reply:
The Golden Jubilee was supposed to be a great event, and by all accounts it was - if you liked silly people in union jack hats, old popstars wailing and whining and crowds going all "medieval" in wonderment when they caught the glimpse of the "Cinderella" golden coach. As you can tell, we at 4BR belong to the republican arm of the nation, so never be surprised that good working class people and their heritage get ignored by the establishment - it has gone on for years. Did anyone actually believe that brass bands were going to be an important part of televisions sucking up to the Windsors?

French Fury!!
As you didn't publish my letter in French, I will try to translate my opinion in English (sorry for the mistakes!!!).

At first I will congratulate you for your fantastic work for brass band. But I agree entirely with Mr. De Wolf : your comments about his opinion is a true scandal! You was simply unfair and attested a total lack of ethic. To publish his message and to say after some reactions that he is "ridiculous" is not honest. Either you accept to publish the opinion of Mr. De Wolf and after that you don't discredit him, or you think that he's ridiculous and that his opinion don't deserve to be published, and YOU DON'T PUBLISH IT! I must say that personnaly I don't agree with him for example about Roger Webster, but that's not the problem"! After that you say that you have not "favourite band"!!! Difficult to believe that! Did you write one single time something negative about Black Dyke? Personnaly I can not remember that! Compare your comments on the "Withsun Wakes" of Black Dyke and of YBS!!!

Anyway I can say the following thing : in March I heard a gala concert from Black Dyke in Switzerland (Bern): an immense disappointment for all the people who were present : simply a bad concert! (Does Black Dyke change his programme sometimes??? Does Black Dyke really prepare such concerts??? I have some doubt about that!). Moreover I paid Frs 80.- for my ticket! A pure shame! A few weeks later I have been the organizer of a Swiss tour for YBS: another world! Thanks to the musicians of YBS, to Mr. King and Mr. Hirst to have showed to the Swiss audiences what is really a top English brass band, the best band in the world!

Daniel Zumbrunnen

4BR Reply:
Thank you for your second letter to 4BR Daniel - apologies for not publishing your first correspondence but Anthony and I only got a CSE Grade 5 in French at school!

We let everyone have an opinion on 4BR - and let others make their minds up about the content. We also make the odd remark or two to keep things bubbling along nicely. How's that for being fair eh?

What a Buddy!
Dear Sirs, I was really interested in your article on the great soprano players. Buddy Burns was known to me when I was a child and he was my father's rival on soprano. They were rivals and great friends. My father was Harold Hargreaves and he played for the former Bradford City Band under the late Mr Harry Grace. He was a very fine player with a beautiful clear tone and terrific range. He was a very unassuming man who, toward the end of his playing career, played B flat cornet with Hammond's Sauce Works Band under both H.B. Hawley and Gersham Collinson. I thought I would put in a word for another of the 'greats' even if he was lesser known. I hope you don't mind.

Peter Hargreaves

4BR Reply:
Thanks Peter - We put in Buddy Burns, because he really was one of the "greats" in our opinion. Nice to know that he if fondly remembered and that your own Dad was a bit of a star as well.

Why 100?
Why do we take these results so very seriously. When I participated in my first championship section contest, the climax of the day was the results.

It seemed to me an appropriate way to celebrate the skills of the most successful performances both in terms of the band as a team and of the solo contributions.

Those bands which were more consistant in their quality of performance would progress, in general terms, to the Masters, Open and Nationals. It is still relevent as a means to progress the general standard and enjoyment of brass playing.

However, the fundamental flaw must be that music cannot be measured or scored out of 100. Is there really anyone out there who believes we should banish the subjective constituent of marking musical ability?

Isn't it everyone's own subjective enjoyment of music that keeps us practicing and driving such vast distances for a couple of hours of band practice.

Martin Britt (South London), soprano, Desford Colliery Band

4BR Reply:
Thankfully, the days of the marks out of 100 (or 200) at the Major contests are coming to an end. You are quite right that marking a performance is subjective, so why do we need to put a score to it - good judges should be able to place bands in order of merit without recourse to the crudities of marking.

It just doesn't make any sense to us - some years ago at one of the Majors the winning band were given 199 points - 1 point from perfection eh? That's how silly it really is. Time for another old dinosaur to meet its death we think.

In it for the money?
Numerous points have been raised by the top five, one in particular interests me, that is the cost of attending contests and the issue of prizes and expenses. The implication that prize money should rise in line with ticket prices is entirely reasonable if it is assumed that audience numbers have remained constant in recent years. My guess is that the number of people paying for tickets is dropping off so contests are becoming less viable.

Ironically it may be that the higher ticket prices themselves are a factor in this, a large proportion of our audiences are comprised of the older generation who would consider even £5 a great deal of money. Contrast that with teenagers who think nothing of paying £25+ for pop concerts. A more significant factor is that these days we have near constant access to music, so are we surprised that it is increasingly difficult to motivate people to part with their time and cash and walk into a contest arena?

So why do we do contests? Certainly not for the money! We do it as a hobby and it is becoming a more expensive hobby as our audiences disappear. Time pressures have increased too, how many modern players can justify all the hanging around entailed by the traditional contest? No wonder then that it is not just the audiences we are losing.

When the top 5 bands start to complain, then we all have to consider what future there is in contesting. At this point in time we have the choice of making contests more accessible and appealing to a wider audience or we can preside over a slow and painful death. Personally I would settle for contests which don't take all day and get participating bands somewhere near
breakeven financially. To do that I think we have to take banding to the people and not expect them to come to us.

Bob Crawshaw

4BR Reply:
Thanks Bob for your comments and thoughts - you hit the nail right on the head for us.

The cold light of financial realism will soon begin to bite the brass band movement and we are afraid that many traditional contests will fall by the wayside as the expense of holding them - and the expense for bands to attend them become ever more prohibitive. Who's to blame for this is simple. We are. For far too long we have existed in a surreal world where we haven't tried to attract an audience to band contests - why worry when you can play, spend all day in the bar and then go home without even listening to another performance. We never thought we needed an audience did we? Well we do now - and we are afraid it will be too late for many contests out there. We have been lax, lazy and unimaginative and we are now beginning to pay the price.

Andre! Andre! Andre!
I've just been comparing Adolph Scherbaum's and Maurice Andre's performances. I am listening to the Michael Haydn Concert in D-major first movement.

To me Maurice was always the ultimate trumpet player - with exceptional technique and flawless tone. After I listened to a sound clip, which was a recording of Adolph Scherbaum performing Michael Haydn's Concert in D-major, first movement, with an extremely high passage in it, I tried to find the same piece played by Maurice Andre. Since I had listened to Andre sound clips, where he plays the Canari Cadenza - which is throughout unbelievably high

I expected him to play as forcefully as Adolph Scherbaum. He does - up to the two highest notes, where the highest comes out almost thin (compared with Adolph Scherbaum). This already caused some uneasy feeling about my "perfectionist hero" Maurice Andre.

I have read posts on the web that stated flawless life performances by Maurice Andre. Now after having read the article on the 2002 European Celebration Concert I am struggling to put my "trumpet-hero" in his right place - fortunately I wasn't there myself, because I might have lost a lot of the respect for him...especially since he seemed to be thinking he's "the king".... that is very sad! I agree - the problem is that the heroes are also made from flesh and blood - which seems to be easily forgotten by the admirers - and - in turn - leads to a "dramatic" reactions, when it is disclosed...
Thank you for the very educational Article.

Torsten Schnabel

4BR Reply:
Thanks Torsten. 4BR took a bit of stick for our coverage of the European Gala Concert that featured the great Maurice Andre. Some thought we were unfair to point out that he was bloody awful, but then we can only report on what we hear.

There is little doubt that he has been a truly great player in his time, but like other geniuses, all have feet of clay. Everyone can remember Cassius Clay in his prime, but tend to try and forget his awful beatings he took when even he decided to go on too long. George Best, Alex Higgins, Tony Blair ... and even Maurice Andre himself. A pity indeed.

No Parking.
Take a look at the entertainment programme for London's Royal Parks:

Is this one more nail-in-the-coffin of brass bands?

A couple of years ago Hyde Park was almost entirely dropped as a venue for brass bands. This year's programme does not have a single brass band playing in Regent's Park and only Besses at Greenwich Park.

St. James's Park is the last bastion for brass bands, and apart from a couple of the better London bands, and Besses and Thorsby the line-up of bands is, well I'll leave that up to you!

Is this about money (are we too expensive) or are we just out of vogue? If the current summer programme is anything to go by we have but a few years to go before Steele bands and college bands take over the prestigious London Parks completely!

Incidentally, you will see that brass bands have the logo "Big and Brassy" I suppose we have to be grateful that uum-pah was avoided.

The website pays tribute to the following for putting the summer programme together:

The Royal Parks would like to acknowledge the following
individuals and organisations for their help in putting together
this programme:

Alternative Arts, Brian Oakaby and Jacqueline Parchment
Camden Arts & Events, Cultural Co-operation, Ealing Council
Events Team, Filé Gumbo at Cecil Sharp House, Greenwich
Arts & Events, Huw Powel, Jazz FM, Jewish Music Institute
Notting Hill Carnival Trust, Return to Camden Festiva, Royal
Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Serpentine Gallery,
Tower Hamlets Arts & Events, Trinity College of Music.

What about the London and Southern Counties Brass Band Association? What about The British Federation of Brass Bands?

Part of the problem for brass bands is that, almost every year, the organising body is changed so the organisers have to be re-educated by us bands, and just when we convince them, they wheel-out another organiser and the process starts over. The programme has been managed privately, put out to tender, managed in-house and this year organised by Brian Oakaby on a part-time basis - we stand no chance! What we need is a constant and my vote goes to the BFBB. They should seek to gain employment as consultants to the Royal Parks on behalf of brass bands - what do you think?

Brian Easterbrook

4BR Reply:
Going to disagree with you on the one Brian, even though you make a number of very pertinent points.

Why should organisers "give" spots to brass bands eh? Do we deserve them by right? We are afraid it's part and parcel of how lazy the movement has been over the years in that we expect organisations to cough up money so that we can have a good day out on the Serpentine. We just haven't seen the change of attitude coming have we. Money for entertainment through local authorities etc is now scarce, and other voluntary and semi professional organisations have worked their socks off to raise their profile and get their hands on it by lobbying them direct. We can't think of any banding organisation that has doe the same thing.

You can't complain that the bandstand in your local park is being used by the "Save the Gay Whale Origami Mime Group" if we haven't done anything to put forward a case for a season of top quality brass band concerts. We've been caught out again for being lazy and complacent - not bands, but organisations that represent us.

What about a bit of Democracy?
I write after reading the famous five article about their memorandum to contest organisers. As I agree the band movement could do with some reform, but this should be done in a democratic way to suit every one. Allot of the points raised were valid at any contest, at any level. I feel really sorry for the likes of these bands having more than twelve bands to compete with. What about the fourth section area in the London and southern counties. There have been as many as 36 bands. With one adjudicator. Of course they don't matter do they, from a start their from the South, and the fourth section.

What about all those volunteers all over the country that put themselves out to organise these contests. It sounds like the big boys are holding the rest of us to ransom for a few quid. Get it right for us or else. No get it right for all of us! even the smallest youth band. Oh yes and we will help you to do it!

I see this memo as just a teddy throwing exercise by a few of the privilege bands who have had the ability and the chance to compete at the top level. I know there are many players in those bands who teach or conduct and better the banding movement. Let's face it. The competition scene is becoming even more introverted than it ever has. Apart from a small minority who in the general public is concerned with it. We are the train spotters of the music world!

I play for a band that has qualified for next years championship section in the London and Southern counties area, and we are going to Torquay. I am also looking forward to it. I know there is a big gap between my band and the likes of the five that sent this memo, but I think this is even more so relevant to them. We need to be less introvert in banding and promote ourselves to a wider audience. This is far more important than contests.

Once contests had relevance on a wider scale when whole communities supported their bands against their rivals. When Luton won at crystal palace the whole town greeted them when they arrived home, and the local stately home Luton Hoo invited them to a reception in their honour. That of course was in 1923. Allot has changed since then. Today they would be lucky to get a mention in the local rag. I applaud the high standards achieved by the very top of our movement, there again I would be stupid not to. I also applaud the great music we play in it's own right. I just wish one of these bands would use the undoubted talents to show the rest of the music world the good stuff we've been up to. I really think the general public would be amazed by some of the more serious works if they were used at a proms concert, or perhaps TV or film soundtracks. Imagine Blitz used along with pictures and narration for a programme about wartime London. What about Leanardo which is sort of on my mind at the moment. We here many famI know the argument is that contesting keep's the standard up. To a level I agree, but isn't it really a replacement for real serious critical acclaim from our peers in the rest of the music world. Take London symphony and the work they have done on the Star Wars film's now that's what I call an achievement. It makes winning the masters look a bit pathetic. So there's your challenge boy's and girl's were all relying on you. Get us into the 21st Century. Quick!!!

Just a few thought's. I love to listen to you all play, as I love Brass Band music, and played by the best. Good luck and Thank You.

John Gafney.

4BR Reply:
Lots of good points John and many to which we agree in full. There is a need for change, and it is a change that must come about pretty quickly unless the brass band movement will suffer further and become ever more isolated and irrelevant.

There is a desperate need for dialogue from both sides, but 4BR has now been informed that one of the bands that signed up for the memorandum has withdrawn its support. The thing has become laughable. Just about sums us up as a movement doesn't it?

Anyone help?
I played solo horn with Cammail Laird band in the 1960's when they recorded an LP entitled "Brass Prom". It was conducted by Denis Wright. I have mis-placed this record over the years, and would love the opportunity to listen to it again. Can anyone help, please?

Andre Helleur

4BR Reply:
Anyone help?

Thomas Edmund Papps.
It is with deep regret that I must inform you of the death of Tom Papps, formerly of the Luton Band.

Tom came from East London, but moved, first to Dunstable then Luton during WW2 when his family was 'bombed out'. Playing Eb bass, he played with the Heath & Reach Band, before Matt Robertson persuaded him to move to Luton in late 1959/early 1960. Tom also served Luton as Treasurer, finally giving up playing in 1979. Tom played with Luton when they were still one of the top bands in the south of England. Tom continued to support the band, often turning to see them whenever thay played locally.

A real family affair, Toms' daughter met her future husband, Ted Stacey, through the band and Toms' grandaughter, Denise, married Eric Capron, former British Open Solo Champion (1978) and Luton's Sop player.

4BR Reply:
Thank you for informing us of the sad passing of a very well respected man. The movement has lost another stalwart.

Buddy Burns Remembered
I was fascinated to read your "top 10 Sops" feature and as I scrolled through the list I was hoping, albeit optimistically, that my mentor, the great "Buddy" Burns would find his way into the top 10. When I saw his name there at No 9, I was well pleased.

Although I never heard "Buddy" play in a band (he was well before my time!!), I was very fortunate to have him as my first cornet tutor and my memories of him, his methods, insight, technique and stories will always remain with me.

Buddy was an immaculate man, no more than 5`4" tall, a pencil thin moustache and built like a racing snake, yet he had immense stature. My cornet lessons used to fly by far too quickly, having tackled various exercises from the "Wright & Round", success was rewarded with a dip into the "Soloists Companion" and on the odd occasion a run through "Ida & Dot" with the great man taking the bottom part. I still remember Buddy picking my cornet up one day and going up and down the chromatic scale from bottom C to top C and back, six times in one breath without missing a note. He would have been about 66 at the time!! and hadn't played for donkey's years. I would have been about 11 at the time and had no idea of how privileged I was to be in this man's company and obviously not a clue about his legendary playing.

In more recent times I have heard recordings of Buddy playing with Black Dyke, old reel to reels belonging to my dad which have been transferred to cassette, in particular "Stars & Stripes" with the obligatory Sop solo. The man was a true "giant" of the instrument. Buddy died peacefully about 10 years ago in a nursing home in Skipton, but I am glad to see that his reputation is still alive.

Again, well done for recognising "Buddy" Burns in your top 10, I felt compelled to write a few words as many of today's players will probably never have heard the name before.

Carl Smith (Aldbourne Band)

4BR Reply:
Thank you for giving us more information about Buddy Burns - a true great for us. It's nice to know that his memory is alive and well, even some ten years after his death. That really is the mark of a great player.

Revolution - what revolution?
Well said gentlemen, your comments are not only poignant and welcome but long overdue! We lower section bands have been saying the same for years to our respective area organisers but do they ever listen? Well perhaps now they might. I would like to see more of the top bands lending their names to this "uprising" particularly Black Dyke.

It should always be remembered that for 95% of brass band players this is our HOBBY and all we ever get from it is political backstabbing, upset parents, noses being pushed out of joint (metaphorically speaking) etc. and of course ever increasing running costs. LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTION!!

Jim Owen, Goodshaw Band, Rossendale

4BR Reply:
Sorry to disappoint you Jim, but it now appears that the revolution may be dead in the water as Fodens have now disassociated themselves we hear from the memorandum that was sent to the contest promoters. All that good work seems to have come a cropper - who will take anything the bands now say and suggest seriously if we can't stand together even on these mild suggestions.

Absolutely pathetic!
That's what the 'top 5' bands are for laying down the law in such a petulant fashion. Notice the names missing? That's right, Dyke, Cory & YBS, the bands who have cleaned up over the last few years. Perhaps if the 'top 5' bands had enjoyed a little more success over the last few years, they would be a little more reluctant to gripe now.

The arrogance of the veiwpoint that because they haven't won anything, then something must be up with the system is staggering. I've actually heard a few of these bands lately and wasn't really impressed. There obviously must be something wrong with my ears!

Daniel Bradbury.

4BR Reply:
It seems your wish may have come true doesn't it? The memo was a honest and well thought out attempt to initiate some debate, but it seems that it cannot now be taken seriously as one of the five has disassociated itself from it. It was meant to start dialogue and hopefully to initiate discussion jointly into how contest can be made better for all concerned. Now one has dropped out, how can the promoters take anything they say in future seriously? You either stick together and debate from a position of some strength or you go separately and get shafted. Guess what will happen now eh?

More bands in the Park?
Can you if possible give a list of bands playing in parks. I have tried everywhere to find a web site that has this information. What we need is a list of Parks in Britain, what band are playing and the date and time of the band-stand concert.

Would be gratefull if you could set this up on your web-site. I think you can probably get the info from the local councils ... but not sure.

Would like to add 3 sops to you top 10 list ... Iwan Fox [of 4BR], Steven Barnsley and the one and only ever splitting Gary Davies of Cwmaman ... not the most gifted technically but has provided hours of laughter for us in the band!

Mark Bryant

4BR Reply:
The British Bandsman newspaper does a list (and well done to them for doing it), but we can only suggest you contact the local councils to see what bands are playing where this summer. Not a good way to promote things is it though?

Hopefully the BFBB may look into providing this information in some way in the future - 4BR will be only to glad to help if we can be given a comprehensive list. They could make all the contacts and then ensure that the likes of 4BR print it on our site to let everyone know. Sounds simple eh?

As for your top sops though…crawling [to Iwan] will get you everywhere

Creepy Crawley

Having read Mr Barringers comments relating to the Crawley entertainment contest, I feel I must write a response. I am not a playing member of any band, however I do follow the world of banding, and attended the Crawley entertainment contest this year, and greatly enjoyed all the bands performances.

Mr Barringer apperas to feel hard done by for his Bands result, which at one place outside the prizes could be argued to be a good result. Is he frustrated by his mis-understanding of the rules, or by his bands performance? As I remember it, there was only one band with significant choreography. Has he thought what impact his comments may have on them? As I recall (I can't remember which band it was, but there were only three prize winners) they played the cornet solo, Mexican Hat Dance along with Gaelforce (which was also played by the winning band), finishing with a piece (sing sing sing?). Yes the choreography was impressive (Irish dancers in Gaelforce were superb!).

As an outsider to the banding world I find Mr Barringers comments surprising. I have attended the Crawley contest for a number of years, and always found the standards by which the bands are judged remarkably consistent. This was certainly not the first time a band has employed significant choreography. I remember, a few years back, another band performing circus tricks as they played.

As this was an entertainment contest, surely the emphasis is on entertaining the audience. Obviously this shouldn't be done at the expense of the quality of music played, and great entertainment can be found from the choice of music alone, choreography or not. Indeed, the vast majority of points are available for the music content (in this example, 60 for music, 30 for entertainment and 10 for deportment, with time penalties for playing for too long).

From the SCABA website, where a breakdown of the scores can be seen, it is clear that Mr Barringers band may benefit from better deportment and keeping to the time restrictions imposed by the entertainment contest as these are relatively easy points to pick up. Also if, as he claims, his band concentrated on playing the music well, instead of choreography, there were four bands with a better score for music than his own. By his own argument, the band which came fifth should have been placed higher than his. As I understand it, the rules are the same for all bands competing. Maybe there is a better ay for Mr Barringer to expend his efforts, in order to secure a better result at the next contest.

Congratulations to all those bands who played, and thanks for a great days entertainment. I look forward to seeing the performances next year.

Matthew Stevens, Brass Band fan.

4BR Reply:
That's telling you isn't it!

Super Sops again!!!!
Well you have really opened a can of worms on this instrument, the most difficult to utter a decent sound from, the most emotional and played by the biggest bunch of luneys the world has ever seen or heard, can you imagine someone actually wanting to sit on the Albert Hall stage, totally exposed with 6000 people waiting for your first slip !!!!!!

My nomination (or opinion) as you are correct in mentioning for the top spot was GUS sop 1967-1990 ish--- David Jones. Apart from having a superb sound, the best execution of the lot especially at p and pp he had the ability to change sound dependant on the style of music, listen to the comparison of "Freeway" to say "Escapade"( the Philip Smith solo album), you will also remember that his playing was never obtrusive just a wonderful colour to the band as sop playing was designed to be. David Jones was the third sop in GUS history 1933 to pres. and succeeded David Barnes and Emelyn Bryant, local critics and Stanley Boddington rated him higher than his predecessors, but perhaps his biggest accolade was actually staying with the band through its lean time in the mid seventys when offers to move to other top units were arriving thick and fast, it has been said that his band playing contribution help maintain the overall standard during this period and its fightback during the Wilkinson era. A player still not replaced in quality twelve years on.

Shaun Pascal

4BR Reply:
A fine player indeed and a man who really was a "one man band". Nice to hear him get the recognition he deserves, even if he didn't quite make it into our top 10.

And what about Herbert Howarth then?
Hi, having read your top ten soprano cornet players of all time, one player immediately sprung to mind who did not make your list but would have been in mine. Herbert Howarth, over 20 years spent at the highest level with CWS Manchester (Alex Mortimer) and with the Fairy Aviation Band of the 60's(Harry Mortimer - Burt replaced Emlyn Bryant). You don't stay around long with those bands and conductors without being a class musician.

By the way Bert still dedicates a great deal of time to the movement teaching and training young players as he has done throughout his life.

Phil - Stalybridge Old

4BR Reply:
Yet another fine player - there seems to have been a whole glut of great sop players out there in years gone by. Where are they all now then?

I hope you can assist, maybe with a news item about...

Dobcross Band and Social Club, Saddleworth - in the heart of brass band country has a band concert every Sunday evening.

However ... H E L P is required. We need bands for several Summer Sundays (mid July and August). It doesn't need to be a section band, scratch bands are welcome, Please contact Keith Casson our Concert Organiser on 01457 872496 for further details.

Thank you for 4barsrest, an excellent website which I access frequently and which is always a reliable source of information and of wide ranging opinion.

Nigel Smith for Dobcross Band Club Committee

Daytime - 0161-627 7222
fax 0161-627 5845
mobile 07880 781629

4BR Reply:
You've got the details everyone - so get calling if you want a gig!

Ballet for Band….. ad nauseum
Ref. Nicola Hughes enquiry about a CD that contains Ballet for Band, the only one I know of is the Sun Life CD called "Ballet". If she can't find this I have a copy of the winning performance by Bournemouth Concert Brass at the Reading Festival 2000.

Peter Hartley

Nicola Hughes is looking for Ballet for Band (Joseph Horovitz) I can tell her it is on The Regionals '97 CD on the EGON label, played by Brighouse & Rastrick (David Hirst).

Just in reply to the note of Nicola Hughes. Ballet for Band is on a CD called "Ballet" by The Sun Life Band

Kris Hoeben

I was surfing on your site and saw a question from a young lady.
This number, written by Joseph Horowitz is on a CD from the Berner Obelander Band from Switzerland and is from Polyphonic.

Just call them and all will be well!

Gerard Klaucke, Holland

Mr Read blows his Bugle
Having just returned from adjudicating the contest at Bugle I was interested to read your report of the contest which I thought was fair and accurate.

However I would not like readers who were not there to misinterpret your correspondents remark that Cambourne the only entrant in Class A and I quote " didn't have to work too hard to take home the £600 prize "as an implication that they just sat on the stage and ran the testpiece through. This was not the case at all, they performed the set works, the march 'Centaur 'and 'Diversions on a Bass Theme' brilliantly and were superbly directed by their conductor Derek Greenwood, I awarded them 194 points and their performance would have taken some beating whatever the entry!

Despite a lower entry than normal (and the rain) I thought that the standard of playing in all the classes was very high indeed and I said so!

David Read

4BR Reply:
Thanks Mr Read. The Bugle contest has been a really feature and an important event for so many years that we think it would be a great pity if it suffered from a lack of entries. We take your point about the standard though - even if you are the only band there on the day, you have to impress the man in the box to be given the prize, and it seems Camborne did just that.

Muck and Brass
Strangely enough, when I was at uni some 10 years ago, my dissertation centred on the possible transmission of "germs" from and by the playing of brass instruments. I took samples from instruments of various ages (and yes they had the green "mould") and also tested the air coming from the bell end during the playing process; I also tested instruments which were regularly cleaned and those which were not. I tested mouthpieces for salival deposits of various ages and metallic compositions and also sampled water key/slide concentrations. Agar plates were then prepared and cultures grown.

All in all, there appeared to be little or no bacterial proliferation in the instruments or in the expended air from the bell. It was supposed that this could have been due to various possibilities e.g. The antibacterial properties of human saliva. Sound waves destroying the cell walls of bacteria. Air pressures generated by the playing process disrupting bacterial composition. Hot water being the major destructor of bacteria during cleaning. Metallic toxins formed from instrument manufacture interfacing with saliva/detergents etc.

It would appear therefore that just like us humans, our instruments may pong if we don't wash them!!

P.S. On a non-scientific basis, perhaps the germs don't like our practice methods or are totally tone deaf??

John Stephenson

4BR Reply:
Oh bloody hell! Thanks for telling us John. Cleanliness is next to Godliness as my Gran used to say.

Mr Wolf… again
Thanks for replying. I do not want to make this an endless comments, at the end each of us remain with their idea, and I really do appreciate any vision.

Referring to Pete's reaction, I just wanted to say that of course, Dyke and others are great bands. I am 20 years in banding so ...
I am just a bit disgusted about some of the current cornet playing. They are more trumpets than cornets. I would be surprised if Pete wouldn't agree with this, if so look to the latest principals at YBS and what their conductor stands for.

The "performance" of Dyke's bumper up at the last Euro was really over the top, and it shows the trend Jim Watson once set, is suprisingly prolongued by Nick, quite amazing indeed!

But OK now I am talking about my opinion and my opinion does not matter at all.

This reply is just to tell you, you are avoiding the real issue with your former reply in the 'Untouchables' comment.

I asked why you shouldn't ask the IMHO big names ie McCann, Daws, Porthouse, Godfrey,... what they think about the current cornet playing.

I guess the 'cornet' is not the least important instrument in banding :-) and trends in it's playing should be a topic shouldn't it. Unless we want to become an old ladies club, taking anything for granted and cheering it up, as long as it is put forward by the Dykes of today. We should be awake and sometimes question things.

People like McCann would be more then willing to talk about this, as he has spend all his life for this, and put up a beautifull melodies serie to accentuate the tone quality and lyrical playing of the cornet. He could have easily done any solo-project with all the virtuosy stuff included (anybody know's his track record?) but wanted to spot on, for him, the most important. So far for McCann, but there are others too of course, you also know.

You've heard Ben with YBS, on the last Euro did you. Didn't you notice the difference with eg Roger. Let me be clear: it is not about Roger, Ben,... it's about what they expose. I was happy then to see Foden's won the masters, as they with YBS prefer
other tones.

FYI: That's why my top sop is Alan Mozart Wycherley, you'll not be surprised :-) Keep on the good work, even if I still do not agree you call your readers 'ridiculous'. Some countries are riding left, some to the right. No one is ridiculous in doing so.


4BR Reply:
Thanks Dirk. We all have our opinions…………..

How we do it in Australia

Having read some of your letters about the profile of brass banding a couple of things come to mind. We are a D grade band in a regional centre in Victoria, Australia. We are trying to address the public's perception of brass bands as being something other than a ponderous, out of date dinosaur that plays marches and hymns.

The steps that we took were in the form of a name change, a uniform change and a playlist change. The name went from Wodonga Citizens Band to Wodonga Brass - a small change but in our minds something a bit more contemporary. The uniform change, again a slight one, was from grey pants to black. We
kept the maroon jackets..... We do look sharper.

Our performance program has been embellished with arrangements from our Musical Director and some of our senior players. Lately we have been using vocalists from outside the band which has been very sucessful. The vocals include Breathless and Absolutely Everybody which go down pretty well.

There is nothing harder to do on the face of God's green earth than to promote a brass band. There's nobody out there to help you. The local media thinks that you're a joke, the public don't care because you're not flashy enough and you're competing against general disinterest in anything other than television and the net.

Another battle we have is that a lot of the schools are going the route of the yank marching band. You know the kind - short stepping with capes and tassles...... colour and movement. They all play in unison. Here comes Wodonga Brass in the parade playing Punchinello (!) followed by the Heartbreak High all stars playing Louie Louie.....

We're trying. It's the same the world over. Keep at it. It's too prescious to lose.

My wife and I will be in the UK in September for one month and plan to visit a band a week.

Might see you in the counter march.....

Bruce Cook - Wodonga Brass (Australia)

4BR Reply:
Thanks for the e mail Bruce. It seems you Australians are thinking ahead of us again doesn't it? Lets hope the changes ar a success.

What about Eric Capon then?
What about Eric Capon of Luton! National Solo Champion, and the owner of the sweetest sop sound. He may not have moved north and become an obsessive freak. Why should he? He's a good engineer as well. This is truly a far greater achievement. Well, this is what most banding is about (for the majority of us). Being the best we can possibly be at the same time balancing it with our work and home lives. Is it fair for the likes of Eric to be compared to those who spend their time in a dream world of the lucky few, either directly employed or part of the mutually supported education system. Our roots of course are in the community whether it industrial or local. As amateur musicians.

I applaud the dedication of the many fine players that are honoured in your article. I just feel as a member of a Southern championship band were all the players do jobs totally unconnected to banding, we hear all the noise about northern bands being fantastic (which they are), but nobody ever considers the struggle it takes to get a band of ordinary mortals to the standard we achieve. No sponsorship. A cost of living that you can't achieve without a decent job and the pressures that brings. No funding because were not in a deprived area. So the next time someone comments that the bands down south aren't as good. Of course were not. But we still send plenty of young players north. What about the likes of Eric Capron. Quite an achievement I'd say.


4BR Reply:
Thank you Jools. It seems Eric has many fans indeed. Don't know about your other comments though. It doesn't really matter what job you do does it? And as for the southern bands…….. Still, a worthy mention for a super player.

BBC output
I read with interest the comments of some of your correspondents about the lack of airtime for bands on the BBC.

In fact, the BBC do broadcast more than the occasional rendition of The Padstow Lifeboat and The Floral Dance, but you have to be lucky to hear it. The main problem is one of communication between the BBC and the media.

Last year BBC Radio 4 broadcast a three part series on the social history of banding, called Changing Brass. The series was repeated earlier this year. But details of the series did not appear in the band press, and (if my memory serves me correctly) only appeared belatedly on this website. My understanding is that it is the BBC which is at fault here - its press office is failing to notify the interested parties. I only got to know about it because, as an old fogey, I am a regular Radio 4 listener and heard the trailer.

It may also amaze you to know that earlier this month (June), BBC Radio 3 broadcast no fewer than five - count them - programmes, each of them 90 minutes long, as part of a week-long celebration of amateur music-making. The programmes featured a huge amount of quality band music taken from this year's RNCM festival and Grimethorpe's March concert on the South Bank, London. If you want to know what you missed, check out the playlist on the BBC Radio 3 website for 3rd-7th June, . The lack of discussion of the subject on this website, before or after the event, suggests that the BBC kept it a closely-guarded secret. Shame.

Can I suggest that everyone emails the BBC press office and demand that they buck their ideas up, and give, as well as the band print media, details of all forthcoming brass band programmes?

Alec Gallagher

4BR Reply:
The BBC giving us plenty of air time eh? They do have an output of sorts for brass bands, but as your rightly say Alec, it is a well hidden secret and we aren't exactly promoted as being essential listening are we? Still, we live in hope.

Smell That !!!!
In response to Gary Marshall's query regarding "smelly" instruments, a couple of years ago I had one of my research students carry out a microbiological assessment of some brass instruments to find out what kind of beasties lived in there. The answer is that there are considerable amounts of contamination in brass instruments, mostly bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, and Actinomyces.

These are bacteria that are usuallypresent in the mouths of humans anyway and so it's no real surprise thatthey turn up in the instruments. Fungi were also present, including Candidaalbicans (the same fungus that can develop into thrush!), although, againthis is common in the mouths of healthy humans (naturally, and not through any naughty behaviour!). Players who regularly clean and maintain their instruments unsurprisingly have less contamination, and it could be that allowing a build-up of greasy layers in slides and valves provides a good culture medium for these micro-organisms.

Some of these organisms are potentially dangerous, but the levels found in the brass instruments we investigated were not sufficiently bad to be worried about them. However, if the instruments are not cleaned on a regular basis, then players are opening up the possibility of increased chances of mouth and throat infections. So, the moral of the story is make sure you clean your instrument at least once a month, and if you inherit an old smelly one, then DEFINITELY give it
a good soapy bath!

Les Wood, Kirkintilloch Band

4BR Reply:
That's it for us now. We can assure everyone that us at 4BR make sure our instruments are thoroughly clean, and in working order each month. We find it leads to a more harmonious relationship with our better halves.

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