Comments ~ 2003: January (Part 2)


Comments from January 2003 - Part 2

More about Cheating

Confessions of a Cheat.

Hi, I'd just like to confess, and think many other players amongst the banding brethren should confess too. I am guilty of using the odd gadget and gizmo to assist me in doing my best on stage. I have used beer towels and practice mutes to make me sound a little quieter. It's not that I can't play quietly, it's just that when you're playing the highest note of a chord you're bound to be heard. I wasn't playing sop at the Nationals, the chap next to me was and in that really "sotto voce" bit in Masquerade and I don't blame him. I bet there were plenty of other sop players who did the same... come on, confess!!

Another thing, bands cheat to make themselves quieter all the time! What about that old adage of "pointing in"? Surely every cornet / trombone playing bander on the planet has done this at least once on the contest stage? What would our open adjudicators have to say about that?

That said, I recall going to Leamington Contest once and watched all 3 bands that took part. The stage had fluffy sound-absorbent curtains to the sides and a brick wall at the back. All 3 bands "pointed in" in the quiet bits and made fools of themselves by actually making the pianissimo bits sound like a confident "mf" Oops! Remember bands, the gimmicks and the cheats don't always work...!

Great site, see you all at the Area!

Steve Bailey

4BR Reply:
Thanks for the confession Steve – we hope it has cleansed your banding soul! Bands have always looked to try and gain that "bit extra", but sometimes they are their worse enemy. It's the unappealing habit that has crept in of deliberate cheating that seems to offend people though. Pointing in to make a cornet section sound quieter is fair enough, but changing instruments or using special mutes seems just plain downright wrong and should be penalised. Bringing things out in the judging open would for us do the trick of stopping it in its tracks.

A Musical Heathen speaks!

Having recently been dragged kicking and screaming into the world of Brass Branding and although I consider myself a 'musical heathen', I have an opinion and I feel 'obliged' to share it.

Having found myself at such prestigious occasions as the Nationals at the Royal Albert Hall, not to mention other Brass Band contests, such as the Areas and Local Association contests, one observation that I have made for myself is that, with all due respect, the adjudicators are either listening to something different from me, or they have already decided who will win.

This was most apparent to me at the Nationals last year. Ahh! Masquerade! I can hear it now. Nothing like listening to a piece seventeen times, but I was there and I listened with intent, as I tried to pick up interpretation and subtle differences between the bands.

As I was I was actually watching the band as well as listening, imagine my amazement and my partner's embarrassment when I turned to him and said "Excuse me, but aren't they cheating?". As someone who knows nothing about the adjudication system, I would have thought a piece marked ' solo' is in fact for one player? Call me old-fashioned!

But I digress, in the adjudicator's comments after the contest, he stated that in fact some bands had tried to 'cheat' and had been penalised. However, not all bands were penalised. I realise that as at most of the contests, the adjudicators are hidden, they can only hear what the audience can hear, and not what the audience can see.

So what do you do when your power of sight is removed? Your hearing becomes more acute, not a bad thing at a musical contest I hear you say, but surely the adjudicators are aided by the power of comparison.

It is quite obvious to me that the adjudicators are very aware of who is on stage. Taking away the quality of the best bands themselves, they still have the reception of the audience to go by. So my suggestion is this...

Why not have the same three adjudicators, but only one listen to each band at a time and the other two wear headphones for the performance. The major advantage of this is that the adjudicator doesn't hear the band before, or the band after the one he/she is marking. This means not only that the adjudicator is totally unaware of who has gone before, but it means that they are marking only 6-8 bands rather than 20+.

The obvious pitfall is that a band will be judged by one adjudicator alone. After all, there is only one adjudicator at the Area's, some marking up to 30 bands a day. Maybe some would consider this unfair... but a tad fairer than the adjudicators being swayed by the fact all know who is on stage.

Having discussed this with band members from the 4th to Championship sections, I have received a variety of comments, from "excellent idea" to "rubbish woman - get back to the sink"... how do your readers feel I wonder?


4BR Reply:
An interesting idea Emma, but one we don't think will actually work! It reminds us a bit like the old television programme, "Mr and Mrs" when the better half was sent to a booth with headphones on, only to come out and make a complete fool of themselves when they couldn't remember what if their husband preferred suet pudding, rice pudding or a tin of peaches for their tea.

Poor Percussionists!

While there's been a lot of debate recently on the rights and wrongs of swapping parts, Steve Shawcross has extended the debate somewhat to include percussion parts. He says: "if a band (lower section again), was to not have percussion on stage, does that band drop points for leaving out the parts?"

Well it would seem not. Believe me I understand the problems that lower section bands go through finding any players, especially good percussionists (or even indifferent percussionists!!): I played percussion for a third/second section band for several years, on occasions as the only player. The problem here is not so much whether adjudicators should directly penalise a band for not having percussion, but whether a band should even turn up to a contest with no percussionists, especially if the test piece requires a lot of percussion.

Obviously this is a bit of a grey area - plenty of test pieces were written to be played without percussion in the contests because percussion wasn't allowed - but it can be very demoralising to assemble a section of three good percussionists to perform a test piece with three pretty integral percussion parts, only to be beaten by a band with only one percussionist who didn't even manage to play all the notes on the one part they were following (this actually happened to me, but I'm not saying where or when or what piece because that's not fair on a band who no doubt tried their hardest).

Ultimately one has to ask if a band would consider going to a contest with only one horn, or with no trombones - many (no doubt most) bands would probably say 'no', yet they'd happily go to the same contest with no percussionists. Perhaps the reason there aren't enough percussionists in banding is that they don't feel valued enough.....

There I go, ranting on about percussion again!!

As for Prague....well, I'm keeping my mouth shut about that one. Oh, and thanks 4BR for the great review of 'Something 2 Celebrate' - I certainly intend to keep on writing plenty more, so you hopefully haven't heard the last from me! (you can all make up your own minds whether this is a good thing or not....!)

David Morgan

4BR Reply:
We take your points David, and percussion is a real "grey area" when it comes to adjudicating. Some judges (especially David Read and Goff Richards) take time in their written remarks to note the contributions of the percussionists, whilst others tend to leave well alone. At the top level there should be no excuse for not having a full team at the back of the band, but in the lower sections we know bands experience numerous problems trying to get players.

Percussionists seem to be the most financially savvy lot of players in the business and it may mean bands having to pay for them to play at many contests as they know they are in demand form not only brass bands, but orchestra, rock groups – you name it. If the part isn't played though, then the judge will have the right to mark them down if he feels fit – if he doesn't then it is fair to suggest that they may not know a lot about percussion playing in the first place!

Stopping my Madness

Thanks Philip Sparke, I thought I was 'loosing it' until I read your comments on the 'cheating' debate.

So I'm not the only one who has detected that some of the very top bands are tending to use the set test piece as a vehicle to show us how good their band is rather than using that excellent band to reveal the innermost intentions of
the composer.

At one of the majors last year I said much the same thing to a number of people and got a very mixed reaction, ranging from looks of 'are you mad, that was brilliant' to 'nodding, knowing agreement'. The performance that I felt typified the attitude that Philip hinted at very nearly won that day.

Coded message to Philip: if I said 'now take it out of the box and play it!' would I be close?

Colin Stevens

4BR Reply:
As always, Philip spoke a lot of sense and there has been a move in recent times (especially at the European Championships) to use own choice selections as a vehicle to showcase bands technical abilities rather than showcase their musical prowess. However, judges should be brave enough (and there are a good few who do) who will recognise the difference and mark accordingly.

Even Mortimer and Halliwell were cheaters!

I am fascinated by some of the comments, and ridiculous proposals, made by your respondents to eliminate so called 'cheating'. In my thirty years in band administration I have never ever seen a requirement that every part should be played by the respective instrument, and only by them, or that a particular specified mute should be used.

Consider that a conductor chose an unconventional line up on the back row cornets and was penalised. Perhaps he could appeal by saying that each played his respective part but that the line up was unconventional. That would clear him of cheating but then he may incur penalty points for not conforming to the normal seating pattern. Plain daft.

As for your remarks that an adjudicator could 'penalise a band IF THEY WISHED'; heaven forbid, we have enough problems with the vagaries of adjudication as it is!

Finally, when I was a young apprentice engineer in the Foden Works, nearly fifty years ago, I was put to work with people who included stars from the Band like Charlie Cook, both Arthur Webbs, Bob Knott, Ellis Westwood, Jack Cotterill, Joe Moores and the like. Some of these players experiences went back to before the Great War. They often told me that both William Halliwell and Fred Mortimer swapped parts of test pieces, as well as asking for some parts to be left out. Perhaps other bands who can prove they did not 'cheat' will now ask for a re-adjudication!

Allan Littlemore - On behalf of himself.

4BR Reply:
Thanks Allan. Nice to know that there is nothing new under the sun is there, and wouldn't it have been great to have been able to hear exactly what the likes of Halliwell and Rimmer, Mortimer and Gladney thought about it. Didn't Harry Mortimer himself once "cheat" by playing the opening part of a test piece, playing a top C for the sop player who wasn't too sure about coming in on a top G himself? Don't know the exact details, but hasn't it become a bit of folk lore?

Stuck in the Past!

Reading your piece on 'How to catch a cheat' highlights just how much banding is stuck in the past. I am firmly in favour of open adjudication but feel that this method would only ever be successful with a system whereby there is extensive PRE-CONTEST discussion between the adjudicators and conductors concerning exactly what the adjudicators will be looking for. It is laudable that this is exactly the system proposed by the Scottish
Brass Band Association for their inaugural 'Scottish Open' later this year.

The mention of dusters, cloth caps and special mutes reminds me of a letter that a former banding colleague of mine sent to the 'Bandsman' in 1978. This followed his outrage at the principal cornet of Dalmellington Band
playing the tricky flugel part in Belmont Variations on cornet but with a cloth cap over his bell! Dalmellington won the contest (Scottish Championship).

My colleague was making an excellent point about bands 'striving to lose their cloth cap image' but failing miserably. The cornet player's actions, the boxed adjudicator, etc, just seemed to sum up
everything that was wrong and old hat (excuse the pun!) about the band movement. My colleague will remain nameless but he is now a successful orchestral musician, albeit he signed his 'cloth cap' letter with the
pseudonym 'Mr I Nobraine'!!

Just in case the cornet player involved happens to read this, I wish to state that I have tremendous admiration for his playing, conducting and enthusiasm, and consider him as a friend. I also happen to believe that Dalmellington thoroughly deserved to win the Championship that day and were merely operating within the performance constraints that were possible and, 25 years later, remain possible.

Gordon Simpson

4BR Reply:
We are in total agreement Gordon.

Volcanic Explosions!?

A Volcanic damp squib

Black Dyke's superb performance of Volcano at Copenhagen in 1985 was actually 4th in the own choice section behind three performances of Dances & Arias, two of which were extremely dodgy.

H. Andersen

4BR Reply:
Thanks for letting us know. It seems "Volcano" has erupted a couple of times at least since 1978 then.

We were that Volcano!

You're quite right about Volcano being a neglected test-piece, yet an absolute classic (as are all Robert Simpson's pieces for band). However, just a wee correction about when it was last used. Kirkintilloch played it as an own-choice test piece at the Carnegie contest 4 or 5 years ago with Frank Renton conducting, and, while it did raise a few eyebrows, the adjudicator (Malcolm Brownbill I think) did give us first place rather than marking us down as you suggest.

The quiet ending did produce one funny moment though - the lone applauder (i.e. the only person in the audience who actually knew the piece and that it had ended). I don't think we've ever finished a contest performance before to just one person clapping rather apologetically before everyone else joined in half-heartedly!

Les Wood
Kirkintilloch Band

4BR Reply:
Thanks for letting us know Les. We had an idea that someone had been brave enough to play the piece a few years ago but didn't know it was you. Congratulations on the win (and to the lone man in the audience who knew the piece had finished) and to the judge who gave you top prize. It must have been a very strange experience indeed!

Talking of Test Pieces

Never mind "Prague", remember "New Buckingham Suite"

Having seen the recent comments regarding Prague championship bands have not been the only ones to suffer from pieces they don't particularly enjoy. I seem to remember making various animal noises in the middle of a 2nd section area test piece a few years ago (New Buckingham Suite)

Although I appreciated the fact that the animal noises had to be together, balanced and in tune I did at the time wonder why I was turning up to three rehearsals a week to practice this junk. If the composer had "come clean" and titled it Variations on Old Macdonald's Farm I think the bands might have been a bit happier. I don't think I met any band person that actually enjoyed playing it.

On the other hand, having moved house I now find myself playing for a 4th section band and our area test piece (Lydian Pictures) is a much better choice - so - just to prove I'm not a moaner - congratulations to whoever selected it.

Mike Ward, Swindon Brass

4BR Reply:
Thanks Mike, we remember it well. Perhaps there wasn't so much fuss (especially from the bandsmen in the top section) as the piece was for the lower sections. It wasn't a great set work was it, and having to drop a golf ball in a bucket as we recall to simulate a hen laying an egg, must have been a real musical highlight. Prague must seem like an ocean of musical calm in comparison and we agree, "Lydian Pictures" is a real treat.

Backward Attitudes

I have just recently been shown a copy of a November issue of the Bandsman magazine in which the new committee of people to decide test-pieces for the area and Nationals was announced. I was extremely disappointed and disheartened to read Richard Evans views. Richard stated that he wanted to go back to choosing test-pieces with tunes in them.

Does Richard still believe that music has to have a nice tune in it? Does the general brass band community still believe this also? Judging from some of the comments I'm reading on your web-site re: "Prague" it appears so. If so, we will not only drive away any new composers thinking of writing for bands, but also seriously damage any chances of funding for new music to be written.

It really is about time people in the brass band movement got rid of these old fashioned, indeed backward views and embraced new music. There are a lot of excellent contemporary composers in the UK who will not ever begin writing music for bands unless we abandon these backward attitudes.

Conor Harron

4BR Reply:
We agree Conor. We are sure Richard Evans will be using a more comprehensive criteria when making his views felt come 2004, but the suggestion none the less does reek of short-sightedness. Would we have ever heard "Contest Music" we wonder if that was the way in which we choose music (although at the time in 1973 that was the case). A balance must be struck and for us, and Howard Snell's idea of a "rolling list" of the traditional originals, the new, the commissioned and the arrangements seems to be just about the right track to go down.

No Comment!

Is it not somewhat strange that you have not received/printed any comments from the panel members who were responsible for the choice in the first place?

Noticeable by their absence!!! What do you think that says???

Dave Lea

4BR Reply:
To be fair Dave, Paul Hindmarsh in fact wrote an article on all five pieces to be used for the Regional Championships on the 4BR site a little while ago, and you can still log into it by going to that part of the site.

Danceries troubleshooter!

I read on your website that Graham Catherall, the conductor of Cockerton Prize Silver Band, has volunteered to ‘troubleshoot' for what he believes are mistakes and errors in published music. This is an interesting offer but I ask ‘what qualifications does he have to make him believe he is such an expert?' He has written specifically about the Second Section Finals test piece Danceries, by Kenneth Hesketh.

Leyland Band had the opportunity to record this work on a CD, which was released in September 2001 to wide favourable review. We worked very closely with the publishers, Faber Music, and with the composer. For him to use words such as ‘shabby', ‘glaring errors and possible mistakes' is offensive to all those who were involved in this superb creation and who took great pride in the integrity of the recording.

The composer, the editor, the conductor and the Leyland Band spent sufficient time on this piece to have weeded out any such things. Danceries is not a straightforward diatonic piece and dissonance and unresolved chords are prevalent throughout. Sibelius is a very useful tool, but like a computer spell checker, it has its limitations.

If Graham Catherall had bought the CD, or spoken with the publisher before the Finals, he may have got a better result than twelfth in the Second Section!

Allan Littlemore
Band Manager – Leyland Band

4BR Reply:
Thanks again Allan. The recording of the piece by Leyland was very fine indeed and we don't remember too many complaints at the time about the piece and the standard of printing production. However, others may disagree.

Has Gourlay become "Cack handed"?

I was just wondering, does James Gourlay have a specially made left handed Eb bass, or have they just printed his picture backwards on his new CD cover?

Richard Smith, Household troops band.

4BR Reply:
Well spotted mate!! We have spoken to Trevor Caffull at SP&S and he has owned up to the mistake – (although it wasn't his fault). By all accounts the image used was put the wrong way around by the designers (perhaps they weren't tuba players themselves) and so it came out looking as if Mr Gourlay was playing a left handed instrument. The CD cover won't be changed though so if you buy one it will become something of a collectors item!

Name the Reviewer!

I agree with Jon Davies in asking 4BarsRest to identify their CD reviewers specifically by name. This was brought home when re-reading the review in 2000(?) of the CD "Reflections 1" (the Brass Band World 10th anniversary promo) which stated: 'Fairey's "Masquerade" which even some eight years after it was used at the British Open seems to be as inaccessible to the listener as it was then.

It just simply doesn't work at whatever level you approach it.' That hardly squares with the 2003 "Jubilee Brass" CD review: 'The gem of the release though is the live winning performance of "Masquerade" by Williams Fairey which confirms once more what a special bit of playing it was. The detail is immense and the style is captured perfectly. The soloists are outstanding with Morgan Griffith on euph quite brilliant, whilst the playing of many of the cameo parts from Kevin Crockford on soprano, Geraint Griffiths on bass trombone and Les Neish are just as good. Allan Withington made the band sparkle on the day and it is a performance that is well worth replaying a few times on the CD player. It is one heck of a show and fully deserved to take the title.'

True, the latter doesn't exactly pass comment on the composition but one can infer approval. Has 4BarsRest made a u-turn or can both points of view be maintained simultaneously? Keep up the good work, though!

Brian Bowen

4BR Reply:
Bleeding Heck Brian! How did you remember that? On one of our very first weeks after we launched 4BR Iwan reviewed the BBW CD and made those comments. On the Jubilee CD he reviewed the piece again, but as you said, he doesn't really come out in approval of the music does he? We've asked him again, and his personal opinion remains as it was. The performance though was something else.

Beware the Alliance!

The brass band movement in the south beware. Times are changing. The days of backward looking mediocrity are over. In London, a band of talented young professionals (giving up their time for free for the love of banding!) are ready to conquer.

Alliance Brass, after a couple of years cutting their teeth, are now the band to watch. I've heard that they've made some major signings, and am disappointed that there is no news of this on your website. Maybe it's just rumours. Or maybe the winds of change are blowing from the south.

Carlos "the Duke" Duque.

4BR Reply:
You are setting yourselves up for a big fall Carlos. Self promotion is a dangerous road to go down, especially as it will depend on the forthcoming Regionals. Remember what happened to the last "Alliance" that declared that they were going to change the face of British politics?

We hope you are right though and we will be looking out for the "Alliance" in Stevenage with interest. Could this really be the start of a renaissance in London banding – it is a bit overdue, especially as there hasn't been a London based band at the Open for many a year, or a prize winner at the Nationals for that matter.

Crawling gets you everywhere

Firstly may I congratulate yourselves on such a fine website. I find myself visiting it virtually every day. (pssssst, make Howard Snell the dictator NOW!!, at last, a bit of sense in the world of brass bands)

The English Brass Quintet in partnership with Jeffery's Musical Instruments of Sheffield would like to inform the banding public of our new range of sales and services. These include New Instruments, Reconditioned Instruments, Servicing and Repairs, Cases and Gig Bags, Accessories and Mouthpieces, for sale at competitive prices. In fact everything the brass musician needs.

So please feel free to visit our site at and follow the link to Jeffery's.

Andy Lincoln.
2nd assistant kazoo in the 1812 overture for 4 kazoo's, jews harp and percussion, (the mind boggles doesn't it)
Tuba at EBQ

4BR Reply:
For sheer unadulterated backside licking, we print this letter! The competition is now closed though.

Whit Friday Queries

Dobson in the Zone

Just a quick note to thank you very much for short listing me in the awards this year. I was amazed at this let alone winning!

"I have recently started conducting a very newly formed London based first section band, by the name of 'Zone One Brass', and am hoping later in the year to be able to take them to the Whit Friday Marches, as I feel that this is something that every bandsman should experience at least once!

As I no longer play for the Brass band with whom I attended whit Friday many times (Bodmin Town- Cornwall) I do not have any contacts to help me organise such a trip. It would be very helpful to get any information possible from anyone willing to help. I need information on accommodation, coach hire, general route planning, possible guide and runner contacts and costs.

Also at the moment being an extremely new ensemble we have very little money and in fact are paying for everything from our own pockets (we busked in Leicester Square to pay for the entry to the area contest), so any financial help or funding contacts would also be very helpful indeed.

If you think you would be able to help, please email me at:"

Keep up the stonking work on the site, Howard Snell's writing is fantastic.

Simon Dobson

4BR Reply:
Thanks Simon and congratulations once more from us at 4BR. It seems that your latest work has found a great deal of favour from the bands and players, so keep it up!

As for Whit Friday, you can contact either of the Council's that deal with the Whit Friday marches – Saddleworth and Oldham can be contacted through Oldham Metropolitan Council or look at
Tameside can be contacted through Tameside Metropolitan Council.

Welsh to invade Whit Friday

Does anyone know how you go about entering the Whit Friday Marches? Any info regarding competition rules and dates for this year would be gratefully received.

One question I need answered is "Do all players have to be registered to the same band?"

Please e-Mail: <>

Andrew Pryse
Secretary - Treherbert Silver Band

4BR Reply:
Look at the above reply we gave to Simon Dobson. There are no registration rules we understand for Whit Friday, so you can get as much help as you want!

Finding out the judges names – part 2

Your reply to my e-mail about the naming of adjudicators was as follows:-

4BR Reply:
We don't know why yours was the only Regional Area Contest that didn't know in advance, but it seems a pretty ludicrous decision to keep it secret. What the reasoning behind such a decision is beyond us - does anyone benefit by knowing, especially if the information's released to all competing bands. As for your up coming contest, why not ring up the organisers and ask - or is that being a bit too naďve??

Today (20th January) I rang one of the organisers of the Durham Brass Band League, who was very helpful. Apparently the decision is always made by one person who keeps it to himself until the day of the contest. It has always been done this way and it's never caused any problems before.

Graham Catherall
Conductor, Cockerton band.

4BR Reply:
Nice to know you tried Graham – although it would appear without success. Is there anyone out there who knows who this mysterious person is though?

Looking for help

Any one help an Arban Student?

I am currently studying A2 Music and for my coursework I am investigating Arbans "Fantasie Brillante". However I have been unable so far to find a score of any kind, in particular for Brass Band.

Rhys Keegan

4BR Reply:
Anyone help? There is one around we think – possibly scored for tenor horn by Sandy Smith? Anyone got anymore details?

How can we catch a Lifeboat?

Please can you advise where to get a copy of "The Padstowe Lifeboat"

Les Smith

4BR Reply:
"Just Music" or one of the other retailers may be able to help Les, or if there is a band out there with a spare copy, let us know and we'll pass on the information.

Looking for the source of the Severn

Hi, I was wondering if you can help me? I am doing a project at college on performance practice. I have decided to use Elgar's 'Severn Suite' and I need to show how a band playing it today would go about achiveing a historically informed performance of it. I need to know of any major changes in how a brass band in 1930 would have performed it (and how it was conducted) compared to how one today might. Reply to

Nicky Parry

4BR Reply:
If you can help then let Nicky know.

Top 10!

Ref: Your 10 under-used test-pieces:
1. Festival Music (Ball). Couldn't agree more. Surely it must appear somewhere this year. (It was used for the Grand Shield in the mid '90s.)
2. Variations for Brass Band (Vaughan Williams). Respected because he was a great composer, but if it had real value it would have been used more for precisely that reason.
3. Fireworks (Howarth) - Yes!
4. Variations on a Ninth (Vinter). Wonderful in 1964 but unbalanced now. The 1st variation and some aspects of the cadenzas are tricky, but the rest is at most 1st section standard.
5. Waverley Overture (Berlioz/Snell) - Don't disagree.
6. Seid (Aagaard-Nilsen) - Don't disagree.
7. Freedon (Bath) - Love it.
8. John O'Gaunt (Vinter) - Hate it - his least musical contribution. Sounds like a commission written in haste.
9. Benvenuto Cellini (Berlioz/Wright) Artificially difficult for the wrong reasons (arranged for the contest?). Get someone good to rescore it and it'd make a super 1st section piece.
10. Volcano (Simpson) What can one say? With all the other good stuff in our libraries it hasn't got a chance, rightly or wrongly.

Is Volcano contest music? (Any more than other ground breaking stuff like Images, or Ragtimes and Habaneras? or Prague!) If we can't find room in our repertoire for serious stuff that isn't necessarily for contests, we confirm that we are not a serious musical medium, just a branch of the entertainment/sports business. Can we do it without the help of e.g. the BBC? Difficult!

My own offerings of under-used "test pieces" (in no particular order):
Seascapes (Steadman Allen)
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Bourgeois)
Rienzi (Wagner)
In Memoriam RK (Howarth)

Why no new major transcriptions? Is it now considered politically incorrect to take themes out of symphonies (for example) or just too early to do it for composers like Nielsen, Shostakovich, etc? Or is the orchestral palette now so complex that justice simply can't be done? Mounds of fantastic, technically difficult music that's apparently denied to us - as yet. Compare Eric Ball's beautifully arranged excerpts from Beethoven and Tchaikovsky symphonies that sit yellowing in our libraries.

Peter Hartley
Bournemouth Concert Brass

4BR Reply:
Thanks for your list Peter – nice to know we got a few right. Got to disagree with you about "Bevenuto Cellini". It is a very, very hard piece and no 1st Section band will do it justice in its present form for sure. Re -score it and we don't think it would become any easier. "Volcano" is due a revival as is "Variations for Brass Band", whilst any of Gilbert Vinters works are worth a listen again, even though you are right in a way about "John O'Gaunt". By all accounts, Vinter himself wasn't happy about this work. As for your own – some interesting choices, although we don't think that "Rienzi" is worth exhuming – it's better dead and buried.

Just while I'm at it…..

Please reconsider your comment on David-Read-the-trombone-player's contribution to this debate (hi David - long time no speak). I think you'll find that David's thoughts are more sardonic than cynical and, if considered carefully, more enlightening than most of the other contributions on the subject.

If you're daft enough in the first place to go band contesting, here's the deal. You spend x weeks rehearsing one piece. Opinions on its value as a piece of music will vary as widely as opinions on any current issue that you care to name, from declaring war on Mr S Hussein to the reasons why England can't beat Australia at cricket. Opinions on its value as a test-piece (an entirely separate matter) will vary as widely. Your conductor may hate the piece and pass on his feelings to the band. Your conductor may be a musical pygmy and be almost completely unable to grasp the plot.

At the contest itself a whole host of difficulties will arise. You get told off by officials for warming up before performing. You have to use percussion equipment that the percussionists have never seen before. The adjudicator may either have strong pre-conceived ideas about an established piece (which may differ markedly from your conductor's) or be so ignorant of a new one that he's only just beginning to understand it by the last band. The adjudicator may decide (especially at regionals) that his job is to find the best bands, not the best performances of the piece. The adjudicator could be asleep by the last band, especially if he was wide awake for the first. The adjudicator's wife could have left him that morning. Your 1st Baritone player's valves decide that today is the day to seize up. Without even beginning to think about musical detail like who plays what, with or without mute, it's a highly random process!

Amongst all of this, for God's sake wake up to why you're doing it! It's called "band development". If you're in it for the music God help you. Occasionally you may be satisified or enlightened by the attempt to produce an over-rehearsed performance parrot fashion, but rarely. If you're in it for the sport, which most bandspeople seem to be, God help you too in your life of almost permanent frustration, in which the adjudicator is wonderful if you win (it's only his opinion!) or deaf and stupid if you don't (it's still only his opinion!).

The concept of "cheating" only arises because we take the whole thing more seriously than the process itself can justify, and has absolutely nothing to do with open adjudication. (Read Mr Read's contribution again!). The adjudicator's job is to sort out the best performance, which presumably means, or at least includes, a measure of the extent to which the band realises the composer's concept. That's it. He either does a good or not so good job. Enjoy the winning. Forget the losing. No more rules please - we have more than enough already.

Finally: Have a laugh - Imagine a (musical) outsider reading this debate! and get a life!

Peter Hartley
Bournemouth Concert Brass

4BR Reply:
Nice to know you've got that off your chest!

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