Comments ~ 2009: August


Difficult decisions, baritone brains, missing sops and more as we head to the end of the August break..

Difficult decision

A very interesting article. Other than the romance of the Albert Hall, I think many people would have no problem with the finals moving.

You article though does miss one point when looking at venues – backstage capabilities & facilities for bands. 

While halls such as De Monfort are great, I understand that they can’t be used for contests as Health & Safety rules do not now allow for the 80+ bandsmen backstage (e.g. while signing, waiting to play etc). 

Finding facilities where you have the balance of capacity, cost and attractiveness is going to be difficult.

Having said all of the above, will a change of venue actually attract more listeners? 

Most bandsmen competing won’t (and don’t want to) listen to other bands. As per other recent articles on the web, why would a non bandsman (and for that matter many bandsmen) want to pay £10+ to listen to umpteen bands play the same piece?

Gary Jones 

Get out from London

Do people really think there is any future for the Nationals at the Royal Albert Hall? 

The event has been going downhill for a number of years now because people no longer have an appetite for overblown contests.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that either the organisers or the Albert Hall itself will allow it to carry on in its present form.

I feel sorry for the organisers who are between a rock and a hard place – take it away and they will be condemned for losing the movement a part of its ‘heritage’ or keep it in Kensington and be abused for overseeing its demise.

Get out now when we can still do something positive to safeguard the event.

 Brian Masters 

The baritone brain...
Darren Muir takes a crack at baritone players!  And for good measure, under a thinly disguised veil of fun throws in insults at soprano and trombone players as well. This sort of thing does really get rather tiresome!
I looked at our baritone section and just picked out one or two points about each of them. 

Our doyen is a WWII war hero having survived being shot down in a Hudson aircraft over Northern France whilst on active service, thereafter working his way through the escape routes first to Marseilles then walking across the Pyrenees to safety in neutral Spain; with a subsequent life time playing euphonium and trombone in a top quality band.

Our lady member is a considerable vocal talent equally at ease playing trombone as well as a baritone.

Our third member is a church organist and a brilliant pianist: and the fourth, not uniquely qualified among the four, sports a BA and an MSc from a more than decent university.  

And I am more than certain that if we were to take a census of baritone players around the country we would find very similar attributes.

So Mr Muir, you might want to concede that adding all four of them together our baritone section might in total just about have one brain equal to yours?

Derek Dunn 

The thinking person's instrument

In response to Darren Muir's comments may I suggest that baritone is the thinking person's position in a brass band.

For most of my time in banding I have played baritone and have taken great joy in watching other people, euphonium players in particular, sweat over tricky passages and solo elements of test and programme pieces! 

How nice to sit back and listen to the fruits of their labour in contests and concerts!

Baritone players with nae brain...I think not!

Jim Corrigan 

Where's the sop?

In all the videos sent from Australia of Black Dyke ... where is their soprano player Paul Duffy?

(Thanks for having the videos on your website by the way ..they're great!)

Allan Wetherall

4BR reply:

We understand, Pual was the man behind the camera! 

Are there more than two bands in the world?

4barsrest is really a great site, but I would ask you a question: Do you think that there is only two brass bands in UK (Black Dyke and Cory) and only two musicians (Nick and Bob Childs)?

Maybe you could write sometimes a few lines about Grimethorpe or Fodens for example? 

Even the worst CDs of Black Dyke (Obrasso) are mentionned on your site, and I don't speak of the "Black Dyke in OZ: Video Diary"!!!! It's simply incredible! 

What is the interest to see Black Dyke playing 10 bars of "Wilhelm Tell" or of "Queensbury"?????? 

Stéphane Delafontaine

Dick the Stick and his observations

I suspect that many would join Richard Evans when he recently expressed his views about "Commitment, Loyalty, Reliability, Punctuality, Respect."   Nothing in life is truly successful without those.  

However, with the greatest of respect, may one be permitted to make a few observations?  Is the "village band" or "the school band" or "the fourth section" band really secure? 

Just compare how many 4th section bands are now in the Yorkshire Areas compared to the 1950s and 60s.  Many bands exist on shoestring budgets and the sterling efforts of an enthusiastic but ageing few who, if truth were known, often pay for things with their own money. 

Many "local" bands will tell you of their young people going off to University at the far end of the land and never returning to any band let alone the one they grew up with. 

There is, in my opinion, an urgent need to address the needs of the grass roots of banding because, without it, the fine bands of the Championship and 1st Sections will eventually decline. 

A good start would be to see the estimable 4barsrest taking a look each month or week at a local band somewhere and raising the profile of what it is doing rather than concentrating mainly on Championship / 1st section section banding.

As for rehearsing the Area Test Piece in January, I suspect that most bands consider it to be necessary since they are often lucky to get a full rehearsal prior to the day of the actual contest.  (They then feel disappointed at the almost inevitable result). 

When I was in a contesting band, I always tried to attend every rehearsal prior to a contest but it is soul-destroying to keep going over the piece just for the sake of people who were not attending (though, to be fair, often for good reasons of family and work). 

The same is true of bringing out a new piece of music.  Frequently, two or three rehearsals must pass before everyone in the band has seen the piece at least once!  Also, and finally, do MDs really "run" the bands. 

Maybe it is time we all looked at just how are bands are managed.  With a dedicated committee the MD should be free to concentrate on the music.

Having said all this - thanks to "Dick the Stick" for his undoubted commitment to banding and for his thought provoking comments.

Peter Hargreaves 

Scott talent

It is great to see from your news article on the 6th August, that Macclesfield Youth Brass Band has been awarded a grant to commission some flexible arrangements.

Not only would these come in handy with their band but many bands around the country. Bravo to them for that!

However, the best part is they have commissioned someone with an awful lot of talent to do it with, Mark Scott.

I was present at a concert at the beginning of July, where Macclesfield Youth and another local band premiered, a thirteen-minute work by him called 'African Odyssey'.

The work was absolutely stunning, it was extremely well written and suited the brass band perfectly, what amazed me most was the fact he is only nineteen and had composed the piece for charity.

He truly is a credit to Macclesfield Youth Band and a name well worth looking out for in the future.

Matthew Williams

The musical brain...

I’ve just read the musical brain article.

It got me thinking about whether the brains of different instrumentalists have different characteristics.
For example:
The soprano brain will not allow it’s owner to stop playing the high note until a second after the piece of music is finished.
The trombone player’s brain has no volume control synapse.
Great research has gone into the baritone brain but as yet, one has yet to be discovered.
Can’t wait for the next exciting article!
Darren Muir

Wonderful Grimey memories

I’m extremely flattered to be one of Alan Morrison’s dinner guests and it would be a pleasure to attend such a wonderful evening. 

I’m delighted that he has corrected the erroneous statement that I’d been sacked from Grimethorpe. I thought he was aware of the reason I had resigned after my little speech I gave before leaving. Alan and one other member were the reason I left as I explained in an e mail to him yesterday. 

There was no battle to keep me as I was adamant about my resignation, although the Colliery Manager did try to persuade me to change my mind.

I feel no animosity to the two gentlemen concerned, and am pleased that they have gone on to have very successful conducting careers in brass bands.

Alan called me a true diamond; like all diamonds I am flawed and along with my Welsh character I take the huff very quickly, which with hindsight is what truly happened.

I look back upon my time at Grimethorpe with great pleasure as it gave me an opportunity to work with a musician I have the utmost respect for and admire greatly, Elgar Howarth. He studied in Manchester at the same time as my wife Rita, where there were a group of extremely talented young musicians, Harry Bertwhistle, Peter Maxwell Davies and the fabulous pianist John Ogdon.

I made some wonderful friends at Grimethorpe, two of whom visited us recently with their spouses on a golfing holiday, Stan Lippeatt and Peter Roberts. Recently I lost another great mate from those days Bryan Smith the finest horn sound ever, in my humble opinion; just listen to him play “Misty” on listen to the band last Friday. 

You can’t buy memories like that.

Finally I have discovered an even finer single malt whisky than Glen Morange, and that is 14 year old Clyneleish. 

Perhaps Alan will visit us up here in the north east where I can indulge him with a few glasses of this amber nectar.

David James  

Dawson tribute

One of the most successful bands in the North East during the 1950’s and 60’s was the Crookhall Colliery Band, which was based in Delves Lane, Consett, Co. Durham. 

It was a band with a very strong and healthy family base with many father and sons among its ranks. Some which come to mind are; Stobbs, Sayers, Adamson, Collins and the Dawson family who were the key Officials within the band.

Bob Dawson (1936-2009) being Secretary and EEb Bass player with his brother George Sen on Solo horn, it was therefore only to be expected that when George Jnr was old enough and ready he would follow in the family footsteps and join the ranks of the Band and take his seat alongside his father.

George Jnr started to play at the age of 10 years and under the careful eye of his father George Sen made rapid progress and quickly established himself as a horn player with outstanding potential. With the support from his father he was promoted to Solo Horn when only 16 years of age becoming one of the star soloists within the band.

George served the Crookhall Band with great distinction and dedication for over 30 years, and along with his father were the main pillars of strength throughout the good times and the lean years.

In 1976 both George and his father joined the Ever Ready Band, George taking up a position on the horn section and his father being involved with the band administration and acting as Librarian. 

Both quickly settled into their new environment and served the Ever Ready Band with great commitment and dedication for almost 20 years. Sadly it was due to his fathers failing health that they both decided to leave the band in 1995.

Apart from his outstanding ability as a player George had many great qualities and was extremely well liked by his bandsman colleagues. He was an unassuming person, never sort personal glory but dedicated himself to whatever he was involved with, he always gave maximum effort in an attempt to strive for perfection and success.

George passed away on Wednesday 29th July and his funeral service was held in Delves Lane Methodist Church on Monday 3rd August. An ensemble of the Reg Vardy Band played hymns in the Church prior to the service.

We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to his wife Eunice, his son George Christopher, daughter Susan, son-in-law Jason and grand Children at this very sad time.

Ray Hutchinson
Reg Vardy Band

4BR Comment:
We are very grateful to Ray for sending this tribute to George to us. 

Silly rants

In N. Garman's response to my "latest ill informed rant" . It is a joke and it obviously is the silly season if he takes what I have said to be 'specific'.

Not for one minute do I (nor would I) impune the great Jim Shepherd, but what was said was meant to be all encompassing across the top flight of banding, where in the main, these star players are paid large amounts to attend rehearsals.

And if it is true - and I have no reason to doubt him - that the players at Sun Life were not paid, then why pack in just because of the withdrawal of sponsorship?  

Surely the MD was not extending the coffers of your treasurer?

We (in the real world) probably know a band that has had several bandrooms: first the local pub over which we rehearse changes landlord, or the local W.M.C. closes, whatever the reason, that band gets off its backside and finds new accommodation in time for the next rehearsal.  

So why not Sun Life?  

But lets not dwell on Sun Life's demise - I used them purely as an example, and was not meant to be specific.

So Mr Garman, you have been duped, into thinking that my letter was just an attack on Sun Life or even the great man Jim, but was indeed a simple view of the state of banding in this country, which, in my opinion, Mr Evans erroneously thought to encompass the whole of British banding.

Jim Owen
Old Hall Band 

Clarkson's third gear

Your report on Jeremy Clarkson's Times article referring to a brass band was interesting:

The previous week Jeremy Clarkson had attended the Southern Agricultural Show in Castletown on the Isle of Man (where he has a home with his Manx wife). I think The Times article only referred back to an occasion at Wakefield Mining Museum. 

The band Jeremy would have heard at the village show he had just been to, was the Castletown Metropolitan Silver Band.

Apparently, there was a request for Danny Boy (the piece mentioned) but unfortunately the band did not have the music with them and I wonder did Jeremy Clarkson make the request.

Albert Roland 

Quick make over?

Another interesting Editorial lads.

The media has always been lazy in its reporting of brass banding – just look at the way Jeremy Clarkson referred to us in his latest ill informed piece in the papers.

We don’t help ourselves though and we don’t seem to have any idea what to do about it.  The latest attempt by television to ‘make over’ a brass band for a quick 15 minutes of fame is a case in point.  

Jane Lenton

Sun Life scroungers

Jim Owen, in his latest ill informed rant, suggests, “…as soon as the money dried up (at Sun Life), they (the players) were off”. I take it he does know that for sure does he, and hasn’t just made a slanderous statement?

As a player with the band at the very end of their existence, I can assure him I was on no money at all and as far as I know the last player to receive re-numeration, as soon as he found out he was the only one doing so, refused all further money.
Furthermore, if, as he is sure is true, Jim “Shepperd” (sic) was back at Newbiggin by Sea, many would have been robbed of ever hearing that wonderful player as, with respect, he would not have had the publicity playing for that band as he did with Black Dyke.
With regard his last sentence; banding in the main is an amateur pastime, except for the many people who now earn their living from it!!
I know this is silly season in the news; perhaps Jim’s letter was one big joke and I have been duped…..
N. Garman 

Feeling sic...

If you are going to draw attention to the BFBB’s deficiencies in its use of the English language (BFBB seeks English National views, 6th August) it would be a good idea to proof-read your own article before publication.  

You might then avoid similar errors, such as "it seems the BFBB wants know and know pretty fast" (sic). 

It's a minefield out there!

Alec Gallagher

Evans brings a smile to the face

I could not help but smile when I read the 31st August article by Richard Evans.

While I have the greatest of respect for Richard, I do think that he is living in cloud cuckoo land.  You know, every word he wrote was true, except for the part where he thinks that this "culture" is supposed to be throughout the brass band spectrum.  

Yes Richard, we do have Commitment, Loyalty, Reliability, Punctuality, Respect but the higher up the banding ladder you go, the less there is of it.

The reason for this is no longer loyalty to a "name" its money!  Take for instance Sun Life Band. What a good band they where, but the moment the sponsorship disappeared, so did the players. 

And that’s not the only band to fall by the wayside for the same reason.  If our so called "star players" were not paid to attend rehearsals then I doubt very much if the same band would ever last in the championship section or to some extent the 1st section as well, although payment to players is far less prevalent in 1st section bands over championship section ones.

The answer?  Stop paying players £250 a week to be in the band and then see what happens, if these "star players" really love banding, then you would see a meteoric rise of village bands. 

The likes of Jim Shepperd would be back at Newbiggin by Sea and other similar stories across the UK.

Me? I attended rehearsal on my wedding night!  Mind you, my wife was also our principal cornet player, but the point being, our rehearsal was import due to a contest a week later.  So I do know about commitment.

I recently was a member of Yorkshire Imps, and was offered £10 per week for my petrol that was to cover a 130 mile round trip per rehearsal, no it didn’t nearly half cover my cost, but I went there because I liked the crowd, the music and the challenge, would I have gone to another band if that band had offered me £250...well I ashamedly have to say YES. 

But who can put their hands on their hearts and say NO?  Money is the root of all evil the saying goes, but as for banding, it may also be the beginning of the end, because one day the lure will disappear.

Brass Bands are an amateur pastime, lets try to keep it that way eh?

Jim Owen
Old Hall Brass 

Thanks Dinnington, Sue and Nick
A big 'thank you' for enabling a very receptive audience to be invited for an evening at the Barleycorn.
Sue Perkins, together with her bursting enthusiasm, encouraged this band to reach her high expectations of them.  They did her proud.  Sue was truly on form and bursting with energy.  

The production team were excellent and carried out their part without being invasive and Dr Nick Childs did what he is renown to do in fusing the band as one and bringing out the best of them.
The event was received with admiration; a good night was had by all.
Pauline Green

Childs brilliance

I had the pleasure of attending the Welsh Proms last night and was treated to the first performance of Karl Jenkins Euphonium Concerto played by David Childs with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes CBE.
The Concerto is in 4 Movements: The Juggler, Romanza, It Takes Two and Troika.
The piece is full of Character, a joy to listen to, but technically likely to be beyond all but the very best players. 

David Child's performance was breathtaking and, the charm and brilliance of the piece combined with his stage presence had the audience enthralled.
Hopefully a recording will be available soon for all to hear - you won’t be disappointed. 
Graham Rix 

There is something worse...

In response to your fine article 28/07/09 highlighting the delights of the African Vuvuzela horn and its musically Satanic attributes (your description of said instrument didnt sound unlike some of your more scathing and caustic contest day remarks!!)

"What sounds worse than an English Brass Band" you wrote.  I would like to make a case for an old favourite of mine FRANK LONDON'S KLEZMER BRASS ALL STARS.

A finer group of artistes you couldn't hope to hear, they have it all: tuning, ensemble, dynamic control and some of the finest postures you could hope to witness! See link

Who on earth was silly enough to suggest that "thrill-a-minute" "Cheap-shot" music doesn't make the audiences "fly in"?!!

Toby Hobson 

Chariots of Fire

I don't know if you can help but here goes...

I have just been watching Chariots of Fire.

As the Olympic Flag is paraded into the stadium a Brass Band is playing a rousing sort of march. I know I have heard it before, but I can't think what it is called.

Do any of your experts know the answer, please?

C. Searle

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