Comments ~ 2010: January


More on review front, the first thoughts on Butlins and a thank you to an Aussie...

Odorous review

With regard to Mr Multhorpe’s comments to 4BR concerning the latest Black Dyke/ISB CD.

If you found the review of the CD in question refreshing then I must say I found your views quite the opposite ie. rather odorous.

I don't know your musical background but it does seem to empower you to make sweeping and inaccurate assertions.

After reading your comments I sat down and listened to both the St Magnus CD and the Peter Graham Collection CD and I find your pedantic views are completely without foundation. 

You suggest the ISB received the music late leaving little time for rehearsal.  Like you I have heard this rumour.  Whether or not it is correct I cannot verify.  If indeed this was the case then I think their performance was exceptional considering the technical difficulties there were to surmount in such a short time.

To suggest the ISB are miles away musically from bands such as Rothwell, Carlton and Hepworth etc is a crass statement to make and purely subjective.

On 27 February the ISB will be presenting a concert at Gloucester of which I am the organiser.  Five weeks before the event it is a complete sell-out.  The audience will be made up of many non Salvationist musicians who I feel sure would not be travelling to hear a band as musically inadequate as you suggest.

Your assertion of Black Dyke/ISB collaboration is also I believe widely off the mark unless you are privy to inside information. 

I of course cannot speak for Dr Nicholas Childs but I cannot conceive he would share the concert stage and CD recordings with a band who are not of some pedigree musically.

Last year I had many opportunities to hear the best bands in the Country having attended the Open, RAH and Gateshead.  Black Dyke and Cory etc are of course the elite but the ISB can quite comfortably share a stage with them considering they are from a different genre. 

One thing I will agree with you, the ISB over the years have produced some of the finest soloists in the brass band movement and will no doubt continue to do so.

Finally Mr Multhorpe although I respect your opinions I don't as you will see agree with them. 

May I suggest an early visit to an audiologist may be of benefit to you.

Lionel Lodge

Bad day at the ofice?

I wanted to write and comment on both Iwan's review and Clive's subsequent comment about the Black Dyke/ISB Peter Graham CD.

I do agree that if CD's are released then they are open to review, either positive or negative, and I don't have any issue with that, however:
Iwan - were you having a bad day when you reviewed this? Had your morning paper not been delivered? Did you miss out in the Next sale over Christmas? You nearly did, but thankfully stopped short of, criticising Black Dyke, because that wouldn't do... 

I have many CD's, reviewed on this site, that are at a far, far lower level than this one but received a quite glowing appraisal, so I look forward to your new, consistent level of reviewing.
Clive - I'm sure in your own mind you made some valid points, but the main crux of you argument is completely flawed.

To my knowledge the ISB have never stated that they are in the same league as Black Dyke/Cory etc, or have ever asked to be compared to them.  Comparing a band that practices (I think) once a week, with bands that will often do 4 or 5 nights a week, is nonsensical. 

It's a shame you struggle with comparisons, so just to point out, ISB CD's aren't the same as the BBC television license - you don't have to buy them.
Harry Bowes

Strong opinion

It is not often I write to 4BR, but I felt I had to after reading Iwan Fox’s CD review of the Peter Graham release.

All I can say is well done. Nothing wrong with a strong opinion and one that questions the product as well as the playing. I don’t always agree with the reviews on the 4BR site, but at least they are forthright, honest and always thought provoking.

It’s one of the reasons why I read 4BR and have given up on the other banding publications.

Keep up the good work

Paul Roberts

Sleeping difficulties

I followed the coverage of the Butlins Mineworkers Contest on 4BR and was intrigued by the ‘live’ comments on Twitter and on the site on the weekend.

Was Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s test piece as difficult as was reported?  It seemed that not one band really got close to playing it.

Given all the nonsense written about it before the contest, perhaps those who complained most were those who couldn’t perhaps play the piece in the first place.

Ian Masters

Thanks Jason

The BTM Band would like to publicly thank Jason Katsikaris for the passion and commitment he has given the Brass band movement in the UK. The impact that he had in the short time that he was with BTM has not been forgotten.

His professionalism and sheer determination to get the job done has left it's mark and re-ignited the aspirations of many.

In his short tenure with Leyland he has also excelled and will be a hard act to follow.
Jeff Hutcherson " Jason has gained the respect of everyone that he has come into contact with and is not afraid of change.

He has grabbed his opportunity with BTM and Leyland and achieved some memorable performances and results. All the very best back home in OZ , and good luck with your legal career."

Jeff Hutcherson

Refreshing review

Your review of the latest ISB/Dyke CD was most refreshing.

I do not generally like to see negative reviews, but where it is justified you have an obligation to say what you think.

Over the years I (and others I know) have become fed up with the constantly sycophantic reviews of ISB CDs - usually written by people either in or with connections to the Salvation Army. So on this occasion I applaud Iwan Fox for giving an honest opinion.

I gather from the review that one poor performance could be attributed to only getting hold of the music late, but not so some of the other asthmatic performances which are just, well, not very good!

The honest truth of the matter is that the ISB/Dyke collaborations have only come to pass because the ISB are the biggest fish within a small pond and the 'flagship' band of the movement.

But, in my opinion, it would be obvious to anyone who goes to many concerts/contests that if the ISB were a contesting band they would not be in the top 20 or 30 of the world rankings. Not only are they miles away from Dyke/Cory etc, they would not even consistently compete in the 'next tier' of top class bands like Rothwell, Carlton, Hepworth, Desford etc.
They ISB are not a bad band and have boasted some wonderful individual players down the years (Daws and Kane the first names to spring to mind) but they ought to realise their limits.

Their performance of St Magnus (on the CD of the same name), for example, is actually embarrassing in places. Rhythmically poor, bad tuning, ragged timing, some tuned percussion lines are simply missing... the fact is this is a piece that was difficult enough for YBS to conquer Europe playing it, and for it to be picked as a British Open test piece.... and the ISB are not a British Open band.
I know I am not the only one who will be pleased to see an honest review for once. I own plenty of ISB CDs and invariably enjoy them most when they play stuff that it technically and musically within their limits. 

They are far from a bad band, but all too often try to punch above their weight in terms of repertoire.

Clive Multhorpe

California answer
I read with interest the letter from New Zealander Gordon Brock about Brighouse & Rastrick's impending performance of Bruce Broughton's 'California Legend' in their RNCM Festival programme this year.
Mr Brock asks if the piece has previously been recorded. The answer, I'm pleased to say, is yes, though I'm not sure how available the recording is today. 

It was, in fact, recorded by The Sun Life Band on Sun Life's own label 'stanShawe'.

This was established by the forward looking band so that it could record what it wished to record, without pressures from publishers or composers. It is on a CD with the title 'Le Roi d'Ys', and was recorded at a time when the much-missed band was at the height of its prowess - in between its magnificent win at the British Open Championships of 1990, playing the title track of the CD, and its equally impressive success at the Kerkrade World Music Festival of 1993.
Bryan Hurdley and myself shared the conducting, and it was Bryan who conducted the performance of 'California Legend'.

This had been an Area 2nd section test piece a few years earlier, and I recall that Bryan and I both felt it was one of those pieces which was not only enjoyed by the bands performing it, but also brought the best out of them - qualities which I have to say cannot be applied to all current test pieces. Bryan also conducted Hans Werner Henze's 'Ragtimes and Habaneras'.

My own contributions were rather more conservative. In addition to the title track, I also conducted 'The Belmont Variations' and 'Four Dances from the Ballet Checkmate'.
As I believe is now fairly widely known, the former players of Sun Life Band (formerly Stanshawe) are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the band's British Open win in 1990 in the coming June.

It will be a great honour for me to return to Bristol to renew my acquaintance with many of those former players, whose aim in life at the time was to prove that a band from the South West of England could compete on equal terms with the rest of the country's bands.
Roy Newsome

More Legends... 

Bruce Broughton's "California Legend" was recorded by the Stanshawe Band on their cd "Le Roi d'Ys".  Although out of print now copies crop up frequently on sites such as ebay. 

The other tracks are "Le Roi d'Ys", Henze's "Ragtimes & habaneras", Bliss's "Belmont variations" and "Four dances from Checkmate".
Peter Bale

California admirer 

Like your correspondent Gordon Brock, I too have been an admirer of Bruce Broughton's California Legend since I first played it, although in my case that was way back in the early 1980s (when as a young inexperienced player I was amazed to discover that it was possible to play a pedal F on a euphonium!)

Mr Brock asks about obtaining a commercial recording of the piece.  If he visits Trevada Music at  and searches for Sun Life Stanshawe Band's CD Le Roi D'Ys he will find his quest at an end!

Alec Gallagher

Finding the recording 

Gordon Brock asks for information on recordings of California Legend. I know of only one published recording of it, which saw by the now defunct Stanshawe Band conducted by Bryan Hurdley.

This recording was published in 1991 on the band's own Stanshawe label under catalogue Number STA 002CD and the title of the CD was 'Le Roi d'Ys'.

Unfortunately, I doubt if it is still available, although he might possibly pick up a copy on e-bay if he is lucky.

Christy Smith

Racism or patriotism?
I see that 4 bands are joining forces to 'fight racism'
With too many people denouncing who they consider to be extremists, may I ask how this scheme plans to separate racism from patriotism?
Mr B.L.Clark 

Well done bands

Thank you for the interesting interview concerning bands working to fight racism. 

It’s nice to know that there are bands out there that think this an important issue and are willing to do something about it – so congratulations to them all.

Jean Carston

The Wills Contest

I enjoyed your article on the Wills contests.

I am old enough to remember them well, and agree that given the problems the company was in during some pretty troubled times in the country, it was never going to keep pouring money into it, when it had the chance to advertise freely on television through its connection to horse racing.

I went to the last event in London, and for weeks before the event we had evenings when we had no electricity, strikes and threats of strikes and the even more serious problem of potential bombs by the IRA.

No wonder bandsmen didn’t support it.

Dr William King

Cheap product at a premium price 

Having purchased ‘The Torchbearer’ CD from 4BR (thanks for the quick service) I read Iwan Fox’s review with interest.

I thought I would be ranting in disagreement, but not a bit of it.

Although I enjoyed the playing, the CD really is a cheap production at a premium price as he said.

Why couldn’t there be more information about the bands or the contests, and why the need to include Cory’s pointless contribution?

Wouldn’t a second performance of ‘Torchbearer’ from Foden’s have given us all something of more interest given the closeness of the result and the opinion of many (myself included) that they were perhaps a bit hard done by?

Thanks for telling it as it is Iwan.

David Houghton

Waiting to be chosen? 

In reference to the letter from Darrol Barry "Living in hope - a composer's response..."

I noted that he has pieces "waiting to be chosen" - it seems to be the way for composers of brass band music. I know several composers, myself included, who are facing a similar wait!

However, the part of the letter I found most interesting was the following paragraph:

"There seems to be a trend to sideline older experienced composers in favour of the young composers, but we have to make sure that we are not throwing out the baby with the bathwater!"

I'm not too sure that I have seen any trend to favour younger composers. In fact, I would say that there is a definite effort to ignore younger composers!! However, I think that the debate should move away from young or old, experienced or not, and instead focus on the most important part of composing: quality.

Being an older experienced composer doesn't guarantee that the music will be of any higher quality or substance than that of an inexperienced composer (no matter their age). However, more innovation seems to come from younger composers in the brass band arena, than experienced composers (although there are obvious exceptions to the rule).

As we can learn from musical history, innovation equals life. There is an inherent need to constantly reinvent and learn to adapt in order to survive and grow - and this is something that hasn't happened in brass band music over recent times.

At contests, there seems to be a reluctance to use more innovative composers in favour of composers who offer a "quick fix" of bums on seats - and it has to be said, that many of these could be described as "older experienced composers".

My point is simple: I agree that we shouldn't throw any proverbial babies out with the bathwater. But quality and innovation have to be the key attributes of the music that is commissioned and used in the brass band arena during this second decade of the 21st century.

Peter Meechan

Brighouse Legend 

I am very pleased indeed to read that Brighouse and Rastrick will be performing California Legend (Bruce Broughton) at the RNCM bash this month.
I was in a B grade band that performed this piece as its own choice art the NZ Nationals We did not win. About three years later a C grade band played it at the Nationals as their own choice but did not do at all well.

It is a very interesting piece and at long last it will be played by a top grade band that will do it justice. The pity is that I am on the other side of the planet and will not hear this performance.

I have a recording of our contest performance and each time I play it I imagine how it would sound in the hands of a top class combination. Maybe a classy performance will cause other bands to think about using the piece.

Hopefully Brighouse might consider including it on their next CD or maybe some other championship band. Played properly I am sure it will appeal and gain an appreciation.
I also just received the Black Dyke CD of Peter Graham's "Torchbearer" What blissful, music. At long last somebody has wrestled free of the chains of discordant syncopation that brass band music has become obsessed with since Eric Ball stopped composing.

I read in your review of the 2009 Nationals that the audience remained at near capacity right throughout all performances and if this does not shout out the proclamation that this is the sort of music the people want to listen to then nothing will.

Full marks to Peter Graham and also full marks to those visionaries who commissioned the piece ... could one hope that someone will play it at the European and therefore that it will get onto a European DVD.
If any of your readers know of any recording of California Legend will they please advise me of the details.
Gordon Brock
New Zealand

Living in hope - a composer's response...

This is not something that I often feel the need to do, but I must respond to the letter from Chris Stratford. 

I started to write music at the age of 14 and since then have had several lower section test pieces at the regionals and finals as well as other competitions. 

However to say I have been relied on is quite an exaggeration, my last regional and finals test pieces where actually both in 2007 and there was quite a gap before that.

I still have several pieces waiting to be chosen and I would love to have a championship section test piece, four of which are already composed and have received positive feedback from highly regarded musicians.
There seems to be a trend to sideline older experienced composers in favour of the young composers, but we have to make sure that we are not throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

Surely there are enough contests to ensure that a wide variety of composers are used, but patience is always a virtue and nobody can demand that their music be heard. 

Living in hope!

Darrol Barry
Resident Composer/Arranger
Royal Guard of Oman

Karl Jenkins for bands?

Karl Jenkins for Brass Band!

I’ve just purchased ‘Stella Natalis’ by Karl Jenkins and my thoughts immediately turned to the recent article by Sandy Smith.

The musicality is superb and all should hear the quality of the performance by Alison Balsom. The musicality, clarity and execution are outstanding.

Some might say it is too repetitive and only contains short works but his style of writing is different to anything we have in the Brass Band movement at the moment. He would get my vote to write a piece for one of our major contests any day.

Surely ‘the powers that be’ could ask - even if they can’t afford him. You never know he might be sat waiting for the chance – DUCK – another flying pig! 

Geoff Bradley

The right leaves on the Scherzo line...
I have just read Alec Gallagher's comments about the Scherzo Brass CD which features Jim Alder's ‘Autumn Leaves’. 

As the publisher of the piece I can confirm that although the title is the same there is no connection to the well known song, and the notes on the CD are, therefore erroneous. 

The published score and parts make no reference to Joseph Cosma, rightly so as the piece is an original composition.

Jim passed away in 2004 aged 98, his writing was prolific - there can't be many (if any) bands in Oxfordshire that doesn't have pieces of his in their library.

He mostly wrote marches, but his writing was definitely ‘old school’ and this work was written many years ago, but only published in 2001. 

I hope that this clears up this query.

Nigel Hall

Williams highlight

I was really pleased with the article you put on 4BR that really highlighted the long and practically unrivalled career of Ian Williams in the hot seat with Cory for 20 years. 

I have known Ian for most of that time as a player and as a work colleague in South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.  His total commitment to Cory has never ceased to amaze me. You were spot on with the observation that he has never forgotten his roots. 

Ian has never been smug or arrogant about any of the 16 titles that Cory have won over the last 10 years or the position that he has held for that long time.  I cannot think of many other players who have held such a prestigious principal position for two decades. 

Ian is now in charge of the South Wales Fire And Rescue Workshops that keep all emergency vehicles on the road.  I was a Station officer with the Brigade up until 2007 and every time I visited the workshop depot and asked if Ian was there I was met with groans of despair and words of abuse that are not befitting of the pages of 4BR. 

I would usually get a finger pointed to a side shed where vehicles were repaired.  Inside huddled at the back of the shed in a brown overall coat would be sat himself ripping his way through the latest European or Nationals test piece, making it sound like a walk in the park. 
I, with my experience on flugel horn with Tredegar Band and virtual dyslexic sight reading ability, would patronisingly (but jokingly) point out that I was sure that Ian would get it right by the time of the contest.  Ian would always laugh and say that he would do his best. 

Last time I said that was just before Cory’s first European win and it gave me great pleasure to ring Ian up to congratulate his and the bands performance.  “Told you I’d work at it,” he said.

This understated attitude probably stems from the early part of Ian’s playing career where wins were in short supply and a real appreciation of good playing, teamwork and effort was developed.

As a player with Tredegar in the late 80’s and through the 90’s Cory were our main rivals and a healthy respect grew over the years.  I have to say that I am glad to have left the banding scene just before 2000 as it would have been a long and unbearable contest drought – especially in the local area contest once the current Cory regime started their decade of ‘a different league.’   

It will be a great loss to the band as Ian steps down.  Not so much from the playing as I am sure that his replacement will securely fill his technically able boots.  But it is the sheer dedication; loyalty and persistently high standard of playing that will be hard to follow.  

The vibrant attitude to do everything for a band that you should and the ability to deliver will probably be the most missed aspect.  Ian epitomises everything that is good and sadly dying out in the commitment stakes for banding.  

The only thing that Ian ever did wrong in his 20 years of banding was not to apply Grecian 2000 (jet black) to his distinctive fox mop...but what the heck you can’t be perfect! 

Hopefully Ian will get bored of endless rounds of golf (he is also disgustingly good at that as well!); will see sense and get back behind the mouthpiece before too long.

Rob Nesbitt

Web workshops 

Further to your article on 4BR, I attended the 2009 Regional Test Piece conductors’ workshop (I am not a conductor, but I am interested in the test pieces).

I was unable to attend this year but wondered if at any time in the future it would be possible (for 4br!) to set up a live webcam for this sort of event (or even a recording).

I'm not sure how this could be set up or what arrangements would be needed but certainly I would be interested rather than travel across half the country to attend.

Albert Roland

4BR Reply:
Unfortunatley we were unable to attent this year's AGM and workshop. It may be possible to do this in future, but you cannot beat the first hand experience of taking part in a workshop on test pieces, so perhaps the travel is well worth it.

Whatever it takes for an award? 

You recently held awards for various categories. As a flugel player who bought one of his CDs, I wanted to vote for John Lee and Whatever it takes. A: Because it's good and B: It was for a great cause.

Why wasn't it reviewed like the others, so that I could have then voted for it? I am pretty sure that it was released before some of the others, because I bought one on the night it was launched.

I assume that if it wasn't reviewed in time for this year, it will be included in next years. As you said it's not when it was recorded, but when it is reviewed. Will it be reviewed in the New Year? 

B. Marshall

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