Comments ~ 2010: November


Cowboys and sopranos, cheating and tears and much more as we head for the first days of Christmas...

Cowboy comments...

Many thanks for your kind words about my solo item with Flowers Band in your 'live comments' from Brass in Concert. 

I'd like to use your pages to offer more thanks to two people without whom I wouldn't have been able to perform the solo that you believe will such an effect on the people that saw and heard it for years to come.

Mark Carter (aka Mr Tuba) lent me a fantastic B&S rotary valve tuba to perform with.  He had a massive range of new and second-hand instruments at his unit and he was nice enough to lend me a rather nice model to perform on.  Next time I'm in a tuba geek mode and want to try out a new mouthpiece I know where to go.

Also a massive thank-you to Rob Nesbitt (aka Nezzy) for creating a quite amazing cartoon storyboard to go with the solo.

Back to the review though: I'm a little disappointed that you chaps were clearly not researched particularly well before stating that my dialogue was ‘more Dudley than Dallas’.

Had I been using the Dudley accent of the Black Country dialect there would have been more obvious linguistic hiatuses in the words I used (eg ‘Musicians stories have made the red-neck tow-wens’) and the Dudley use of ‘mon’ for ‘man’ would clearly not have rhymed with ‘garbage can’. 

You could easily have avoided this major blunder by stating that my accent was ‘more Oldbury than Old Wild West’ which would have actually been correct as that the was the accent I'd worked hard to try to hide in the previous two weeks. 

No fooling you guys though eh!

Anyway, must go, off dowen the towen with me owd mon to buy me sister a blouwerse for er Christmus!

Keep up the good work....

Phil Green

Cheating? Not in sport...

Having just read the report available from ABBA of the response of adjudicators to current (i.e. perennial) contest controversies, despite certainly respecting their opinions and agreeing with most of them, I remain puzzled by the need for opinions on the question of ‘cheating’.

Please correct me if am wrong, but, within the rules of the contest
1. Is it not the job of conductors to help their bands to represent the composer's score to the best of his/her and the players' abilities?

2. Is it not the job of adjudicators to assess how well he/she/they achieve this?
If so, surely the rewriting of parts, playing into stands or away from the box, and even the (evil? why?) use of mutes is not ‘cheating’ and should be accepted as part of 1, and the success or otherwise of these methods left to 2?
Contesting is not a perfect sport, never has been, never will be.

Dr Peter Hartley

Tears of a music lover 

Following Maurice Murphy’s recent death, at least two obituaries recounted an amusing story about an altercation between the great trumpeter and Leonard Bernstein. 

Bernstein had asked Murphy whether he intended to play a passage of his own music muted or open.  The part was marked open, but above it the word ‘muted’ had been pencilled in. 

Murphy’s reply to Bernstein is immaterial; the point is that Bernstein was willing to let Murphy play the passage in a way that would best serve the music.
I was reminded of this story when I read Stan Lippeatt’s reactionary tract ‘ABBA Have Their Say’. 

To him, using mutes where none are indicated (‘mute abuse’ as he calls it) represents ‘blatant cheating’, although he does not enlighten us as to which contest organisations’ rules actually forbid the practice.
To people like Bernstein and Murphy, the use or non-use of mutes is a matter for aesthetic consideration and how the performer might present the music in its best light to the general public.

To Mr Lippeatt (and many others in the banding community) aesthetics do not come into it; it is simply a matter of whether such a practice might gain a band an advantage in some obscure competition of which the general public are almost entirely ignorant.
It’s enough to make any music lover weep with frustration that so much thought and energy should be devoted to the matter.
Jim Yelland

Thank the Lord for Wych!

Just had to put my ten pennyworth in on this subject.

Thank the lord we still have Mr Wycherley in the movement!

Since the passing of Brian Evans and the retirement of Peter Roberts, who else remains to show us the art and mastery of quality soprano playing?

The modern idea of sop playing is as high as possible and as loud as possible! The word ‘finesse’ has unfortunately gone out of the window.

I wish Alan a good recovery from his recent health problems, and long may he be the cherry on the cake!

Dr I K Tinsley

Sops turning in their graves 

I heard through our 2nd cornet at Bollington that a winning band used two sopranos, one registered and one borrowed at Pontins.

What on earth is happening?

Marsden Band should think themselves lucky that they are not graded in the 1st Section for next year’s qualifier: Le Carnival Romain is enough to put fear into the heart of any decent Sop player. 

I remember the 1979 Belle Vue when a certain Alan Wycherley made the sop part sound as easy as page one in 'a tune a day'.

Surely, if we are all to be judged together, then we should be all on the same footing. After several years of  'nowt much for soprano' area test pieces, I now find myself, at the tender age of 57 with summat to get me teeth into.

The likes of Brian Evans, Emlyn Bryant and, (dare I mention it,)  Charlie Cooke would be 'turning in their graves' unless, of course, it were massed bands.

PS Can anyone find me a harmon mute for a Courtois sop?
Jim Genders

Mapper Mundi 

I was recently scanning through the comments section on the website and came across this entry from October.

How nice it would be if you could be able to see all brass band rehearsal rooms on a Google Map.

You would be able to find every bandroom in the UK – such as Black Dyke’s and then go and visit it if you want

I found this interesting as I have already came across this exact idea already in use. 

Perhaps the gentleman could be pointed in the direction of

It's by no means a complete list, as it relies on bands inputing the information themselves and I suppose not all bands have found their way to this site yet.

Jon Innes

Kilmarnock Concert Brass

Rude and insulting

The letter from Mr. Brian Cunningham on 4Barsrest I find to be rude, insulting and lacking in any constructive or meaningful content.

The use of the words ‘inept’, ‘vindictive’ and ‘dishonest’ are not only shameful but derogatory without any shred of evidence provided to support the use of such damaging descriptions.

Also to suggest bias to other adjudicators is an insult to the Association and its Members. This is ‘Adjudicator Bashing’ of the highest order, done in a disgusting and unprofessional manner.

Allowing such articles to be published to the whole world via the internet without recourse by the parties involved should not be allowed without vetting and it is high time this adjudicator bashing ceased.

Brass Band Adjudicators are hard working, conscientious people doing a great service to this movement of ours.

I and ABBA would give total support to ANY adjudicator (member or non member) who are subjected to this type of verbal onslaught. It is time to back adjudicators especially, when my organisation is trying to get new and younger adjudicators onboard.

Letters of this type are unwelcomed and totally unacceptable.

Stan Lippeatt 
Chairman ABBA

Murphy remembered 

Maurice taught me from 1965 for four years on trumpet at Kings School in Macclesfield, even though I was under my grandfather's wing on cornet. He took me up to grade six at the tender age of thirteen.

There were times when the trumpet went into its case and the cornet came out. At that time, he was living in Heald Green, which is now where I live.

He purchased my first instrument, which I still have, at the price of £19, 19 shillings and 11pence, but was paid for by my late Mum and Dad.

In 1968 Maurice moved on eventually ending up with LSO. We all know the rest. I joined the Cheshire Constabulary in 1971 as a Policeman and soprano player with their band, a position I held for some 26 years, playing for royalty and all sorts. 

Since then I have played soprano with Bollington Band, When Maurice announced his retirement, the LSO put out a website on his behalf asking things like 'did Maurice teach you?' etc. I put my details in and the Heald Green thing arose.

The next thing I heard was from my wife who said the Maurice had E-mailed me saying he was going to give me a visit. I firstly accused her of being a 'fibber' but when Maurice appeared on my doorstep, on August 4th 2009, the day before his 74th birthday, I near dropped.

He remembered me after 45 years. After a couple of hours of natter, mainly about how they run film music into the actual film, golf, and the like of Garside, Mortimer, golf and more golf.

The great man was so gentlemanly it was really hard to believe.

The orchestral and brass band world are really missing one fantastic guy but, as Alan Sugar would say to the Archangel Gabriel, "You’re fired!”

P. Genders

The legend and Heath 

At a pre- opening party in the roof garden for the opening of the Barbican, Maurice, myself, Malcolm Hall, Eric Crees and John Fletcher were playing brass quintets to entertain a huge crowd of famous people while they drank their Champagne.

We'd been playing for what seemed like hours when Edward Heath and David Jacobs strolled up to the bandstand.

"Sounds awfully good", Ted Heath said, with his trademark grin.

"It'd sound even better if we 'ad a ******* drink", Maurice shot back at him, and we started the next number, which was as I remember a silly arrangement of William Tell.

When we got to the gallop I saw out of the corner of my eye, the sight I've never forgotten, and that always comes to me when I think of Maurice.

There walking through the parting crowd of people was the ex Prime Minister, carrying a tray with three bottles of Cordon Rouge champagne, followed by David Jacobs and a tray with five glasses.

Maurice treated everybody the same way, and everybody loved him

Terry Johns

More value 

In my recent reply to Citizen Smith’s (come the glorious revolution etc etc) manifesto I should have perhaps levied the question to adjudicators as to whether their preference would be to dictate or transcribe their remarks?
Would the facility to record their comments make it easier to concentrate on the music (score and performance) being presented?
Likewise for the bands; would an adjudication recorded in-synch with their performance, and clearer indication of the persons thought process, be of more value? (no more trying to decipher the adjudication sheet!)
Thanks for your indulgence.

Chris Clark

Parts correct 

In reply to Mr. Sole's letter in comments; I can say that the euphonium part and score in ‘Prelude, Song & Dance’ 4 bars after letter K are correct as printed; this is in line with John Golland's original score for brass band and also wind band.
G. Horsfield

Comrade Smith's manifesto
I have just read Comrade Smith’s manifesto for the shake-up of the British Brass Band scene and feel a few (hopefully positive) comments are required.
Firstly in making his suggestions on the adjudication of major contests he should look at the North American Brass Band Championships.

Perhaps, before I address some of the points made by Chairman Smith, I should explain the format of the championship.

Each band is required to perform for just over 20-minutes. There is a set test piece and then the bands are allowed to fill in the remaining time with whatever additional music they deem suitable. There is no stipulation as to the order in which the programme is performed.

Most bands choose to fill the remaining time with a second, own choice, test piece (more on this later). A percentage of the total marks are then applied to the two portions of the bands performance, with emphasis on the set piece (I think it’s 60/40), from which the final aggregate mark is calculated.
Each main section of the contest has three adjudicators who are positioned so they sit in isolation from each other. A point missed by Sandy, is NABBA makes use of modern technology, each adjudication being recorded digitally rather than written during the performance.

At the conclusion of the performance the adjudicator awards points, which are collected prior to the commencement of the next band.
Reviewing the marks given by each adjudicator at the conclusion of the contest is indeed interesting and revealing (unfortunately I do not have a copy at hand to share).

Generally the score sheet does shows some of the marking is somewhat subjective, perhaps partially due to the position of each adjudicator within the hall. But it does consistently show that left to a single adjudicator the end result might have quite different!
As mentioned above, most bands entering NABBA play a second own choice test piece. From what I have heard (you’ll need to get confirmation from NABBA on this) this has created a certain level of controversy, with complaints that some of the choices are beyond the standard of the section.

For the 2010 contest there was a move by the governing body of NABBA to constrain the additional music played by each to a hymn tune and something else (unfortunately memory fades as to the full details, and you’ll need to contact NABBA for confirmation or denial). Anyway, this attempt to change the format of the contest didn’t succeed and bands went back to playing music of their own choosing.

Personally my solution to the above problem would be to adopt the practice of the Southern Counties Brass Band Association (assuming they still do this, it has been some years…….) who produce a list of ‘suitable’ test pieces for each section from which a band has/had to choose.
For what it is worth I hope these few comments stimulate further conversation.
Chris Clark

Excellent Smith

Having read the article penned by Sandy Smith entitled ‘5 Steps to Revolution’,  I must say that I agree totally, and am very pleased to hear such a genuine personality voicing this excellent opinion.

The first section of the article relating to the Lower Section Finals is total common sense, perhaps if a level of control needs to be included. 

Bands could be given a choice of say, 5 different pieces to choose from.

Section two, is an excellent suggestion which I am sure will be taken on board by the people who will be forming the governing body. Section three, speaks for itself.

Section four is the one that interested me most. Several years ago, 5th August 2004 to be precise, 4BR asked me to submit an article for their Soapbox Section.

In my article I suggested exactly the same as Sandy has now stated, that being, adjudicated being separated from each other and submitting their own written critique and results, prior to being able to converse with fellow adjudicators.

My differing opinion is that these be OPEN and in different sections of the Hall. Section five, again speaks for itself.

May I say, well done Sandy.  Your opinion is always accepted as a man of stature within our community and I raise my hat to you for this splendid article. Now let’s hope someone take action on your input. 

David W Ashworth

And excellent ISB...

I was privileged to hear the ISB along with 500-600 others in Exeter at the weekend. Yet again they performed a programme of quality music that held the attention of the audience throughout.

It made me think about the fact that so often top class brass bands come to the west country and put on very light programmes that, whilst generally played very well, lack the inclusion of serious, quality brass band music.

Over the past 10 or so years I have heard the ISB play in concerts the following test pieces: ‘Essence of Time’, ‘Journey into Freedom’, ‘Isaiah 40’, ‘St Magnus’ and most recently ‘The Torchbearer’. I didn't hear them myself, but I understand that they played ‘Paganini Variations’ on their recent USA tour.

When a previous correspondent asks ‘What has Stephen Cobb done for brass banding?’, I would suggest that he and the ISB have presented more high quality brass band music to thousands of listeners than most of the top contesting bands.

Added to that he has nurtured many a talented young player within the Salvation Army through the music schools.

With the exception of the Festival of Brass in January at the RNCM, there is generally a lack of what I call good brass band music played by our leading bands in concerts.

When did you last hear a concert performance of say ‘The Year of the Dragon’, ‘Whitsun Wakes’ or some of the other very listenable test pieces? 

The ISB proves every time they perform that audiences do enjoy quality music if presented in the correct manner.

Their performances of these very challenging pieces may not be technically so assured as winning contest performances, but I can assure you that they win over the audience every time.

So to sum up, may the ISB keep the old flag flying for many years to come.

And please would the contesting bands treat us to better quality programmes than a romp through ‘The Pines of Rome’ or a finale of a symphony as their major work.

Tony Knowles

A bit of a song and dance...

I have been listening to the piece, ‘Prelude, Song and Dance’ by John Golland, and wondered if you could enquire to whoever is responsible and ask if the Euphonium part in bar 4 of K in the Dance movement, if the 3rd semiquaver of the second beat should be an F on the top line of the stave instead of the E that is printed?

Just sounds right.....but I'm probably wrong....

Mike Sole
Snowdown Colliery Welfare Band

4BR Reply:
Can anyone help?

Promotion and relegation

I think most of us who have something to say about this subject agree the relegation calculation should be similar to three years as per the Regionals.
In addition, I personally do not see why any foreign band should take part, particularly bearing in mind the hard work native bands put in to reach such dizzying heights. 

Accepting the presence of guests (diplomatic hat on), it would only be fair to ignore their grading position when calculating indigenous promotion/ relegation averages. 

For example, 2009 saw Brisbane gain 10th place. The following band, Hepworth would pick up 10th for grading, Fairy 11th, Hammonds 12th and so on.
David Alexander

A question of sporanos

Am I just very naïve, or are deps in contests intended (within the spirit of the rules, at least) meant to be used to allow a short-handed band to field a full set of players around the stands?

I’m aware that back in the 1880’s bands sometimes did field line-ups with an extra sop or flugel etc as they saw fit, but I thought nowadays there was a standard, regulation line-up for a contesting band…or not, as the case may be…
So, why does a top class band, playing a piece prepared for a comparatively recent contest by an arranger who knows the capabilities of the best contemporary bands inside-out, need to make an ad hoc change in the instrumentation?
Who actually won the solo award at the top section of this year’s Pontin’s contest?

Was it the winning band’s own sop player (who I readily agree is an excellent player in his own right) or the extra body the band drafted in from outside? Does anyone actually know?
I’m not a member of any contesting band at present, so have absolutely no axe to grind by asking this question; but could someone answer me this, please?

If, say, Liverpool had to play Arsenal in a vital cup-tie, would they be allowed to hire Didier Drogba (or, even more appropriately, their own former colleague Nic Anelka) on a one-off basis, just to help to steer them through the match?

I doubt it.

So, what's the difference and why are these rules seemingly routinely bent in band contesting (not just by the winners of this contest, I have to say)?
I know Marsden are an excellent band: I didn't hear their performance, but am happy to accept that they may have won it conclusively anyway, without rewriting the rules, or at least diluting the spirit of them: and I’ve already said I’m not singling them out.

As we know, other bands  habitually push the boundaries of the rules. As I said, I’m probably being terribly naïve, but…
A slightly puzzled failed soprano player

Ian Dunning

Priceless fish from a smal pond

Maybe this issue is over now but I'd just like to mention some products of what has been called a "tiny pond".

In addition to Cobb and Steadman Allen one could mention; composers such as Howard Snell, Edward Gregson, Peter Graham, Eric Ball, Erik Leidzen, Ray Farr, William Himes, James Curnow, Steve Bulla, Kenneth Downie, and Sir Dean Goffin.  Players such as Stephen Mead, Don Lusher, Philip Smith, Philip Cobb, Patrick Harrild and Dudley Bright also are SA produced.

On being offered a knighthood Dean Goffin accepted on behalf of the Army as a whole.

The pond may be tiny but the quality of the fish  ...  priceless.

Ralph Pearce

Goals scored...
I would like to record my congratulations to SCABA on presenting such a highly polished contest recently at Folkestone, and against all odds.
A bit like Harold dusting himself off at Stamford Bridge and scurrying of the the south coast to do battle with some European upstart (1066 etc.), I was one of many lucky bandsmen who were involved at the ‘Horrorgate’ Sunday fiasco, followed by a quality Folkestone contest a couple of weeks later.
Changing the subject from History to Soccer, let's see how they did...
How well did the organisation cope with time related difficulties, as and when they arose?
SCABA lost half an hour to start through no fault of their own but held firm control for the rest of the day.  The Nationals lost an hour and this got progressively worse.  By the end of the session some conference Centre staff retired to the physio bench.
Goal - SCABA
Bearing in mind the length of the day, were adequate instrument storage facilities provided?
At Folkestone, each band had a dedicated area which was skillfully reallocated as the sections progressed.  At Horrorgate, no consideration was given and bands had to scratch around local hotels and pay for any room they could lay their hands on.  Price wise, Harrogate is the Dallas of The North and this is not the sort of extra expenditure needed in the current financial climate. A room was provided whilst waiting for rehearsals but this facility was severely time restricted.
Goal - SCABA
Was a pre-draw effective overall?
Yes, at Folkestone it allowed bands to plan their day, unload equipment at the right time, gave coach driver hours a chance and demonstrated due care and attention to the 21st century family lives and career needs of all involved.  There were no secrecy breaches as participants appreciated the advantages.  Horrorgate... what pre-draw?
Goal - SCABA
Did the organisers deal with band numbers effectively?
Horrorgate, within a few have the same number of bands every year, so how could such problems arise?  Folkestone band numbers fluctuate and are determined by the number of days the concert hall is available and prospective entries.  SCABA cut their cloth accordingly.  Job done!
Goal - SCABA
Did (any) Promoter or Sponsor find the day inspiring?
SCABA do their own... well too!   At Horrorgate, from where I was standing, fatigue and boredom seemed to be setting in.  Poor chap!
Thank you for a sound experience SCABA... first class contest admin!
David Alexander

About these comments

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

About these comments...

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