Comments ~ 2010: December


A new Christmas postbag has arrived on the 4BR doorstep - with plenty of opinions to enjoy and ponder...

A very English problem...

If I was a bandsperson from certain parts of England I could be slightly put out by the fact that the champion band of my area was not represented in the line up for the contest that decides who should represent England at the European Championships.
In Scotland the opportunity to represent the country at the aforementioned competition is offered to all Championship Section bands on an annual basis, fair fight best band on the day wins.

While in England this arrangement would take more than one competition to sort out the best band, lets say an area qualifier and a final somewhere I believe this is not beyond the realms of the imagination of contest organisers.

Let’ss say we use the area competitions for the pre qualifier and the British Nationals at the Albert Hall as the decider with the top placed English Band going forward.

But perhaps that has been done before and is not politically acceptable any more or is too logical.
When are people going to recognise that contesting is not cheap and that for major contests the outlay will invariably not be covered by the prize money on offer and that was reflected in the message coming from a number of bands last year in that they were prioritising their spend on contests in other areas.

It would appear to me that the organisers, whether having consulted or not, have ignored this and have come up with a method that will, year on year, provide the most attractive line up of bands possible  i.e. the big ones,  for their competition...or am I being cynical?
Jim Corrigan

Getting registration right...  

I've been wanting to write about this issue for a long time and I welcome the chance to do so.

I think the idea you've put forward (re: registration) is eminently sensible.  The brass band movement is facing a serious crisis competes at a high level but we regularly only have 15 player at rehearsals.  To actual compete requires a huge trawl round semi-active players, and or costs a lot of money as players realise that the desperation of the situation.

I used to think that we were fairly unique but sadly the situation is the same for many bands.  Sadly the situation becomes a vicious circle. Poor attendances, difficulty in getting players for gigs and competitions leads to low morale, it stops being fun and players drift away. And the cycle repeats itself.

I'm always reminded of my own engineering profession whereby the bodies in charge of the professional status were constantly arguing about who could call themselves an engineer whilst the actual manufacturing base withered.

The reality is that the brass band movement is suffering from several crisis, an ever decreasing pool of talent, competition with other hobbies (and or work) a lack of exposure to the outside world to create interest and last but not least some kind of image problem, in that the movement has staid large static in what a concert is for 30 years (I was intrigued about the US Open and bands playing completely without music).

Solving the problems is difficult; there are those that deny there is a problem. 

A registry official told me recently that we were a healthy band as we'd nearly forty players registered. Indeed. Only 17 of them haven't walked through the band room door in years.  At a recent area contest I remember an official congratulating the audience that they'd had over 60 bands. Certainly in discussion with other band secretaries a large number said just how difficult it had been to get there and play.

It is a problem that bands can't solve in themselves and the current system as you say doesn't help. To survive we're busily trying to 'grab' what talent is available and that means that another band somewhere is suffering.  ‘Deckchairs on the Titanic’ and all that. 

The current system exacerbates the competitive nature of banding to the detriment of us all.

So yes the levy a national membership scheme is a great idea. 

The movement needs to come together to solve this problem. Individual bands can't do it alone and the registry's seem the ideal infrastructure to get this money and to develop grassroots banding. That includes getting kids into bands and promoting banding as a hobby.

I would add that it is only one part. Young players need to be inspired we need to think about ways in which we can engage youth players with the top level. 

Free entry to area competition Championship sections for under sixteen's say? (as an example).  Development of a broader repertoire that interests and excites young people and creating broader exposure in the media would also be a part.

So how do we make it happen?

Alaster Yoxall

The problems with sopranos... (part 1)

I have just read the retrospective of the Scottish Shield contest held in Perth Concert Hall recently.

May I take this opportunity to correct what I view as two reporting inaccuracies with regard to the comments made about my own band, Lochgelly.

As you correctly report, we were short of our soprano player on the day but contrary to your editorial that she just "failed to turn up on the day" I should point out that she had taken ill the previous night and had informed our band manager of the situation first thing in the morning. Also our second cornet player did not just "mimic some of the sop lines" he actually played the sop part on a soprano cornet, though preferring to sit in his usual seat.

We are fortunate that Rab had previously played soprano cornet for the band for the past ten years and he is to be applauded for accepting the challenge to go on stage with no rehearsal time on either instrument or part.

Having said all of that I must applaud you for your otherwise excellent coverage of the weekend, though it seems that decent 3G coverage has yet to reach Perthshire.

As a proud and patriotic Scot it is particularly pleasing to see the hard work of the SBBA Executive being given such widespread and enthusiastic coverage.

John Martin
Lochgelly Band

Part 2... 

Further to Mr Genders' comments..

Spot on sir!!  

Two soprano players on a contest stage??!  Surely it's no different to a football or a hockey team fielding two goalkeepers!

Can't say I'd be that happy about having another "self confident, cold blooded razzer" sat next to me either.

Matt Chiverton
Michelmersh Silver Band

Part 3...

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

Part 4...

I guess so the adjudicators awarded the result to the wrong soprano at Brass in Concert at the Sage?

There was me thinking that Kevin Crockford (who's he!???!!) played with ‘finesse’ on Vivaldi’s Winter - maybe it was all to cold.

I amongst others can surely think of other's not mentioned that can show us the art and mastery of quality soprano playing.

Gareth McDonnell

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