2011: July

Nepotism, democracy, conductors and the odd looney. An everyday postbag for 4BR then...


In response to Lee Cunningham’s letter to 4BR. You are spot on.

What on earth has happened with the proposals to set up the UKBBA? It was good to see so many people trying to do something, but despite the good intentions, what has actually been done?

I understand blame has been attached to Kapitol and Butlins, but as Lee pointed out, what business has any private contest promoter got in having the right to demand bands join a national association they themselves are going to benefit from?

This is sheer nepotism.

Peter Thompson

Looney Brass

For the benefit of all who have never heard of or seen 'Looney Brass', their entire 'area' performance at Uppermill during the 2011 Whit Friday march contest can now be viewed on line.

Simply log-on to you tube and search www.brassdvd.co.uk as a comparison the winning performance by Marsden Silver can also be viewed.
Paul Rayner

Thanks for the baton work

Just a quick word of thanks for the recent 4BR Conducting Masterclass series.

Extremely enjoyable and extremely worthwhile.

Please keep up the good work.

Colin Wellard

A vote for democracy?

I fully agree with Tim Mutum (July Comments).

Democracy does not exist in our movement.  How would it be if the last Conservative government said that if you don’t turn out to vote, then your vote will be deemed as being ‘for the status quo’?
Well that’s what our North West organisers did recently.  

We have been pleading for years now to have a level playing field at our area contest and have requested on numerous occasions to put two men in the box.

But all they did was send out a referendum type questionnaire asking for our views.  If on the other hand you don’t respond, that will be taken as a vote for ‘no change’.
Well I now play in a non-contesting band and have never been happier. 

Over the years I have been in bands in every section at Blackpool and not once has there ever been anyone heard to say, ‘That was a fair result’ (unless you were a winner of course).
So a big thank you to Tim for highlighting this awful situation that seems not be be getting resolved anywhere in our near future!
Jim Owen

4BR sense

Well done 4BR. At last there is some sense being spoken about the mess that is the proposed United Kingdom Brass Band Alliance – and a possible facing saving solution too.

How on earth did something that looked as if it would be of benefit to the whole of the banding movement become such a complete and utter disaster?

Blame will rightly or wrongly be attributed to all sorts of people, but the biggest fault is that nobody from the ‘Working Party’ bothered to keep putting the message across to the rank and file bandsmen and women of this country.

Their PR has been a joke.

If they now have any sense then they should start from scratch and follow the simple 4BR plan.

Kevin Howells

News of the world...

In response to your recent Editorial concerning a possible new way forward for the setting up of a United Kingdom Brass Band Alliance.

The brass band movement is made up of too many small minded people, who believe they have too much to lose by the creation of a body such as UKBBA.

All the anger and spite which is being rumoured and reported on comes as little surprise given the people the banding movement has got into bed with over the years.

Contests promoters take the risks and in return take the money. Simple.

We need a body that talks and discusses things with them, not one that has them telling the bands what they want - ie. Spending more hard earned money to enter even more privately owned contests…

As a business plan it has as much merit as Rupert Murdoch asking News of the World readers to join his new mobile phone company…

Lee Cunningham

Whit Friday fighting talk

I can understand Matthew Shaw's annoyance at some of the comments directed towards the student contingent at this year's Whit Friday contest and to be honest I found myself siding with the students themselves as I watched the discussions unfold.  

However I do feel Matthew has shot himself in the foot somewhat with a response at least twice as 'snobby' than the original comments to which he objects.
A particular favourite: 'It may surprise people to know that we actually have other more important things than banding to worry about at a music college.’

Such as a rise in the price of kebabs?  

A cheap shot I know, but there's nothing like a bit of graceful deference, Matthew, to ingratiate yourselves with a simple group of folk, most of whom I believe came out in support of you and your band.
And as for this: 'It is also obvious that, if we really wished to, we could put effort in and happily kick some of the country’s best bands into touch'.

Well, Matthew, in the words of the Wild West - them's fightin' words.  

To be fair, you aren't the first music student to stumble accidentally upon this strange, insular world of music making and automatically assume that it must be obvious that a music student must by some sort of divine right be a better player than, say, an insurance broker, computer engineer or lorry driver who just happens to meddle around with a cornet in their spare time.  

Some people have even gone so far as to act upon these beliefs - and they have the scars of battle to prove it.
You really haven't you or your band any favours - you've just highlighted your own musical snobbishness and arrogance.  

I wouldn't be surprised if this, more than anything that anybody else has said, is going to affect how people react to you on the circuit next year.
Now if you'll excuse me my whippets need feeding and I have to pick up my cloth cap from the dry cleaners.
Tim Morgan


As some one who has been playing for 40 years but only managed to go to a Whit Friday four years ago as a guest of Witney Town Band, I think that the ‘Whits’ must still be regarded as a tradition.  

Witney travelled to Mossley to take part in the Walk of Witness because there were more churches than local bands. If that’s the case what’s wrong with advertising for a band?

As far as the evening contests are concerned it’s a tradition that says bands go to play against each other no more no less.

Does that mean we have to do it with sombre demeanour and playing the same piece of music that we’ve always played?

If it does then banding in general might as well pack up now because if we don’t change and if we don’t enjoy ourselves what’s the point? It’s a hobby, we do it to relax and enjoy ourselves.  

As for commercial influences, if food and drink and accommodation were not available, how many people would go to enjoy the spectacle?

The atmosphere as I marched down Delph main street for the first time is one that I’ll never forget.

The ‘petty anti social behaviour’ is not generally part of general band culture but of society in general, and I don’t think that in any way should be linked to scratch bands or any others bands costumed or not.
Robin Allen
Bradwell Silver Band

I'm with Mr Wycherley

Alan Wycherley writes about the behaviour of Looney Brass, which he ‘didn't find very funny at all.’

His letter is only 18 lines long.
Messrs Shaw and Astill expend 73 lines in two self-righteous responses, their chief plea in mitigation being that they raised funds for ‘a most noble charity’, and that the members were ‘chemically imbalanced.’

Certainly, their band's behaviour demanded a lengthy response. Sadly, not the one they gave.
The News of the World tried to raise funds for charity this weekend, and last year Tony Blair tried it with ‘The Journey’. Both ‘gestures’ were treated with the contempt they deserved.

Just because Looney Brass was raising money for charity doesn't make their antics any more acceptable.
I'm with Mr Wycherley.
Carolyn Sucher

Whit Friday should be fun

I think Whit Friday is one of the best nights ever.

Having been a spectator for a long number of years I now have competed in the last 3 (the first one being the wet one). I really enjoy it even though I didn't start playing till after retirement.

Please keep it going as a great fun night out, even if there are some bands not professional we have a number of youngsters and they enjoy it
Rita Palmer

It has been fascinating to read the various comments about Looney Brass on Whit Friday.  

Let's face one essential point.  Banding has to be FUN.  Why else would most of us do it?   

I have to say that the "old-fashioned-bandsman" side of me could have led me to think that the group were somehow disrespecting the whole event and the other bands.  This was clearly not the case once it was explained what they were doing and why.

To have fun and raise money for a good cause is to the credit of the students who will (or should) have just completed a hard year of study against the demanding standards of musicianship expected (rightly) by the RNCM.  So they went to ‘let their hair down.’  

Of course, if most bands went out like Looney Brass then the whole event would become a farce but that will not happen.  Is Whit Friday to be always seen as a serious and funless competition with nervous players afraid to make a mistake?  I sincerely hope not.

As ever, Whit Friday was a success even if some of the Tameside venues seemed to be quiet.  Also, when the results tables are studied there are some "interesting" things appear which it is perhaps best not to comment upon.  

After all, as I said, it is all for fun.  

Most of us will never win the big prizes anyway but we turn out year after year come hail come shine because we love our movement and Whit Friday in particular!

Most players get fun out of doing their best and let's face it, over 80% of the brass band movement is below the Championship Section though it is the latter which gets over 80% of the attention!  
Peter Hargreaves


May I take this opportunity to say thank you to as many people as possible that kindly sent their condolences following the death of Goff Richards.

Can I also thank Paul Andrews and the band for their contribution before and during the recent funeral service.
Sue Richards

Student clearance

It's with interest that I read Alan Wycherley's Whit Friday comments, which were quite obviously aimed at Looney Brass.

I'd just like to clear up a few things up here.

First of all, students from the RNCM have for a few years now, formed a scratch band annually to take part in the Whit Friday festivities without actually representing the RNCM (thus names like Superhero Brass and Looney Brass).

The idea is that the band go out in fancy dress on a particular theme (with a specially arranged march) for the day. This year the group also decided to raise money for charity (which was very successful, I believe that the total sum raised was around £700)

Mr Wycherley should also rest at ease, as whilst the standard of the band on the day may have been, well, catastrophically bad, he should remember that the members were a tad ‘chemically imbalanced’ and not taking things very seriously.

When these members are taking music seriously you will usually find them playing in top flight bands/orchestras etc and those you don't will most probably be in top flight bands in the near future so they are indeed, capable of playing their instruments (If you still doubt this then you should check out Brass United's (RNCM/ManUni collaboration) performance at the Uni Brass contest this year).

As a matter of fact the vast majority of the band for Whit Friday were actually playing on instruments they don't usually play (a mixture of trouble finding certain players and people just wanting to experiment)

Whit Friday comes at the end of the student year, and after an extremely stressful and busy time of recitals and essay writing.

There is no time to rehearse a march all day every day and neither is there the motivation to do so.

Constant practice is something these students do for the rest of the year. Whit Friday is a chance to have a bit of fun and relax and to entertain people on the way.

Prizes are just not on the wish list, and I disagree that they should be. Would it be fair for a band of A grade music students who are in the 4th section due to technicalities, take away these prize funds when so many 4th section bands are struggling to keep afloat?

So Mr Wycherley - I completely fail to see how one band having a laugh and making some money for a good cause 'undermines everything about the band movement’' but I also suspect that you fail to see that some people have different definitions of 'fun' to your own

Ian Astill

Whit Friday snob

I find it annoying and upsetting that there can be made public such a 'snobby' attack upon a group of students engaging in a contest such as the Whit Friday Marches.

I am more than happy to have it known that I was the musical director for the offending band on this years contest, and I feel that before such scathing criticisms are flung into the public domain, people should understand certain aspects of our intentions on the day in question.

Firstly, we do not have all day every day to practise marches, it may surprise people to know that we actually have other more important things than banding to worry about at a music college.
It is also obvious that, if we really wished to, we could put effort in and happily kick some of the country’s best bands into touch, however this was not, and never has been, the band's intention.

A certain majority of those playing were actually playing not on their principal study instrument, so this surely begs the question, if we can put together a band on the day, of people playing other instruments to their usual one, what is going wrong with the other bands that we beat at some of the contests?!

We actually had to use other musicians from within college as it was reported that certain bands had banned their members from going out with any other bands this year.

I wish it also to be known that we were out on the day as a pure scratch band, not affiliated in any way with our respective educational institutions.
I think Mr Wycherley should also respect the fact that the band were out primarily raising money for charity, and were intending not on winning any prizes, or showing off, but merely entertaining the public and collecting money for Christies.

If there is a written law somewhere that states charitable collections and entertainment can only be undertaken by people being serious, then so be it. However, I am sure this is not the case.
Surely the Whit Friday contests are the only set of contests out there in which any band, regardless of status or how good they might be, can go along and enjoy competing against other bands from around the world. So much of the brass band world revolves purely around elitism; these contests are usually a breath of fresh air.

However, I believe the spirit of the event has been clouded over by comments such as those made public by Mr Wycherley, throwing such a brutish attack upon students, most of whom are not from the brass band world, many of whom had never done a Whit Friday contest before, and all of whom were out to just have a good night, play a little music, and raise funds for a most noble charity.
But maybe we have reached a point where playing music is no longer about enjoying the event? It certainly seems that some people believe this to be true.
Matthew Shaw

Extra layers...

Much has recently been said and reported on your site about the proposal to form a United Kingdom Brass Band Association.
Am I correct in thinking that the proposal that all bands must be members of the proposed UKBBA before they can enter the Reqional Qualifiers/National Finals will create an additional administrative layer, with consequent additional cost, for bands and will impinge on the status of existing Regional Associations - as well as the EBBA and SBBA - even, possibly, making those Associations redundant?
Colin Evans
President, City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) Band

UKBBA debacle

Speaking as an ordinary English bander, I think the most disappointing aspect to the whole UKBBA debacle has been the incredibly short-sighted attitude of the 6 English regional committees.

Forr good honest banding people to not realise what a fully funded EFBB could have meant to the 'car-crash' that is English banding is frankly beyond belief.

Do they not look around at other countries and their superior level of banding administration with a single national focus and aspire that England could do similar or better?

I have no time for Morris/Bland Kapitol, but we can’t really blame them as private companies do whatever private companies do to make profits.

In this case they appear to have duped another group of hapless regional committee members into perpetuating the directionless shambles that is banding in England for another ten or twenty years!

"We’re only here to organise a contest" they say glibly....ain’t that the truth!!
Ian Heard

Minor set back

In your article under the above heading dated 22nd June 2011you say that seven Regions voted not to participate in the proposed Alliance.

This is incorrect.

I attended the meeting at which this decision was made as the Welsh representative and argued strongly, though I fear unsuccessfully, that the Regions should not turn their backs on UKBBA. The decision not to participate was not therefore unanimous.

Contrary to your surprisingly negative reporting, I do not believe this minor set back will be terminal to the proposal.

Pedr Roberts
Chairman, Welsh Region

4BR Comment:
We wish to make clear that in the news item at no point did we report that a vote had been taken.

In its recent statement laying out the position on the UKBBA, the Regional Forum stated that they operated within a democratic system.

Bands elect association representatives, who send representatives to the regional committees, who send a delegate to the Regional Forum.
Alan Hope, the Regional Forum co-ordinator, went on to say: ‘…the Regional Forum agreed at a recent meeting not to impose membership of an English or Welsh Federation as a condition of entry to the Regional Championships."
There are three significant points here. Firstly, the Regional Forum is made up of delegates (sic).

A delegate is a person chosen to act for another or others. They do not vote or act as they see fit.

Therefore, the seven forum members had no power to make such a decision without a mandate through their own proclaimed democratic process.
Secondly, if the term delegate is incorrect and they are actually representatives then these seven people have made a very serious decision in a climate when, without doubt, brass bands and their future are at a critical point.

Brass bands have a perhaps unique chance to create something that already works well in Norway and Scotland.
With the system that exists the Regional Forum could have ensured that every brass band in membership of an association could have been asked whether or not they agreed to the UKBBA proposals. They may have said no, but they might have said yes.

The fact is they never had the chance. Democracy at work - I don't think so!
Thirdly, the Regions may have a democratic element to them but it ends there.

The rights to the titles and therefore the Finals are owned, and always have been, by a private company or individual - John Henry Iles, the Daily Herald, The People, Edwin Vaughan Morris etc.

Owners will always rightly make decisions to protect their own interest.

The current owner of the "rights" etc is Kapitol Promotions who "would like to make it clear that their only agenda is to run the National Championships series within the democratic framework".

If that was their real intention then years ago they would have entered into an arrangement whereby the Finals were managed by them in a way that the bands wanted.
Tim Mutum

Foden’s Farewell
I would like to take this opportunity to the Foden’s Band for their friendship and camaraderie over the last 3 or 4 years whilst I have been a ‘country member’.

My work took me to Cheshire 4 years ago and shortly afterwards I was asked by Mark Wilkinson if I could help out at the British Open.

As I was close at hand I readily agreed although somewhat with trepidation, as it was nearly 10 years since I had played full time at Black Dyke.
Regularly over the following years I was allowed to join them from time to time mainly at Contests and was always guaranteed a warm welcome.

I am still in awe of the spirit at Foden’s and how they have been the most consistent band in recent times, which is a hallmark of a really great outfit.
Thanks a million to all those at Foden’s who have made me feel very welcome and have been very supportive over these last few years. Long may your success continue.

In the meantime, opportunity has thrown up one last chance to play in a major contest after receiving a call from my old friend Kevin Crockford to do a ‘one off’ and help out Grimethorpe at this year’s British Open.

Too good an opportunity to miss while I am still in Yorkshire and can travel easily to practice.

This will definitely be my last contest run out as I am relocating ‘Down South’ in the autumn and that has lead me to make the sensible decision that now is the right time to finally call time on my playing days in major contests.
Time to get those golf clubs out more often I think!
John Gillam

A super day out in Preston

Unfortunately, by the time this letter reaches the print room, comments relating to the English National Championships will have lost some of their impact.

However, the event can't be allowed to pass by without a listener's appreciation of the absolutely superb standard of play delivered by all of the bands.

We were treated to probably some of the best brass band playing ever heard, and, to those who might question such a statement, or wonder at the credentials of the writer, rest assured that, over nearly 60 years of playing, conducting, and listening, this 'geek' has heard them all!!

The result, at the end of such a grand day, was perfectly correct, both Black Dyke and Foden’s producing beautiful performances.

Hopefully though, the members of all the other bands knew that their own contributions fell just a hairsbreadth short of these two!

In particular, Rothwell Temperance are to be commended on their unassuming and honest performances, and their modest appreciation of the audience applause which greeted the band, their conductor and Solo Cornet player, who may well have been the day's best, particularly in the Elgar piece!

A super day out, and an encouragingly larger audience.


Concerns for banding

I write over my concerns for banding.

My wife and I travelled up to the English Nationals and thoroughly enjoyed some wonderful playing.

We went to Morley on Thursday evening and Brighouse concert after the contest on Saturday evening.

However, we are very concerned at how the top bands can be motivated when they arrive on stage to such a small audience on the contest day. There were nearly more people at Morley for Brighouse than at the contest.

Speaking to Prof David King at the end of the contest he said how disappointed he was to see such a poor attendance.

There is a definite lack of young people in the audiences and yet the bands are well positioned with magnificent young players. Is it the price of admission for the young or venue location, but without trying to find an answer it is all going to come to a stop.

At London they seemed to think it was by playing musical compositions rather than Arban type exercises that bought bigger audiences. We have such fantastic bands and players we really do feel for them.

Congratulations go to Dyke and Nick Childs for Saturday. They were great.

Graham & Norma Shelley

Wych on Whit Friday...

Can't help but put ‘finger to keyboard’ as it were about some of the bands on Whit Friday.

I have played over the past 5 decades with bands of lets say ‘various standards’, but they all seem to have one thing in common........they were trying their best.

To see and hear a group of ‘music students’ having a laugh, in their view, by playing a march really, really badly on Whit Friday I didn't find very funny at all.

It just undermines everything about the band movement in my opinion, and if these people want to earn a living through music they must at least be able to play the instrument to a decent level to be able to teach it to others.

Just think what a ‘laugh’ you students could have if you rehearsed a march, (you have all day every day when the ‘big bands’ usually give it 2 rehearsals tops) went round Whit Friday (dressed in anything you wish) and played it in tune, with a good sound, a sense of rhythm, had the odd good soloist and came away with a load of prizes.

Now that’s what I call a laugh.

I would be more than willing to conduct such a band next Whit Friday if you would like to get in touch.

Lets face it: What’s hard about playing 2 in a bar straight forward stuff for a few hours and playing it better than the top bands in the country?
Alan Wycherley

Whit Friday error?

I have just read Malcolm Wood 's Whit Friday retrospective and would like to point out an error in his report

He states that Ashton –under- Lyne Band was awarded the local prize. This is not the case.

In the rules of the Championship it states (rule 4) that any band that are awarded a prize in the overall category cannot receive a further award in the local category.

As Ashton were third overall the local awards were:

1.  Glossop
2.  Mossley
3.  Stalybridge Old
Keith Greenwood
Chairman Stalybridge Old Band

4BR Comment:
We have contacted Tameside Council but have yet to receive official confirmation of this.

Innovative concepts?

I write in reference to Alan Liddell's comments on the West Lothian Challenge.

I'm not entirely clear what ‘innovative concepts’ we employed in previous years? Perhaps he could enlighten us.

However, I do know for a fact that we did not compete two years ago as we were ineligible following our hat trick win the previous year.

Iain Chisholm
The Co-operative Funeralcare Band


Saturday 20 April • Pemberton band room. Enfield street. Wigan WN5 8DZ

PEMBERTON OLD WIGAN DW BRASS BANDS - Guest soloista Glyn and Helen Williams

Saturday 20 April • Pemberton Old Wigan Band. Enfield Street,. Pemberton,. Wigan WN5 8DZ

Boarshurst Silver Band - Sunday Brass Concert: Pemberton Old Wigan DWB

Sunday 21 April • Boarshurst Band Club Greenbridge Lane Greenfield Saddleworth Ol37EW

Barnsley Brass -

Sunday 21 April • Holiday Inn, Barnsley Road, Dodworth, Barnsley S75 3JT

Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band - Reading Festival of Brass: Open Workshop Rehearsal

Saturday 27 April • St Laurence Church, Reading RG1 3EJ

Thoresby Colliery Band

April 17 • Thoresby Colliery Band are inviting applications for an SOLO Trombone player. . We are at the top of tables for the 1st section Midlands Area, with a sensible calendar of Contest and Contests.. .

Crewe Brass

April 17 • Crewe Brass are looking for FLUGEL player to join our highly motivated 4th section band. We are a very welcoming and sociable band, with a positive outlook and a reasonably busy calendar of engagements. Other enquiries are welcome.

Crewe Brass

April 17 • Crewe Brass are looking for BACKROW CORNET players to join our highly motivated 4th section band. We are a very welcoming and sociable band, with a positive outlook and a reasonably busy calendar of engagements. Other enquiries are welcome.

Andrew White

MA(Ed Man), B Ed (Hons), BBCM, ADNCB, PGCE, Cert Ed
Conductor, Arranger, Adjudicator & Educationist


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