2011: August

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie, O, what a panic's in thy breastie! The Scots get in a lather about the Land O'Burns contest...

Unclear comments...

In response to the comments from Tom Rushton and John Fraser about our recent win at the Land O’ Burns contest: We’re a little confused over the point they’re actually trying to make.

True enough our Youth Development Project is very ambitious. As reported on 4BR recently, we’ve just been awarded substantial amounts of grant funding towards an ambitious £250,000 youth project.

This will allow us to create our second youth band (in time for the Scottish Youth Championships in November) and expand our Percussion Academy, which we think is still unique in the whole of the UK. We’ll also be able to launch our second senior band, our ‘B’ Band, which will make its debut at Scottish Championships in 2012.

We’re now four years into our youth development plan, and SBBA’s previous Development Manager, Alan Edmond, knew the knowledge we had gained from years of hard work would be beneficial to other bands, including Tredegar, who were in the process of setting up a youth project.

We’ve been more than happy to help any band who is looking for advice, and just days after winning the Land O’ Burns contest we were back in our bandroom with members of fellow Championship Section band, Bo’ness and Carriden, letting them see the work we do and answering the questions they had as they take the first steps towards their own youth development programme.

Indeed the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ as Mr Rushton mentions, is developing nicely, with record numbers of youth bands and players appearing all over Scotland.

That’s the area that SBBA has been working on for the past few years, and one they should rightfully be congratulated for.

What is confusing about Mr Rushton and Mr Fraser’s comments is the lack of any actual point, made even worse by the (almost uncannily identical) irrelevant mentioning of our youth development programme, and the involvement of SBBA and the UKBBA?

That’s a lot of axes for someone to grind!

Maybe their point is that you’re allowed to run a successful youth set-up, or a successful senior band, but not both?

Maybe Championship Section bands shouldn’t be involved in youth development at all?

Perhaps their point is that you’re allowed to bring in a player to cover someone being on holiday, but they’re not allowed to be that good?

Maybe they just want contest organisers to award prizes in ranking order?

Until their comments are a little clearer then I’m afraid we’re all in the dark over what they’re actually trying to say.
John Todd
Kingdom Brass

Memories of Denis Wick

Just a note to say how much I enjoyed the video of the Denis Wick mute and mouthpiece production plant in Poole.

I remember well when Kevin Wadsworth from Black Dyke and I from BMC Morris Motors, together with another tenor horn player from the Salvation Army, were invited in the 1960’s to the Boosey & Hawkes factory on the Edgware Road in London to give our opinions during the development of the ‘new’ Sovereign tenor horn.

During the visit we met Denis Wick who was developing a range of mouthpieces specifically for this instrument and I remember him being extremely interested in the mouthpieces each of us were using at that time.

However when I eventually got the new Sovereign tenor horn, which was by far the best thing on the market at that time, I changed to the mouthpiece that he had developed for the instrument.

During my playing career I suffered, if that is the right word, from sweating during performances and found that I had problems with the plating on the mouthpiece.

I duly bought a number of mouthpieces before writing to Boosey & Hawkes to complain about this problem.

I must admit that I made reference to my visit to the factory some years before!

Within no time at all I received a note from Denis Wick himself to apologise for the problems I had been having and enclosing a new mouthpiece with a new plating method that he hoped would solve my problem.

Needless to say that it lasted much longer which goes to show how much, even in those days, quality was and still is important to this company.
David Williams

SBBA housekeeping in order?

I noted the results from the Land of Burns contest from over the border last weekend with interest.

The SBBA are being held up as the aspirational model during all the UKBBA goings on, and the aforementioned contest was won by the jewels in their crown, Kingdom Brass.

Several weeks ago 4BR reported that representatives from SBBA and Kingdom Brass visited Wales to discuss how to structure an organisation for the future starting with a youth foundation.

In reading the report from the contest, it seems to me that the new SBBA Development Officer Andrew Duncan has weighted his programme choice to feature professional players, I would assume bought in for the contest.

Surely the key to ensuring progression is to ensure that bands don't just gather the best players together for contests, but that they're there at every rehearsal?

Perhaps the Scots have only got as far as figuring out the bottom of the pyramid.

Hopefully the risky nature of this short-termism of the other end of the scale will dawn on Mr Duncan and his colleagues soon, because the vast majority of bands in this country can't afford this as a strategy.

Perhaps the SBBA need to do a bit of housekeeping themselves before rolling out their model.

John Rushton

Hollow victory?

I read with interest the 4BR report from the Land O’ Burns contest this weekend.

Congratulations go to Kingdom Brass, but I can’t help but feel that the victory seemed a little hollow?

4BR has reported on the organisation’s ambitious youth plans in recent weeks, including a report on their trip to Wales with the Development Officer of the Scottish Brass Band Association.

Long term aims and objectives were mentioned amid glowing self promotion of SBBA’s and Kingdom’s commitment to youth development, yet this contest win seems to have occurred with the assistance of players who have little or no real week in week out connection with the band.

Is this the blueprint for long term success Kingdom and SBBA are really extolling to the rest of the banding world?  

Tom Fraser

Gone too far! 

Normally Jim Yelland and I agree on most things and we have often supported each other’s comments in the past but Jim...you go too far this time I’m afraid.

Your comment..."Perhaps, in order to show respect for all, the contest should be abandoned?" is well out of order.
From 1980 to 1986 I lived in southern Germany and every year I drove the 2000 mile round trip back up north just to participate in this fantastic event.

There was always some band or other that could accommodate me (usually Milnrow) and believe me the pilgrimage was well worth it.
If this great event has changed over the years then it must be for the better as more and more bands from further afield are attending the greatest free show in the UK.  

As a prime example, a couple of years or so ago, the heavens opened and we had the worst deluge in recorded history. I was soaked to the skin, my music was all blurred and I had to play from memory as did many others.  

Were our efforts dampened? (sorry for the pun)

Nah, it only gave us one more special evening to talk about for years to come and long may it continue to do so.
And don’t forget the poor publicans and butty bar owners who make more money that night than any other night of the year.
Whit Friday rules! I can’t wait for next year.
Jim Owen

Thanks Grimey
We got married on 16th July in Daventry and the whole of Grimethorpe Band came and played for the ceremony plus a short concert when our guests were having drinks.

They were brilliant!

The day also surprised two members from my very first band of Crediton in Devon.

Brian Cope and Ralph Bishop (both in their 80's) came to enjoy the wedding but thanks to the Grimethorpe lads, played with the band instead.

They told us later that they will remember the occasion for the rest of their lives!

It turned out to be a rather unconventional day full of happiness for everyone concerned and the honeymoon saw Murray join up with the band for their Australian Tour before returning to New Zealand for a second wedding blessing with his family in attendance!

We'd like to thank everyone on both sides of the world who helped us to celebrate our wedding - it has been a truly memorable and incredibly exciting, fun loving summer, which we will treasure for always.
Murray & Debbie Borthwick

Looking for Jim's mouthpiece...

I am trying to source a new or decent second hand Jim Shepherd special cornet mouthpiece.

This is the one with the wide rim. They don't come in different sizes - there is just the one model.

The manufacturer used to supply them to Phil Parker, but has not done so for a year or more.

I have been asking around to try and source such a mouthpiece, but nobody seems to have one.

Can you help please?
David Beck
07774 630123 or 01730894632

Grimethorpe - Still the best ticket in town...

I was lucky enough to attend both of the tour concerts by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band in Queensland.

It’s a little over 3 ½ years since I left the band to move ‘Down Under’ so I was looking forward to seeing if they still had the ‘X Factor’. Not only did they have the ‘X Factor’ but the ‘Y and Z Factor’ to boot!

Grimethorpe have always been on top of the pile when it comes to audience entertainment and they certainly did not disappoint on this occasion.

With their new top man firmly in place, they took to the stage with gusto.

James Fountain is only 17 years old (and could probably pass for 15) but plays like an old stager way beyond his years. It was quite strange to see such a youthful figure playing with style and panache as if channeling the best of James Shepherd or David Daws.

His playing was simply breathtaking and an example of many of the young players in what is now a very young band.

However, there were still plenty of the ‘old boys’ on stage leading by example.

Kevin Crockford has never played better and put the ‘icing on the cake’ for many of the pieces with some of the sweetest playing you will ever hear. He is still a powerhouse player and without doubt, the best in the business.

All the soloists performed impeccably, supported by a sensitive ensemble that played with wonderful intonation, balance and depth that was a pleasure to listen to.

My great friend Shaun Crowther delivered the final solo of the evenings, where his comedic brilliance shone through as he proceeded to play Monti’s ‘Czardas’, complete with all the usual pyrotechnics and audience participation.

Shaun is no stranger to bringing the house down with his performances but in the wonderful QPAC Concert Hall in Brisbane it felt extra special.

Brian Grant directed with the ease that can only come from many hours in the rehearsal. He also has a very fluid compering style that had the audience laughing in the aisles. Informative and imaginative, he was very entertaining and the perfect front man for the band on top form.

After the concert on the Gold Coast, I invited the whole band back to the house I share with my girlfriend Julie Woods for a little after show party.

After a bit of didgeridoo playing and trying their hand at pouring pints of draft Stella in the house bar, the band returned to their hotel in the wee small hours thoroughly relaxed (some almost horizontal) to recover ready for another top show in Brisbane.

Band Manager Nigel Dixon has the task of making sure everything runs smoothly on the tour and he is to be commended as it is no mean feat holding the reins at Grimethorpe -  a beast that will never be easy to tame.

The Brisbane concert was another showstopper and a particularly special one for me as I was invited to play in the final piece of the concert – ‘The Pines of Rome’.

A big thank you goes to ‘Shaggy’ for letting me use his tuba and to the band for letting me experience a standing ovation from nearly 2000 people. There really is no feeling like it and it is one I will always cherish.

I would like to thank Grimethorpe and wish them all the very best of luck with the rest of the tour.

If you live in Sydney or Melbourne and do not already have a ticket – buy one asap to experience the best of the best – Grimethorpe Colliery Band!

Dean Morley

Time to abandon Whit Friday?

Some of your correspondents seem to feel that the behaviour of certain bands in this year's Whit Friday contests showed a lack of respect towards the event and banding in general.  

I supposed that Christian folk might equally argue that their annual festival of devotion to their faith has been shown little respect by the attachment of an event which encourages the rather tawdry pursuits of personal indulgence and capital gain.
Perhaps, in order to show respect for all, the contest should be abandoned?
Jim Yelland

Fallible memory

In response to Iain Chisholm’s comment about the ‘innovative concept’ that I suggested in a previous comment was employed by the Co-op Band at the West Lothian Challenge.

I have to admit that my memory is fallible – I can’t remember the precise year of the performance to which I am referring, but the item involved the use of back-projection of silent movie clips featuring the Keystone Cops and similar slap-stick comedy excerpts, which the band accompanied with a piece of music in the style of the silent movie era, the title of which also escapes me.
I believe Alan Ramsay may have on this occasion and it may have been used in both the semi-final and the final.
Hope this clarifies the situation.
Congratulations on a well-deserved victory in this year’s contest – the band was in fine form on the night and produced some excellent music – and entertainment!
Alan Liddell

Haverhill Silver Band - Waterbeach Brass - Spring Concert

Saturday 2 March • Histon Baptist Church, Station Road, Histon, Cambridge CB24 9LQ

Contest: Yorkshire Regional Championships

Saturday 2 March • Corporation Street, Huddersfield HD1 2TA

Contest: Midlands Regional Championships

Saturday 2 March • Corby Business Academy, Gretton Road, Corby NN17 5EB

Contest: Midlands Regional Championships

Sunday 3 March • Corby Business Academy, Gretton Road, Corby NN17 5EB

Contest: Yorkshire Regional Championships

Sunday 3 March • Corporation Street, Huddersfield HD1 2TA

West Midlands Police Band

February 27 • Are you a committed musician looking for new opportunities? We are currently seeking a competent 3rd Cornet player, BBb or Eb Bass player, and a Percussionist (kit).. Rehearsals on a Wednesday in friendly environment at Chelmsley Wood Police Station

Mereside Brass

February 20 • Mereside Brass (Rudheath, Northwich) are looking for a FRONT ROW CORNET, position negotiable. We are a friendly 4th Section band restarting contesting this year and with a sensible calendar of jobs and band social events. Come and give us a try!

Haverhill Silver Band

February 19 • Play Bb (or Eb) bass and want to compete at the Spring Festival and Whit Friday? . . Due to work commitments, Haverhill Silver Band (L&SC Champions 2022) have a vacancy for a talented Bb or Eb bass player to join us after the areas.

Ian Porthouse

Cornet soloist, clinician, conductor and adjudicator


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