2011: December

ISB bashing, back to basics, the nature of contesting and more. It all makes for interesting reading for Christmas...

4BR ISB bashing!

With reference to the comment about 4BR ISB bashing.

Why should the reviewer ask the people around him what they thought? 

As the reviewer it was his opinion that mattered. If he had asked the people around me, a number of them Salvationists, he would have found many agreeing with him!

Unfortunately, on this occasion, I also agree with him.

I am a great supporter of the ISB and have a number of friends who play in the band but, in my opinion, it was very disappointing performance by the band on this occasion and I thought they missed a great opportunity to show the general banding public why they are one of the SA's premier bands.

The majority of the programme had been prepared for ISB120 and it sounded very tired and jaded in November. In fact on the ISB Facebook page on 17 November they said that they had only spent half the rehearsal that week preparing for The Sage concert. 

Not ideal preparation for such an important concert when they had the opportunity to showcase the best of Army music.

Mr Wilson is obviously an ISB fan, as I am, but I am not blinkered into thinking that they can do no wrong and may even have an off night. If the ISB take part in events like this then if they perform below par they must accept a reviewer's honest opinion which, I'm sure they do. 

I am certain that if the reviewer heard Black Dyke or Cory playing to a lesser standard than expected he would comment accordingly. It is only one person's opinion after all.

As it was the first time I'd heard Brass Band of Central Florida I can't comment as to whether they were on form or not but I did enjoy their fresh approach, apart from Ravenswood, not Chad's best programming idea I think. 

This is only my opinion, not Chad bashing!

Brian Deans

Back to basics

I read with interest the article about no fresh ideas for Brass in Concert.

I was lucky to play under Howard Snell at Foden’s and played at various entertainment contests, and although we had pieces in our programs which had humour and visual entertainment, we entertained by the quality of playing not by going over the top with the visuals and props.

Surely the most important thing about contests is the quality of the music, program content etc.

Maybe what is missing is an arranger of the quality of Howard Snell who could come up with endless great arrangements such as Procession to the Minster.

Get back to the basics, good playing, less singing, dancing and dressing up.

Nigel Birch
Musical Director
Lions Youth Brass

Contesting? What's it all about?

What is contesting all about?

We have MD’s drafted in from a broad and MD’s swaning about taking several bands at different area contests. The band I follow is not alone in doing it

It was intended as a way of, ‘upping the standards’… but does it?

And if ‘Interpretation’ is down to the MD, are we judging a band, or a professional musician?

The reality is that at the top level within days of a contest, whether a band has won or lost, the next rehearsal will often see a different line-up and a different person wagging the stick.

End result: Mr. Joe Public pays his price, but does not see British Champions or National Champions; but a selection of players from the band that won, often minus key players who made that win possible.

We come close to breeching the Trades’ Descriptions Act at times.

Truth to say most contests are now almost events ‘sui generis’; very interesting for the competing bands; very interesting for hard-core followers of brass; and a very brief experience for those band followers who listen to ‘their band’, then ‘make some noise’, then hit the bar.

It has only a little to do with what is the mainstay of the genre; the weekly concerts; nor the avant-garde of the new composers and innovators who are trying to play for the public…and not at adjudicators.

This is not to suggest that we do away with the contest altogether. There should be a platform for foreign players and foreign bands to display their wares; but let’s not call it, ‘The British’ Open, or the ‘English’ Nationals.

And, yes, let us have some tighter rules about who can play and how they qualify….. and stick to them, and stop allowing appeals against those rules on spurious bases, or the contesting scene could drift further and further away.

But what would I know?

I’m only the burke who pays for his seat, and listens to as many bands as time allows.

Jim Doran

Contacting Derek Garside

I am trying to make contact with Derek Macolm Garside.

Derek and I were in the same class at Hipperholme Grammar School  between 1941 to 45. 

He and I and a Roger Turner (who died in a road accident) used to cycle from Brighouse to Knarsborough occasionally, row on the river and then cycle home.

These are just things which may jog his memory.

If it is possible to make contact my name is Bob Hind , I'm 81 year old, same age as Derek.

My email address is: bonhind100@gmail.com

My telephone no. Is 01752 813437. Skype ID  bob.hind1. Address is 12, Kynance Close, Torpoint, Cornwall . PL11 2QP

Bob Hind

4BR Reply:
If anyone can help, please contact Bob direct

Growing old together

4BR’s latest Editorial hit the nail on the head in respect to brass band entertainment. 

The bands have just about run out of fresh ideas and the contests have not really helped.

We have insulated ourselves so completely from the outside world that we have become stuck in a musical bubble of our own making. 

No wonder, as you point out, the audiences bands now perform too have become increasingly middle aged – neither the bands nor the contests do anything to attract anyone new to come to listen to us play.

I fear that we will all grow old together, increasingly isolated and irrelevant.

Stephanie Morris

NICHE marketing?

Can anyone tell me something about NICHE – the Nationwide Independent College of Higher Education?

I have heard that they offer both HNC and degree courses in music performance, aimed at brass students, yet people who I speak to about them seem very reticent to offer a supportive opinion.

I have searched on the internet and found the information to be rather unhelpful and at times ambiguous (the award of student loans to fund individuals is currently under negotiation).

I have been informed of apprenticeship schemes, part-time learning, no age limits etc, but still seem puzzled by the courses on offer.

Has anyone in the brass band world undertaken any of these courses, and of so, can they share an opinion?

Martin Fulton

Stop the bashing!   

When will 4BR stop bashing the International Staff Band?

The latest ill informed rant came at Brass in Concert (although you tried to cover it up in fancy language).

I found their contribution to the Gala Concert uplifting and brilliantly played, with excellent soloists and direction from Stephen Cobb. I agree that the Brass Band of Central Florida were not on the best of form on the night, but the ISB certainly was.

Perhaps your reviewer should have asked the people around him what they thought rather than just sticking to his own blinkered thoughts.

Philip Wilson

Points mean... 

I have no wish to fuel the conspiracy theorists within our movement but can you explain the Entertainment points awarded at Brass in Concert?

I listened to every band and cannot agree that Tredegar’s programme was equally as entertaining (or not) as Reg Vardy.
I had Tredegar way ahead but that is a matter for the judges and entertainment is a tremendously subjective matter.

My concern is basic maths. If the figures quoted in your report are accurate and the most entertaining band gets 11 points, the next 10 etc, I cannot work out how the judges placed bands in the Entertainment discipline.

It seems highly unsatisfactory in an entertainment competition that in a field of 11 there were 2 ties for the entertainment factor? Were the two judge’s decisions so opposed that they couldn’t reach agreement?

I should stress that I have no affiliation with any of the bands competing yesterday and just wondered as to the points as mathematically they don’t appear to add up. Or am I just being thick??

 Tony Newis

Adding up the problems 

After returning from a very enjoyable Brass in Concert competition this year, I was puzzled to read the full results published on 4BR.

I understand that the bands were informed that placings would be givend for the entertainment based on the points awarded to them from the entertainment judges – from 11 to 1.

Nothing was said of ties, or that the flaw in the system used is fully exposed when the provision of awarding ties is undertaken incorrectly.

The overall amount of points total must remain the same for this to work correctly. If not, bands are unfairly penalised.

The total entertainment points on offer according to the rules is (11+10+9+8+7+6 +5+4+3+2+1) = 66 points.

Those awarded at Brass in Concert this year was (11+10+9+9+7+6+6+4+3+2+1) = 68 points

Although there would not have been a change in the overall result, both Foden’s and Fairey (Geneva) (both awarded 9 points) should have been awarded 8.5 points each, whilst Tredegar and Reg Vardy (both awarded 6 points) should have been awarded 5.5 points each.

The overall points awarded would have therefore been exactly 66 – as per the rules.

Can this please be sorted out for 2012?

David Bannister

Helping a scratch?  

I’m pondering the idea of entering a scratch brass band into a contest and would like some advice if possible? (not Whit Friday though )
Is anyone aware if there any feasible contests that a scratch band can enter even if all the players are registered to different bands and different sections?
My internet searches are proving ineffective.

Mike Goodare
Hazel Grove Brass Band

Masterclass benefit

I’m a euphonium player in Australia and I’m also studying for a double degree in Music/Teaching part-time.  

I just wanted to let you know how much I have been enjoying the 4BR master classes that you have been producing.  

I have been finding them extremely helpful, not only in a teaching sense, but for conducting tips and for improving my own playing.

I have been directing other members of my band to the site so that they can get the same benefit from your videos as I am. 

I hope to see many more in the future, thanks again for providing us with this resource from some of the very best in brass banding in the UK - it’s a great inspiration.

Nick Beale

Masterclass study?

I loved the latest master class, as it showed how difficult studies like these are. 

Can I ask what was the study Dewi Griffiths played in regard to the faster lip flexibility?  

The study he started with was study 4 on page two of the Charles Colin book but I can’t find the faster lip flexibility one. 

Can you shed any light?

Christopher McGookin

4BR Reply:

We've been told its just a few pages on...

A new language?

Without offering personal opinion on 'Breath of Souls' by Paul Lovatt-Cooper, I would contest those who say that the work is being criticised because it's 'something new like 'Spectrum' or 'Songs for BL'.

Those latterly mentioned works were a genuinely new musical language for brass bands and my guess is that they were criticised by those who didn't understand them or didn't want to understand them. 

'Breath of Souls', whether you love it or hate it, is not a new musical language.

John Ward

In praise of Kingdom

I was reading the letter aimed at Kingdom Brass and their various projects in their Academy programme.

I’d like to state I was originally a member of Cowdenbeath Band for almost 26 years that after my emigration, merged to form what is now Kingdom Brass. 

I therefore read with interest all these letters about how bad, for whatever reason, contests are, bands struggling financially or can’t get players etc.

The major bands are always going to be able to get the best players. I think the efforts of Kingdom Brass to encourage youth bands and players should be applauded and encouraged.
If other bands have seen how the programme is run, and if they are interested, they should be encouraged too.

When I was young, Cowdenbeath had two schools with full brass bands, a junior town band and the Cowdenbeath Band in a town with a population of around 10,000. Most of the local towns adjacent to us had the same type of set up.

Most kids were ‘promoted’ from the school bands, to the juniors, then to the senior band – a process most other towns mirrored.

I realize that the economics of local communities may have changed over the years, and it would seem a move by the education system to essentially not support brass players has also taken place.

I therefore think the comments made that it seemed hypocritical for Kingdom Brass to ‘import’ players to win the Land O’ Burns contest sadly misses the point completely.

If Kingdom Brass can win contests by strengthening their line-up, it will surely attract recruits and teachers who in turn can attract more young players to come into brass bands. 

Getting players to the standard to compete with the so called ‘big bands’ in Scotland takes a lot of time, dedication and effort. It will not happen overnight.

Kingdom Brass should be applauded for their efforts to encourage young players. 

Maybe the health of the movement will improve markedly if programmes like this can be encouraged and spread to other towns and communities.

It just seems to me like all they are doing is turning the clock back to when brass bands flourished…and that might not be a band thing. 

More power to them….I can only wish them all the success in the world.

Alan Herriot
Nevada, USA

London Central Fellowship Band - The International Staff Band in Cambridge

Saturday 24 February • Wesley Methodist Church, Christ's Pieces, Cambridge CB1 1LG

Contest: North West Regional Championships

Sunday 25 February • Winter Gardens Complex, Church Street, Blackpool FY1 1HU

Contest: Midlands Regional Championships

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

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

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.

London Central Fellowship Band

February 16 • We are currently recruiting for back-row cornet, Solo Cornet, 2x Tenor horn, Trombone and percussion.

Martin Heartfield

Conductor, Adjudicator, Educationalist


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