2012: July

A new postbag with some acidic tipped opinions on everything from Grimethorpe at the Olympics to banding deportment...

What about the uniforms at the back

I enjoyed Chris Thomas' article, 'A Question of Uniformity'.

I think it is a fair point that we don't always make the best first impression.

Even if we do buff up our shoes and check the buttons on our jackets, I'm not sure in this day and age it is the best look for a band. It's certainly not going to encourage and excite younger players to join in!

However, I do have one issue with the article.

"Before a single note is blown at a concert, what does the uninitiated member of the audience think of a group of 25 musicians who troop onto the stage with a remit to entertain?"

Erm, haven't you forgotten something..? Or is it 25 musicians plus percussion!

Just saying...

Jon Kitchen

Check the facts

In respect to Ian Carter’s recent comment to 4BR.

Check the personnel list on Grimethorpe Colliery Band's website.

Andrew Bannister

Myths and untruths

As much as his tongue may have been firmly stuck in his cheek, Ian Carter seems to delight in trying to perpetuate the myths and untruths around Grimethorpe Colliery Band.

Grimethorpe are very transparent about what they do, and have done so much to promote the good in brass banding – including the Olympics, and new youth band, so why not comment about these?

It’s frustrating, but understandable – even when someone is trying to be funny.

Trevor Easter


I was wondering if you might be able to assist me in tracking down a full score with parts for ‘Evergreen’, the Barbara Streisand song arranged by Alan Catherall.

I tried to track down a copy this past fall with no success, and all the forms I've read claim that only a manuscript copy exists.

Many people in the UK have seen it performed live and I have a recording of Sandy Smith with Grimethorpe Colliery Band, on the album ‘Grimethorpe In Concert’. 

If you are unable to procure a copy would you be able to supply me with contact information for the composer/arranger so I may make a formal request.

Adam Scott

Life Divine

Tim – I do realise Don’s torch was in Felixtowe, not Ipswich.
The 'Life Divine' book so praised in 4BR Comments, is similarly recommended by reviews on Amazon, from where I’ve already ordered my copy (£8.99 paperback).

Len Atter

Grimethorpe and Saudi Arabia

It is rumoured that Grimethorpe Colliery Band is to play in the Olympics Games Opening Ceremony. 

Given that even Saudi Arabia has allowed female athletes to compete at the Games this year, could Grimethorpe follow suit I wonder and perhaps follow their enlightened approach to female emancipation?

I hold my breath with my tongue firmly placed in my cheek

Ian Carter

Mirror, Mirror on the wall...

I recall as a young cornet player in the early 1960s receiving my first uniform in a brown paper bag tied up with matching brown string from our band secretary and a peaked cap (the peak section had to be polished).
I was also given a pair of trousers that had to be pressed and a jacket complete with the correct number of shiny buttons. You wore a nice crisp white shirt, a black tie or bow tie, mandatory shiny black shoes and of course black or dark blue socks.

Of course, before you left the house your mother would give you the once over – a spit wash that cleaned the remnants of your dinner from your chin, sleep out of the corners of your eyes, any specks of mud on the edges of your heel and the soles on your shoes and of course the tide mark off the back of your neck.

You looked the part of a top class performer, even if you may not have played as well as one.

At events we were not allowed to walk round with our full uniform on without wearing our ties, and had someone in our band called a ‘Band Sergeant’ who ensured we were always well turned out. 

That was our band’s requirements 50 years ago. Times have changed but ‘standards and pride in your appearance’ should not be compromised.
Now there are no longer caps, or trousers with razor sharp creases. Jackets never seem to have buttons, bow ties come in all shapes and sizes and polished shoes seem to be an afterthought. 

White shirts are either far too big or simply don’t fit, and high heeled shoes have become a fashion accessory (as well as health and safety hazard)

Handbags and even instrument cases are now carried onto the stage with carefree abandon.

Deportment has become a forgotten prerequisite of modern banding.  
Remember those well chosen words: ‘Mirror mirror on the wall …….’

Thanks to Chris Thomas – it really is about time we had a good look at ourselves.

Chris Helme

Do we care what we look like?

What a great little article by Chris Thomas.

We really are our own worse enemies when it comes to first impressions.

At a recent contest I saw top section bands taking to the stage looking like refugees – the sense of pride in their appearance echoing the laxity of their subsequent musical performances.

Doesn’t anyone get uniforms dry cleaned anymore, or even make at least some effort to ensure that they fit? 

Now players take to the stage not just with instruments and mutes in their hands, but also with bottles of water, handbags and mobile phones.

Not only do we look out of date, but many bands look as if they don’t particularly care either.

If we are to hold onto our traditions then at least make sure that we do it with some measure of professional respect.

David Felling

Great book

Just a quick note to mirror Rosie Taymar's comment about the ‘Life Divine’ book. 

As a player of many years, and not much of a book reader, I found myself reading my wife's copy during our recent holiday.  What a story! 

There were even bits of it where I wondered if the authors had based it on my family.  

I am not a person who can write a review that would do the book justice, but I agree with the comment that a review would be a good idea, and I hope Miss Taymar writes one. 

I asked a few people at band practice about it hoping to exchange a few quotes and it turns out not many have even heard of it yet.
It is this kind of refreshing surprise that sums up the banding world.
Dan Wilson

Dyke provide a breath of fresh air

I would like to say what a terrific concert the Black Dyke band put on at the Symphony Hall on Sunday. (British Bandsman 125th anniversary concert)
The quality of performance was not limited to whizz bang technical wizardry, but each phrase and nuance, had to be the very best in this world that anyone could ever perform.
Of course, a few slips towards the end [tell me who has never!] caused by sheer fatigue of lips and complete mental and physical effort did not detract from immensely creative, stunning and magic playing from each and every band member on stage.
Together with the uncanny James Morrison, this concert and it's clearly professionally organisation, can only be described as Brilliant.
May I thank all involved for bringing so much pleasure and much credit to a movement often dogged by politics and controversy.
They rose above all that by being the best that there is.
A breath of fresh air.
Thank you so very much indeed.
Bob Harwood

English National is getting there

After reading George Charles comments and Stephen Roberts’ excellent response (re English National Championships) I decided to present my thoughts on the event, as I sat through every performance bar Pemberton’s set piece (sorry!).

I would also like to echo David Hirst’s comments: How to win a modern brass band contest? Great band, great conductor and make the score come alive - and with respect to the last point, crikey didn’t Black Dyke do just that.

First of all I must say what an excellent contest this is. For aficionados and non-aficionados alike it makes a more entertaining day compared with 18-20 bands playing a set-work.

What a shame not many British bandsmen and women could be bothered to make the trip – even from Lancashire or Yorkshire - the hotbeds of banding! Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

I would have paid £15 just to hear the live performance of Revelation (Dyke) and Audivi Media Nocte (Leyland), but I commend all the bands for providing a wonderful day.

I agree that the organisation could be a tad slicker, but Sally the compere did what she was asked to do (comment Stephen Hughes - Great bands and music - pity about the organisation) and well done Robert Morgan of the BFBB for at least trying to find a future for this contest.

I guess with 10 minutes changeover more effort could be placed in informing the audience of the music to be played.

If there were more punters then maybe Frank Renton could have been within budget.

It was however disappointing to say the least that neither of the set-work adjudicators, Mr Boddice and Mr Read could be bothered to hang around and instead left a fag paper of comments for Sally to read out.

If they cannot hang around then don’t employ them. At least we could thank Mr Roberts for at least presenting some of his and Mr Wormald’s thoughts on the own choice.

As to Mr Charles – please lighten up.

If we want our ‘well and truly stuck in the dark ages’ brass band movement to progress then let the bands have the freedom to present the score for maximum effect and if that means binning the mutes, using birthing blankets as sound mufflers or standing naked on one leg facing south then let it be done.

Moreover, rip down the adjudicators tents once and for all and let the adjudicators have the optimal visual and audio experience of what is being presented.

Even just to see Paul Duffy and Richard Marshall playing scissors, paper, stone on stage prior to a scintillating performance of Revelation! How relaxed is that? Duffy won best of three I think.

I for one hope the English National takes place next year and that one day the format is replicated for 9-10 bands at an elite British Open.

Graham Ruecroft

Life Divine?

Being a fairly regular visitor to the 4BR site (as probably most bands-people are!), I can't remember if a novel called ‘Life Divine’ by Rob & Phil Edwards has ever been reviewed. 

I only ask because I was given a copy recently as a birthday present and was surprised that no one I know has heard of it, and I know most people involved in banding in my local area.
Frankly, everyone should read this novel.  I thought it summed up the life of those involved in banding, particularly if you have a "other half" who thinks of nothing else. 

It's extremely funny, moving, very true to life, and although I don't like the term I'd probably call it bitter-sweet.
Please let me know if you have anything archived that I've missed, like a review, or a news item.  

I'd be interested to know what 4BR made of it, as I think it's a perfect read for a bandsman or woman, and according to my mate who knows nothing about banding "it's hilarious, now I know why you guys never miss a practice".
This is exactly the kind of thing we need.  It's a bit different, it's about banding, it's a great present, and I thought it was a more entertaining story even than Brassed Off, which I must admit is the only other story about bands that I know.
Anyway, would appreciate you letting me know if you're aware of the book.  And if you ever want a review of it for the site, I'd be happy to try and write one for you.
Rozi Taymar

4BR Reply:

We would be delighted if you would send a review of the book to us – or even a copy so that we can read it for ourselves. It appears to be a corker!

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.

Jack Capstaff

Bmus (Hons)
Conductor | Composer


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