2013: July

More comments from a busy post bag — from the new direction at BBE to the Proms and even a bit of the right Gene Kelly...

A warm welcome for welcome Mike but ditch the logo...

It is great to see such a well respected and hardworking individual as Mike Kilroy taking on the role of Chairman of Brass Bands England.  

Banding is flourishing in other countries (including in Scotland and Wales where they have fantastic arts support), so there is absolutely no reason why it can't do so once again in England with the right leadership.
That said, I hope the first priority is to replace that bloody awful BBE logo!

It only enhances public perception of us being unfashionable and out-of-date!!
Len Farfield

The real story is in the detail...

Thank you for the excellent report from the Annual General Meeting of Brass Bands England.

You do however state that there were 28 people in attendance, and that the organisation has just four members on its executive committee and no treasurer? 

As much as you try to give the welcome appointment of Mike Kilroy a good write up, the detail of your report really shows just how much work he has to do to restore the reputation of the organisation.

Peter Anderson

An inaccurate accusation of snobbishness....

Paul Boast is rather unfair in accusing the BBC Proms of snobbishness.  

For many years now the festival has been expanding the range of music it presents, way beyond the core classical repertoire.  

This year, for example, sees concerts of gospel music, soul music, world music, film music, jazz, a family matinee, music by Frank Zappa and, of course, the Dr Who Prom.  

All these musical genres attract very large national and international audiences.  

Brass bands, sad to say, do not, hence their infrequent appearances at the festival.
Having said that, Mr Boast's suggestion that the last brass band appeared in 1974, is inaccurate.   

Black Dyke, for example, has appeared four times since then, most recently with Grimethorpe as part of the Brass Day in 2007; and I think I recall the NYBBGB appearing more recently than that.  

On the plus side, brass is represented this year by Tine Thing Helseth's ‘Ten Thing’, albeit as part of the Proms fringe at Cadogan Hall.
Jim Yelland

A genuine attitude?

I am not entirely sure whether Paul Boast's letter to 4BR about the Proms was a genuine or serious one. 

In any case, I thought I'd respond as this attitude does exist even if Paul Boast doesn't!

1974 was not was the last time a 'top class UK brass band' appeared at the Proms. 

2012 saw the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain appear under the baton of Bramwell Tovey. 

I also remember 2007 - Black Dyke and Grimethorpe Band bands performing music by Vaughan William, Heaton, Henze, Wilby and Elgar. 

I went to both performances and they were fantastic and very well received by the audience. A quick internet search suggests appearances by bands in the 1980s and before that, 1975, the year after Paul mentions bands were last featured. 

It’s always worth checking out the facts before accusing anyone of ignorance.

Of course, anybody passionate about bands wants them to get as much exposure as possible, but if they don't let's not just simply assume it's snobbery if they don't. 

The BBC has a massive artistic remit to cover, not forgetting considerable targets in terms of ticket sales. It's not as simple as just saying 'there should be a band on every year'. 

What about other types of ensemble?  

It should be said that there is plenty of snobbery from a number of banders in the direction of orchestras and orchestral brass players too. 

This year's line up has all of the UK's top orchestras, a number of European front-line groups, a Gospel Prom and Doctor Who prom. 

There is plenty to be excited about and to inspire us in our own musical situation.

John Ward

What about the Floral Dance? 

One can only hope that following Paul Boast's impassioned lobbying of The Proms organisers that it won't be long before Grimethorpe will be back playing their old favourite ‘The Floral Dance’ at the Albert Hall.
Murray Aitken

A more sophisticated palette

In answer to Chris Clark, of Maryland, USA.
The problem is the venue and audience must always be considered before the MD names his (or her) programme for the night.
Our small village band will always have a place for the likes of ‘Hootenanny’ etc because that is what the audience want to hear.  I seriously doubt if many of them have ever heard of ‘Resurgam’.  

But playing somewhere like Dobcross Band Club, or Boarshurst Band Club in Saddleworth then I am sure the more sophisticated palette would be attended to.

Jim Owen

The right Jonny and Gene... 

Just a note to say that there was a printing error on the recent Jim Hayes CD release ‘Jonny Midnight’ – ‘A Second from Midnight’.

‘Singin' in the Rain’ was not arranged by Alan Fernie. It is a brand new arrangement by me, James McFadyen.

James McFadyen

Nice to see you back...

It’s been some time since we’ve seen a new Editorial or an update to the reader’s comments section.
I do so enjoy these items. Do you intend to continue them? I really hope you will.
Philip Morgan

4BR Reply:
It has been some time Philip and both the comments and a new editorial will appear today.

We will also ensure to keep both updated on a regular basis - now there are plenty of things to tsaolk about once more! 

About time...

I think you should rename your monthly comments section ‘Quarterly Comments’ as yet again you have failed to keep abreast of the comments page.

Jim Owen

Well deserved award

It was great to read that Derek Atkinson was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the recent English National Championships in Birmingham.

In my many years in banding in the North West I have always found him very approachable, helpful and friendly.

Thanks for all your good work Derek and ....many congratulations. 

Well deserved.

Heather Smyth

The demise of military BBb tuba players

During a recent conversation with a serving military musician regarding the armed forces cuts affecting military bands, he said they were not being directly cut.

In fact they are extremely short of tuba players and that the BMI (Body Mass Index) was the biggest problem to recruitment!

I recounted recently briefly attending a  massed open rehearsal  of the ‘1812 Overture’ at Birdcage Walk when I counted 14 EEb tubas and no BBbs. 

He confirmed that as far as he knew BBb tubas are being  discontinued in the military bands. I just write to see if in fact this is true and why, and what do the brass band  world at large think of this decision.

I am a BBb player of many years.
Roy Scott

Snobbery at the Proms

I have just trawled the web site of the BBC proms to see if any brass band was invited and I can’t find one.

How surprising!

So I have picked up my pen and sent this piece, entitled, ‘Snobbery and ignorance of our brass band heritage’ to the BBC proms site on Facebook.

“I think if I am right that the last time a top class brass band played at the Albert Hall Proms was in 1974 by the famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band of ‘Floral Dance’ fame and much later backing the film 'Brassed Off’.

That I count to be nearly 40 years - yes 40. 

I continually find that the attitude towards brass bands if filled with snobbery and ignorance. 

Snobbery at first from the organisers and BBC implying that brass bands are a lesser form of music making ensemble than an orchestra, and secondly ignorance of the history and music making ability of the modern brass band. 

The modern brass band is so versatile these days, playing anything from classical, film, jazz and many wonderful modern pieces from up and coming brass composers. Gone are the days of just marches and hymn tunes although they are still played. 

I am asking why can we not have a brass band at every prom season; it would at least give people a chance to make up their own minds and for us brass enthusiasts not feeling left out?

Most brass orchestral players started out their careers playing in a brass band and I am sure most of them would appreciate hearing some wonderful brass playing. 

So I ask, what is wrong ‘Proms’ organisers with inviting top class music making from some top class bands around the UK, and I hasten to add some excellent ones from abroad also? 

Brass bands are a part of our Heritage and will hopefully remain so if they are allowed to be part of ‘the classical music scene.’"

Paul Boast

Norwegian delights

Back earlier this year I attended the Welsh Regional Championships in Swansea on the Sunday of the weekend. 

I believe it was after the Fourth Section there was a small 20 minute concert from a foreign band. I was wondering would you happen to know the name of the band it was that performed this wonderful mini concert? 

DW Jordan

4BR Reply:
The band in question was  the Manger Folkehogskule Brass Band conducted by Henning Anundsen

Major banding accomplishments

The brass band movement may in itself have many faults, but in my mind one of its major accomplishments is as a showcase for contemporary composers and their music which in-turn has led to a rich heritage: Composers whose works are shunned and ignored by the mainstream music industry. 

For all its jealousies and petty squabbles this factor alone makes me proud to be associated with the movement. 

Look at the disproportionate number of recordings of Beethoven’s ‘9th Symphony’ compared to Robert Simpsons ‘9th’, or Malcolm Arnold’s, or George Lloyd’s. 

I grant you that some of the music currently being composed for band is not to everyone’s taste, some of it is beyond the current mindset of many, but give it time. 

I have no doubt that there were many scathing comments when some of Gilbert Vinter’s music first hit the music stands.  

And bands who insist on programming this type music to the mainstream perhaps deserve the mediocre response they often receive: For the average Joe in the street such gems as ‘Hootenanny’ still rule! 

Are we there to educate or entertain?
In certain respects composers who write for band also do the movement an honour; they will certainly never become wealthy from it.
The selection of music as contest pieces also ensures that it is played, for the most part, to the highest standard. For all that a musical contest is ‘perverse in nature’, they have become very much a necessary evil for maintaining the high standard of performance and possibly continued existence of bands. 

Think of the satisfaction a composer must receive in hearing their music played, and played well.
To reiterate on what I said earlier: For once, we as a movement should be proud of our achievements in promoting contemporary music.

Personally I hope this tradition long continues.
Chris Clark

Youth banding in the Rhondda
I recently wrote to 4BR to defend the work of the Rhondda-Cynon-Taf Music Service after an article announcing the launch of the Cory Youth Band had claimed that the band hoped to ‘halt the decline of Brass Educational Services in the Band’s locality in recent years.’
My letter set out to show that far from being ‘in decline’, youth brass in the Rhondda was in fact flourishing. 

I am delighted to say that in the last few months the progress made by our Rhondda Brass pupils has been further demonstrated by two significant achievements.
In March, the recently re-formed Rhondda-Cynon-Taf Brass Band entered the regional heats for the National Festival of Music for Youth and we were all thrilled to hear that they had been selected to appear in the UK Finals at Birmingham Symphony Hall in July.

Also, in May, the Treorchy School Senior Brass Band competed in the Large Ensemble Category at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Pembrokeshire. 

The Band was up against 13 of the best school orchestras, brass bands, wind bands and Big Bands in Wales. Having been placed 3rd on the previous two occasions the band had entered this competition, we were all delighted to gain 2nd place this time.
Steve Martin
Rhondda-Cynon-Taf brass teacher

Eric Ball's tuning....

Seeing the name Eric Ball on the website reminded me of my late colleague (Kenneth Barnes) visiting Eric at home near Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset to tune the piano.  

On one visit Kenneth insisted that Eric was composing in the same room with the piano being tuned!
R. Ware
Westminster Pianos

The 100th anniversary of the Senghenydd Mining Disaster

It was with great interest that I read your item regarding the 100th Anniversary of the Senghenydd mining disaster, and the suggestion that bands should commemorate it. 

As a great grandson of Gomer Thomas, a Champion Town Crier, and local celebrity, who was also a member of the rescue team on that day, I think this idea is very appropriate, especially the suggestion by David Read, who suggests playing the miners hymn ‘Gresford’ at the National Finals at the Albert Hall. 

I started my musical career in the now defunct Windsor Colliery Band, which was based in the adjoining village of Abertridwr, where most of my family lived, and we were always reminded of the hardships that befell the families of the bereaved and injured.

I hope that Kapitol Promotions will take these suggestions on board, as many of our bands were borne out of the mining industry, and though there have been too many mining disasters, this is deemed to have been the worse, and it’s commemoration would pay tribute to all miners who have perished, or been injured in these disasters!

Kerry Bowden
M.D. Cross Keys Silver Band

Milnrow dismay

I would like to convey my dismay at the report that was written by 4BR surrounding the furore over Milnrow’s recent qualification into this year prestigious British Open Championship. 

Given the unprecedented success of the bands past six months achievements, I feel the comments that were made in relation to their ‘raucous’ celebrations were uncalled for given their hard working ethic and determination to get them so far. 

A huge achievement, which I’m sure you will agree for what is still classed to this day as a small village band.

I do believe a band with a ‘bigger’ name would not have been written about in such a condescending manner, or indeed included babysitting issues for the conductor, in what is my opinion a very poorly written review.
In this day and age it is very difficult to keep a group of very talented and dedicated musicians together as a team, especially when competing at the highest level against other bands that get paid for doing so. 

A leaf that many of the top bands should take note off, yet those are the bands that have a high turnover of players and yet get constantly praised despite their lack of success just because of their name.
Milnor’s success should be praised not scoffed at, and I hope you take note of how your report came across to a neutral outsider.
Mrs J Sunderland

Luton Brass Band - Masterclass with David Daws

Wednesday 27 September • St Augustine's Church, Luton LU3 2JR

South Yorkshire Police -

Saturday 30 September • Sheffield Catherdral. Church Street. Sheffield. S1 1HA

Epping Forest Band - Thundersley Brass Band

Saturday 30 September • Salvation Army Hall, Hadleigh, Essex SS7 20F

Friary Brass Band - guest soloist Tom Smith

Saturday 30 September • Trinity Methodist Church. Brewery Road. Woking GU21 4LH

Contest: Bolsover Festival of Brass

Saturday 30 September • Shirebrook Academy, Common Lane, Shirebrook. Derbyshire NG20 8QF

Ringwood and Burley Band

September 29 • Musical Director required for a friendly, non-contesting band. We take part at various local events and also present two concerts annually. Rehearsals are held weekly in Ringwood, Hampshire. There are vacancies for players to join us.

Harlow Brass Band

September 29 • Seeking a MUSICAL DIRECTOR - We are a friendly, non-contesting band who play to a good standard. We hold our own Spring and Christmas concerts and provide entertainment at various local events throughout the year.

East of England Co-op Band

September 27 • We are looking for an Eb or Bb bass player to fill a vacancy due to a player's relocation. We are a friendly and ambitious Championship section band who rehearse in Ipswich, Suffolk on a Monday evening. We have a healthy concert and contest diary.

James Garlick

BMus (Hons), QTS
Conductor, Band Trainer, Adjudicator, Tutor


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