There were brass band contests on the weekend in Leicester, Perth, Belfast, Ross on Wye and Blaenavon, yet the 4BR Editor still went to Switzerland for a contest nobody is interested in, except it seems, the Swiss themselves.
What does this tell us about 4BR?
There were over 70 bands at Leicester yet no one could be bothered to turn up.
It is about time 4BR supported grass roots British contests rather than making money out of pointless trips abroad.
Brass in Concert farce?
As someone who goes to the Brass in Concert Championship every year, I agree with your report that it appears that a number of the competing bands (as well as at least one adjudicator) have little or no idea what the contest is now trying to achieve.
Cory, Tredegar, Foden’s and Brighouse & Rastrick all perfectly understood the new direction the contest is taking and were rewarded correctly in my opinion from three of the four judges.
How come others did not (some programmes seemingly randomly pieced together) and how come Stephen Bulla seemed to be so far out of touch with his other judges?
I have no problem with the end result, but how it was achieved seems at odds with itself.
I still enjoyed the contest (although I agree, it was not a memorable one) although I fear that if Mr Bulla returns next year in any adjudication capacity, it could well descend into farce as bands try to second guess his musical preferences.
All Welsh success?
I was very interested to read a recent article on the state of brass bands in Wales and am delighted that bands other than the famous Yorkshire set plus Fairey & Foden’s now seem in the ascendency.
However, what the article does not indicate is where the players originate from, or for that matter the present conductors.
I believe that several of the Tredegar group come from the college in Birmingham where Ian Porthouse teaches, and I think Philip Harper has, or had connections with Bristol University, apart from his editorship of Brass Band World.
The solo cornet player of Cory is a Sheffield lad who previously played repiano at Black Dyke.
Sorry to be so pedantic, but I am thrilled with their recent contest successes.
Much as it pains me to correct David Read on anything, but I regret to say his mind is playing tricks on him as to what Wilf Wooller and Glamorgan achieved against Don Bradman's Austalian touring team in 1948.
The Invincibles were thus called because they were unbeaten.
Wooller and Glamorgan did avoid defeat - but only courtesy of the rain. I do though envy David's autograph book.
(Who missed a lot of band jobs because of cricket and a lot of cricket because of band jobs...)
I have recently been given a copy of ‘Easy Way to Play Brass Instruments’ by Jesse Manley. The provocative ideas of Manley are of great interest to me in their relationship to similar ideas currently taught in the United States.
I wish to try and find out more about Jesse Manley and wonder of any of your readers may be able to help?
Andre M. Smith
Sad state of affairs
Firstly, may I state I’m no longer a bandsman for over 20 years, but I’m always keen to see how public monies are spent.
What a sad state of affairs the ongoing saga of the NYBBS is!
I’ve been able to follow it through 4Barsrest and find the whole thing quite distasteful. There was a time when fun and friendship was the most important aspect of youth! Not so with the SBBA.
They seem to want excellence, excellence and even more excellence! Surely they will do away with fun?
As I understand it, tutors already place youngsters in the appropriate ensemble on each course. It’s a tried and accepted practice.
As for the top youth players, I’d bet most of them already play with top bands. I’d also bet they are more than happy to play in the NYBBS, with players of less playing ability and why? Because they’re with friends, and it’s fun! It’s as simple as that!
The youngsters have plenty of time for the pressures of adult life. Let them enjoy their youth. For goodness sake!
And, what’s the problem with a band of 75 youth players? On one hand SBBA successfully and actively assist the formation of youth and community bands throughout Scotland, yet they want a smaller NYBBS. What’s all that about? I mean.... work that one out?
Keep the big egos out of it, and keep the even bigger mouths shut!
SBBA would do well to remember, its public money (government, lottery etc.) subsidising their youth programs through various grants.
That money is for the benefit of ALL youth players, in an inclusive learning environment.
I was wondering if someone could help me with my research.
I am writing a 15 minute presentation on the origins, developments and evolution of the brass band test piece. I have a lot of information on the origins, some developments and how the Salvation Army festival series has evolved from the test piece genre.
However, I need some detail on who, when and why the rules were changed regarding the use of tuned percussion. I know that the first SA festival piece to be written with tuned percussion (timpani) was ‘The Kingdom Triumphant’ by Eric Ball but not sure if this was the first 'original' brass band work to feature a timpani part.
It would be very much appreciated if someone could help as I am excited about the opportunity to talk about some of my favourite music and it's background in a presentation to my fellow students at Glasgow Clyde College.
YP Band Leader Airdrie SA
Touting for business
I wrote some time ago about the number of press releases from brass band 'artists' touting for work.
The latest is Michael J Garasi's about conducting Battle Creek. At first, no issue here, if I was asked to conduct them I'd be writing a press release to 4BR, BB, The Guardian, Horse and Hound, the works! Well done Michael, that's a great appointment.
Then we get the paragraph at the bottom: 'looking forward to making new friends in the UK and Europe, if the opportunity arises'.
What this translates is - 'I don't mean coming out on holiday and getting friendly with the locals in the pub' it means 'i do not have work booked over there yet but if someone picks up the phone to book me for work (pleeeease) THEN I will come over and make some friends.'
The ironic thing is the BBBC thing would have been enough but the final paragraph revealed what he was really getting at.
Peter J Richardson
Handyman, no job too small, call me, I'll be your friend
The great Eric Ball
I have recently been looking for information on Eric Ball.
As a teenager I joined the school brass band and played in the percussion section with two other boys who were also named Steve! It was confusing when band master spoke to any of the three of us.
I played in Roundwood Park brass band in Harpenden . We were quite good and played in contests and all over the country.
My favourite piece was ‘Indian Summer’.
In 1966 we travelled to Stoke on Trent and played at Hanley Town Hall. It was there that the magic happened, not only did we play in front of Eric Ball but he conducted the band. This memory is still very clear today.
We did know he was famous but not really understanding how famous he was.
Thank you for letting me share this wonderful memory.
Talk to the people who count
I write as a parent of children who have been involved with the NYBBS for some time now and I too must agree with Alan Edmonds comments regarding the seemingly sweeping changes that are being made without due regard for the most important folks involved with all of this, that is to say, the children themselves.
There are several points which I think are worth raising but the first is that no one to my knowledge has actually asked the young people what they would like from all of this.
A case of ‘we know best’ has certainly seemed to be the way it is. I appreciate that course feedback forms were sent out but they obviously did not refer to any of these current changes
From experience, my children have looked forward to each NYBBS course from the moment the previous one has finished. This is because of the ‘family’ approach adopted by house staff, tutors and conductors with regards to all.
It has also been the sheer excitement of being part of a band sometimes numbering 75+ players which generates the most marvellous of sounds for both players and audience alike.
To want to restrict these numbers to a mere 50 is not being inclusive to all one bit but actually the opposite. As I think has already been said, how many kids having been told that although they may have been in NYBBS for more than one year are not now considered good enough will really go down to the reserve band – not many. In reality they will go home and kids will be lost.
And now as events have moved on a pace with the very sad resignation of Richard Evans, surely it is time for the NYBBS Board to have a cold hard look at their proposals and think again.
In trying to pursue these changes in a sweeping manner they have lost the most single biggest asset of the band i.e. Mr Evans. And after twenty plus years this is a massive blow along with the resignation already of course director Neil Cross.
As has already been said the relationship with Mr Evans and the children in undeniably one of pupil and mentor with just the highest regard possible.
The NYBBS Board seems to have appeared from nowhere as an unelected body with a remit to do whatever they want.
Out of ALL of the children involved there are two actual playing members who share one vote. There is no representation from any parents, tutors or house staff to offer a true insight into how things have been working for so many years.
And as for an Artistic sub-committee, I could be wrong but it is my belief that this was set up partly to oversee what music was to be played - sorry but is this not the Musical Directors job - who by the way was not even part of this so called sub-committee?
It beggars belief that within such a short time of taking charge of an organisation that has been running for so long that so much damage can be done by so few.
Please SBBA and Board, listen to the opinions that are now being aired. Step back and have the decency to admit that you are wrong.
Talk to the people who matter because without them there will be no NYBBS for the future.
All the greats in the book
The recent BBC 4 ‘Timeshift’ documentary programme, ‘When Coal was King’ did bring back many memories for me as your article suggests.
The marvellous pictures of Oliver Howarth adjudicating the brass band contest were of course taken at the Northumberland Picnic event, and not the Durham Miners Gala.
I particularly remember one Durham Miners Gala just after Nationalisation armed with my autograph book which I still have, which enabled me to speak and get the signatures of the great labour politicians at the time.
These included Ernest Bevin, the Foreign Secretary, Hugh Dalton, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Tom Williamson, the Minister of Agriculture and the General Secretary of the Yorkshire Miners, Arthur Horner, all great men and now history.
Apart from the politicians some famous names from the banding world at the time also signed my book, including, J. Stobbs the conductor of the famous Crookhall Colliery Band, Jack Atherton then the conductor of the equally famous Harton Colliery Band, and their famous pincipal cornet Norman Ashcroft, and J.D Scoins conductor of another great band of the North East, Horden Colliery Band.
For the cricketing fans, my autograph book also contains the signatures of the great Don Bradman, Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller and Lindsay Hassett and most of the 20th Australian touring team to Great Britain in 1948.
They only lost one match on that tour and it was to Glamorgan under their captain Wilf Wooler in Cardiff, and I was fortunate to be there - with Glamorgan also winning the County Championship that year too.
David Read MBE
Scotland can get it right
As someone who’s rightly proud of the way that banding in Scotland breaks ground in some areas, it’s with real disappointment I learn of the manner that Richard Evans has relinquished his post at the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland. Richard is quite rightly held in very high regard by students and tutors alike and has led the band with distinction; assisting in the development of many very fine young players along the way.
I applaud SBBA’s attempts to create a “better experience for the students” but the way they have went about it has allowed a situation that could well have been avoided descending into something quite farcical.
In any transition or “succession plan” (wording taken from the April 13 minutes) the key stakeholders have to be involved. NYBBS is an organisation that’s held very dear by students (past and present) and its staff.
Surely SBBA saw that something holding such an emotional attachment for many had to be handled with care? Change in almost everything is inevitable but it has to be well placed and communicated with transparency in order for it to be accepted and backed.
Sadly, with all the positive things done by SBBA/NYBBS board it has fallen down badly on these points.
The creation of a sub-committee to look at how the band continues to flourish into the future was a good decision and my experience in business of working groups, is that their findings tend to be quite far reaching and sometimes controversial.
This isn’t a negative thing necessarily as it ensures that the full spectrum of possibilities can be considered. I’ve yet to come across, however, a sub committee that yields any power to adopt its findings.
Surely it’s up to the NYBBS board to vote upon recommendations and if its membership is indeed a true representation of a cross section of stakeholders then the ideas will benefit NYBBS and the movement going forward.
One area of confusion is how the artistic sub committee has come under such criticism; the controversial “re-audition” motion was passed in April this year at the same meeting the sub-committee was appointed.
As far as I can see from NYBBS board minutes, there has been no output so I struggle to see how this body of people can be targeted when they haven’t yet brought forward their findings.
Mention has also been made to only one of the people involved being a professional musician, are the valid opinions on youth development only held by people within this industry? I don’t agree that they are.
The fundamental lack of transparency has been exacerbated by the odd decision by SBBA not to convene a special meeting to discuss the facts of the matter in order to resolve the situation even when it was clear that it was spiralling out of control.
It transpires that the next meeting of the NYBBS board has come just days too late and the job that now faces the people involved to repair the situation is an unenviable one.
I only hope that at the meeting on the 13th of November the body of people in attendance acknowledge that mistakes have been made and they quickly put the business of resurrecting the credibility of the organisation and the National Youth Band under its control to the top of the agenda.
Cause to voice concern
Emerging from the unfortunate public debate centred on the future of Scotland’s National Youth Band, correspondents have raised questions, in a general way, regarding auditioning processes.
Without any knowledge of NYBBGB methods, I can obviously make no comment.
However, in Scotland, the NYBBS process, established over a good number of years, satisfactorily places students in their most appropriate band positions.
Based on the outcomes of fairly rigorous auditioning at the hands of tutorial staff, each student is given fair and equal treatment, often with a lesson thrown in, as they deliver their own choice selection of music.
In my time at NYBBS, entry procedure has always been inclusive!
Any youngster coming along is guaranteed entry to NYBBS senior band if, as a result of their audition, they have proved themselves to be worthy of their placing.
Those who aren’t quite ready are recommended to spend a further year in the Reserve Band and then try again for NYBBS at the next Course.
There has never been an exclusive, elitist policy in place here, and most certainly never a policy that would guarantee a student would keep their seat year on year, if the auditioning was poor and the preparation not up to standard!
Rest assured that Neish, Baglin, Poole, Boyd, Landon, Taylor and myself would not promote anyone to NYBBS senior band who either wasn’t up to it or who had failed drastically to produce the form that they had shown in a previous Course!
In summing up, it should perhaps be noted that the above system of auditioning students at the beginning of each summer course is to change. SBBA, in the shape of the NYBBS Board, is putting responsibility for the placing of students in the hands of appointees who will conduct auditions at strategic centres across the country.
This change in direction should not of course alter the eventual standard of the band.
However, in addition, NYBBS band is probably to be reduced to a maximum number of 50 students, which is, of course, a perfectly acceptable and workable number for a group such as this, and indeed may well be welcomed by MD Richard Evans, as we’ve landed him with nearly 80 on a few occasions!
However, many modern educationists may well have cause to voice concern over the elitist, exclusive nature of such a group, and there is always the inevitable, unenviable question of who to leave out!?
Get it right BBC1
Typical of the BBC, just watched that episode of Pointless and even with a laptop in front of them, they still have the wrong information!!
BBC, Frank Renton doesn't present classical Big Band but BRASS BANDS do you understand? BRASS BANDS!!!!
Please get your facts right especially before going out on TV!!!!!
The great King Coal
Great programme about coal!
The Northumberland Picnic had a band contest unlike the Durham Gala.
We here up in Northumberland still have an active association and I will look at the film again and try to identify the woman for you. I think I may have an idea who they are but will need to confirm this.
Thank you for your interest in this film, it has brought back many happy memories of the picnic.
Regional Secretary NOEBBC and Secretary of the Northumberland Brass Band Association
Puzzle and concern continues
May I thank George Burt, President of SBBA, writing on behalf of the Scottish Brass Band Association, for his reply through 4BR to my open letter, which in turn allows me to respond to what I believe are a number of inaccuracies and assumptions.
It is stated that, “had he (Alan) checked with us beforehand, needless concern within all associated with NYBBS could have been prevented”.
Prior to my initial open letter I had in fact already been in extended dialogue with a member of the NYBSS Board, and therefore feel disappointed that such a senior member of his team did not see fit to relay my concerns and comments to him, or to the rest of the board.
I will happily supply Mr Burt with copies of the correspondence, should this be deemed appropriate by Mr Kenneth Crookston, to whom I was in extended contact.
I have also received extensive dialogue from personnel, staff and SBBA Executive members directly involved with this year’s course.
This contact leads me to sincerely believe that unlike Mr Burt, not all comments about the current strategy for NYBBS is “nothing but positive.”
I am delighted to read that Mr Burt states that “inclusion is at the heart of our plans for the future”, although many responses from people who have spoken with me, have expressed nothing but concern about the implementation of the new audition and membership development plans.
It is also interesting that Mr Burt decided to use the word ‘sack’ when discussing the question of the future employment of current tutors.
This is certainly not a term I used, as I merely noted that as at 29th October none of the existing tutors had been re-engaged.
My greatest concern however remains with the exact status and reporting structure within the overall SBBA organisation of the NYBBS Board and any additional NYBBS sub-committees that have been set up.
Can Mr Burt confirm that the correct SBBA protocol is in place so that NYBBS appointments and expenditure is ratified only through the SBBA Executive committee, as it is my understanding that it should be – and has not at any time, been under the auspices of a quasi autonomous NYBBS Board?
I note that one appointment has already been made, although I can find no ratification of this in SBBA Executive minutes.
I further note that despite a press release concerning the dates of next year’s NYBBS courses, players and their parents are still unaware of the location, the conductors or the tutors?
I am delighted that Mr Burt has had a productive meeting with Richard Evans to discuss the future development of NYBBS.
I will therefore watch the banding press in anticipation of confirmation of him continuing in the role of Principal Conductor of the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland - one which he has undertaken with such success since 1992.
As a proud Scottish bandsman I remain puzzled and deeply concerned that at present the future of the National Youth Band of Scotland seems to be in such jeopardy.
I only hope is that my concerns lead SBBA to ensure that they are unfounded.
Former SBBA Development Officer
I read with great interest Alan Edmond’s comments regarding re-auditioning for existing National Youth Band of Scotland members, and would like to submit a case in favour.
If there is no re-auditioning then it easily becomes a closed shop, and as such, future stars can be lost to the movement.
The National Youth Band of Great Britain used to have a policy of once having passed the entry audition, the player was automatically re-accepted on following courses.
My cousin (the late Mary Sim) and I both applied , but whilst she was accepted, I was informed that the horn section was full . On following courses I applied again, with the same result - and likely to remain so for some time
I honestly believe I was good enough to fulfil my ambition to play in that band, if only on 2nd horn, as at the time, though only 15 years of age, I was solo horn with CWS Manchester Band under Alex Mortimer.
However, much as I wanted and tried to make it, the once in, ‘auto-acceptance forever policy’, denied me (and others) the opportunity to play for my country.
Mary went on to play for Ferodo Works Band, so I have no doubt she was good enough and deserved a place. I would have loved to have done even a single course, but no chance.
Years later I was teaching Beverley Vaughan, and she was proud to tell me she had been in the band for seven courses and expecting to go on her eighth, and I asked her to seriously consider opting out to give someone else a chance.
My reason was that a very promising player from Besses Boys I was also teaching had been rejected twice by the ‘Full Up’ policy. Sadly he took the decision to mean that he was not good enough, and quit playing as a result. I didn’t want that to happen again.
For example, I was directing the Lothian Youth Band and the fine player Angela Whelan was Principal Cornet and had been for a number of years, whilst her number2 never really had a chance to step up. I took her and her parents to one side, to explain I was dropping her as principal cornet.
Instead, I asked her to don her best dress and be the Guest Soloist as Scottish Champion.
This gave Angela the recognition she deserved, and allowed the faithful ‘bumper-up’ the opportunity to be leader for the occasion.
Finally, I believe that once a player has been accepted under this ‘full up’ policy, they may not feel the need to practice hard and they will gradually worsen as a player.
However, a second player, works very hard but attempts to join are futile because of the policy gives them no chance.
Is it not possible that three courses on the hard working player would do a better job?
I realise it may be hard for some players to accept non-acceptance, but that’s life.
Bravo young heroes
I am writing to congratulate and thank the band and organisers for the excellent ‘Brass for Heroes’ concert held recently at St Pauls Church in Huddersfield on Saturday 19th October.
All proceeds were in aid of the worthy ‘Help The Heroes’ Charity, and saw thirty or so young players and students from many of our Championship bands , National Youth Band and other bands further afield perform a wonderful concert.
The MD Phillip Harper was on tip top form as was guest soloist Richard Marshall - a class act.
What pleased me was how young the band was, the standard of playing on what I was told was little rehearsal time, the repertoire (which was fresh and intriguing) and how well this evening was organised.
Josh Cirtina (Blackburn & Darwen Band) and Jonny Bates (Black Dyke Band) can be very proud of their efforts in organising this event and likewise all players, helpers and audience – the concert was well attended even though the weather was dreadful!
I do hope there will be more charity concerts like this in the future from these talented youngsters. It does prove that there is more to banding than contests, results and money.
Well done all.
MD Blackburn & Darwen Band