2014: August

A couple more tasty little opinions to share in the post box over the last couple of days...

Insulting to judges

It appears some commentators are bringing the integrity of adjudicators, appointed for the area competitions, into question. 

I think this is deeply insulting. 

To suggest that a judge would knowingly pick poor bands to qualify is outrageous. To have a judge who knows the piece really well is surely to the benefit of all competing bands.

Paul Cosh

A little bit of world class perspective please...

Can I urge all advertisers and band PR departments to install a sense of proportion and perhaps reality to some of the increasingly vainglorious outpourings on 4BR.

James Morrison, Frank Sinatra, Pat Metheny, Pablo Casals, The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Keith Jarrett, Andre Previn, Maurice Murphy, Marc Andre Hamelin, Sylvia McNair, Thomas Gansch, Nigel Kennedy, Mitsudo Uchida, The King’s Singers, Dennis Brain, Mnozil Brass, Oscar Peterson, Jascha Heifitz, The Gordon Goodwin Big Band, Michel Petrucciani, Wayne Bergeron, Polyphony, Ella Fitzgerald and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra are ‘world class’ performers.

The brass band movement has some very fine players and bands but in order to be taken in by some of the self-important publicity being proffered on 4BR one would need to live, hermit like, cut off from the wider musical world available on radio and online.

By all means endorse your bands and players - but with a bit of humility and realism please.

Sandy Smith

Brass band life outside Radio 2

May I inform your correspondent James Parsons that there is brass band musical life on the BBC outside the national Radio 2 network which broadcasts ‘Listen to the Band’. 

Two longer programmes are broadcast each week on BBC Local Radio Stations. 
David Hoyle is on live on the air for 2 hours from 1.00pm every Sunday on BBC Radio Leeds and York, followed by myself, Phillip Hunt, every Sunday evening with ‘Sounds of Brass’ at differing times on BBC Radio's Cornwall, Devon, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Guernsey, Jersey and Wiltshire.
Whilst it is true that these programmes can only be listened to on the wireless within the area served by the individual station, for those with internet access the programmes can be listened to and enjoyed at any time on the BBC iPlayer, simply by logging on to the website of any of the stations mentioned.
Phillip Hunt

Pointless Listen to the Band

Does anyone actually stay up nowadays to tune in to ‘Listen to the Band’?  

Perhaps bored brass band lorry drivers or late night security guards?  Whoever does, they won’t get to hear a band in a recorded session as used to be the case - but endless drivel and CD selections.

James Parson had it right - the BBC has marginalised brass banding to such an extent that it now only exists on the periphery of regional output.

But never mind: You can always have yet more mindless football chat shoved down your throats or phone-ins about why it’s nobody’s fault that we have become overweight, lazy and lacking any sort of cultural stimulus.

No wonder Frank Renton was a ‘Pointless’ answer on the BBC quiz show a little while ago.  That summed it up perfectly.

Paul Stuart

Adjudication guidelines

I read with interest the letter from Ian Hill about the conflict of interest of Championship Section conductors accepting invitations from Regional committees to adjudicate their rivals at various Area contests.

Surely, the Association of Brass Band Adjudicators must offer some sort of guidelines on these matters?  

If not, why not?  This situation makes the brass band movement look detached from reality. 

Would the top North West bands readily accept the conductors of Black Dyke and Grimethorpe judging their qualification efforts at Blackpool, or the best bands at Bradford welcoming the adjudication appointment of the MDs of Cory and Tredegar?

I think not. 

No wonder the outside musical looks at us with a mixture of pity and bewilderment.

John Hughes

Make the journy to the Open

I was astonished to read Mr Parson’s recent comment suggesting the British Open is in decline and irrelevant. 

Tell that to the bands that compete in all the qualifying contests aiming to one day gain a place at the Open.

In my humble opinion, this contest is as important as the National Championships and, you are guaranteed to hear the finest bands in the world playing at their peak.

I suggest Mr Parson makes the Journey to Birmingham in September - I certainly will.

Graham Rix

Pride and hope

I am writing to 4BR to say what a fantastic concert I attended, given by the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain at Regent Hall, London. 

This band, its members and organisation deserve a huge pat on the back for their achievement, year in, year out.

If I closed my eyes this could have easily been Black Dyke, Foden’s, Brighouse or Grimethorpe playing. The principal cornet, soprano, horn, trombone and euphonium were amazing, as were the lead players of the tuba sections. Wow! 

The band had a wonderful sound, a great sense of dynamics and an amazing sense of discipline in their playing. The repertoire was to die for: ‘Harmony Music’, ‘A Downland Suite’, ‘Metropolis 1927’, Bruce Broughton's ‘California Legend’ and ‘Excursions for Cornet and Brass Band’ to name but a few!

Major Rakers directed the band with vigour and clear enthusiasm for the wonderful musicians in front of her – and what great choral skills were exhibited in ‘The Cossack’ by these versatile musicians!

This was a concert to remember, but it was a shame that the hall was only half full. These fine musicians deserved a full house. 

If you were not there, be sure to catch them at Bridgewater Hall on September 13th.

I left Regent Hall with a real sense of pride and also of hope.

These fine musicians are the future of brass bands in Great Britain. Let us all give them every encouragement and opportunity to succeed in the future.

Well done too to all the tutors and house staff and also Philip Biggs. In fact - congratulations to one and all.

Tom Stone

Concern and influence

Having followed the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain for a number of years, in the last few years it has started to concern me in which direction the band is going. 

It was always my impression that the band was in place to provide inspiration and opportunities to the cream of young brass band and percussion talent throughout the United Kingdom. Indeed if you look at many of the current principal players in the top brass bands in the UK, many of them will have the NYBBGB in their CV as past/current players.

With this in mind, the way that the courses seem to have gone recently is something of great concern to me. 

While the band should be propelling its members through the system and forming the future of the brass band movement, all it seems to be succeeding in is encouraging its players to move out of brass bands to orchestras. 

Whilst the NYBBS (Scotland) and NYBBW (Wales) are welcoming Europe's finest brass band soloists to their courses to inspire the members, the NYBBGB insist on bringing in orchestral player after orchestral player, to play often orchestral repertoire, with an orchestral conductor, with orchestral tutors. 

I attended a concert by the band in Weston-super-Mare last year. The principal cornet had a separate welcome to the stage, as with the principal violin in orchestras. The band concluded it's opening half with a concerto, as is the norm with orchestras (on this occasion played by the Principal Trumpet of the Toronto Symphony) but left the band and audience somewhat confused as to what was supposed to happen immediately afterwards.

This summer course, in the absence of Maestro Tovey, yet again the band invite a trumpet player to be a soloist, albeit from the US Marines Band, but why not one of the many international virtuoso soloists from within our movement? 

And why the assistant conductor of the US Marine Band and not one of the UK/Europe's leading band conductors? (such as Reid Gilje with the NYBBW)

The majority of recent principal cornets of the band, including the current, have all gone on to study orchestral trumpet. 

If the UK's flagship organisation for promoting the future of the brass band movement in this country is now so focussed on bringing as much orchestral influence to the courses as seems possible, what hope does the future really have for our movement?

Roger Phillips

Informed demise

Nice to see the 4BR comments making a welcome return - especially as it gives people like me the chance to write with some observations about the current state of the brass band movement.

The Editor’s excellent articles on Black Dyke and Grimethorpe at the 1974 Proms and the possible end of regular visits to these shores for bands from Australia and New Zealand wishing to take part in the British Open, made for very interesting reading.

The BBC continues to show little or no interest in brass bands, with ‘Listen to the Band’ a shadow of its former self (now little more than a cheap late night interview and CD request show).

Meanwhile, the latest television advert for ‘BBC Music’ - all glossy images of so called ‘stars’ of pop and classical music does not feature a single second of a brass band in action, although this year’s Proms concerts at the Albert Hall can make room for a gormless ‘Sports Prom’ and a tired rebranded ‘Battle of the Bands’ - the big band not brass band variety.

As for our Antipodean friends as the Editor calls them? 

Our desire to be ever closer linked to Europe will mean an end to our historic connections to these great banding nations, and as a result, the British Open will continue to become as irrelevant as the European Championships, which has become an excuse for bands to bloat themselves full of professional orchestral brass players, who should really be playing at the Proms rather than a true brass band contest.

Well done 4BR. At least you are keeping us informed about the demise of our once great movement.

James Parsons

Conflict of interest

The list of adjudicators for the various Area contests in 2015 are starting to be announced in the banding press, and once again we see conductors of Championship Section bands accepting the job of judging rivals in a qualification contest that they themselves compete in.

If anything tells us that this process is wrong and that these people cannot see that there is a conflict of interest, this is it. What hope does banding have of being taken seriously?

Doesn’t anyone of them understand the notion of a conflict of interest, or would they all be happy to accept being judged by fellow competitors? 

Ian Hill

An antipodean friend

Greetings from Melbourne, where I am a regular visitor to your website.

Thank you for your great article on our Antipodean Friends, but there is one point to note: The Hawthorn Band (formed in 1888) actually holds the record for the numbers of Nationals won in Australia

They have won the Australian National a Grade title 14 times in the last 40 years.

I was fortunate to play in the Hawthorn Band when they played in the UK in 1982 at the British Open. It was a great trip.

Charlie Young

Tribute to Rod Franks

May I add my name to the undoubted many tributes to my dear friend of many years Rod Franks.

A great mate with whom I shared many memories - from going to Elland Road (Leeds) where Rod used to be on the books, to sailing the Grand Union Canal with his family on my narrow boat. 

His prowess was known the world over as a great player, and he will be sadly missed.

Gordon Higginbottom

Williams of Orange

Having just read your interesting article ‘Book Early - the rise and fall of the Pontin’s Championship’, I see the band in the picture is the William Davis Construction Group Band.

I am on that picture which was taken in 1974 at Loughborough Town Hall with the resplendent banner in the background which we won at the WMC Kerkrade that year. 

The thing that sticks in the memory about that contest was that after we played the whole contest closed down as Holland were taking on West Germany that afternoon in the football World Cup Final. The ceremony to declare the winners went on into the early hours of the following morning.

We played at the now defunct Pontin’s Contest many times and eventually won the final under John Berryman in 1980 playing the Roy Newsome arrangement of ‘Carnival Overture’.

I also remember the early days of Pontin’s when we put as many 50 pence pieces in the meter to keep warm!

After a few years of that we used to stop in nearby hotels where you could rely on decent conditions.

Still they were happy days in the 70’s and 80’s when the William Davis Band, not full of stars, but a settled unit and a solid team gained some notable results under John Berryman.

Stuart Morgan

Dominant Europeans?

Having attended the European Championships in Perth, I read with interest Chris Thomas’ retrospective. 

I was particularly interested by his point about the ‘increasingly dominant assault’ of the European bands, and the change of European superpowers, as though British bands should not be expected to win this contest any more.

To me this seemed odd, and despite incredible performances from Eikanger, Luzern and Willebroek in particular, this is not the situation I see at all. 

Black Dyke did, after all, win the own choice contest (arguably the harder discipline to win) with without doubt one of the finest contest performances I’ve ever heard. Cory came below what was expected of them, but this I felt was a reflection of a band without its share of luck. 

There are few bands I think who would post a top 5 placing from two number one draws.

Furthermore, considering last year's British Open results in particular, I feel there are other British bands, namely Tredegar and Co-op who, had they qualified, could certainly have challenged for podium finishes at least.

With Cory and Co-op qualifying for Freiburg and the pick of arguably the strongest line up of bands at the Albert Hall for many years joining them, I think the British bands should be highly fancied to bring the trophy back to these shores. 

Whilst the standard of European bands is undoubtedly very high, I feel questioning the ‘the future prosperity of British Bands’ remains a somewhat baffling and negative view. 

For me, as proven by the performances at Perth, British bands remain as brilliant and competitive as they have ever been. 

I, for one, cannot wait for the Open and the National Finals.

Simon Topp

Snell's Ravel masterpiece

I agree with the Editor in his recent praise of Howard Snell.

Nott only is Ravel’s ‘Daphnis and Chloe’ a fine test for our best bands, it’s also a testament to Howard Snell’ mastery in arranging and producing different colours and textures.

It is still as fresh today as when he arranged it all those years ago.

Gareth Jones

Charity loss

I read with some sadness that there will no longer be any more charity concert series held in Ipswich run by Tim Mutum.

Tim deserves great credit for running such a wonderful series of concerts over the years and raising so much money for charity. It has been a significant contribution to our movement.

Ian Brownbill

Medal winner

Having just read about the restoration of the British Open Grand Shield Trophy, I would like to inform you that I have one of the gold medals presented to Black Dyke Mills Band on winning that competition in 1921-22. 

The medal originally belonged to Fred Bower, who had just completed 24 years service as the principal trombone. 

From 1922 to 1935 he continued with the band on 2nd trombone. 

John Clay

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.

Dave Collins

BA (Hons) (Dunelm) I, FSCO
Composer and Arranger


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