2015: April

More from the postbag and social media — from balanced judges and forgetting the classics to a mystery tuba player and more...

Balanced adjudciators required

On balance, it does appear a tad strange that adjudicators, in one section are allowed to conduct a band in the same section albeit in a different region.
Two other things however trouble me more. 

The first is the same conductor leading two different bands in the same section at the same contest. Could this be compared with Arsene Wenger leading both Arsenal and say Chelsea in an FA cup semi final? I wonder whether anyone else feels uncomfortable with this? 

Secondly, the audience address by adjudicators pre results. I fear far too many judges, do not give this sufficient thought and preparation. 

They could do no better than take a leaf out of Nigel Boddice’s book. His comments, at the Yorkshire Regional recently, were polite, witty and insightful. 

He took bands through the score setting out what he was looking for and what bands did well and not so well! It really was a breath of fresh air.       
Phil Morgan

Forget the Classic approach

Jim Yelland is spot on the money about the lack of brass bands music on Classic FM.

Why should they include us? They are a commercial broadcaster that has very successfully built up its audience over many years by giving their listeners what they want - and that only occasionally includes the odd brass band track.

If you really want to worry about why brass bands are struggling to command air time then tune into Frank Renton and ‘Listen to the Band’ - which has become a complete and utter late night irrelevance.

Phil Wood

Back of the net...

If you want to listen to brass band music then the internet is the place to find out more.

There are plenty of local radio stations and enthusiasts out thee catering for our love of brass band music. 

Just get you mouse and start exploring... 

Elizabeth King

Enlighten us please on BBE

Can anyone tell me what is going on at Brass Bands England at present?

What has happened to the employment of an Operations Manager and part time officers to cover the country? Wasn’t all of this supposed to be in place some months ago?

What results have been achieved - and where are the details of the National Youth Championship which BBE is running on the weekend at the RNCM in Manchester?

The BBE website seems curiously lacking in information.

Can 4BR enlighten us?

Stuart Rose

Who is the tuba player?

I saw the ‘Discover Your England’ advert on the television for the first time last night and wondered (out of interest as a BBb player) who was playing the BBb in the field?

Roy Scott

Wrong Cairns

Thank you for your report on the recent Australian National Championhips.

However, one small point - Cairns Brass won the National championship title in 2001.
Cairns Municipal (a different band) won in 1976, 1978 and 1979.

Chris Earl

We are simply not Classic enough...

Dennis Webb asks why brass bands feature so rarely on Classic FM.  

The answer was given by Classic FM's senior presenter John Suchet when he took part in a discussion at this year's Festival of Brass in January.  On the few occasions he has played brass band music on his programme, he said, he has received complaints from listeners. 

The implication was that regular listeners tuning in to a radio station called Classic FM expect to hear music which they associate with the term 'classical music' - orchestras, opera singers, chamber music and so on - but not brass bands: And this from a man who, as an amateur trombonist himself, could be expected to be sympathetic to brass bands.

Classic FM is a commercial enterprise which relies on advertisers to keep it in business.  The advertiser's willingness to invest their money is dependent on the size of the audience.  Upset your audience by playing music they don't want to listen to and they will switch off. 

As a result, the advertisers will reduce or cease their investment and the enterprise will be put in jeopardy.  

The latest audited figures show that 5.6 million people listen to Classic FM.  It broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.   

I can't find any listening figures for the only brass band programme on national radio, Listen to the Band, but it goes out for 30 minutes, once a week, on Thursday evenings at 11.30pm.  

The stark contrast between the amount of broadcasting time given to the two genres reflects the difference in popularity between the two genres.

Would Classic FM gain or lose listeners if it were to start broadcasting significant amounts of brass band music? I don't think it's too difficult to work out, is it?

Jim Yelland

Save us from our own naivety

Say it as it is 4BR!

Bravo. For far too long brass banding in the UK has become increasingly insular. 

Having conductors from Championship Section bands adjudicate rivals in the same competition (as at the Areas this year) is the latest move to cut us off further. It is simply ludicrous. 

Whatever happened to just having fine musicians in the box? Remember the days of Sir David Willcocks, Havelock Nelson, Buxton Orr, Frank Wright, Herbert Howells. I don’t recall seeing them conduct a brass band in the Areas at the same time?  

And would the Championship Section Yorkshire bands accept Philip Harper, Ian Porthouse or Garry Cutt in the box, or would the North West welcome the appointment of Nicholas Childs or David King?  What about Bob Childs in Wales or Allan Withington in Scotland?

Well done 4BR. Save us from our own naivety.

Alan Newton

Bell's Palsy

What an interesting article on 4BR about Bell’s Palsy.

My brother suffered with the after effects for many years - although he did make a return to playing, although on baritone and not cornet.

It can be a very debilitating, depressing illness, but with good medical advice and aftercare it can be overcome. 

Thanks you Antony (Kerns) for the article and I hope you go on to make a complete recovery.

Cheryl Hinton-Hughes

Euro Jim 

With reference your article on James Scott’s 90th celebrations, could I also add that in addition to winning the Nationals in 1973 with Brighouse & Rastrick on ‘Freedom’, he also steered them to European glory in 1981.

Those memorable performances also came at the Royal Albert Hall playing the set-work ‘Caliban’ and own choice selection of ‘Fantasy for Brass Band’.
John M Gillam

Good and bad points

Your Take 5 article was very good and sufficiently thought provoking - although I think you missed a couple of bad points:

I don't think they want to listen to anyone and help regional committees and subsequently, the bands.  

Last year, through the NW committee, I proposed having the first half of split draws pre-drawn, this would help those regions with large numbers, like the NW, not having to rush around early in the morning for draws and setting up, and bands being able to organising their coaches etc: No joy there!!

Adjudicators / contest dates:  
I agree, contests should be on separate weekends and I believe adjudicators should be drawn from a hat jointly by Kapitol and ABBA and awarded to regions so that no bias can be associated by regional selections.  

The 'prize money' given to regions could then be used to cover adjudicators fees and expenses, including hotel bills/travel etc, rather than regional committees having to 'divvy up' on contest day.

Automatic entry to Finals:  
This should stop immediately.  

Would Black Dyke have 'un' knowingly played a double registered player if they hadn't already pre-qualified!  How many events, including sporting ones, do even the winners gain automatic entry straight to next year's final?  

With only 2 qualifiers from each region all bands should play a hymn before the test piece and be marked on that too.

You are right, the sections need re-organising with the Championship reducing to eight, giving each regions bands the same opportunity to qualify.  

First to Fourth sections then need equalising for the same reason.  Perhaps there needs to be a shakeup of the regional boundaries too!

Good points:
With regard to good points, the regional committees, as you say, do a fantastic job and should be given more autonomy, especially in relation to draws.  

All Kapitol wants is bands at finals, the only time they make money.

There are lots of good and hard-working people in banding but there are also some not very flexible ones, I hope the hard-working ones win the day!

Keith Tysall

What is a Championship Band?

Well the Areas have certainly livened up the comments pages of 4BR.

This year, as has been the case in recent years, just emphasizes the need for a serious look at what constitutes a Championship Band.

Torchbearer was always going to separate bands of true championship class from those that - whilst love being tagged at this level - were clearly punching above their weight.

Personally, I would be immensely disheartened if I entered a contest knowing that we couldn't really play the piece properly. 

Or, as is often the case these days, only manage it by having a couple of talented strangers in the line-up few of us actually knew and probably wouldn't see again!

How busy the Classifieds are now that these strangers have disappeared and vacancies exist again in so many bands!!!

There is simply nowhere near 90 Championship bands in the UK - time we stopped kidding ourselves that we have and sort it out!

Robert Barnes

Know your bands...

Bob Hawkins is of course entitled to his opinion on the playing and whether he disagreed with the adjudicators and 4BR commentators - but at least the adjudicators and 4BR commentators know what sections Thundersley and Egham are in.

William Elsom

Interesting paradox...

How interesting it was to read the article ‘Take 5’, the personal view and opinions of the recent regional contests from Iwan Fox.
I was surprised to find such contradiction within the article; normally it would not warrant response, but one of  the points is question is aimed by association of content at me and other conductor/adjudicators and seems to back track from a long standing position 4BR has held over many years of adjudicator integrity. 
Under the sub heading ‘The good...’ point 2 offers praise to this year’s adjudicators.  Under the sub heading ‘The bad...’ point 3 offers argument for ‘Conflicts of adjudication interest’ going on to question the professionalism of those who have accepted the invitation to adjudicate this year and conduct/play with bands in another areas at this year’s championships.
Over the years 4BR, Iwan Fox in particular, has given regular commentary on what they see are the benefits/forward thinking nature/progression of having open adjudication.  

He has even commented, I paraphrase, that adjudicator integrity should not be in question and we should trust them to make sensible and unbiased decisions therefore making open adjudication a natural step in contesting progress.  

I would submit further that it is a regular occurrence to find praise in favour of contests, in the UK and abroad, that conduct open adjudication with extra emphasis esteemed on sections one and below. 
My urge to write is fuelled to point out the inconsistency of Iwan Fox’s argument and long standing reporting position of adjudicator integrity and his most recent contradiction held within this article.  

To suggest an adjudicator as judging one area and being a participant in another as a conflict of interest defies belief and only promotes further self deprecation to our wonderful brass band movement; ironically something 4BR often campaigns to promote and protect. 

To further suggest it as being professionally questionable is, for me, a direct insult.  

I wonder how many bands being judged this year found this scenario unacceptable, how many complaints were made and how did the overall perceived result (from those who heard all performances including 4BR)/remarks from said adjudicators differ to any other contest they have judged?  

Perhaps the greatest paradox of this entire argument is me replying to one man’s opinion...

Paul Holland

Take 5 Prize Money

The article ‘Take 5’ makes a great point about the prize money! 

£200 1st prize but it's £250 to go to the finals. Work that one out!

Kris Davies (via 4BR Group Facebook)

The registry provides a list of players registered for the contest. 

To get on stage you provide your card and get ticked off the list. How did the ‘offender’ manage to get on stage? 

The officials do a great job at these contests and all for the love of our movement but this goes beyond just being the fault of the band. 

And I have no personal affinity towards Black Dyke.

Gareth Skillander (via 4BR Group Facebook)

Dyke caveat

The issue (over Black Dykes' disaqualification) is the rule that there is a caveat that even a pre qualified band must compete in their area competition. 

The question that people are asking is does disqualification mean in effect they did not compete thus not meeting this caveat.

I'm not sure it really matters at the end of the day as we are dealing with a hobby anyway and there would be nothing to gain by excluding Dyke but a lot to lose. 

Dyke are a great advert for banding, they always have been. Someone made a mistake, I am sure they feel awful about it.

Perhaps time to let the matter rest.

Graham Rix (via 4BR Group Facebook)

Disqualified logic

If a driver was disqualified, would you give him his licence back because he was a world champion rally driver? 

Answer is No - because he's a disqualified driver, so logic says disqualified should mean just that - disqualified, and I'm not involved in any way.

Angela Ball (via 4BR Group Facebook)

A Finals Weekend again

I am confused with regard to your comments. 

Perhaps there are problems in some regions however, it seems to me that 2 regions, the Midlands and London have a more balanced structure than you are suggesting.

Perhaps, someone should be taking a look at these areas and ask why they are being so successful where others may be failing.

In my opinion the biggest retrograde step to banding in recent times was the separation of the National Finals, casting off the lower sections to inferior venues. 

Who thought Cheltenham was a good choice of venue needs their head looking at. The venue itself is second rate with an awful acoustic, dreadful facilities and difficult transport links particularly for bands in the North.

Part of the pleasure of qualifying as a lower section band was the trip to London to compete and to be able to go and hear and learn from the very best at the RAH.

There needs to be ‘A Finals Weekend’ again, where all sections are accommodated and we can enjoy a joint celebration of our banding excellence.

If London is unable to accommodate this then either Birmingham or Manchester should be considered as an alternative. 

Sponsorship should not be an issue considering the potential number of competitors and supporters this would bring to these fine cities.

Graham Rix

Too kind by half...

I attended the regional contest at Stevenage where I listened to every First Section band (15 in total) and decided to carry out my own adjudication, writing as each band played. 

And I have to say I was horrified and appalled at the poor standard of playing in what is just one step below the top grade.  

To make matters worse was my surprise at the writing of your 4BR representative who was way too complimentary and forgiving.

Throughout the section you would think these mainly were Third Section bands 'having a go' at the area test.

In fact, I had to wait three or four bands in before a band even produced something approaching a quality sound (Jersey). Only three bands came anywhere near that of top section bands in terms of tonal quality...Ipswich, Thundersley and Bedford. Each had a recognized MD.

One or two bands put in tidy performances but did not have the quality of sound to put them amongst the prizes.

I served on the regional committee some years back and always criticised the fact that there were too many bands in the upper sections that clearly weren't reaching the required standard. Nothing has changed.

To cap this I then was astounded to hear adjudicator commenting on, not criticising, note production, breathing etc. This supposedly, First Section not Fourth.

On the results, my list, with the exception of Becontree Brass - where the adjudicators appeared to disagree, and Jersey, I was almost spot on.

Thankfully, these concerns were not carried into the Championship Section, where Egham, who knew they were out of their depth and Regent Brass aside, the standard, was very high indeed and probably the best contested event for some years.

In summary, I would prefer your representative to be far more critical of the standards performed as in reality we are doing the band movement a disservice because in truth, the First Section should be reduced by half to around 8 bands.

It was akin to stepping back into a time warp and I'm not sure I can face another round this year. It was so disappointing.

Bob Hawkins

Acoustic troubles 

I have just read your excellent retrospective on the North West Regional contest and I was interested that you made reference to the acoustic in the Opera House. 

I played  there (in a Third Section Band) having had a break of over 30 years and I was surprised at how flat and dry the acoustic was, possibly caused by the heavy curtain arrangements. 

Given that even the Championship performances were not fault free, I wondered whether the acoustics might have played a part in this. 

I wonder whether anyone else has commented and if indeed the organisers are aware? I am sure the hall in Bradford is entirely different, for example.

Glyn Roberts


Just to say thank you for all your coverage of the Area Contests and other major contests throughout the year.

You do a fantastic job.

I don’t get to many contests these days, but it’s great to follow all your coverage.

Sue Cooke

Cornerstone rankings

I was looking at the rankings for the Yorkshire Area, and noticed that the band I play with do not appear in the list. Was just wondering why this would be?

I'm fairly new to contesting bands, but thought I would ask.

The band I play for is Cornerstone Brass Band, and we are currently in the First Section.

Graham Mercer

4BR Reply:
We are awaiting the next update from our stats man...

Award of Honour

Is it possible to say during what period ‘The Besson Award of Honour’ was presented and whether it related to a specific aspect of expertise?

Tony Mansell

Classic FM?

As a brass band lover and a Classic FM listener I have never heard a brass band on the station.

I have contacted them but with zero success.  

Having heard yet another wonderful concert from Black Dyke at Birmingham's Symphony Hall recently, Classic FM's programmers should realise that classical music is not all fiddles and pianos. 

Will you through the weight of your office try to persuade the programmers at Classic FM to include our inspiring brass band music.
Dennis Webb

Northop Silver Band - Christmas Concert with Kirsty Abbotts

Sunday 3 December • St Eurgain & St Peter, Church Road, Northop CH7 6BQ

Boarshurst Silver Band - Littleborough Band

Sunday 3 December • Boarshurst Band Club. Greenbridge Lane. Greenfield. Oldham OL3 7EW

Longridge Band - Christmas Concert

Saturday 9 December • Longridge Civic Hall, Calder Avenue, Longridge, Ribble Valley, Lancashire. PR3 3WD

The Hepworth Band - Championship Brass & Voices for Christmas

Saturday 9 December • Thornhill Parish Church, Dewsbury WF12 0JZ


Saturday 9 December • St Andrew's Methodist Church . The Stow. Harlow CM20 3AF

The Marple Band

November 30 • Are you looking for a change of scene. The Marple Band are a 2nd Section friendly group of musicians who are looking for Front and Back Row Cornets, 2nd Baritone, Bb Bass and Tuned Percussion players to join our successful band.

Stretford Band

November 29 • Seeking a MUSICAL DIRECTOR. We are a friendly, non-contesting Band with a varied concert programme at local events throughout the year. We are looking for someone to take the Band forward.

Thurcroft Welfare Band

November 28 • The band are seeking to appoint the following:. Flugal Horn,. Solo Trombone,. Percussion - Tuned or Kit.. . The band recently finished in 2nd place at the Yorks Regional Championships. . Thurcroft is a very welcoming and friendly band, with high aspirations

Mike Sheppard

B.A. (Hons) Music
Composer, conductor, teacher, author


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