Editorial ~ 2004: May


This month we give our views on the judging at the Europeans; Sending a National Team to the World Championships and the continuing success of the Grand Shield Festival.

 Judging the success of the Euro

Now that the dust has settled on the 27th European Championships, the time is right to discuss what was, apart from the fantastic achievement of the Yorkshire Building Society Band winning the title for the eighth time was the main talking point of the whole weekend - the European adjudication process.

There are many things we should congratulate EBBA about the European Championships - the organisation in conjunction with the Scottish Brass Band Association; the continued enlightened approach to commissioned compositions; the development of additional European features such as the Soloist, Composer and Conductors competitions and the European Youth Brass Band. There are others features however that are still in need of review and change, and the adjudication process is certainly the main one.

The appointment of six respected musicians from varying fields to adjudicate is one which is indeed enlightened, but where as the idea is laudable, the outcomes have been varied and to a large extent has resulted in the performers themselves losing confidence in the judging process.

Great musicians do not always make great adjudicators, and the problem with the European Championships this year seemed to be that there was a distinct lack of brass band adjudicating experience on display.  There was no questioning the talent of the musicians in the box, but there was a question to whether or not the majority of them had a comprehensive understanding of the brass band repertoire.

The adjudicating of a set work causes less of a headache as 11 performances gives ample opportunity to consider relative performances against each other. The Own Choice section though is another matter and would at this level, where the majority of the performances are of an exceptional standard, require at least two of the three judges to have extensive experience of top class brass band repertoire to assess the merits of differing works against each other. This was highlighted this year in particular with the selection of one completely new work to the banding repertoire. It was therefore essential that if this work was to be judged in comparison to others (and not solely on its own merits as a superb piece of music) at least two of the three judges had to have the experience of understanding existing brass band repertoire, so that the new work could be measured, however subjectively.

This was not the case in Glasgow, and although the final result caused little argument, the lesser placings certainly did.  In addition, as written comments are not made to the bands and Musical Directors it is less understandable that there were no oral comments at either the end of each section or at the end of the contest from a spokesperson for each of the panels.

By not informing the players, the conductors, the supporters and the general audience of the reasoning behind their selections, smacks of elitism. Europeans have so much going for them, it would be a pity that they be held back by a judging process that is patently not up to the job. 

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A British team for the World Championships
It is great news that advanced proposals now seem to be set in motion for a recognised Brass Band World Championships in Kerkrade next year. It is of course an idea that has been tried once or twice before - neither successfully for a variety of reasons, but there seems to be a genuine belief from the organisers that this time it will work.

Will it though? Again the good news is that there are genuine hopes that representation has been agreed from a National Band of New Zealand, and possibly Australia as well. Japan is looking to send a band over, whilst the USA will it is stated, be sending the Chicago Brass Band from Illinois. Added to that there are proposals in place to seek representation from the main European Countries, with the National Associations themselves making the choice of whom to send. This is, it seems all set up and ready to go then.

But what about the British? Given the date of the proposed contest (July 9th and 10th) it seems that the biggest obstacle to bands from each of the home countries attending could well be finance as well as practicality.

Will the likes of YBS, BAYV Cory and Scottish Co-op, all of whom have qualified for the Europeans next year, want to go through the process of yet another expensive trip and hours of detailed preparation just weeks after Groningen? Will YBS and the likes of possibly Fodens Richardson, Fairey FP (Music) or Brighouse and Rastrick want to add another contest to their calendar mid year in addition to the Masters? And what about the likes of Black Dyke and Grimethorpe? These two bands are not the greatest advocates for additional contesting, so will they want to put themselves and their reputations at risk when they could be playing in lucrative weekend concerts?

It appears that for all the great organisation and intentions to make it a true World Championships, the only possible way forward to ensuring British participation would be to ask the home countries to send "National Bands". These, like the New Zealanders and Australians would be made up of players born in that country, brought together as a "one off" in a band that they would take pride in representing their homelands.

A true World Championship held every four years with the best players in the World representing their countries. National pride and honour at stake and the chance to market a product that really has a genuine prospect of attracting sponsorship and media coverage. Forget sending individual bands, and start getting your National teams together. Now that will create some excitement won't it?         

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A Grand day out.

Talking about additional contests, the revitalised Grand Shield Festival seems to be going from strength to strength.

Over 60 bands took part in Blackpool, and not only did it show that there is a thirst for qualification to the British Open, it also showed that when a contest is held in a venue such as the Winter Gardens, players, supporters and the general public will stay in considerable numbers to actually listen to brass bands playing test pieces.

Much of the credit must go to the foresight of Martin Mortimer and his team who have really imbued the Festival with a sense of purpose and importance once more. Our only gripe is that due to the success, it is now time to revamp the Grand Shield, Senior Cup and Senior Trophy once more, and possibly add a further section to the Festival.

This would mean a Senior Shield Contest perhaps? There is certainly a demand for it (the organisers have a waiting list of willing contenders) and it would mean that the existing three contests could be reorganised into more manageable numbers. The venue we think, could cope without a problem.

22 bands at the Grand Shield is perhaps 6 to many, whilst the same goes for the Cup and Trophy. A fourth section could therefore mean 16 bands in each section and a grand total of 64 bands at the Festival. A small and realistic increase and four contests that are manageable and compact.

The Grand Shield has shown us that where there is a professional will a professional way will mean success. The bands deserve it, the players deserve it and so does Martin Mortimer and his team of helpers.