Editorial ~ 2004: September


Our thoughts this month on the World Championships, Explaining the adjudication process at the Open and getting bands on the television.

World Championships

Learning that a number of top bands have opted out of accepting their "invitation" to compete at the proposed World Championships shouldn't have come as a surprise. No, what should have is the fact that anyone thought the event would be able to attract those bands to play in such a competition in the first place. A true World Brass Band Championships were a fine pipe dream that had little chance of becoming reality in 2005.

The reasons are varied, but boil down to one unassailable fact. The top bands didn't want it, and when they don't want to play then contest organisers have a major problem on their hands.

The announcement made by the organisers at the European Championships sounded fine and dandy - until that is you looked closer at the details. A number of bands from around the World had been "invited", including the likes of Yorkshire Building Society who were of course the major draw card. A bit like Charlie in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory story, those lucky enough to get a "Golden Ticket" would be able to compete against the European Champions, and as it later transpired, the major heavyweight contesting bands such as BAYV, Scottish Co-op, Stavanger and even Black Dyke and Eikanger for the greatest prize on Planet Banding. Bands would make the trip from around the globe to perform against the very best Europe could offer - just what a World Championship should be.

However, giving bands an "invite" is one thing, actually getting them to RSVP with a definitive "Yes. We will be there", is quite another, and one the organisers failed to either explain or realise. This was a smoke and mirrors trick of Penn and Teller proportions - and like the renegade tricksters the bands soon found out that what was being offered was an event full of good intentions and just about nothing more else. 

Not enough thought had been given to the timing of the event, the format, the venue and the expense involved in getting bands (in some cases) to travel around the World to play in Kerkrade. However, the major fault was not getting any of the top bands to state categorically that they had accepted their invitation to compete. Having a wish list is one thing, having a real one, quite another.

The result is that the World Championships will most probably still go ahead in some form, but the winners won't be World Champions will they?  And that comes as no surprise at all.

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Now the adjudicators must explain themselves

With the British Open Championships very nearly upon us, the competing bands up and down the country (and of course, New Zealand) will be putting the finishing touches to their preparations for what should promise to be one of the most interesting contests in the events long and distinguished history.

The organisers have made a brave decision in giving bands the opportunity to show off their strengths by offering three demanding test pieces for them to choose from, and whilst this may have its critics, it will certainly make for interesting and compelling listening for the audience. Whether or not the audience feels that it has done the same for the adjudicators is another matter though.

If the format is to work successfully then the adjudication process must be seen to be both fair and transparent, both to the competing bands and more importantly, the band supporters who will have paid good money to come and listen to the contest.

The fairness aspect doesn't pose a problem - three top line judges will make up their minds as they always do here with reasoned debate we are sure. It is the transparency though which could cause concern.

We hope therefore that the judges take the time to explain to the bands and the public, both before and after contest is over what criteria they used in reaching their decision. A small précis of their thoughts on how they will judge three separate test pieces against one another in the programme would help the audience a great deal, whilst ensuring that at least one of their number makes a detailed presentation of their collective thoughts prior to the announcement of the results would be of enormous benefit. Making a few asides, thanks and an odd joke will not on this occasion be good enough.

We have fine adjudicators at our major contests, but as never before at the very top level have we needed to know how their thought processes has been worked out in deciding the winners. The levels of performances here will at times on different pieces be as good as you will hear anywhere in the World, so deciding who is the best on the day will be an immensely difficult and complicated task.

The adjudicator's decision will of course be final and binding, but on this occasion it would be of enormous benefit to know that it was reached in a way that everyone taking part can understand. 

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Bands on the Television  

One of the great cultural events in the UK each year takes place in Wales - the National Eisteddfod. This celebration of all things Celtic is a peripatetic event that moves around the Principality drawing vast crowds from all over the World, and this year found itself in the South East of the country in Newport.

It may sound a very parochial event (it does have it faults) but when the weather is fine as it was this year it provides a wonderful chance to sample a slice of Welsh cultural and artistic life (plus they have now opened the bars on the main field). It is also a chance to hear and see a fully televised brass band contest taking place live on national television.

All sections are transmitted live both on the Welsh S4C Channel, and this year on Sky TV and the coverage included post performance analysis from the studio and explanations of the music played and something about the bands taking part.  

As proud Welshmen at 4BR, it showed once more that our small country leads the way in all the important things in life, but it also posed the question, if the Welsh can get live brass band broadcasting on the TV then why on earth can't anyone else get even a small bit of coverage of our great showpiece events.

Someone out there in Wales showed a National broadcaster and even Rupert Murdoch's Sky Empire that it was worth doing (and by all accounts it proved very popular), so have the powers that be in the banding world in the UK made any representation to find out if the BBC or Sky could try it out for Birmingham or London for that matter?

There is a market out there for good quality brass coverage it seems, so perhaps the time has come for our representatives to start knocking on the doors of the broadcasters once more. Wales has done it, so surely others can follow suit.

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