Editorial ~ 2005: April


This month we have a look at the World Championships, the possibility of a Nationals Solo Contest and the last word on the Europeans.

Is the World a smaller, or better place?

The world is definitely getting a smaller place. The 125th New Zealand National Championships certainly proved that; not only did bands from as far afield as Sweden, Australia and England compete against each other, but also in a non related way, so did players from all over the globe.

With long haul air fare prices now becoming near enough affordable, the banding world has become a smaller place as well: not only did Yorkshire Co-operative and Gothenburg make it to Wellington this year, but less than a 12 month ago, the Dearham Band performed at the US Open, whilst players of the calibre of David Thornton and Sheona White and the adjudicator, Alan Morrison flew into New Zealand as easily as top golf pros to go about their work.

Will the forthcoming World Championships in Kerkrade therefore confirm that the time has finally arrived for the world wide brass banding community to finally reflect its status as a true global phenomenon, or just show it to be another one off contest, albeit with a smattering of bands from around the globe?

At present the answer would it seem lie towards the latter rather than the former, with the 2005 event suffering the anxieties of poor organisation and communication to truly call itself a recognizable ‘World Championship'. 

The ambitions behind the event have been laudable, yet from the word go, it has been plagued by a lack of foresight, acumen and reality. In an age when the economics of travel have just about been overcome, Kerkrade offered the chance to put a true ‘Brass Band World Championship' on the global map. That it hasn't is a great pity, although to prejudge the event may seem a little unfair. However, even in New Zealand, 4BR was approached with genuine concerns about the lack of a structured timetable and itinerary for their National Band even at this late hour.   

There is a future for a world wide brass band championship, but not until the organisers can take a realistic view to how such an event can be run. Kerkrade for all its faults may just show us that it is indeed possible, so when the time comes around again, in say 2009 or 2010, a long term plan of action may well have been put in place to ensure that the best bands from all over the world can afford to make the trip.

Making a 24 hour long haul trip from the other side of the world, may then be well worth it for everyone concerned.

What do you think?
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Making it a National Solo?

In last months Editorial, 4BR bemoaned the problem that seems to affect so many young players – the inability to produce a nicely produced quality of sound.

Many correspondents put forward their ideas to why this has become such a troublesome area in modern band playing: lack of proper formal teaching, the dash for meaningless exam results, etc. However, perhaps one of the real reasons has been the demise in the UK of the Solo and Quartet contest – what used to be the regular twice a month trip to local church halls, and bandrooms, Miner's Institutes and clubs to perform against your peers on solo, air varies and quartets.

It may seem like something from a bygone age, and even though the appetite from the youngsters themselves may no longer be there for such regular contests (parents now have to juggle their Saturday and Sunday mornings between football, swimming and karate to name but a few) there are still a number of very well run events throughout the length and breadth of the country just about every month.

There is of course the British Solo Championships, which are now becoming more and more popular each year, but having come back from New Zealand, where their Solo and Ensemble events take place at the same time as their National Championships, we wondered whether or not in the near future could the two events of the National Finals and the British Solo and Quartet Championships be linked together along the lines of what happened in Wellington this year?  

It would be hard of course to organise and run at the same time as around 20 bands playing in the Finals themselves, but the New Zelanders seem to do it pretty well, whilst wouldn't it make a fine climax to the beginning of the whole weekend if a ‘Champion of Champions' Final could be run on the Friday night prior to the Nationals and the winner given the chance to perform at the Gala Concert?

It may just encourage a few more players to start dusting off those old solos once again.

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The Europeans – the final word

And so in 2006 there will be two European Brass Band Championships.  The final death knell for a single event came about earlier this week with the announcement from EBBA that it had ‘given up' on talks with Besson to see if some sort of compromise reconciliation could be reached. It therefore ended a rather protracted, somewhat tawdry episode in the banding movements history and leaves us all wondering what now for a contest that has given the movement so much since its inception in 1978.

Will the new European Brass Band Contest, registered in Den Haag and formed its seems under the auspices of the former EBBA be able to attract the very top brass bands to it's proposed contests for the years 2007 – 2010, without the active involvement of what was the main sponsor of the former event? Or, will the new Besson committed, Kapitol Promotions event from 2006 be the way forward?

It is rather like the time when VHS or Betamax video recorders battled it out for supremacy all those years ago. There was only one winner then, even if in the eyes of the purists it wasn't the product that was either the best or the cheapest.

The market forces of choice will mean that the bands, not the national associations will eventually decide the fates of the opposing events in years to come, and just like those video recorder battles, it may mean that the purists choice may once again be left on the ‘unsaleable items' shelf.

That it is the nature of competition – even in the brass band world. 

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