Editorial ~ 2009: November


This month we give our opinions on Brian Clough and Brighouse & Rastrick, Public Image Ltd andin praise of Belgium...


As with top football teams, so too with top brass bands: Rational thought processes are few and far between – self-preservation rules.

From Brian Clough at Leeds United to Mike Ashley at Newcastle United – acumen is invariably replaced by emotional spasm.

Which brings us to Philip McCann and Brighouse & Rastrick.

The Scotsman’s tenure at the Yorkshire giant lasted less than Clough’s infamous 44 days at Elland Road. And the long term result could very well be the same.

The decision to bring his respected band training skills to West Riding appeared to be well thought out and certainly long term.

Everyone, from the Band President down hailed it as an integral part of a masterplan that would herald a return to former glories – a competitive resurgence for the lads in purple and gold.

However, it turned into a rather shabby episode of petty politicking and alleged player power (not unlike what happened at Leeds United in 1974) that has somewhat tarnished the image of a band that had over the years built for itself a well deserved reputation for good governance. It could well take some recovering from.

Brighouse are of course not alone – just look at the varying problems that has occurred when the same gut instinct decisions were taken at other bands from Black Dyke and Grimethorpe and plenty more besides over the years.

It seems that some bands never learn the lessons – stability is the key.

The most successful bands are invariably the ones who make the tough decisions and then stick to them – even if the short term process can be painful.

Those who don’t tend to end up like Leeds United – with or without Mr Clough. 

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Public Image Ltd
The public image of brass bands has always been one that is sepia tinted.

However, it’s our own fault that we have done little to change the perception of those people in other musical environments who still believe brass bands to be insular, conservative and parochial.

It shouldn’t have come as any surprise therefore then that those attitudes persist – even in the most rarefied of musical circles of the orchestral world.

The revelation by former brass band player Seven Haynes of the Barbican Brass Quintet, that there is a ‘jokey snobbery’ in the hallowed auditoriums of many symphony orchestras about brass bands and players who come from a banding background, shows just how ingrained the stereotypical image of the our movement has become.

That performers such as Steven and his fellow Barbican Quintet performer Philip Cobb have to encounter such attitudes is depressing enough in this day and age. That they have still managed to make it to the very top of their profession despite them is a remarkable indictment of their talent.

The problem remains however:  As much as we may dislike what others think of us, we seem incapable at present of doing anything about it.

Until we do, the musical snobs will continue to makes jokes at our expense for many more years to come.

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In praise of Belgium

You have to hand it to the Belgians.  They may be small in number, but they have huge brass band aspirations.

In a relatively short historical space of time the banding movement has flourished in the country. The organisational infrastructure is professional and motivated (as seen by their excellent hosting of the European Championships), and as a result the banding movement there is growing.

At their best their top bands are a match for just about any in Europe, whilst their young players have some of the most sought after contesting signatures in the banding world – especially in the UK. 

All that and they retain a very healthy respect for the traditions of the banding movement too.

That was shown when a mini bus full of players and supporters made the trip over the English Channel to play in the British Open Solo & Quartet Championships in Dukinfield – an event they have supported with growing success over the past few years. 

Now they can boast both the Senior and Intermediate Solo Champions, and there was plenty of evidence on show that a new generation of star players is being groomed for future success too.

It may seem a slightly surreal thing to say, but Belgium is perhaps starting to lead the banding world forward. 

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