Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by smaca, Jul 21, 2016.
Yes we did and we won our area.
Likewise my intention was not to be glib about not spending ages on the area test piece. Just making the point that it is a piece that won't dictate a bands schedule for months and months, meaning they cannot focus on other music that can help them improve.
I'm absolutely sure there will be lots of challenges to find in it, it's just such a disappointing choice. English Pastorale had musical merit as well as being a test and Visions was great, although how you can compare that as a finals piece to the piece the fourth section bands have had this year I'll never understand - they are in different leagues in terms of technicality, musicality and stamina etc. That was a great test and preparation for the bands who qualified and were moving up a section. My gripe really is that the gulf between the fourth and third section will be ever increasing if we continue to have such choices for the fourth section.
But then, playing devil's advocate, shouldn't 4th section be as inclusive as reasonably possible?
Sure, don't pick pieces that will be too easy to split the field (I'm firmly of the opinion that technically harder pieces provide less controversial results, with "musical tests" opening rather more up to subjectivity)...
But don't pick something that's hard enough to be off-putting either.
Controversial to even suggest this... But given that many areas have huge 3rd and 4th sections (Wales being an obvious exceptions), could a case be made for forming a 5th section?
Encourage youth band participation by having limited/no registration and/or allowing borrowing... And thin out oversubscribed 3rd and 4th section fields.. Etc?
Band loyalty is of course admirable and certainly not to be discouraged, but at the same time it's possible for situations to occur where the desires and/or ambitions of the strongest members doesn't mesh with the capabilities of the rest of the band - I suppose a too-strong players frustration (if it manifests in the wrong ways) could do more harm than good... All depends on the individual and band
I wonder if some of your frustration is the result of playing at a level below your capability, Kris? It's admirable choosing to stick to it, but maybe it just comes with the territory a bit?
It's worth bearing in mind that 4th isn't the only section with vast gulfs in quality - the difference between newly promoted championship bands and the British-Open level championship bands is colossal.
Some of the rumblings over pageantry are likely down to this - the bands just coming up will find it accessible (difficult, but not daunting and unachievable in the way a St Magnus would be), but the prizes will probably be decided over finely split hairs.
Nope, not due to frustration due to playing at a level below capability - frustration due to lack of consideration to the fourth section. The whole system whereby you can have some regions with only 8 or so fourth section bands and others with 30 odd bands but still the same number promoted/relegated is maddening - it can take years to get out of such a large section because of the anomaly that is contesting and adjucation but with smaller sections everyone can move up and down fairly easily. Winners of every section should automatically get promoted along with the top 1 or 2 in the section on points (depending on the size of the section) but this is a view I've long since held (not just since I've been playing in the fourth section).
I agree entirely that "4th isn't the only section with vast gulfs in quality - the difference between newly promoted championship bands and the British-Open level championship bands is colossal." However how many areas truly have more than a handful of British Open level championship bands? Indeed, how many from the WofE took part in the British Open? I also can't for the life of me see how Rhapsody is a second section piece and LoftheLWC is first. They are both as challenging as each other in different ways in my personal opinion. I've enjoyed playing both a number of times and honestly don't think there is a section's difference between them.
I think I must just be disillusioned with contesting, especially in the fourth section
Is your view from the 4th section representative though, or is your perception of the difficulty and consideration skewed by above average ability and/or experience in higher sections?
And maybe that disillusionment stems partly from the nature of 4th section banding? Quite easy pieces and enough areas for improvement with almost all bands that the adjudicators focus on a given day can turn results upside down-- unless you can dominate in every aspect, caring too much about the result seems an inevitable source of disappointment to me, and rightly or wrongly I wouldn't choose to play in 4th section for partly that reason.
Just a thought, that's all...
I agree that field sizes are a big problem, it turns competions into much more of a lottery than it need be... I'm not convinced a field of 15+ can truly be sorted fairly, never mind 20-25 or so.
(On a related note Wychavon top section this year with 11 champ and 7 first section bands seems unwise to me, but we'll see...)
Likewise, I find this year's picks most odd...
Rhapsody is a beast for certain seats (on a purely technical note, the sop part is probably harder than the sop part for pageantry), not much to pick between than and LotLWC in difficulty IMHO... Will certainly be a stiff test for second section bands this year.
IMHO the whole picking of testpieces is a minefield, and I don't envy the music panel one bit. In the days before internet forums, we didn't find out the testpiece until it was released and then there wasn't much discussion outside of the bandroom. We just got on with it - perhaps a post contest beer at the area there was some discussion over how easy/difficult it had been but that was it. Nowadays its all over the internet and discussed in detail before most bands have actually ordered the piece of music
4BR have discussed the whole sections and whether they're suitable thing to death over the years, and I'm not sure that there is much mileage in changing those even if the 4th section is unfeasibly large in a couple of regions (Mids, WoE and LSC) - in some areas it would potentially reduce sections down to half a dozen bands or less, and that would mean a bad result could tumble you from promotion contender to relegation in a single year. It may be better to redraw the area lines, and perhaps have an additional 1 or 2 areas - even if that's for S1-4 only (Championship is essentially a different contest in its own right now - and therefore I don't think its a major issue other than a promoted band may compete in Stevenage rather than Corby)
In terms of difficulty as Tom says, interesting choices. 2nd section is a step up from previous years - Champ maybe a step down. 3 and 4 definitely a step down technically. However just because a piece is "easier" doesn't mean that bands will still be able to play it well. The "live" comments in recent years about intonation even in the top section shows that bands (in some cases) have lost the basics in a blur of fly poo on the paper....
All sections have to be inclusive. We all take delight in our rivals splitting notes, falling over and missing entries, but that's not really appealing to those outside the movement - or even the neutrals within. For example it will be interesting to see how many S2 bands play Rhapsody really well.....and how many people want to sit through a lot of average to poor performances. If we want the contest movement to continue we need pieces that the majority of bands in that section play well.
Perhaps now the choices have been made we have to do as we always did. Get on with it.
I'd agree wholeheartedly with that. The system should be as fair as possible regardless of your region - I appreciate there will always be "strong" and "weak" regions but all regions should have the ability to move good bands up quickly and not so good bands down.
Perhaps it should be done similar to finals qualification - where there are 20+ bands have 3 or even 4 bands up/down at a time - with 2 being the normal number in the higher sections. There is even an argument to say that only 1 should swap places between top and 1st, to allow newer top section bands a bit more time to build and settle (Unite the Union seems to yoyo between the top 2 on an annual basis for example in Yorkshire) although I also appreciate the counter argument is it puts a glass ceiling on the bands trying to get to the top. Although it may just shut 4BR up, and also push up the standard of Section 1 if you have good bands that would have otherwise been promoted having to play an extra year in the lower section.....
Always a shame to hear and understandable. But again using your example of English Pastorale - I heard so many renditions where the band struggled to play it well at Stevenage, and that could have been disillusioning for them too.....
Ultimately it comes down to whether you view 4th section as the 5th tier of contesting I guess - similar to the Conference level in football - or as a novice section. It could easily be seen as either - however the things to remember are
1) Either way, there are a LOT of younger and novice players in 4th section bands. Just about every area has at least one band organisation with a "B" or "Community" band where newer players play, and a lot of these are in 4th (I appreciate some have more than 1 competing band, and some are in higher sections. I also appreciate not all players in these bands are "beginners"). However original (pre bracket) point remains
2) Kapitol is all about maximising entries, because they'll get more money. So more bands in 4th = more money. Easier testpieces often means more bands.
3) Bar a major reorganisation across the board where everyone's current grading is ripped up and you are re-graded based on audition, or the number of bands promoted and relegated are increased its unlikely that anything will change
4) Even "Easier" testpieces can have pitfalls. Spanish Impressions being one......(S4 2014)
Not sure that is correct - the Regional contests are run by the Regional Committees, not Kapitol who to my knowledge, make nothing out of them. And they get the same number of finalists regardless.
In their defence, Kapitol have nothing to do with the area other than picking the piece, running the registry and giving a small lump sum to each area. They don't collect entry fees or sponsorship, that's the local committees. More entries for the area means more money for your regional committee to spend on staging the contest, that's all. So an easier 4th section piece which encourages entries is good for your regional committee, it's neither here nor there for Kapitol.
The 4th section is REALLY hard to write for in a way that keeps everyone happy. In some senses it's impossible. The section is BOTH of things you mention - it's a 'development' section in which youth and "B" bands often compete, or in which non-contesting bands dip their first toes in the water. It's also the 5th tier for serious contesting bands, many of whom want challenging pieces to prepare them for a higher section. There's just as much fuss kicked up when the pendulum swings the other way - remember "The Talisman" a few years ago? Rock hard, for the fourth section, and I know of bands that didn't contest that year because of it. I'm not convinced there IS a happy medium - certainly there don't seem to be enough "happy medium" type pieces to pick one a year without repetitions.
Here's a question: what's the incentive for anyone who writes music for a living, especially the better known composers, to write a lower section test-piece? They aren't commissioned by the contest organisers any more, even for the finals, so if you write one on spec it's a gamble to see whether it's taken up by a contest. For an area piece, which is by some distance the biggest payday for a composer relying on testpiece selections, if it's not "self-published" the composer will get about £1800 max. That might sound like a decent wedge, but for something that's potentially taken weeks, even months of work to get right it starts to look a lot like minimum wage. So apart from the very occasional "hobbyist" composer who writes a piece on the off-chance and doesn't rely on it to pay the mortgage, the lower sections must rely on pieces commissioned by specific bands or events to suit their specific needs - Mermaid of Zennor for the Cornish Youth Band, Darkwood for Blackley, St Andrews Variations for the East Anglian Brass Band Association, to pick a couple of recent examples. All of those pieces will reflect the requirements of the commission and the strengths and weaknesses of the commissioning band or bands, rightly, because that's what the composer is being paid to do. It can hardly be a surprise that when such a piece is picked for the area there are many bands that find it unsuitable.
The way to get pieces that are a better fit, even if it's an "average" fit, for the lower sections is to commission new works specifically for them, but that hasn't happened in a dog's age. Given the decent volume of guaranteed sales the commission fee probably wouldn't need to actually be that high. A high profile composer would probably charge somewhere in the region of £2,000-£2,500 for a 10-12 minute piece normally, but if there's a guaranteed four-figure royalty involved as well I'm sure even the biggest names would be happy to do a deal. I wonder if anyone's actually asked?
Not strictly true. More entrants means more finalists - in areas such as Midlands and LSC, an extra 1 or 2 bands is likely to result in an extra finals place.
But point taken generally and I stand corrected
Does anyone else think it's a shame that we don't get a proper explanation for the choices from the Music Panel.
The fact that it's called a panel implies a group of knowledgeablepeople discussing the merits of a wide range of options and coming to a consensus on the best options available. I would love to hear why pieces are chosen and it would negate many of the negative comments.
For example "We deliberately chose a very simple piece for Section 4 to encourage as many bands as possible, especially those unable to field a full complement of players, to attend. "
We still might disagree with the choice but at least we'd know why it was chosen.
I'd agree with that, because the current lack of transparency means that there could be any number of reasons. Encouraging a big field to enter each section. Providing a test based on Adjudicator comments from the previous years. Maximising Kickbacks from music publishers. We just don't know.
AD's comments are interesting, especially as he's involved in the business and goes back to the original point. Pick something too "easy" and bands are up in arms because there is very little material to differentiate a lot of bands and contest results become a lottery. Pick something too "hard" and the majority of bands complain that they can't play it (or go on stage and demonstrate they can't play it). It must be an absolute nightmare to put together properly. Even a commission is likely to encounter the same difficulties as I'd suggest the 4th (and top) sections have the widest gaps in ability between the top and bottom ends - the best 4th section bands could probably give higher section bands a run for their money, but there are a number of bands which have significant numbers of beginners. Likewise top section has the Open standard bands at the top and a number that yoyo between Champ and 1st at the other end. The other sections are generally closer - you only have to look at the 3rd section in LSC for example where most bands seem to alternate good result/indifferent (midtable) result - and therefore would probably be easier to write for.
we could ask them?
Music Panel | National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain
all, other than Brian Buckley, are on Facebook!
I bet they would have to have a meeting about it before you even got your message acknowledged let alone replied to. The "Official line" would have to be worked out and scripted.
I'm a big fan of new works, but how nice to see 'Pageantry' in the top section.
Wouldn't mind playing this - any top sec. bands in Yorks need a BBb in 2017?
I couldn't agree more about the commissioning of lower section test pieces. As a composer who was brought up in the brass band world I would love to be able to write more works for band, but it's often not economical to do so. It would also make a pleasant change to be granted the right to compose something simpler, without the need to push each instrument's technical capabilities to the extreme. Music that is not only simpler, but simply beautiful.
Just to be clear, I wasn't having a go at the composer. I don't even know the piece, and like you said he wasn't on the panel, nor was he commissioned to do it. I just know our band somewhat reluctantly does test piece contests to help our reputation/visibility...and for our championships that means two-test pieces. Many USA bands only do one competition a year (NABBA - around March) and so they start rehearsing pieces in September as soon as they are announced.
Our goal is always to engage the audience and spending too much time on test-pieces (let alone two), often gets in the way of that.
Is anyone aware of an errata for st andrews variations ??
Our band aren't sure about certain things being correct in the score?
Separate names with a comma.