A Glastonbury for Brass Bands

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by midwalesman, Jul 5, 2009.

  1. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    It is quite clear to me that there are currently too many contests for bands to enter and compete during the annual calender. Having played at the Preston contest last week I am completely convinved that having more contests with the traditional format, rules, regulations and rituals is completely pointless.

    For many years the main contests in the claendar have pandered to a specialised audience, one which is knowledgable about bands, techniques and "insider" speak. These people come to all the contests, an expensive "holiday", and enjoy the discussion about who is best, was robbed, conspiracy theories etc. etc.

    The contest which should be highlighted as a beacon for any new type of event should be Brass in Concert. Embracing new instrumentation, musical concepts and allowing music to be entertaining rather than an exercise in pure technical ability. In my opinion I believe that more people go to the BiC than any of the other major contests. Why? Perhaps the reason for this is the fact that people hear a variety of repertory, not always to the comedic taste of all, but nevertheless entertaining.

    As the letter written on 4barsrest by John Shimmon suggests, if there should be another contest it should be an outdoor occasion in the summer. This being an entertainment or bandstand type of contest and is located in a large municipal park somewhere, perhaps in one of the parks. Many contests in the nineteenth century were after all located outside, playing pieces of music transcibed into selections from the classical (which was a form of popular music at the time) repertoire i.e. pieces significant to those stopping to listen.

    There are many contests involving banding movements around the world. i will provide one example of such a contest here. In this link you will see the Guca festival, held in Serbia, and involves Romanian and other eastern European people playing in bands. In the link, pay close attention to the number in the audience. Link:-




    I am not for one second stating that social factors and musical taste are identical or even anywhere near the same in Serbia as here, that would be rather simplistic. However it does demonstrate what a social event an outdoor contest would be.

    Brass banding is never going to regain a central position within the popular culture of this country but to perpetuate and even encourage more contests which are just another clone of the major other contests does not achieve anything but take up time and effort to play to yet another half, or less than half full event, irrespecive of however well run it may be.

    Although the ethos of the Whit Friday event may have evolved over the last centruy, possibly losing sight of its original concepts, it still advertises the possibilities of a mass audience. Something the "major" events in this country do not. I appreciate that people may highlight that the only reason that whit friday is so populated is the proximity and lethal doses of alcohol, something that it shares with the Guca festival above and Glastonbury. Nevertheless it reaches and attracts new audiences, a concept that was once part of why contests were organised.

    It's time for a rethink on these extra contests. This idea iof an outdoor entertainment contest is not something radically new, it's something the band movement has conveniently forgotten when addressing the topic of contesting. In addition who are we play for in these major indoor events? Is it the general public or are we just playing or rather praying to a set audience which will and has erroded significantly in the last 40 years.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2009
  2. Andy Cooper

    Andy Cooper Member

    I suspect you would be getting much the same audience as any other brass event as a stand alone competition - As you invoke Glastonbury why not drop Michael Eavis a line - after all it is the Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts and it is not unusual to see a brass band on there - nothing this year but IIRC Redbridge were on last year. I walked past the Park Stage on sunday morning this year and a choir was on. A bit of radical thinking re programming, you might get him interested and open banding to a whole new audience!

    (incidentaly Ive been going to Glastonbury since the late 70s and Ive never seen anyone as tanked up as i see some of the herberts in Upermill on Whit Friday!!)
  3. jrshimmon

    jrshimmon Member

    It's nice to know that someone else is thinking along the same lines as in my letter on 4bars... Nice to know theres nothing new under the sun too (Forgive the pun!).

    I would say that the aim of the Banstand contest concept is to bring in new listeners. I know we would see the same old faces at these contests as we would at the indoor pitched battles, but if you pick the right open spaces the scope for attracting passers by is quiet big. I was playing at a Bandstand today on the Prom in Skegness. If you know Skegness their are 2 Bandstands one in the Park and one down from the clock tower on the way to the Beach. We were given the later to play on. Now it was in terms of size it the missing link between a Bus Shelter and a conventional Bandstand but there must have been 2 or 3 thousand people who walked passed. I must admit if the Stand was bigger this would be an ideal space to hold one of these contests.

    Maybe we should look to a broaden appeal of contests by providing other attractions food and maybe rides for the kids.
  4. Simon_Horn

    Simon_Horn Member

    Great post - I agree completely.
  5. Red Dog Brass

    Red Dog Brass Member

    Great post - and oh so true.
    Self publisizing I know, but this is what The Big Brass Bash is really all about.
    A bit of competing for those that want it, lots of other performances throughout the day, and not just from brass bands! Lots of youth workshops and fun to be had. A relaxed venue with great facilities.
    Now, if only there are bands out there willing to support it!

    Red Dog

    Oh, and thanks for your support Simon. Now lets see if we can really get this rolling!
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2009
  6. Simon_Horn

    Simon_Horn Member

    Yes, it will be fantastic if you are sucessful in trailblazing type of event Red Dog....it's where brass bands need to move to but it's a brave man who says "i'm the one to get the ball rolling". As you know, i'm hoping to get my band involved and just let me know if I can help in any other way because I would like to see this idea work.

  7. Used to be a brass festival like that in Pershore every year, 3 or 4 different venues around the small town (inc the lovely Abbey) and all the local bands from Championship to 4th section/youth standard would play around a 45 minute set each and watch other bands and drink etc, no adjudicators no results just good playing and socialising and a great day out not just for bandsmen but for the public as well.

    Was the banding highlight of the year for me until it got cancelled...
  8. Sop_Or_Bass?

    Sop_Or_Bass? Member

    Totally agree - Pershore was fantastic - hope they can bring it back
  9. Al

    Al Member

    Pershore sounded good - any more details. When was it last staged, why did it stop?

    Edited to add - found a bit on 4barsrest

    Whit Friday Marches are fantastic but 4pm to 11pm or midnight just seems to fly by. Maybe this event could, or rather needs, to be extended, perhaps midday to midnight.. (I appreciate easier said than done organisation wise and in any case there is plenty going on in the morning etc.)
  10. jenpd

    jenpd New Member

    The event at Pershore was called 'Midsummer brass' and I last played there 5 (or was it 6?) years ago which was probably the last time it was held. Playing in a non-competing band at the time it was great fun performing alongside more illustrious names. Some local players would see how many bands they could dep for on the day and it was fun watching them running from venue to venue doing a quick change en route. It was well supported by many bands but I don't know how many paying punters it attracted. There were many rumours why it stopped. One was the threatened redevelopment of one of the most attractive venues, the beer garden of a local pub alongside the river Avon. But it was a great banding day out....and has made me come over all nostalgic-like!