Another Proms, another absence of brass

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Dave Payn, May 18, 2004.

  1. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Further to my earlier suggestions (French horn debate and how brass bands could move forward by using more of its current instrumentation and therefore perhaps be accepted by a wider musical audience), it's both interesting and disappointing to note that once again, no brass bands are represented at the forthcoming BBC Proms.

    Whether you agreed or not with my specific points about the instrument adaptation, do you think that brass bands have to change their outlook one way or another to be accepted by 'other' musical circles like the Proms or are brass bands happy staying apart from it all? I mean, we HAVE had bands at the Proms before, and it wasn't that long ago that Paul Hindmarsh helped the BBC with a series of concerts of largely original music broadcast on Radio 3. And though arrangements were involved, Dyke won an Orchestral Recording award for their first Walton CD a few years back.

    Personally I'd love the general musical public to see how good our top bands are today and in playing original repertoire rather than arrangements. What do other tMP-ers think?

    Still, it's not all doom and gloom! David Childs is performing a Euphonium Concerto by Alun Hoddinott in one of the Proms!
  2. Nuke

    Nuke Active Member

    Love to be able to see bands at the proms. I was trying to explain my limited knowledge of banding to someone the other day and they said that it must be a whole different world because its not broadcast all over the place. I suppose brass bending is really
  3. Spanky Rear

    Spanky Rear Member


    Yes it is disappointing, but only to be expected.
    To illustrate how peripheral we are-- my local library,amongst thousands of Pop and Classical CD's has but 10 or 20 Brass Band recordings. They are lumped together willy nilly with 'Military'. They will obtain specific items for you if you ask[upon payment,naturally].They explain that they don't hold a larger stock as 'there is no call for it'!
  4. Dave Euph

    Dave Euph Member

    Yep, I go to Huddersfield University doing music, Huddersfield being one of THE places to be for brass banding because of the quality of banding in the area (stretching to Manchester and Leeds).

    However, at the beginning of the year I received a Listening List for one of my modules, a huge list of probably about 100-200 works! Upon inspection I noted there were NO brass band pieces in there! Quite a shock for a music department awash with brass banders!

    TIMBONE Active Member

    I'm afraid that in my opinion, nothing will ever change the attitude of the 'Radio 3' type philosophy concerning the "Proms". Over the years, the "Henry Wood" ideal which started the "Promenade Concerts" has been gradually eroded by the BBC. Henry Wood saw the 'proms' as 'entertainment' with 'classical' overtones. The original 'proms' included novelty music, like his own "British Sea Songs", and the BBC have even tried to reduce that excellent arrangement far more than they have already. Bob Chasey, Principal 2nd Violin with the BBC Philharmonic once commissioned me to arrange "The Acrobat" for trombone and strings to attempt to bring back some of that original 'fun' element for a Cheshire 'Proms'.

    Let me give you an excellent example of this BBC attitude. It doesn't involve brass bands, but it does involve wind band, which is the same thing to the musical purist, even though the majority of the instrumentation is orchestral brass and woodwind.

    I think that it was in 1984, that the main item for the first night of the proms was the Symphonie Funebre et Triumphal by Hector Berlioz. Normally, the 1st half of the 'first night' is on Radio only, and the 2nd half is also on television. That year, beacuse the main piece in the 2nd half was written for a large force of brass and woodwind, (essentially a symphonic wind band), with strings and choir later added by the composer for the last movement, it was considered not suitable for television. So, that year, we had the 1st half on television, and the 2nd half on Radio only. Of course, the BBC had not chosen the programme, the conductor had, otherwise, we would not have even had the piece in the first place.

    I think the only thing that can change this attitude is when the BBC lose control, or employ more open minded muisicians like Paul Hindmarsh, to plan their 'serious' music output.
  6. Rootus Maximus

    Rootus Maximus New Member

    I absolutely love banding, but one thing I have to constantly remind myself is that as far as a musical movement goes we are in the minority. There have been several threads before regarding the lack of brass bands on the radio but to be honest i'm not surprised. I would have to say that having more bands on the radio and in an event such as the proms would be great, but other than our "small" banding community who else would appreciate it.

    Sorry for this negative post, im just trying to be realistic

    Rootus Maximus
  7. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    Yes it is ashame about not having bands shown on the actual BBC Prom programme... but Grimey did play in the proms in the park concert last year, so that's a start.
  8. Kerwintootle

    Kerwintootle Member

    and a finish, it seems.
  9. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    I'm afraid that mainstream music will not take brass bands seriously until brass bands take themselves seriously.

    What brass bands take seriously - far too seriously - is a) contesting and b) banding as a social pastime. What it needs to take seriously is the music. And as bands (in the UK, at least) have no national body with any influence to guide their destiny in this respect, the impetus for change must come from the players themselves.

    Until such time as bandsmen can find the motivation for change, people who want to see bands accepted into the musical mainstream must dream on.........
  10. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    well yea quite possibly... which is a deep shame.

    What I wanna know, is who decides what orchestras and groups get asked to play in these things in the first place? Anyone know?
  11. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    Just to add my own two penneth, and a slightly different slant on things....

    Do we really need to be associated with these groups? Why the issue?, Ok so the banding movement may be a bit short on publicity but we are in the main Amateur musicians (and some are a damn sight better than so called proffessionals) and will always been seen as such no matter how hard we try.

    Additionally I much prefer to do my playing to the local community which is what I feel banding was and is about. Not contests or big open air concerts but playing for local charity events, old folks homes and bringing music to those who would not normally get the chance. Also getting kids involved, getting them to appreciate music and giving them the chance to learn to play to any standard. Not the elitist rubbish you get from orchestras!, even my local music school wants entry requirements for kids to learn!, the local orchestra only accepts X number of players. When was the last time we saw these people sitting under a gazebo playing away for a chairty (for free!), or doing a job to 40 old folks in a community hall?.

    Thats banding for me and I sometimes think that we miss the point a bit with our concerns about whether the movement is "recognised". TBH I'm not sure I would want to get involved witht these people.

    Just my own opinion for what its worth.
  12. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member


    (a) If we really are better than some of these professionals, what better stage to display that fact than the Proms?

    (b) The banding movement in general will still continue to do the charity jobs, parks, beer festivals (please!), old folks home anyway. I was referring more to our top bands

    (c) Orchestral music 'elitist rubbish'? Hmmmmm..... As this is a friendly forum I won't comment further save to say that if we did get involved more with these people perhaps any elitist barriers that exist might come down!

    Fact is that once upon a few decades ago, the brass band movement was 'infiltrated' by a man who wasn't a brass player but contributed a substantial amount of compositions and arrangements for the movement. A lot of his arrangements involved accompanying soloists (i.e. pianists); in arrangements of the first movements of the Grieg and Schumann piano concertos. He also produced a near full version of Handel's Messiah to be performed as though it were an orchestra with chorus and soloists; something which regularly gets performed to this day (or excerpts thereof). He got the top British conductors of the day (Sargent and Boult) to conduct his arrangements of the great classical works, even though Boult objected to conducting 'cut versions' of these works. When he worked for the BBC, he got brass bands to be a regular feature on the airwaves (oh for something similar now!). The amateur brass band seemed to be just as popular as the 'elitist' orchestras in the public eye, and presumably still had time to do the charity work etc. etc.

    This person met with some resistance from the brass band regulars if the stories are to be believed, largely because he came from a more 'serious' music background but he went on to be, I believe, one of the most respected figures in the brass band world and perhaps the movement could still learn a lot from the legacy (if not necessarily all of the specific arrangements) he left behind. Denis Wright was his name.

    I'd get a thrill to see our top bands more widely recognised for what they're capable of instead of limiting occasional 'public eye' exposure to the Floral Dance (which is, after all, some 27 years out of date) and Brassed Off. Is it any wonder that when something eventually comes along which makes brass bands 'famous', they flog it do death for however long they can? Why DO bands still play Floral Dance, Marcangelo's Clog Dance etc, etc, even now? Because it's something the general public recognises with brass bands, not something that happens too often any more. It made them 'popular'. I'll be honest (and, maybe in the eyes of some, selfish and snobbish); I'd occasionally like a more 'elitist' audience than going through the yearly rounds of playing to five corpses and a dog in the local park in the p**sing rain, even if it is for charity.

    And that's just my opinion, for what it's worth! ;-)
  13. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Steve, I think you're being a bit harsh on the orchestral/"serious music" world. It's all very well mentioning the charity concerts etc that many bands are involved in, but it is probably fair to say that most orchestras have quite active community programmes in operation these days. Equally, whilst most of the groups taking part at series such as the proms are professional, there is usually quite a number of amateur groups as well, particularly when it comes to choral repertoire.

    I do find it disapointing to see the lack of participation of brass and wind groups in the proms, especially when there is such good music around that could go some way to opening people's eyes as to the capability and flexibility of such groups. As I said last year, for me the invitation of Grimethorpe to the dumbed-down add-on which is Proms in the Park just re-inforced the stereotype view of the brass band - if that invitation had gone alongside one for participation in a regular concert it would have been another matter entirely.

    Having been present at the Proms concert which premiered Walton's "First Shoot", the response from the proms audience was first-class, and it certainly wasn't packed out with banders by any means.

    Incidentally, I didn't spot much involvement by other brass groups this year, although I've only looked on the website, so I may have missed something. There's usually at least one brass/choral concert, even if it is a late night one :wink:
  14. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Yes, Peter. I only mention the lack of brass bands at the Proms because this is chiefly a brass band forum: The odd wind band and brass ensemble concert wouldn't go amiss either. (Didn't the PJBE perform Pictures at a Prom in 1978?)
  15. jpbray

    jpbray Member

    You will be able to argue this one till the cows come home. However “whatsharp” wrote “Do we really need to be associated with these groups”, to my mind is yes, but possibly at arms length. The reason being; 1) because of the views put forward by "Tim", namely the vision of Henry Wood, and 2) because it is the most inclusive genre of community music, and should be given the appropriate recognition.

    We do need to be taken seriously as musicians, and another old chestnut is the merits of contesting (subject of previous threads). This does keep a band focused and presents a goal for a band to work towards and hopefully maintain a certain standard.

    I also agree with “whatsharp” about playing to the local community. Namely the local charity events, old folks homes and bringing music to those who would not normally get the chance. Also getting kids involved, getting them to appreciate music and giving them the chance to learn to play to any standard; and not being elitist.

    We need the recognition, but not at the price of the soul. (OK its cheesy, but true)
  16. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    Apologies, my "Elitist" comment was harsh and out of context since I was referring to the "Proms" organisation at present time, which seems to be entirely controlled by the media (Radio and TV), and not the whole Orchestral world (though I do note Peter you "put Orchestral" with "Serious", are you implying that BB's are not serious about their music? :wink: ).

    I will concede that there are many fine amateur orchestras playing throughout the country, and I wonder sometimes whether they also are struggling with regards audience and players but that is a slightly seperate issue. Although where I live I can name 6 - 8 active brass bands and only 2 maybe 3 orchestras, however (before I get another slapping!) I daresay that members of orchestras would say likewise, it's all about whos circle you move in.

    Yes I do belive that Brass Bands should be part of the Proms, as well as music from other areas, however with the Proms being the media entity it is I cannot see this happening anytime soon (it is after all now the BBC -Proms!).

    What I did find interesting is that under the list of composers showcased Judith Bigham is on there, perhaps one of our top bands should sneak on stage during an interval and play Prague? :D, actually there are (I think and please correct me if I am wrong) at least 4 composers on the list who have written orignal works for Brass!.
  17. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Yes, but not when playing Floral Dance to that audiences of corpses and canines in inclement weather I alluded to earlier! ;-) :lol: 8)
  18. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    Ok you got me on that one..... :D
  19. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Where's your wonderful world of weird today?? ;-)
  20. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    There will of course always be a place for bands to provide a service to the community - especially for those bands of more modest abilities such as the admirable Yiewsley & West Drayton Band! But we are talking here about our best bands. They are our shop window, and they are entitled to expect prestigious platforms on which to perform, for all our sakes.

    As for getting kids involved - well, absolutely. Take a look, for example, at the London Symphony Orchestra's Discovery programme - a fantastic vision involving local communities, families and kids which is proving highly successful, provided by one of the world's greatest professional ensembles.

    Elitist rubbish?? What exactly are you talking of here? In the first place, what's wrong with elitism? Elitism to me is a synonym for excellence. I'm all in favour of it. I'd quite like to be a member of an elite myself, but am sadly deficient in certain areas, such as ability, aptitude, talent etc.

    Are you suggesting that the musical mainstream consists of elitist rubbish? Are the works of, say, Berlioz, Beethoven and Tchaikowsky elitist and/or rubbish? And if so, does some sort of downgrading from elitist status occur when these composers' works are arranged for and played by brass bands? I only ask for clarification.

    This thread began on the subject of the Proms. The Proms audience consists in the main of a wide mixture of people from all social classes, but who are bound together by a love of music. I know this, because I have paid my four quid and stood amongst them on a number of occasions. And the fact that anyone can go and listen to the world's greatest artistes perform some of the greatest music for only four quid, is all the evidence you need to disprove the 'elistist' theory. There isn't even a dress code!

Share This Page