Brass band and sport: has the link now become too close?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Dave Payn, Oct 7, 2004.

  1. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Just had my latest copy of BBW delivered. In there resides an article by Dr Roy Newsome, a man I've met only once but who nevertheless, made a lasting impression and everything he taught me on a conductor's course a few years back has, I hope, stayed with me. A man I truly respect. I should that, that the concerns I am about to raise are NOT an attempt to even criticize Dr. Newsome directly but to comment on points he raises in his article.

    I clarify that now because I must admit his article 'An Olympic dream for bands?' disturbs me greatly. I've mentioned a couple of times on here that it wouldn't be long before the brass band world applies to the IOC for Olympic status due to its similarities with ice dancing/skating, i.e. subjective judgement by judges who base their decisions in the final round on 'artistic impression' and 'technical merit.' Nevertheless, my suggestion was made with my tongue sort of half in my cheek....

    OK, so the brass band world HASN'T applied to the International Olympic Committee yet (yet.....) but the suggestion from Dr Newsome after watching the closing stages of the 2004 Olympic Games on television, that he 'could not help thinking how wonderful it would be to have a similar brass band event, when all the best bands in the world came together in such a spirit of co-operation.'... got me thinking how long it would be before bands DO apply to the IOC!

    Now OK, Dr Newsome's Olympic ideals about 'spirit of co-operation' are to me, a bit Utopian these days, where too many athletes in the Olympics proper seek to gain unfair advantages by sneaking the odd banned substance to enhance their performances (so in an Olympic brass band event, would Betablockers count as a 'band substance'? ;-)). And to his credit, he goes to great lengths to question whether this 'world brass band' event really needs to be competitive, citing his experience at the recent 2004 Great Northern Brass Arts Festival. However, he does, towards the end of the article, say 'There would be no need to call it a contest but it would become the greatest contest ever', which (again, without wishing to criticize the great man, doesn't quite 'scan' to my eyes).

    It's impossible, of course, to relay the whole of this article in its true context without reproducing it in its entirety (which is a dangerous thing to do, as someone who has been a copyright employee for 18 years knows only too well...) so I've tried to be as fair as possible in the snippets I've included, but fully in the realisation that it can't be done totally accurately.

    Nevertheless, my own thoughts on this are thus, and I have repeated them several times on this forum. I believe music to be an art form, a form of entertainment. Absolutely fine to have competitive festivals, competitions, etc. It doesn't just happen in brass bands, after all. But when at the end of the article, Dr Newsome suggests that like the Olympic Games it could take place once every four years and that 'we could do worse than starting off in Manchester. How about 2006?' then the links with 'sport' become too close for my own personal comfort. I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that our top bands are leaning towards 'survival of the *****st' (i.e. 'split count') these days. And the comparisons with ice skating rear up here too because for all their 'artistic impression' skills, if you keep falling on you a*se after a triple toe loop and a double axle, you're going to get marked down by the judges, period. I have already on this forum, also bemoaned the fact that we now have a league table for the best bands in the world. (I should add here, that in referring to music making as 'entertainment' the other similarity with ice skating is that when competitors slip up and fall a*se over t*t - by the way, I'm referring to ice skating here - I certainly find that 'entertaining'!)

    I repeat, the point of this is not to slag Dr. Newsome off (certainly not intentionally). I'm merely in disagreement with his suggestion that we could have an Olympic style brass band tournament and the references to which he makes in his article. I know that Dr. Newsome achieved more in one day with Black Dyke than I will ever do in my entire musical 'career', so my concerns are raised with the utmost respect and merely based on my own musical experiences at a distinctly amateur level.

    Those who have not read the BBW article may (merely a suggestion, folks!) wish to tread carefully before commenting on this post (if you think it's worth commenting on!), if only because, as I say, it's impossible to give the true context of the article without reproducing it in full, and no matter how hard I try to be fair, I dare say I've included more bits to further MY argument than Dr. Newsome's! But the main crux of my concerns is merely the suggestion of an Olympic style tournament and just how close a highly-regarded form of making music is mirroing sport

    Last edited: Oct 7, 2004
  2. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    We have transfer windows, a league system, divisions, points based on results, youth teams, even reserves in bigger bands. Though thankfully we don't have the FA or Sven yet!

    I haven't read the article so I'll steer clear of direct comment, as it wouldn't be fair. But on the issue of banding resembling sport, any team activity where one group (In our case, band) is in competition with another with criteria to be met for success, then of necessity it's going to resemble sport in some way shape or form isn't it? The only reason someon's good at a sport is self-motivation and drive, and a bandsman needs those just as much as a sportsman.

    But then I do agree that while we have the system of an adjudicator judging pieces based on all aspects of the performance, artistic impression plays a large part in winnig or losing. If we took that away and just used a 'split count' system, the movement as whole would, in my opinion, lose a great deal.
  3. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Well... brass bands exist in Sweden, for sure. ;-)

    Still, I hear Ulrika's good on the horn....
  4. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... and now we have begun the practice of signing players from abroad when the quality at home isn't seen to be good enough by some bands. :rolleyes: (I was going to put this post in another thread where comparisons with football leagues has been aired).
  5. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    But so does any musician, not just a 'bandsman' (or bandswoman! ;-)). Doesn't mean to say that every musician, at the top of his or her profession or otherwise, needs, or should even want an Olympic style competiton to prove it....

    Apologies, I'll shut up. I think I've had my say! Sorry....
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2004
  6. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Hey Dave, don't apologise... you are totally entitled to your say and to voice your opinion.

    Why is it that when questioning or challenging what our experienced and highly regarded banding figures have said, we all seem to cower and offer our humble apologies...?

    Yes indeed they are experienced, yes indeed they have provided immeasurable benefit to the banding world, and yes indeed we need them... but, they are human after all and we, as humans, are not infallable - which means they are not right all of the time.

    There is nothing wrong in challenging... nothing wrong at all...
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2004
  7. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    I don't see the problem with brass banding becoming more like sport.
  8. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    That's bad enough in football, let alone banding. (Arsenal, Chelsea, liverpool, Need I continue?)

    Junior bands everywhere! Your country needs you! But then, as football has proved, you can have the best youngsters about and big name clubs will still go for established names. It seems it looks better to have a big-name has-been than a small-name wonder-kid. Are bands following this trend too?

    (PS By 'Bandsman' I kinda meant everybody. Sorry Girls! It's just that 'Bandsperson' sounds a bit rubbish!)
  9. ScrapingtheBottom

    ScrapingtheBottom Active Member

    As long as it isn't commercial sport. Personally I think the more competitive bands get the more insular they become (as they spend more time prepping for contests rather than performing to the general public - of course our top bands are an exception). The more insular we become as a movement the less likely we are to gain the support and induction in to the wider musical community that we so desperately crave. I guess it depends on which you see as more important.
  10. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    Not sure what you mean by that exactly?
  11. jpbray

    jpbray Member

    From the sporting world it is quite easy to draw analogies between us and Rugby Union, which has embraced professionalism even though it is still relatively a minority sport.

    An “Olympic Event” may not fit, however when you considered the structure of competition within the banding world, a “World Cup” event would seem a natural progression. The rules of engagement would have to be thrashed out, but this something that would be talked about.
  12. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... I'm afraid so! Didn't the Co-op import a certain Tormod Flaten on euph for this year's European?
  13. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    That nugget of info passed me by I'm afraid. I think we were playing brighouse methodist church that weekend. (Different Co-op obviously! ;) )

    I think there's something to be said for giving younger, less experienced players a shot at contesting, even if they're punching above their weight for a while. The very fact that a certain band or MD gave them their chance often breeds great loyalty, and the challange of being faced by harder pieces than they've ever played before usually drives them on to improve.

    It's gotta be better than dipping into the transfer market hasn't it?
  14. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... problem is that youngsters are no longer encouraged to use brass bands as a part of their learning curve in life. Very few local authorities support or promote brass bands now as a vehicle for social growth. A sign of the times. Same with football and many other team sports, ... have you noticed the lack of assistance by government bodies to even sustain group activities?
  15. jpbray

    jpbray Member

    I still blame Margret Thatcher; the me culture; and the damage she wrought is incalculable.
  16. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Did for quite a few decent colliery bands as well.

    When was the last time a company started something like the old colliery and mill bands for the welfare of their workers? It just doesn't happen. Yet we're supposed to have Made progress since the late 19th early 20th centuries.

    This progress lark ain't all it's cracked up to be.
  17. ScrapingtheBottom

    ScrapingtheBottom Active Member

    Well, if we do move to a stage where banding more closely resembles sport (i.e. where contesting becomes much more important than concerts) then we must necessarily have more contests and that means more prize money. If lots of bands then become motivated by earning money through prizes (as is the case in professional football) rather than the music, I feel we will have lost a great deal. I feel that we lose a lot by trying to shift the balance of banding onto contesting anyway as we become more insular and less likely to attract more appreciators and contributors to the movement.

    TIMBONE Active Member

    HEAR HEAR (as the politicians say) - If it hadn't been for innovative musicians in the education system, her government would have completely destroyed music tuition in schools. Sorry, I know that I am off topic, but just remember everyone that she was a tory (conservative), and she may have gone, but the ideals are still the same. NEVER vote for a conservative government.

    RANT OVER - back to topic
  19. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    Yet it was the tories who brought in the lottery which has been great for brass bands ;-)

    TIMBONE Active Member

    No, the National Lottery brought itself in, the tories just happened to be the government at the time, and when a more socially minded Richard Branson got the conservative Camelot almost finished, some very strange undercover work went on, and it was overturned.

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