Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by TrumpetTom, Aug 14, 2012.
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Brass Band Arrangements of Pop SongsOpinions
Please give an example.
Originally Posted by its_jon
The small niche audience is not 'percieved' .... It IS small by comparison to many other musical activities
Grimethorpe at the Olympic Opening ceromony.
A heavily music driven presentation to the world by the United Kingdom.
The Brass Band having a very niche part to play within the whole musical spectrum of the overall spectacular.
The role chose - one of tradition. (and under the wing of the Orchestral eye)
However you spin it, not deemed worthy by the BBC of visual recognition or indeed comentry.
At Premier music festivals throughout the UK, artists of all Genra and background are chosen to perform whilst Brass Bands are ignored.
Pure People Power deciding what is popular ... Usually Original music with few if any covers/arrangements.
With the exception of one recent Brass Band who whilst not performing Original music did create something New.... Fairys
Where is the Brass Band tent at Glastonbury ?
The UK's largest music festival embracing as many popular (and less popular) musical forms.
Its not there...
Possibly the brass band is a bit over niche, even for Glastonbury
Consider this though
If a brass band were contacted by a large festival and asked
"what brass band music would you play" .... what would you reply ?
A Beatles medly ? A March ? Resurgum ?
Two of the above are Original Brass Band... Only one could be considered 'Popular' outside a brass band niche audience. But sadly only popular as a novelty.
Any trio of kids can knock out a beatles medly on guitars and sound more like the beatles than even Grimethorpe.
A handful of Top bands in a handful of concert halls once or twice a year is not a large audience..
Its all down to a lack of Popular Originality from Brass Bands.
and with cheesy bublegum pop arrangements smothering our libraries it will be a hard modern brass band stereotype to break free from.
What is worse, been notorious for military style marches and hymn music, or cheesy pop ?
And yet it has been said that Original brass band works are considered unpopular choices for public performance.
Of course only reading 'The Bandsman' (a niche magazine most newsagents have to place a special order for) will give anyone the impression that Brass Bands are a HUGE thing.
Its a daze of a way to continue.
We may well convince ourselves Brass Bands are making a comeback !
It would be GREAT if Brass Bands did start tio return to form in the eyes of the majority !
You wont see that happening playing cheesy pop arrangements throughout the UK.
That only adds to the modern Brass Band image.
We recently recorded some music for Obrasso and of all the tracks on the disc, my favourite has to be Sandy Smith's arrangement of Stevie Wonder's 'I Just Called To Say I Love You. He's taken it totally off the beaten track and made it his own. Yeah, it's a tad cheesy, but it's meant to be that way.
I would love to hear a brass band arrangement of this old chestnut!
I don't really know what to say other than I'm really glad that I don't suffer these frustrations and instead enjoy the hobby that I've subscribed to for what it is.
And we're back the old problem - banding is a mixed bag of those happy to play Bohemian Rhapsody at the local fete who enjoy rehearsals, a beer, and playing music well and those who would like it to be something bigger and grander, better regarded from the outside and attracting new players and audiences, forging its own direction rather than piggy-backing on whatever music is popular at the time.
They're both valid positions but sadly not complementary of each other.
On the topic there are some great arrangements of pop songs, usually with a different twist (e.g. Mssrs Harper, Sparke et al) but there is an awful lot of 'drivel' which just churns out tunes on Cornets and 'oom-chas' on everyone else. But even these have their place for bands who want 'fillers' at a summer fete or for those groups without a full compliment of players. In these cases these 'simple' arrangements of melody and repeated accompaniment work well and, generally, the punters love them. Recently, at a steam rally, I used an arrangement of "The Ketchup Song". Not challenging playing-wise, not exactly the best example of quality music but, on the two occasions we played it, the crowds grew and we got a larger applause than when we played any of the 'better' pieces. The same, on that day, could be said for Hootenanny, Angels and Everything I Do (Bryan Adams).
In my opinion there has to be a mix of everything within every band's repertoire. I would not usually dream of playing these 'simpler' type of pieces in a 'proper' concert with a paying audience but I have used the Harper Queen arrangements, Steve Syke's version of "Angels" and, indeed, "Music" by Sparke. In all occasions they have been extremely well received by the audience as part of a mix of all types of music. My personal opinion is that, in these days of diminishing audiences and also diminishing players at times, we need to do whatever we can to get people through the door into concerts. Audiences want to be entertained nowadays and we need to appeal to all. At a recent Raunds concert, as an example, we started with some traditional brass band (death or glory etc.) then moved into Classical arrangements and then, in the second halve, let our hair down a bit more with jazz and pop arrangements. At the end of the concert, as we were packing up, one woman came up to me and told me that she was an avid opera fan on holiday in the area. Traditionally she had stayed away from brass bands. However, having heard our classical pieces she stated that she would now be attending more brass band concerts in her local area (Gloucestershire). I also had a dad who liked brass bands come and thank me as his wife and children had always refused to join him in his love of listening to bands. He had managed to convince them to come to our concert that day though to 'try it out' and they had loved the lighter, 'poppy', numbers in the second halve and said they would like to hear more bands. That is two new groups of people who would not listen to brass bands who now will. In my opinion, job done.
Back on topic it is easy to criticise those that do arrangements of pop songs for band and, yes, some work better than others. However, if they get punters listening to bands, let's not knock them too much otherwise they may stop and then we'd have the whole 'how do we get audiences' thread starting. I'm happy to 'prostitute' the odd piece into a concert if it means people continue to listen to bands and the audiences come through the doors.
There you go, rant over (goes back into hole!!)
But there is one exception to the rule, when a brass band piece infiltrated the pop world.
In 1976 the famous Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band recorded an arrangement of the Moss song made by their Musical Director Derek Broadbent. By Christmas 1977 half a million copies of the record had been sold, and it was only kept from the top position in the Christmas charts by Paul McCartney's 'Mull of Kintyre'. In January 1978 a vocal version by Terry Wogan accompanied by the Hanwell Band reached number 21 on the UK singles chart.
****** Mull of Kintyre
On a more serious note, I do think that pop arrangements have a place, no matter how cheesy. I think it depends on the venue of the concert and the audience you are playing to. If we are having a sit down concert in a hall, we play more brass band related items and as Simonium rightly said Goff Richards produced some great 'lighter' pieces that are enjoyable to any audience. However, if we are playing outside, where your audience are members of the public walking past, then the poppier arrangements go down well, because the recognise them. For lower section bands that don't have the pull for concerts that bigger names do, it can be difficult to get new bums on seats. We are not elitist, we don't tell people that they should only listen to us play brass music and enjoy it. As brass players we may cringe when we have to play Hawaii Five O, but on a summers day playing to the general public, you can pretty much guarentee that there will be someone (non-brass follower) pretending they are surf-boarding for at least 10 seconds.
I believe arrangements of cheesy pop songs repel considerably more potential punters than they attract.
In a lot of cases its the type of tune chosen to cover that is the issue.
It appears to be assumed that it is only tame sounding pop tunes that are suited to a brass band the majority of the time.
In general though.... Most people who attend a concert of any type want to hear Original music.
Where this thread has been confuzed, and it happens SO much within banding is that Original Brass Band music is assumed to be complex.
Original Brass Band music can be pop as well.
Of course its GREAT to play pop arrangements a lot of the time, easy notes, pleasant passages for all (often at the compromise of the result)
But.... think of somebody walking by a band playing this.
Novel, but nothing like the Original
Mind you.... Below is what I would choose as suitable for a brass band to cover.
I would be the first to admit, not to everyones tastes...
but cover versions rendered by a brass band of happy happy pop tunes or worse, semi classic ballards is also a very sickly spoon to swallow for a lot of people with any self respecting passion for music.
Maybe we should be thinking more ROCK than POP for the future of Brass Bands ?
Why suppress our 'heavy metal' .... Maybe our path really IS literally the wrong one ?
We are attempting to hang onto a handful of minority punters who ARE happy to hear a cover version of 'light music' (without the lyrics)
Do more music with teeth and you may get some dudes in the venue for a change, with no links to brass bands at all.
(instead of just friends / family or those who see a brass band as a mini classical outfit in the absence of an orchestra)
Roll out the foot tappers, Bring in the head bangers !
Our Hobby will be lost for future generations if we continue as we are.
Our Hobby - what it is, is still what it was ... and nowhere near what it could be.
That's one aim I suppose, but on the day when brass band audiences are full of head-banging dudes, who's going to entertain the foot tappers?
Last Saturday a group from our band were out in Sheffield at Bungalows & Bears when the following piece was being played, an instrumental of Toto's Africas. We all thought it would make a great arrangement for band so I asked the DJ who was playing it, to be told it was a Brass Band (which seemed at odds as we could clearly hear saxs in there) It is however the Hackney Colliery Brass Band and the You Tube video has had over 50,000 viewers. They are only a 9 piece but to some people that's what a brass band sounds like
It's funny, they chose the name "Hackney Colliery Band" (not the quoted "Hackney Colliery Brass Band") as something of a joke - a tribute to Britain's banding heritage, but at the same time an obviously ridiculous title (not many collieries in Hackney) to show that are 'fun'. But I keep seeing people getting confused about it. The term "brass band" means various different things in various contexts, and they are more in the Dirty Dozen Brass Band mould. We have no patent on the term, strange though it sounds to us to hear something else called that.
This is the moment when brass bands "jumped the shark":
(if Facebook works!)
Absolute Class !
Yes.. its a Brass ensamble... but have caught up with Big Band stylisation.
We would call this a nice bouncy latin number at the Big Band.
Note, the absolute Lack of dynamics ... ACE !!!!
Rock on !
You could play this in your car and not have to dive for the volume button once ! ... Brill !
This IS a GOOD choice for a Rock anrrangement
Lets Ditch the pop ey ?
Originally Posted by its_jon
Our Hobby will be lost for future generations if we continue as we are.
Please explain why
Simple - there is absolutely no evidence of decline in my band. In fact the opposite is true.
If there are bands that are in decline and feel that abandoning non-original music is something that will help save them, then they are at liberty to do this. If they believe that the current brass band image will hold them back, they could consider rebranding and creating a new genre (maybe "Brass for Rocking Dudes"? ). If it proves to be successful, I'm sure there will be great interest and other bands will consider following suit. Until then, it is somewhat unfair to suggest that other bands are doing the movement injustice by continuing with what works successfully for them.
With your evident passion, it sounds like if anyone can make this happen, you can.
For what it's worth, I don't believe that popular music arrangements are necessarily a bad thing for brass bands, any more than arrangements of Jazz, Classical, or any other genre of music are bad for brass bands. What is important is that something interesting and musically wothwhile is done with the arrangement.
I did once pick up a CD of "The London Symphony orchestra plays the music of Oasis," as a bit of a laugh, and I'm actually really impressed with the calibre of the arrangements now I look back at it. When one also considers the popularity of their 'classic rock' series of albums, and the enduring nature of some of those recordings, why on earth do certain sectors of our membership (I'm looking at you its_jon) think that it's not OK for popular music to be part of a brass band's repertoire?
OK, with the LSO it's the exception to play this type of repertoire rather than as it is with some bands (though not all) the rule. Though I have also heard the Halle orchestra finish with the Knightsbridge march, billed by their MD as the theme from 'in town tonight' as their encore - A low-brow choice for them, but it earned them a standing ovation.
There is nothing wrong with a good pop arrangement. The important factors are first, the quality of the original material, and second, the care taken to make the arrangement musically interesting and rewarding. I'm clearly not going to name names, but it's obvious to all who takes care and who doesn't. If you're really that annoyed by bad arrangements, then vote with your wallet and don't buy them! Pay for quality where you find it, and don't play anything you as a band are not happy with the quality of. Problem solved!
In my opinion, what's the problem with pop arrangements is the frankly awful musical quality of what passes for pop music today (three chords, if that, meaningless, banal lyrics and the odd predictable gear-shift key-change in the last reprise of the chorus) and the fact that several large publishers feel they can make money by publishing low-difficulty arrangements of said low-grade music.
When one couples a poor arrangement with poor subject matter, what do you expect to happen?
My advice? Vote with your wallet. Pay for quality, play scores where the arranger has taken care to ensure the interest of both the audience and the player. Ignore anything that's clearly written in four parts with a lot of copy-paste to expand the parts out and a massive repeat to add length without adding any redeeming features whatsoever.
The quality of music is not diminished simply because it is an arrangement from another genre any more than it is increased by being an original work for that ensemble. Quality will shine though whatever - as will a paucity of the same.
Separate names with a comma.