Brass Band Image

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Brian Bowen, Dec 24, 2003.

  1. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    Sarasota, Florida, USA
    Perhaps two threads currently running on tMP are connected: the angst over brass bands not making it on Classic FM, and Christmas activities (not mince pies). For many, the perception of brass bands is all too easily influenced by what may be heard on a street corner or a bandstand in the park. I don’t think Eric Ball originated the phrase but he used to call the brass band a peripatetic organ, and so it has been in the SA context. But musical quality has often been dubious and it’s an image that sticks. And summer bandstands might appear to be solely for the pleasure of an older generation.

    Just recently I was getting acquainted with the new music director at my church; he’s a fine organist and choral trainer and occasionally likes to add orchestral-type brass accompaniments. Someone told him I was involved with brass but when he enquired and I mentioned brass bands in particular, I sensed he lost interest. After all, what he knew of brass bands was what he’d heard on the streets in the USA (usually the SA around Christmas time), often comprised of inadequate players, poorly balanced, some strange-looking instruments, and limited repertoire. Oh, and he’d also seen the film “Brassed Off”. While SA bands performing out-door evangelism or most any band heading a parade used to be a fairly common, it may have been at the expense of being taken more seriously in the upper echelons of music-making. Hasn’t “Brassed Off” seen to it that the working-class tag, or stigma, remains firmly fixed in the UK? If, by analogy, the long-established institutions of musical learning and performance are the equivalent to horse racing (the sport of kings and queens), brass bands are right there racing whippets.

    The fact is, bands are made up of people from all walks of life (amateurs) and I wouldn’t like that to change. Unfortunately, many non-banders are oblivious to the remarkable skills on display in the best bands because they choose to be. The sophisticates don’t trust their ears if it doesn’t sound like orchestral brass. In lofty circles the pedigree of brass bands is still suspect and legitimacy is questionable. If only Bach, Beethoven and Brahms had written original works for bands, things would be so different.

    But how concerned are band folk really about being placed on the fringe of musical culture? Is banding merely sport (as in contesting), a chance to flex muscular technique (as emphasized by some test pieces), or is it something more artistically satisfying? How many players complain that audiences are small, while themselves failing to be good listeners of other bands? Let’s face it, brass bands and band music in general are destined to remain a niche market as.
  2. timbloke

    timbloke Member

    Sheffield, UK
    I was going to start a thread, but think I'll add it onto here as it is related to this.

    Earlier in the week I had a start up meeting for a new project i will be working on in the new year. It will involve a lot of travelling, staying away from home etc. The Project manager asked if we had any concerns, and I said, quite rightly, that it would be a problem if i'm expected to travel to the week's location on Sunday nights, as I have band rehearsals and a major contest coming up (the areas will be right in the middle of the project). I didn't also mention that we are going to be auditioning a new MD and therefore i would be needed at all rehearsals.

    I was then asked what i played to which i replied, solo tromb. this was met (like the choir master above) by a few "ohs" and "thats nice" as if to say "i don't really care, was just being nice, but can i get on with the job in hand". I also felt they thought i was overreacting by getting worried about missing a few rehearsals.

    This got me thinking.. we often use analagies to compare banding to things people are more familiar with. The sections are like the football league.. etc.. So on that theme, where am i in the scheme of things? If i were to say to my team "look I am the David Beckham of brass bands" they might take me a bit more seriously. Obviously i don't think i'm the DB, but where would you put m in the analagy?

    As for the thread above, i think that a lot of the image problems can be linked to the look of bands (jackets that haven't changed in years, literally in most bands, so they no-longer fit), music that is either too often played and predictable, too cheesy and embarrassing, too modern and un-musical or listenable to etc...

    I think it'll take a few bands guts, and investment, to try to move banding into the 21st century. A more professional image maybe, a more orchestral sound perhaps, but above all perhaps a little less inbred :wink: :wink:
  3. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    Rockhampton, Qld, AUSTRALIA
    I know back when I was @ uni, Eagle Boys Pizza wanted to roster me on Friday nights, the night of my band rehearsal.

    I had stipulated since my transferal from my home town, that as a musician, I would be unavailable, but understandably, Friday nights are one of the busier in the week. As such, they needed a driver they could trust to get the job done.

    They let me have it for a while, but they started losing drivers (the Franchisee and his wife were on edge because he was having an affair, and the 2 of them would take their anxieties out on the kids) and so they desperately needed me. We reached a compromise of me working until 7:20, when after I completed whatever delivery I was on, I could sneek off to Band, and return after band to cash in. It meant I was sweaty, greasy and in a bad mood come band time, but it happened.

    Sometimes employers just don't give a stuff about what you do. Just like some bandmasters couldn't give a flying flick about whatever excuse you have for skipping rehearsal/gig/contest/sectional.
  4. Dave Euph

    Dave Euph Member

    After speaking with one of the players of Emley Brass Band, who used to play top-section, I gathered that to him his job did come first and sometimes band had to take second-place as it was more a hobby.

    And that's what I want to get to, banding is a hobby, and for 2nd, 3rd and 4th section bands (plus non-competing), most people in those bands will view it as just that and accept that sometimes they don't always have time for it. Not always the case if I sound a little stereotypical.

    However, I agree that the idea of brass bands sounds a little daunting or off-putting to some people. The reason is the gap is widening. Black Dyke, Brighouse and Grimethorpe will always gain at least adequate and often impressive praise and attendance. The same with some other bands, but because Brass Bands are a niche market then there is only so much to go around and the lower bands miss out on the credit.

    The problem is not encouraging enough kids to take up brass instruments through feasible means. Ie. The tuba is a very expensive, inconvenient and ultimately unrewarding (as viewed) instrument to play. The last bit is obviously not true but try convincing a kid to play the tuba when the cornet gets most of the solos, is cheaper to learn and not as heavy to carry around?

    Aprreciation is the problem (and now I realise I've been mainly rambling over the last 10 minutes!), people don't necessarily understand brass bands, and therefore will be much more reluctant to taste the fruits. Brass Bands are viewed as quite old-fashioned and yet ... in comparison to other musical ensembles it is one of the newest around and should be growing uncontrollably right now.
  5. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    West Yorkshire
    well said dave,
    i was asked by an audience member about getting players, at Emley we do ok if we get them to come along for a trial, we're friendly, organised, maybe not great musically but we do ok, have a good variation on the stuff we play!!! The problem is folk (young drummers especially) think the band will be dull and boring, so we never get them along to find out the good points!!! once we get them we keep them (fingers crossed)
    Our image as a movement needs a little spruce up certainley!!!!
  6. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Isle of Arran and lovin' it!
  7. Railybobs

    Railybobs Member

    Tyldesley, Gtr. Manchester
    The film Brassed Off wasn't about Banding. it was about a political stance on the closing of the pits. I personally don't like the film because of it's simplistic look at Banding.

    It may have raised the profie of Brass Banding as a whole but how many people think that we go to the royal albert hall to play william tell.

    Have i missed the point somewhere or was brassed off wrong from start to finish?
  8. Steve

    Steve Active Member

    I understand your point but in bandings defence (not necessarily the film's) how many people actually realised the passion/dedication that is involved in banding before they had seen the film. A majority of non banding people who spoke to me about the film were intrigued as to how close to what I actually do with my weekends the film was. To have people with a non brass band background asking me such things proves that it did bring banding to a new audience and if it takes Ewan McGregon and Gloria ***** (edit: Mod) to do that then all well and good. The people who watched it with absolutely no idea what a brass band does will still have been amazed by William Tell as it certainly sounds hard to someone who doesnt play. The non brass band musicians who watched the film, thought we played william tell at the RAH and that it was an easy piece are the sort you are never going to convert to brass band fans anyway.
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