Brass Band of Battle Creek

Discussion in ' User Reviews' started by Brian Bowen, Mar 11, 2008.

  1. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    Brass Band of Battle Creek was in Sarasota last evening as part of its mini-tour in Florida. They were under the direction of Richard Evans, amusingly attired in Scottish kilt, etc. You can expect with this group of mainly professional musicians to see a number of big names, but a surprise was to see and hear Maurice Murphy on cornet/trumpet. He was granted special celebrity-status and featured as soloist in a “John Williams Trilogy” (arr. Duncan) where he performed some of the film themes which have added to his fame. He can still deliver the goods!

    The British contingent also included Steven Mead (euph.), Les Neish, Dean Morley (tubas), Mark Frost (bass tbn.), Martin Armstrong and John Rudkin (tenor hns.).

    Chris Jaudes sat end chair and featured frequently, not least in a high octane performance of Sing, Sing, Sing along with ex-Winton Marsalis trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and solo percussionist Dave Ratajczak. Together with the band they really cooked up a storm! I doubt any other brass band could make jazz sound so natural.

    Other notable names to me were Rex Richardson (soprano), Rich Kelly (cornet/trumpet, Boston Pops) and Jens Lindemann (flugel). Each of these had solo work as did Martin Armstrong.

    It was good value for money and my first chance to hear this outstanding group. I didn’t expect to hear Philip Sparke’s Music For Battle Creek, nor did they play it as film music formed the core of the programme. But there was some real substance in pieces like “Baba Yaga” & “The Great Gate of Kiev” (Pictures at an Exhibition, arr. Howarth) and the Scherzo from Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony (arr. Duncan). The audience was well satisfied after the final encore, Amazing Grace (Himes).


    Another big-name trumpet player, who I thought was retired these days, performed the night before with the Canadian Brass Ronnie Romm. He lives in town so I thought he was filling in for an indisposed Manon Lafrance (the first women to play in the group), as she was listed in the programme. Not so: apparently CB now has a “dream team” of trumpet players who rotate alongside the more permanent trumpeter Joe Burgstaller. Ronnie still plays superbly. While CB played well enough, the programme was rather predictable with works by Bach, Gabrielli, Luther Henderson and Peter Schickele’s Gunsmoke “opera”, which still manages to raise a laugh.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2008
  2. John Brooks

    John Brooks Well-Known Member

    Thanks for that Brian. I can only hope that one day they will perform in Toronto. I've often thought of taking a couple of days and driving to Battle Creek for one of their concerts but have yet to do so. I'm currently looking forward to the Hannaford festival in May.
  3. Hornblower RN

    Hornblower RN Member

    An excellent band to say the least....I heard them in the Coal Exchange in Cardiff whilst they were on tour over here a few years back. Full marks for entertainment:clap: :clap: .....Steve Mead was playing euphonium on that day also.
  4. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member

    Yep, a great band. One of the best bands MONEY can buy.

    Their reputation in the US is that they are a great band. But how could they NOT BE? Just read some of those names. Reads like a modern day Virtuosi Brass Band only a LOT more money is involved.

    There are some in the US who do not like them at all. As the British Brass Band movement grows from the grass roots and great bands have emerged from Central Ohio, Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Spokane, and probably the best at the moment, the Brass Band of Central Florida to mention a few.

    The hired guns of the BBBC from around the world seem to be putting a damper on the home grown movement.

    Dr. Jim
  5. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    I would love to hear this band - just to see the differences between a trumpet-playing cornet section (just take a look at the names and spot anyone who is a real cornet player) and those that we know and love.
    A few years ago I was chatting to one of those guys and he brought up a piece that they had just played. I happened to have a recording of it on me and put it on. His response was "ah, we didn't play it like that." Technically they are an astonishing group of players but they would be the first to admit that they won't obtain the same sound as a full time band like Black Dyke, Grimethorpe etc.
    Yes, they may be paid but the standard of players involved make it an astonishing group that simply doesn't exist anywhere else.
    Much as they might not sound quite as "British Brass Band"y as others, I doubt there are any bands where half the cornet section could stand up and play fantastic solos in the classical or jazz realm.
  6. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member

    You have been pretty vocal about allowing trumpets in brass bands -- you do not seem to be a big fan of the traditional cornet sound

    Of course not -- you state why below

    That is a fact.

    Well, here I disagree. Many, many great cornet players make livings playing trumpet. How many people play with the New York Staff Band who also play on Broadway, or jazz, or in a symphony? Lots I would venture.

    The difference is, do you want to sound like brass band, or sound like a bunch of trumpet players who never learned the nuances between the two.

    Dr. Jim
  7. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    I don't see why there shouldn't be a place in North-America for bands with different backgrounds - "grass roots" bands training their own youth players, salvation army bands, nbands like the one in central ohio, that are mostly made up of music teachers and people linked to the OSU Marching band - I think most of their cornet players started on trumpet as well, but Pat Herak can probably correct me on this - and bands like Battle Creek and Hannaford Street Silver that consist of professional players that just like to enjoy themsleves a couple of times per year by playing in a brass band.

    I would even think that these "professional" bands are a great opportunity for the other bands, because it's much easier for them to get recognised in the wider musical world, and they raise the profile of brass banding, attracting new possible players, etc.
  8. Simon Preshom

    Simon Preshom Member

  9. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    Actually, Hannaford perform much more often than that and have really been supportive of the amateur movement by sponsoring 3 youth bands and a Festival that brings all the community bands together.

    What Ray Tizzard and Hannaford have done has been fantastic for the Southern Ontario brass bands.
  10. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member

    Fair enough question. I do not know first hand, but I am good at listening.

    BBBC, by some people's opinions (I will not state mine) has instead of developing a local Brass Band, has hired people from the UK and many parts of the US and the world.

    This, according to some, puts Battle Creek on the map, but discourages local Battle Creek players from ever having the experience of playing in a brass band. Hence the hinderance of "grass roots". If the best in the world play at Battle Creek, where do the good local Battle Creek player go to play?

    Now, at times, listening to their recordings, you cannot tell if they are playing cornets or trumpets. If they are playing cornets, they might as well be playing trumpets because that is what they sound like. This further inhibits people who have learned and learned well to make a cornet sound like a cornet and not too mellow to sound like a flugel and not too bright to sound like a trumpet.

    We have the equivalent of a fourth division brass band in our community. The board wants to start a junior band and help promote brass banding in the area. They really do not care if they move from fourth division to the championship division. The experience is important.

    Hence, they want to eventually start a junior band once funds can be secured for instruments and a MD found.

    For the price paid for Battle Creek, many bands could be formed in the area. Even if the BBBC started a local or junior band, to live up to the standards in their own town would be quite intimidating.

    A hint at my opinion. I play the BBBC on my radio station. Not all tracks, just some.

    Dr. Jim
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2008
  11. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    In "Battle Creek Community Band" or "Battle Creek Concert Brass" or "City of Battle Creek Band" or "Calhoun County Brass" or "Cereal City Brass Band" or "Kellogg's Brass" (if they want to sponsor :) ) - I'm just getting some inspiration from Wikipedia ;)
    Why should there be only one band in a city? It might be intimidating to have the BBBC as a neighbour, but the new band could choose a name that doesn't include the name "Battle Creek", or that includes a reference to the fact that they are mostly aimed at the local community, if that's what they want.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2008
  12. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    To the best of my knowledge I have always advocated cornets in a brass band because that is the sound I like to hear from a brass band.
    With brass ensembles I enjoy having the chance to mix trumpets and cornets (alongside soprano cornet, Eb/D trumpets, flugels and piccolos), but that is a very different group than a brass band, as I am sure you are aware.

    I adore the sound of a brass band. I have played in a number and would do so now if my teaching/playing schedule allowed. I treat cornet playing as a very different art than trumpet playing and consider myself lucky to have done both alongside some truly incredible masters of each.

    BBBC is a unique group that has brought the idea of a brass band to a wider audience than many community bands are able to do (the joy of bringing in the hired guns). It has also opened the eyes of many of the players as to the differences between playing cornet and trumpet (speaking as someone who knows some of the cornet section and has spoken to them about this).

    As for Battle Creek not having the chance for two or more bands - have you ever been to Huddersfield?
    There are more bands in that area than you can comfortably comprehend, including a few of the finest bands in the world.
  13. tpcornet12

    tpcornet12 Member

    Do you not think that local Battle Creek players would be inspired by having a band of that quality. If Maurice Murphy came to play a gig in my town I'd bite hands off to get a ticket and would probably learn from the experience.
  14. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member


    Please do not mix my opinion (which I have not given) with that of what I have heard. Please do not use the word "you" if you are referring to my opinion. I am just saying what I have heard.

    Jan H makes a good point about there being other organizations. But they are not always a top level brass band experience. A community band experience is WAY different than a brass band experience. But still it is an excellent point.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I am telling what I have heard. Where you might ask? I have a radio station. I get plenty of email and PMs.

    I play tracks from the BBBC. That should give you some hint at my opinion. I would appreciate not saying 'you' when we are having a discussion. And in my opinion, a good one. I would love for some of this to be discussed publicly and instead of via my in box.

    Dr. Jim

    BTW, Steven Mead came to my town to play a gig and packed the place. He stayed after and signed CDs, programs and just chatted with people. The nice gentleman. But that is a bit different if you ask me.
  15. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member

    Mike, on your board, you said something I thought sounded like that. It I misinterpreted it, I am sorry.


    Again, I am taking a position that is not mine, but we are having a discussion so why not. I will give my usual disclaimer. Not necessarily my opinion.

    In the US the British Brass Band movement is just getting started. We are about 150 years behind in experience. The movement is growing (quite nicely I believe).

    There is an old saying: Americans think 100 years is a long time and the British thin 100 miles is a long distance.

    Before my recent illness, I went looking for a brass band to play in. Our local one was full in the low brass and I am no cornet or tenor horn player. The next closest band was 300 miles away.

    In the UK, there are lots of bands in tighter areas and junior bands to bring along the next generation(s). No area in the US will soon be like Huddersfield. Ohio has several good bands -- but hundreds of miles still separate them

    Mike, you are correct, anyplace COULD have several bands. But we are years or decades before that will really happen I think.

    Dr. Jim
  16. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    Good luck in that - there really is nothing quite like a brass band
    (well, aside from a lot of fantastic brass bands):biggrin:
  17. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member

    It is growing. Some of the top US brass bands can hold their own in the world, and the movement is growing. All good stuff.

    Dr. Jim

    BTW, the NABBA Championships are coming up. Should be quite a contest.
  18. sooze booze

    sooze booze Member

    Richard Evans has been telling us all about the recent BBBC tour - he is rehearsing my band to conduct us at our Regional Contest this weekend. He was absolutely blown away, (no pun intended) by the standard of all the players involved and thoroughly enjoyed his time with them. I only wish I had the oportunity to hear them but count myself extremely lucky to be among that priveledged number of people to be conducted by Mr Evans. He really is an inspiration and also a great guy, not a combination too often found in a band room! :clap:
  19. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Active Member

    I know the band pretty well, and they certainly don't claim to be slavishly following the British model; they are definitely an 'American' band and extremely versatile, therefore entertaining.

    I don't see that they have any 'duty' to promote the British brass band style in the USA. But how anyone can think they are actually stunting the growth of bands in the US, I can't imagine. Maybe by giving off the wrong 'image'?

    They play all styles, including test pieces, but they do it in their own way. Absolutely nothing wrong with that! They are are immensely successful and invariably play to packed houses of anything from 2000 up to 10000. They have always imported, for example, British horn players, simply because there are not many of a good enough standard in the US. There are some great bands over there, of course, but BBBC demand the best players. Why not??!!
  20. Simon Preshom

    Simon Preshom Member

    :clap: Bravo!

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