contest or concert

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Ali, Aug 11, 2008.

  1. Ali

    Ali Member

    Me and a couple of my mates were having a conversation the other day about banding in general when the topic of contesting reared its ugly head again bearing in mind that we all play at the top level and so contests have been coming in thick and fast. We know its a necessary evil but the debate was regarding contests and concerts. Contests help us improve tightness of ensemble playing, intonation, general balance and tuning, teamwork and bonding etc and yet all the hard work (in most cases for us including many users of this website) can be in vain as most of us will have experienced at one stage or another.

    You have to perform a piece of music that you may or not enjoy playing/rehearsing or both, and then you have to play to one or two "experienced" people who judge you. And if its not to their liking for whatever reason, be it quality, interpretation, or any number of other factors, then the hard work thats been put in for the majority of bander's is seen as hard done by and in a nutshell wasted. This is all know to be fact. Thats how most of us have felt at one time or another surely? Then you have to pick up morale and get ready for the next one. I understand why alot of people would disagree with my thoughts on this because there are many of you who thrive on the buzz of contesting. And to a large degree so do I. I wouldn't still be doing it if I didn't enjoy it.

    On the other hand there are concerts. Our bread and butter, our life blood. Without them where would we be? The repetitiveness that can sink in when practicing test pieces is broken up by hard work in the bandrooms up and down the country to firstly (and in my opinion) entertain yourselves and secondly, to take our hobby/lifestyle to the outside world, where we all strive to perform and entertain the paying public.

    Here is where our hard work is to be shown off. Here is where people who may have never heard the band, walk out of the concert afterwards and say" well, weren't they good?" Here is where there are critics aplenty, but there are more people who aren't and just enjoy the sound of a good brass band. Surely it is these people who are really the judges? And do you know why? Its because there should be a total unbiasedness towards the bands that makes these people a better judge. They hear a band, they enjoy it and go home happy. That makes me happy.
    The pleasure, excitement and sense of achievement playing to the best of your ability, playing good music to a good standard and to an appreciative crowd is surely what its all about?

    The question is this.
    Would you rather be doing contests, pitting you wits against other bands knowing that the hard work can either pay of for you and you get the adulation and glory and party hard on into the night or, get you nowhere, where afterwards we go into the bar, don't hear anyone else and then complain about the results afterwards? Its the gamble.
    Would you rather play to the highest standard that you and your band is capable of, to a crowd/ audience who pay money to be entertained whilst at the same time entertaining yourself. Thats what banding is all about. Putting on a good show to an unbiased audience who just want to be there. There is as much glory in this as there is in a contest win, and when its the right program, that matches the right people in the right venue then sometimes it can outweigh a win. That sense of pride when you stand up at the end of the last bar of a great concert is such a wonderful feeling, that we try to emulate that every time, though not always with success.
    Its all about pride and yes, a contest win is a massive sense of achievement, joy and all the recognition that comes with it (within banding and its connected press) and I would be lying if I said that I don't enjoy this part of banding, though it doesn't come very often, but I feel no greater sense of pride when I have come away from a concert thinking to myself, wow! or that was awesome. I have been very fortunate to have performed in some great concerts with some great bands. And do you know what? I can recall the amount of times I have come away feeling like that away from a concert, more than I can about contesting.
    If I knew how to put a vote on hear I would but I don't. It would be interesting to see what other people though. I think so anyway.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2008
  2. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    IMHO a band needs to decide what they want to do for themselves, but to my mind, especially if you don't have sponsorship, a band needs to get the balance right between contests and concerts. You need to take enough jobs to make enough money to keep you in instruments/uniforms/bandroom etc. while doing enough contests, successfully, to earn the kudos to bring in the jobs.

    There is personal satisfaction and enjoyment to be got from both contest and concert performances but the band and the MD have to decide what sort of balance they want to strike. That covers the whole spectrum from non-contesting to blood-and-guts championship battlers.

    I would personally like to do 3, 4 or 5 contests a year and spend the rest of the time putting on cracking concerts with varied programmes that attaract large audiences and earn the band loadsa money.:clap:
  3. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    I would be quite happy if I NEVER played at another contest!

    I love playing in concerts and always have a buzz afterwards (well almost always :wink:). Yes there is a big buzz after a good contest performance, but all that work for 10/15 mins. and quite often minimul reaction? No give me a good concert anytime.
  4. les

    les Member

    I come across people all the time who live for contests rather than concerts. I enjoy both as a conductor and player, but for me if I had to choose, I love the contest atmosphere. It seems to bring the band together, and as previously mentioned, helps in tightening the ensemble. The band I feel concentrate more when playing through a contests piece in the hope they can bring away a prize. I really think also it depends on the level of band and venue. I have played in some high profile concerts, at some terrific venues, with some fantastic bands. This is exciting, and rewarding, but you can't tell me that my band get the same out of playing in a field in the middle of no where, with 5 people listening as they would playing at a contest against a collection of bands and having a pint or few with like minded folk, putting the world to rights.

    ultimately we are all in this game to make music, and as long as that concept isn't lost, in both concert and contest, then both can be as rewarding. Unfortunately too many times we are governed by what the test piece is which really dictates whether a contest is or is not enjoyable. It seems to be harder in the lower sections I found as a conductor to keep everyone happy in this area. Whilst there are good lower section pieces out there, for set test pieces,if the pieces choosen mean that there are many players with their instruments in their laps, then motivation can be a killer, but I guess this is another discussion. :sup

    Les Webb

    MD Eccles Borough Band
  5. flugelman

    flugelman Member

    I completely agree Butler. I do like a good contest but surely concerts are our bread and butter. Nothing better for me.

  6. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    I'd rather play a contest than smashing out cheese in a raining park to one man and his dog. Then again I'd rather play a concert with serious music to a packed hall than a contest...

    However Contests improve my playing and the bands playing.

    Park jobs and "light music" ( which sadly is what people expect us to play in a park ) are what pay for the band to keep going. Concerts of serious music to a packed hall are few and far between unless you play for a "name" band or are lucky enough to have a band which has a good following.
  7. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    Personally I don't include park jobs in my interpretation of "concerts"
    But on a nice day I think even that is preferable to hanging about for hours in a miserable contest venue waiting to play and then more hours waiting for results.

    PS I don't want to play concerts of "serious" music that much either. Just a good varied entertaining programme.
  8. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Me neither. However, these typoes of jobs are often the main source of bread and butter fo a band. I really dislike marches because the organisers seem to think they can keep on adding streets without the basses keeling over from exhaustion and dehydration - not to mention being cut diagonally in half by a strap!

    As anyone who has done Fleetwood is only too keenly aware of!

    I do want to play well balanced concert programmes with a bit of everything for everybody including both audience and band. I like music that has a good balance of 'nice or interesting to listen to' and 'a bit challenging to play'.

    Nobody wants to be bored to death. :D (DSOTM)
  9. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    Personally I love playing at contests, the buzz, the adrenaline, meeting people I havent spoken to for ages. And of course the beer.

    HOWEVER, if it's a question of what should be more important for bands, then... there is no question... it's concerts. Band's often forget that they're a musical group not a football team, it's ALL about the concerts and the audiences, 100%. It has to be.

    Contests are a fun distraction and good for improving playing, but that's it. Way too much emphasis is put on them in my opinion.

    If we put the effort into concerts that we put into contests, then we might actually persuade the general public that we're not some antiquated pastime.
  10. rikster

    rikster New Member

    I personally enjoy the concert jobs better than the contests, I think a few people have mentioned about getting the balace right, after all contest winnings dont normallly cover the bands expenses for geting to that contest. If I had a choice? I woud perhaps do 3- 4 contests a year, Regionals and those within SCABA. but I get more of a buzz having been in a cracking concert than playing in a contest hall to a minimal audience.
  11. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Concert everytime. I like playing to entertain an audience, not some (usually) naff test piece to someone in a box.
  12. RobBari

    RobBari Member

    we just did a very short concert, 1hr saturday afternoon at a local residential home. the very elderly residents seemed to enjoy it greatly although the music certainly was only park concert stuff.
    Not sure what other players got out of it, but i personally felt it was very rewarding as the mainly ladies present really appreciated us being there, and there is no better thing than that.
  13. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    Concerts motivate you to play. Contests motivate you to improve.

    The balance depends on the band/members and what they want to do/enjoy doing, it's different for every band.

    What I think is wrong is people who do contest looking down on those who don't. It's not for everyone. It requires a level of commitment that not everyone can give.
  14. jim

    jim Member

    For me it used to be contests but now I would much prefer cd recordings and good enetertaining concerts, less to loose and a lot more to gain. For me the plesure of doing some of the concerts we have done with PolySteel have been amazing playing music which is fun to play as it is to listen to.

    Cd recordings I enjoy because it gives you chance to try for ultimate perfection and for me its such a reward to see your name listed or a really enjoyable cd that you want to listen to time and time again.
  15. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    I love contests very much.
    Concerts with all the bands ive played with are a bit hit and miss its great when you get a good audience to play to and it makes it worth while but if you get less than a half full venue ;
    O DEAR:(
  16. brassbandmaestro

    brassbandmaestro Active Member

    I dont mind contests at all. If a concert which you have been working hard for a number of weeks comes off as planned or better, then I always think that has a better buzz than a contest. Its always that with contests, your on stage for a very critical 15 mins on average, and if the result is a win or high placement, ok fair enough, but give me concerts anyday.
  17. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    Hum well, I used to dislike the whole contest thing and would much rather do a decent concert. My reasoning went along the line of, a contest lasts for whatever the length of time it takes to play the piece, then walk out and wait for the expected sixth or seventh place out of say ten or twelve bands.
    Whereas a concert lasts for as much as two or three hours with many pieces of music, something for everyone if the pick of pieces was a good one, with much enjoyment from playing them, easy or difficult.
    Then a certain very nice gentleman wrote the fourth section piece "Four Cities Symphony", which culminates in what some one described as the poor man's Cossack dance, or callinca.(Spelling?) Brilliant piece all the way through and a joy to play. That and everyone else's enthusiasm, ensured a win for our band and a change in attitude from me. Our next endeavours in the contest scene will hopefully be as enjoyable. However there are some good concerts coming up soon as well, with also some good hard work to do to get a multitude of pieces right on the night. This leaves me basically agreeing with the idea of a decent mix of contest and concert.
  18. Ali

    Ali Member

    I agree and hear what you say but the way I see things, I'm actually there to entertain myself first and foremost. Even if a venue is half full, as long as Ive been entertained and hopefully the audience (how ever many people are in it) have been as well, then sometimes, that will do me. Its when you come away from a concert thinking that it was a waste of time. Then can understand, but again, how many times do you feel like that? I bet its a lot more likely to be at a contest than at a good concert?The most important thing for me is self satisfaction. Once I stop feeling like this, then it will be time for me to stop playing (I can see some of you cheering now!!!), and my life will be worse off.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2008
  19. ghost

    ghost Member

    Hi everyone, I can think of a few examples (no names mentioned) where bands have stopped contesting or taken a break from contesting. In these cases these bands have experienced a drop in standard. I am told that this is because they rarely got everyone together in the bandroom at the same time. Secondly, some players who love contesting decided to leave. Lastly, the remaining players did notice that they missed the regular meeting of all their colleagues from other bands as somehow, they just didn't end up going to the contests - not even as a spectator - domestic jobs etc got in the way etc.

    One can only speak from a personal point of view, but I think that the preparation for a testpiece (just like the prep for a solo contest) just focusses the minds of all players and the quality of the playing does rise.

    However, the key words mentioned in the early replies are so important. It is a question of balance. A balance of keeping standards and results good at contests and fulfilling engagements in the local community and playing the odd very serious concert. Local community concerts and fetes are just as important as everything else as it allows exposure to the community and from this the band obtain money, sponsorship, local support and who knows, the next Roger Webster may well be in the audience, aged 8 and he or she may just decide that a tenor horn is to be their next Christmas present.

    The biggest problem faced by bands now, I think, is that younger members want to do lots of hobbies and bands are competing with numerous sports and other activities for the time of these young people. And they do have to sleep and study. So fitting in lots of contests is not viable. But a carefully selected trio of say the areas and two others for most bands would be ample. So every few months there are full rehearsals and good concentration to keep the standard high.

    Anyway, does anyone know when it is going to stop raining. I've just looked out of my office window and I will need wellies to get to my car!!!
  20. Bandsman1

    Bandsman1 Member

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments and would only offer this question....If we did not have contests, how would we divide ourselves into sections?