Ensembles vs Brass bands

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by mr_anon, Nov 21, 2004.

  1. mr_anon

    mr_anon Member

    I am surprised that there are not more brass ensembles about. There are many good corner players in brass bands who I think should create their own ensemble and get to keep the money from concerts for themselves instead of doing a thankless job for free for a brass band.

    It seems the brass band world revolves around the 27 man brass band. There seems to be little on offer in terms of competitions for smaller brass ensembles. It's a shame that so many good brass players keep themselves in the 27 man brass band setup when there's many other options available.
  2. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    I wouldn't be surprised if there were gigs out there for smaller groups as it is often difficult to accomodate a full 27 piece group. My question is what type of literature is out there for say quintet and 10 piece. Are they all arrangements? Is there much original work? or to get a good programme for a concert would the group really have to arrange much of their own material? (If the latter is true, I can see an obstacle in these smaller groups functioning)
  3. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Maybe people stick to the 27 person brass band set up because they enjoy it?!

    You're right about the lack of competitions.... but if there were more, I've got a hunch most succesful ensembles would come from within existing bands rather than be truly independent anyway.

    I've played in a number of different sized groups and imho they just aren't as interesting as a full band in the long term. I think bands offer a much bigger variety in terms of repertoire and gigs/contests than a smaller group, and they tend to be more fun socially simply because there's more people involved. Just my opinion though! ;)
  4. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    There are a fair number of brass ensembles in existence already. Not as many as brass bands, but we haven't got the tradition that the banding movement has.

    I play in Surrey Brass (find out more at www.surreybrass.co.uk) and a number of other ensembles. There are original pieces written for this style of group as well as arrangements - may due to the pioneering work of the late Philip Jones.

    In Surrey Brass we play new music and arrangements, doing some of the arranging ourselves. When you are playing for a group you know the players involved and you know what each of them can do - meaning you can arrange with certain players specifically in mind. We play music covering the past 500 years (roughly) from Renaissance up to film scores and contemporary pieces, having given a few world premieres.
    We do not play in the group in order to make money, we play in it for the love of the music (money is not a reason to do anything in music - if you want money, do another job!).

    One of the reasons I prefer playing in Surrey Brass in comparison to the brass band genre is that we use a greater variety of instruments. I am a trumpeter first and foremost (hence the name!) and, as such, often get asked to play the different sorts of trumpet. We have 6 trumpeters in the group, all owning (and being able to play) a variety of trumpets, who (between them) can offer;
    6 Bb trumpets
    6 C trumpets
    6 Eb/D trumpets
    4 Bb/A Piccolo Trumpets
    2 G Piccolo Trumpets
    5 Cornets (all of whom have played at a Championship Section level)
    3 Soprano Cornets
    4 Flugels
    2 Rotary Valve Trumpets

    This gives a huge tonal pallette to work from, not to mention the variety of mutes that we all carry (all of us have at least 3 straight mutes, 2 cup mutes, 2 harmon mutes, plunger, bucket, solotone etc).
    When we arrange music for ourselves we are able to find a vast number of colours to perform with, I find that this gives more variety than you tend to find in the brass band.
    Our full line up is something along the lines of
    6 Trumpets
    4 Horns
    4 Trombones
    Bass Trombone
    2 Tubas

    Although not every piece utilises everybody. We sometimes double up on parts, but frequently use one piece to rest the chops.
    We also split into quintet, 10-piece and other size ensembles for different styles of gig.

    There are brass ensembles all over the world, the finest being (almost certainly) Summit Brass - a "who's who" of US soloists and professional orchestral musicians. I heard them live earlier this year and it blew me away. A group where Allen Vizzutti was sitting on 4th (out of 4 trumpets)!!!!! They are simply incredible. I have grown up knowing about the brass band movement (and playing in it) and have seen groups like Black Dyke and YBS perform live on a number of occasions. They are amazing groups, but Summit Brass are in a different league.
    Their line up is gerenerally
    4 Trumpets
    4 Horns (of the french variety)
    3 Trombones
    Bass Trombone
    2 Tubas (usually CC)

    No doubling of parts.

    http://www.summitrecords.com/product.tmpl?SKU=325 You can hear excerpts of their live CD here.

    Brass Ensembles and Brass Bands are different entities, my personal preference is for playing in brass ensembles, but that is due to the nature of me enjoying playing a variety of instruments (I have had a concert where I played 7 in the first half alone!) and an enjoyment of the repertoire.
  5. lewis

    lewis Member

    Time for a change?

    I completely agree with Accidental. Playing with a brass band for 99% of the players out there is just for fun and most of us enjoy it a lot! So hopefully all those good players will stay with their bands, but mr-anon maybe a change would be good for you as you are evidently not enjoy the brass band for what it is!
  6. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    As a tuba player I love to play in small groups when I get the chance, although I also enjoy playing in a full band - otherwise I simply wouldn't do it.

    I think one of the drawbacks in setting up an ensemble as a regular outfit is the availability of the right players at the right time and place, with both the technical capability and the commitment needed if it is to be taken seriously. At various times I've been involved in brass quintets (with tenor horn and with french horn), tuba quartets and sextets using various combinations, and the occasional larger ensemble. However, most of these were formed for a specific occasion, and those that were not broke up after a while as personnel either gave up through health reasons or moved away.

    As the brass band is a larger combination, it is more able to continue to function with a few gaps, with the doubling of parts, multiple basses etc, whereas a quintet suddenly losing a player will have great difficulties.
  7. lewis

    lewis Member

    The repetoire for both is very good, especially the quintet. There have been so much many good brass ensembles over the years for both 5 and 10 players and a whole stack of original music has been written for both sizes of brass. I suggest checking out cds of London Brass for 10 piece and then one of many quintets: Canadian Brass, Fine Arts, Empire Brass and the Metropolitan Brass Quintet to name but a few. As for music, just look up brass publishers on google and literally hundreds will be found and I promise the vast majority will publish and sell music for all sizes of brass ensembles.
  8. MartinT

    MartinT Member

    I find playing in an occasional tuba quartet (aka Wantage Band's bass section) invaluable for giving me a more varied role in the music. Not that I don't enjoy playing bass lines, but I find it dangerously limiting in some ways.
    Good tuba quartets tend to send you flying all over the place, following one musical line after another, and are great fun - though hard on the brain!

    Martin Taylor
    Wantage Band
  9. six pints

    six pints Active Member

    ^what she said!
  10. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Hmm! I'm not convinced; listening to the samples on the website, they are some way from perfection; indeed, bits of the Bach sound a little rough (and not just because of dodgy sound reproduction).</nitpick>
  11. mr_anon

    mr_anon Member

    I'm pleased with the replies thus far, keep 'em coming.

    Seems to me there's more freedom with an ensemble. You get more say about what you play and get paid to play.
  12. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    I also think it is easier to just show up and play, then socialise in a band.

    If there is a smaller group, that means the band chores, bookings, treasury, etc... are split up between fewer people and everybody has to do less 'fun' work.
  13. pjb120

    pjb120 Member

    We do get paid to play! - I would rather channel the money we earn back into the band, so that the band is sustainable for generations to come, and so that we can enjoy the best instruments, new music, and great facilities etc.

    Also, on a more practical note, with an ensemble you don't get the same depth/variation of sound, so I feel that any contesting with an ensemble would be less enjoyable as a result.

    Put simply, in my view, ensemble playing is second best to full banding (I'm sure others out there will agree, otherwise we wouldn't have such a strong scene!).

    However, ensemble play can be enjoyable, but i dont think it will ever replace a full band.
  14. mr_anon

    mr_anon Member

    You get paid to play for which brass band? I'm doing some research into this issue perhaps you wouldn't mind spilling the beans on private message, or here? Don't worry, I'm not a taxman.
  15. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    By using the word 'we' I think he means the band gets paid.
  16. mr_anon

    mr_anon Member

    Read the next bit and it sounds like it's the players that get paid.
  17. pjb120

    pjb120 Member

    apologies for the ambiguity - I mean the band gets paid (not individuals), and we all benefit, beginners and experienced players alike. I therefore feel that any ensemble work should be secondary to full banding, because in my experience it is less community based, and would not be good for beginners (hence it would stifle rather than encourage growth in the band movement)

    P.s. My signature tells me who I am and where I'm from;)
  18. mr_anon

    mr_anon Member

    I don't see why a band should receive the cheque for work done by an ensemble. Set up your own independent ensemble and cash in.
  19. pjb120

    pjb120 Member

    I'm not saying that, ensemble work is always good for a bit of extra cash. I'm just saying that full band playing should be a priority. Your original post inferred that we should divert our commitments away from the original setup...

    (I quote: "It seems the brass band world revolves around the 27 man brass band... It's a shame that so many good brass players keep themselves in the 27 man brass band setup when there's many other options available.")
    ... and I'm saying that this is potentially damaging to the movement if this were to occur.
  20. mr_anon

    mr_anon Member

    The 27 man brass band is becoming increasingly difficult to run. People aren't as committed as they once were to their band. Many have lost interest in competitions as they don't mean much. People are getting bored having to play music they don't enjoy just for the sake of a contest. It's a lot of time to give up. Many would be better off playing in their own ensemble.