'Entertainment' in Brass Bands

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by MajorMorgan, Feb 8, 2005.

  1. MajorMorgan

    MajorMorgan Member

    Lots of comments flying around recently, especially from 4BR, about brass band entertainment contests (Butlins and Yeovil) and what actually constitutes 'entertainment' in this context.

    Somebody once said to me that 99% of brass band entertainment revolves around the following three things:

    1 - Clapping or, in swing music, clicking the fingers;
    2 - The putting on and taking off of silly hats and/or wigs;
    3 - Standing up and sitting down.

    Having seen a few bands in Skegness this year, I can also add:

    4 - Brass players playing percussion instruments;
    5 - Playing the trumpet;
    6 - Singing.

    I particularly liked the 4BR comment about the band at Yeovil who recreated the rumba rhythms of the camels in th North African desert in Ellington's 'Caravan' by wearing sombreros....

    Anything else that people would like to add to the 'done to death' list? Also, any ideas about what bands can do to make entertainment contests more entertaining and less cringeworthy?
  2. Laserbeam bass

    Laserbeam bass Active Member

    Choreographing a piece of music a la Blast. This was achieved with an amazing effect in the US open. A (IMHO) boring piece of music brought to life by some simple yet effective stage movement, and not just up and down. Making sure that the swing music is up to date, and your Sop player can blast out as many Top D's and above as is humanly possible in a 25 minute set. Instead of playing a Rimmer march try one from a film or show? Use different formations for different styles of playing. Just a few but they really gave the winning band at the US open the edge over all the other competitors.
  3. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    Gimicks can be entertaining, but I'm still a sucker for tough music played well. At Spennymoor, Grimethorpe really sold me on their preformance with the 1712 overture. That was not an easy piece to put together, but they made it sound effortless...the same could be said for Kirsty Abbotts (?) from Carlton and Katrina Marzella's high lyric solos.
  4. OneTonBass

    OneTonBass Member


    Yes, I can be blamed for the hats.
    But they weren't Sombreros.
    They were a by product of a Carribean evening I had in work a few years ago, and were in the attic.

    Oh Well !:oops:

    Thought they would be a good idea.

    We traditionally haven't done much on the ents front as far as visual effects in the past, and thought we'd give it a bash at Yeovil, as the reputation was that it was that sort of contest.

    Hmm maybe we should revisit that part and just rely on the playing to do the work, as we were slated for our other attempts at humour as well.
  5. Brassb3ll3nd

    Brassb3ll3nd Member

    Gimmicks and visual effects are all well and good, but need to be performed with confidence and precision, otherwise they have a megga cringe factor for both performer and audience alike.

    However really good music played really really well is always entertaining. That's what I think anyhow. Our last forray into entertainment competition saw us win with 4 clear points at Ashington in November, playing (I thought too simple) music played without any gimmicks but well within the band's capabilities.
  6. Ginge

    Ginge Member

    We tried!
  7. stephen2001

    stephen2001 Member

    I was always of the belief that Trumpets are "illegal" in all forms of Brass Band contesting.
    But obviously they are not, and in my opinion I think they should not be allowed as their sound doesn't fit in with that of a brass band.
  8. 'Somebody once said to me that 99% of brass band entertainment revolves around the following three things:

    1 - Clapping or, in swing music, clicking the fingers;
    2 - The putting on and taking off of silly hats and/or wigs;
    3 - Standing up and sitting down.

    Having seen a few bands in Skegness this year, I can also add:

    4 - Brass players playing percussion instruments;
    5 - Playing the trumpet;
    6 - Singing.'

    Oh its so true!!! I agree that a bit of simple choreography is quite effective, although even though it may look simple i can guarantee it wont be so simple to organise! I remember doing some choreography with a youth band i used to play for and it took a lot of stress and rehearsing! We were commended for it though.
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    That's a sweeping statement if ever I heard one. I doubt that the use of Trumpets by bands in these contests is made without proper tonal consideration. Our Rep player used an Eb Trumpet for some of the solo work in our Latin suite at Yeovil on Saturday, to add a touch of brilliance to the line. In addition, this had the advantage of providing a tonal counterpoint to the Sop, who also had some solos in the same high range in the same piece.

    Whilst it is fair to say that the major musical strength of the brass band lies in its sound, it is a bit restrictive to deny bands the right to experiment with their instrumentation.
  10. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Anyone who heard David Smith's excellent rendition of "memories of you" at Butlins will testify that trumpets can be made to work within a brass band, given the right player, piece and band.
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    For a banding audience, the use of non-regular instruments such as trumpets, mellophones or even valve trombones can easily be seen for effect or show, but when then does a brass band cease to be a brass band in terms of instrument choice? With the easing of restrictions in concert use, will we soon see piccolo trumpets used in arrangements where the sop. has an extended high range?
  12. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the wider world of brass?

    Just for the record, a piccolo trumpet doesn't actually make the upper register any easier, you still need the range.

    Any change of instrumentation from the standard line-up of a brass band will, no doubt, be seen as verging on the blasphemous, but it is worth remembering that the brass band has not always had the instrumentation that we now consider standard. Maybe these bands that aren't afraid to use trumpets are just making the next step in evolution?
    At this rate, given a couple of hundred years, you may even see french horns being played.

    Different instruments produce different tones, that is the joy of them. If you are after a completely uniform blend, people will probably stay with all cornets, but if the parts suggest trumpets, why not play them on trumpets, especially for an entertainment contest.
    Did anyone ever question Jim Watson when he would produce a trumpet to play with Black Dyke, when they did their big band set?
  13. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I'm not exactly naive to the wider world of brass ;) (... I had to study french horn at music college as no syllabus for tenor horn existed until Sandy Smith arrived on the scene a year or two later).

    The brass band has evolved over time to what we see today and maybe, just maybe, the extension of instrumentation is revealing limits in the setup required to express the wide variety of styles available for performance. The break will come when trumpets are scored for a major test ... and I'm sure it will. The issue with the piccolo was merely setting an example for dealing with the screamer parts associated with many big band scores which exist.
  14. michellegarbutt

    michellegarbutt Supporting Member

    The most important thing in an entertainment contest is that the playing has got to be right before you try any visuals. At the Wansbeck contest we won both our section and the solo prize. The only visuals we had was two dancers during Best of Bond. We gave them a tape of the music they went away and worked on their dancing while we worked on the music and we only put the two together the day before the contest. It worked because both parts were well rehersed.
  15. Hornblower RN

    Hornblower RN Member

    ....and Espen Westbye who played the trumpet in Stavanger Brass Band's concert at the Open!! Hey...Derek Watkins sounded OK with BAYV at the RAH concert a couple of years ago too!
  16. nickjones

    nickjones Active Member

    Just take the results of entertainment competitions with a pinch of salt....
    after all the band press will just say at the end " Not as good as Grimethorpe " or " Old hat " bands are in a no win situation.
    Last year at Porthcawl we asked if we could use trumpets and were told sorry brass band instrumentation only , I suppose it changes with each competition.
    still I have played at a few entertainment competitions we played new , challenging , innovative programs. have these impressed the men in the box , not really but the crowd loved it....would rather keep the audience entertained for 25 mins :)
  17. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    Things like comedy, choreography, light effects are an artform in themselves and really if they are included in a show then in my opinion they've got to be done well. If not, they're best left out.
  18. Vickitorious

    Vickitorious Active Member

    Awww wow! Enderby did the most entertaining things ever!! We won best entertainment loads :wink:

    We did a piece called R.I.P JazzEY-B and it was based on a new orleans funeral! So we had principle cornet standing doing all the bluesey slow playing whilest 4 lads walked on stage carrying a bass case above their heads and pretending to cry.. then the horns went out and did their bit around it.. it got into the faster bit and we all sang.. got out and danced.. it was hilarious to watch back :D

    We did rockEY-B Which had thinks like twist again and blue moon in it.. !! Stand up and did the hand jive, and sang again.. danced in twist again.. and at wessex on the summer course,,(was anyone there when we played that?) 6 of us from enderby had to stand at the front of the band and swing dance all the way through! Was hilarious! I nearly got dropped on the night though!!! :eek:

    All those pieces were written for us by the way, they're not published.

    But they were great!

    Last year i saw them do a circus one, and they had their trombaone player staggering around the stage drunk, doing the tight rope and all the elephant dung cleaning and everything!!

    Go to enderby for entertainment :wink:
  19. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    . . . and let's not forget Ben Godfrey with YBS at the premiere of "Windows of the World" ;)

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