Eric Ball Enigma - Do we dishonour our hero ?

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by iancwilx, Oct 16, 2003.

  1. iancwilx

    iancwilx Active Member

    Eric Ball is widely considered as one of the greatest Brass Band composers of the middle years of the 20th Century, and the decision to feature his works at the 2003 National Finals, his Centenary year, is to be congratulated.
    Does anyone consider that the choice of one of his "Arrangements" of a classical Orchestral piece for the Premiership Section of the National Finals to be a bold and obvious statement from those who run these events, that they do not consider that any of Eric Balls original compositions are a worthy test of the top section elite ?
    By this one stroke, they would appear to have abused this tribute to one of the movements iconic figures, and showed their contempt for his ability to produce a testing composition for the Premier test.
    Whoever had the casting vote on this choice, should carry the responsibility of reducing this comemoration of a great man to a "Lip Service" showpiece for the lower Sections.
  2. KennyC

    KennyC Member

    Well said Ian.

    They should have used Festival Music. That would sort them out. Great audience piece too. High Peak's another one that is still, and always will be, hard enough.

    I'm still going but not looking forward to it as much as I normally would. Hope I'm wrong.

  3. Aidan

    Aidan Active Member

    They arn't even using his full arrangement either..
    It's a cut-down version :(
  4. I think it's brilliant.

    To have some 'real' mainstream music in a competition is absolutely fantastic.

    Just remember what happened at the open. One fantastic musical work, arranged for brass band and it really sorted out the men from the boys - that's my opnion.

    Whilst it's great to play specific brass band music - it could be argued it's more of a challenge to try an conquer some serious orchestral works that have been arranged for band. It gives a completely different approach and are subject to such a vast array of interpretation and styles that it puts far more musicality into a performance.

    To be fair, most championship section players can master any notes (all fast and furious) put infront of them. But how many can approach a performance with music, emotion, pain, pleasure, ectasy, heastbreak etc.etc - a completely different kettle of fish.

    It's to easy just to stick completely to 'brass band music' try other things and then a whole fantastic world of music is at your feet.

    There's far more to music than brass band music.
  5. Aidan

    Aidan Active Member

    i vote sk8ter boi for next years masters
  6. iancwilx

    iancwilx Active Member

    John - whereas I can agree to some extent with the challenge of "Conquering" "Serious" orchestral works, ( You don't consider our original music to be "Serious"?) my point is, that this years National Finals should have been dedicated to Eric Ball and his original music, not his arrangements, and to use an arrangement for the Premier test would appear to suggest that there was no original work of Eric Balls that would provide a suitable challenge technically and/or musically.
    Surely you do not suggest that Eric Ball did not write some beautiful harmonious music that was both stimulating,challenging and emotionally fulfilling to both performer and listener ? (Music, emotion, pain, pleasure, ecstasy heartbreak- he had them all )
    Why should we play music composed for and scored for Orchestra ?
    I don't hear of any Orchestras attempting to "Conquer" "Serious" music composed and scored for Brass Band.
    It could appear that we have taken this opportunity to honour a talented and revered Brass Band composer and used it to suggest that none of his original music would be suitable for the Championship Section Finals.
    This is not a Tribute, it could be construed by some as a posthumous slap in the face for one of the movements truly great and personable giants.
  7. The Cornet King

    The Cornet King Active Member

    Firstly i too believe that an original Eric Ball piece should have been used, and yes i agree that he is a true 'great' of the brass band world. However the choice of the Enigma Variations also shows off the fact that Eric Ball was such a masterful and genius arranger as well as composer. I'm sure not many people could have arranged a work of such magnitude as well as Mr Ball did.

    However the fact that they have had to use only part of the Enigma Variations does rather detract from the celebration.
    Certainly, Festival Music had to have been in with a chance of being chosen? :)

    All said i dont believe that this discredits the name of one of our finest, who shall no doubt remain one of the finest, composers for many years to come. I'm sure all the bands in London tomorrow shall do justice to the magnificant arrangement he has made.
  8. Straightmute

    Straightmute Active Member

    But do we want both of our major contests this year to feature arrangements? What is the future for the brass band if we're going to dedicate our most prestigious 'shop window' occasions to playing 'bleeding chunk' transcriptions of orchestral works?

    At the Open I was bored by the time we reached band number 5. A fantastic musical work with all the orchestral colour removed.

    Can't you find these in band music? I can! I'm not against playing transcriptions - at contests or concerts - but I'm very concerned that there are so few new original works of real quality and that composers from outside our movement are no longer commissioned to write for band. Where are the test pieces from Mark-Anthony Turnage, Steve Martland, David Sawer, Thomas Ades, Simon Holt etc. etc. etc. ? My own preference for this year's finals would have been to commission a new piece in Eric Ball's memory - a special tribute on his 100th anniversary.

    I love Enigma Variations but I think I'll get a better musical experience spending the weekend at home with Adrian Boult.

  9. I see where you're coming from.

    Eric ball indeed write some wonderful music. Full of all the ingreadients to give a musical performances, I would agree that it's a a great tribute to use the variations.

    However, one could argue that some (and only some) top level contest music is so devoid of 'music' that no good orchestra would choose to work on it and play it because these peices are just for contests and therefore would offer nothing musically to the players, conductor and the audience. It's just as important that the audience enjoys a musical performance as well as players. That's not to say that contest audiences enjoy hearing different bands chewing through 'un-musical' techinical collections of notes - but they don't get the same emotional pleasure that one would associate with good music. Although I have heard orchestral performances that are very technical, complicated and difficult to understand, I have never heard one that doesn't offer something musically, weather it was a pleasant experience - or not.

    Then, that sparks a whole new debate - what's music and what isn't..................

    Off we go then........

    I want to encourage the brass band establishment to think beyond the brass band establishment - there's so much more out there!
  10. yorkyboy

    yorkyboy Member

    There is a lot of music out there but i dont believe eric balls arrangment of enigma variations is the cream of it by a long way.
  11. Yes, you're absolutely right.

    I mean there's far more other than just the brass band repertoire - having a go at the mainstream repertiore is both challenging and rewarding on all levels, you have to be able to do far more than just play the dots infront of you.

    It's possible to train any reasonable player to play the notes - it's far more difficult to get a musical performance from some. Some players are musical, others - unfortunately - are not. You've ether got it - or you haven't.
  12. Put it this way, many orchestral brass players could easily sit in in most bands.

    How many 'banders' could reverse rolls as easily. -

    However, I do realise that a lot of orchestral brass players started in Brass Bands.

    Makes you think though.........
  13. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Maurice Murphy, Willie Lang, Rod Franks (all members/ex members of arguably the world's leading orchestral brass section).

    Others: Paul Archibald, Dudley Bright, Harry Mortimer (Royal Liverpool Phil if I remember correctly) Arthur Butterworth, Bill Relton, James Watson, Martin Winter. As you say, there are a lot!

    Would 'purely' orchestral players sit so easily in brass bands? Technically, sure. Musically? Maybe, maybe not.

    As for Enigma Variations, again, no objections to occasionally using classy orchestral transcriptions, but to my mind, having studied Enigma for my exams and having the heard the complete brass band arrangement as well, fantastic as it is, its selection for RAH in its 'cut' form seems to me to have b@stardized the piece and the memory of the arranger. Holst, for instance, was never happy about extracts of his Planets Suite played separately as concert items (from what I've read, anyway. However, I admit, I can't say that with total authority).

    By selecting extracts of EV, I don't care how well linked the chosen movements are, the whole point and structure of the piece is destroyed for me. Festival Music would have provided a more than adequate test of both musicianship and technique.
  14. I think you're misunderstanding, a lot of your list started banding, then went to college to study orchestrally. So that would mean they were orchestral players, who did band work, which is what I was trying to say.

    Interesting debate though..........
  15. Aidan

    Aidan Active Member

    i know exactley what dave is saying.
    trumpet players do not fit in brass bands, even playing on cornets, unless they are able to change their playing style.
    when I was at the rncm, they always filled up the backrow cornets with trumpet players, and without fail they always produced a din..! even some of the suposedly best trumpet players in the college simply wern't used to the brass band technicality and musicality required of the 2nd + 3rd cornets in championship test pieces.
  16. monkey

    monkey New Member

    So cutting to the chase then...who are the most limited "musically"? Cos it seems to me that it is Banding that would come out on top when it comes to entertainment and that Euphonium John has the wrong end of the stick - or whatever he holds!!!

    Would some of you guys get spell checkers or at least proof read your work - some of the spelling is quite distressing :oops: And is certainly detracting from the quality of the debate.

    I am sure that none of you are as careless with your music
  17. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Interesting debate guys, if slightly off topic. All I would add to it was look how Alliance Brass did yesterday with a band full of "orchestral" students. A fine band yes, but a brass band sound..... IMHO no.

    Back on topic....... I heard that Eric Ball had always wanted EV to be used for the National Finals but that it was too difficult and/or too long. You could argue that to use it yesterday (rather than re-using one of his original compositions) was the most fitting tribute.
  18. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Which is why I suggested Redbridge might do well. They have a mixture of those more used to band styles and orchestral players who can make a good fist of mixing the two styles. (As I said in an earlier thread, some can, some can't). It didn't happen for Redbridge anyway. Don't know much about Alliance Brass in general.

    As for EV, if Eric Ball wished it to be played at the National Finals in his lifetime but suggested it was too long and too hard, would it necessarily be a fitting tribute to have a 'cut' version of it as a test piece? I would have thought that a cut version would have been suggested to Eric Ball at the time. Maybe not. Anyone know?
  19. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    As I understand it, Eric did suggest a cut version for contesting use, with less music than was actully played on Saturday. What I did feel was that, having dropped one of the variations printed in the score, the jump from Nimrod to E.D.U. was quite abrupt - rather like the Open it almost made it seem like two distinct pieces, and made it rather disjointed.
  20. roman

    roman New Member

    New music or transcription

    I can see both sides of this arguement and as usual the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

    I agree with euphonium John .. there is a great repertoire of orchestral music out there that we could play and make great music from. The discipline and control needed to play some of these pieces will test the best bands in the land ..... but

    The best band performance of an orchestral piece will never sound the same as the original ... we simply cannot (no matter how gifted we are) produce the same tones and colours from our pieces of tin as the massed ranks of players stroking cat gut over little wooden boxes .... its always going to be our interpretation or aproximation of the performance that an Orchestra might produce. So we end up with what ? ... a poor copy ? .... a completely new interpretation ? ..... whatever it is its not the sound that the composer had in his head when scribbling down the piece.

    How much better to play a piece of music written for a band - by a composer who is steeped in banding .... who knows the capabilities and sounds and subtle (non-existant to an orchestral composer) nuances and differences in tone and colour of the various instruments that we play. The sounds made by a good band are just as awesome as the output of a symphony orchestra ..... lets play music that makes the most of those sounds and celebrate the art form that we all love.

    My vote, then, is for new music - written for the brass band. We should encourage composers to write for our movement ..... we have a unique sound that we should rejoice in - not apologise for. We must all be prepared to tackle something new and original and approach these works with an open mind (remember the outcry with 'Prague') .... I for one don't want to spend the rest of my time in banding rehashing orchestral music no matter how good it is ... I could have joined an orchestra if thats what I wanted.

    Just my 2 pence worth .... donning my flame proof suit and sticking my head back below the parapet.

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