Having a quick tootle on stage

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Dave Payn, Mar 22, 2004.

  1. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    After yesterday’s round of contests at Stevenage I feel emboldened to share with tMP, something that’s been bugging me for years.

    OK, apologies if this has been said many times before, or if I’m missing something blatantly obvious, or if I’m messing about with ‘tradition’ too much or even whether ‘it’s the same for every band’, but what, oh what is the point of not allowing tuning up, blowing a few notes, getting a feel for drums etc. on stage before a contest performance. In the concert hall you see an orchestra walk on, tune form the oboe and generally get the ‘feel’ for acoustics. Even when I’ve been to concerts given by the likes of PJBE, London Brass etc. I can hear them warming up backstage just prior to coming on stage. OK, so no band’s performance needs to be spoiled by hearing another band going through their exercises etc. in another room, so why not on stage, eh? When adjudicators come up with remarks like (This didn’t happen to Fulham, by the way – this is a general question!) ‘Basses were too loud for the acoustics’ (It has happened…). How the Hell are we supposed to know with venues we play in for 12-20 minutes once a year? Surely the least we can do is get a brief feel for the ambience of the hall!

    Some might say in reply that at top section level, it might encourage band spotting by adjudicators. So what? I’ve long been an advocate of open adjudication anyway, and if you can’t trust judges to give a fair result if they know who’s playing, don’t bloody employ them!

    It needn’t take much more, if any, time from when a band walks on stage anyway. Percussion usually spend a few minutes sorting their gear out, they can perhaps use an extra minute to tune the timps properly (are they allowed to do this already? If not then they should be! I remember at a recent contest that in one particular section, the tuning of the timps was all over the shop with the vast majority of bands. I requested in the interval to go and tune them myself, only to find the gauges were all wrong. I don’t say this to boast (honestly!) but once it had been sorted, the timp notes in the following sections resembled the notes they were supposed to be playing! Why not allow proper percussionists - of which I'm not one! - to do this before each performance anyway, quietly or whatever?)

    We’re talking about, in brass especially, instruments that need to be warm, warmed up, and gauged for the acoustics before a performance. I mean, am I talking rocket science here??

    Again, apologies if I’ve missed something obvious or am trying to interfere with tradition, but whilst it didn’t affect me personally yesterday (I’d still have played lousy even with a tootle on stage!) I would feel more comfortable doing my own quick blowing exercise for a couple of minutes before performance. I know some contests (like SCABA’s Autumn contest at Folkestone) ) have an own choice hymn tune and test piece which is a good idea in principle. However, some bands take liberties with this and play florid hymn tune arrangements which last almost as long as the test piece itself! Personally, hymn tunes work for that contest, but I'd much rather do my own designed warm up on stage before a contest, concert, etc.

    What do the rest of you think?

    Kind regards
  2. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    It's a great point dave and well put, I fully agree, What harm would it do????

    By the way one band a day gets this opportunity! (the queen is great for exactly what you said)
  3. BoozyBTrom

    BoozyBTrom Member

    I dont see what harm it would casue. But i think a time limit rule should be placed on your tootling.

    Say 2 or 3 minutes after the whistle you have to start the test peice. Because if you didnt the contest would never end.
  4. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    Yes, with 21 in like our section the other week even 2 minutes for "tootling" would add 40 mins onto the contest.
    How about instead of the "4-minute rule" for getting on stage, you have a "5-minute rule" including tuning, so the faster you get on stage, the more time you have for tuning up? And a big "Countdown" clock to show how much time you have left? Maybe that would give the best of both worlds, an incentive for bands to get on quick and not too much extra time for the contest.
  5. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Totally agree with what you've said Dave.

    I've been a victim of the "not playing to the acoustic" adjudication too. A few years ago when this particular contest was held at a different venue for the first year. Our whole adjudication centred on us being "too loud for the acoustic". It was a very boomy room admittedly and we tried to compensate as the performance progressed but how were we to know when no-one had played in there before? :roll:

    Maybe the reason why it's not done is for timings (but thats easy to police!) or perhaps is down to our mutual distrust of each other when we're at contests. :)
  6. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    I should step in here and point something out. I did actually refer to the problem of making a contest longer when I said: 'It needn’t take much more, if any, time from when a band walks on stage anyway. Percussion usually spend a few minutes sorting their gear out'. I should have made that clearer! I meant that it shouldn't add any extra time from between when traditionally, a band walks on to a contest stage to when they start actually playing the piece, which can last 2-3 minutes anyway. Good points, though.
  7. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I certainly agree there should be time for bands to settle and percussion to be tuned etc. In the L&SC 1st & 2nd sections on Saturday there was one band in particular where the timp player was clearly not happy with the tuning, and you felt there was a lot of pressure on her to hurry up, which is not really fair - it's not like a brass instrument where you can warm up and tune up off-stage.

    Regarding setting-up times, most bands didn't waste any time, but the small size of the stage used for the 2nd section presented major problems for bands using a different seating formation, as there was no room to move around. In fact the stage was dismantled prior to the 1st section - with the help of several audience members :!: - as they realised there would not be room to fit the additional percussion for Coventry variations on the staging provided :oops:
  8. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    what if contesting bodies allowed the use of the hall prior to contests, or an extra day before contests, or the weekend before or something??

    I acknoledge the fact that if everyone had time to adjust to the new environment, it would make for a long day, so let's make it a lot longer!

    Maybe, if bands paid a "donation" to contest comittees for the use fo the venue prior to the contest, there would be more funds for better contesting and so forth??

    just another (probably stupid) idea
  9. AJSOP

    AJSOP Member

    yea, definately a set preperation time on stage would be a good idea. Even 30 seconds would be useful
  10. Di

    Di Active Member

    Gotta agree with you there. This does come slightly related to my topic about "The Queen" where the first band has the chance to "test the stage" and "blow away the cobwebs" so to speak. If the first band is to play one verse of The Queen, why cannot all bands play one verse of a set hymn tune?

  11. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Quite! Good point indeed! Though having said that, how many bands win off a number 1 draw? Still.... I'm not particularly pro or anti royalist but in this day and age, is it appropriate over here any more? Oops, sorry mods, wrong topic! ;-)
  12. ukdrummerboy

    ukdrummerboy Member

    Whenever i'm playing timpani at a contest and they are being provided (which they usually are!) i'll always tune them on stage myself, quietly of course, letting the rest of the band settle down and the other percussionists roam around the stage setting up. It only takes me about a min to tune all 4 timpani, so as long as the band arn't amazingly fast at walking on, i'll bet know-one even notices :D
  13. eckyboy

    eckyboy Member

    Is one of the reasons not so the adjudicator(closed adjudication) could get to know which band is on-just a guess but trying to make an educated one
  14. johnflugel

    johnflugel Active Member

    I think so...but think people must get over this thing of the judge not having any clues to which band is playing. At the end of the day, anyone who listens to bands on a regular basis could spot which band is which. Noone can tell me that the average judge cannot spot Peter Roberts playing, Dyke basses, B&R's cornets etc. For me, the box should stay there but only for the visual aspect. e.g it's easy to get engrossed in a conductors performance or other visual aspects when in reality other performances might be superior. The box ensures that you hear a good performance and not 'see' one. But that is another debate altogether :wink:
  15. Laserbeam bass

    Laserbeam bass Active Member

    With the timpani, I have a solution. Contest committee, specifically at the regionals, should arrange for the tuning of the timpani at the start of the contest, and then periodically through the day. After every third band :?:

    Having just spent the last 10 minutes reading the rules that govern the contest. There is no specific area of the rules that states you cannot play on stage before the band is ready to begin their contest performance, however section 19 states

    "If any band is not ready to perform within four minutes of the time stated in the contest schedule, or of the preceding band vacating the stage, the band may face disciplinary action"

    To allow a tootling session an additional person would need to be near the box to advise when the period has finished, and when the band on stage are actually ready to begin. This sounds very picky, but can the contest committee spare an additional person on the day to allow this to happen :?: If you feel strongly one way or the other, I would suggest that the secretary of each of your bands puts forward a formal request to the area committees. Whilst I don't have a problem with it, I'm sure that for all the yaes on here there will be as many naes.

    On a side note, congrats to Dave Payn and Fulham for qualifying for Harrogate.

    Dave Payn said "When adjudicators come up with remarks like (This didn’t happen to Fulham, by the way – this is a general question!) ‘Basses were too loud for the acoustics’ (It has happened…). " Here's a rhetorical answer, only because when you're principal Eb Bass plays the rest of the 3 players balance to his sound and not vice versa :lol: Will, if you read this it is a joke :oops:
  16. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Having attended the Areas last Saturday - first time at an Area Contest since competing in the 70s :oops: - one of the things that did strike me was the length of time on occasions between the green light showing and the band actually being ready to start. (I should add that the delays were not excessive, it just seemed a long time).

    As it happened, both of the test pieces involved started fairly positively - even the trio at the start of Coventry variations - but it did make me think how difficult it must be with a test piece that has a very quiet opening, coupled with a band trying to play really quietly. I think there could be quite a strong case for an indication being given to the adjudicatior that the band is ready, and as for personnel to do this, there was a steward either side of the box who could easily take this on board.
  17. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    Nah, give the conductor a whistle ;-) adjudicator has one to say that he/she is ready, so the conductor can reply with a toot back

  18. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    We're more sophisticated than that dahn sarth - we have electric lights here, thah knows :wink:

    (I take your point though, it could be done by the MD)
  19. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    The Midlands use two bells - one for the band, one for the adjudicator. Great system but they managed to find two bells that are about a quarter tone out of tune with each other. Not the most tuneful way to start an area performance!
  20. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Is this Tom E? If so, congratulations to Becontree too!

    I wasn't advocating a designed or specified time period, more that the general period between bands walking on and playing could be utilised. If, as you say, there's nothing in the rules to stop us warming up ...... :twisted:

    It all reminds me of a 'music festival' type contest Fulham took part in a few years ago in Leutkirch, Germany. We were in fact, the only brass band there. Most of the others were wind (or 'harmonie') bands. No 'placings' were given but prizes were awarded depending on how well the adjudicator thought you played. What I took some getting used to was the fact that as we boarded the stage, we were told. 'Warm up if you want, with a hymn, any bits of the (test) pieces you'd like to go over. The adjudicators (who were open) will indicate when they're ready.'

    So unused to this, bearing in mind the rigidity of the brass band contest 'rules', I (who was conducting Fulham for this particular festival) didn't register what he said at the time and tuned up briefly and that was it (we'd spent half an hour warming up backstage anyway). Still, even that quick tuning session relaxed the players and I think it's no coincidence that Fulham, who played Partita (like we did on Sunday!) and The Shipbuilders one after the other for the competition, benefited from the much more relaxed atmosphere than you get at a brass band contest and played above themselves (which our judgement reflected) despite the fact it was an ungodly hour in the morning (even earlier that band 1 would have been playing at Stevenage!) and that a number of the band were still 'recovering' from the previous night's festivities in the beer tent! They played above themselves (i.e. in a competition situation) for being given a chance to warm up properly. Certainly wasn't because of me!

    Perhaps our contest controllers might learn something from this?
    The whole format was designed to get the competing bands to display what they could do technically and musically, and designed to give the bands a chance to put on a performance rather than our brass band contest formats which sometimes seem geared to making you do the equivalent of a 100m dash without loosening the limb muscles first!

    Another nice touch was that after we played, one of the adjudicators met all the conductors individually in a quiet room and went over the respective merits or otherwise of their performance (even if I did need our adjudicators comments interpreted! ;-)

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