How and Why Foreign Bands have become so good.

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by Mello, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. Mello

    Mello Active Member

    Reading some of the posts re the English National , it strikes me that some folk may not realise the dedication and hard work these foreign bands have put into what is still essentially their hobby. ( and still do ) . Having worked with most of Europe's best, let me give you a few examples.
    DENMARK I have seen competing bands hiring Schools to use their various halls and sleep in Sleeping Bags etc.
    SWEDEN , Ditto. BELGIUM .cramming rehearsals in at 8.00am before going to work , and then to rehearse again in the evening after work ...EVEN for concerts, in their endeavours to improve. NORWAY , many bands meet for weekend workshops , catching ferry after ferry to do it their own expense. I did one concert when the players had to be collected by boat ..over a 2hr period . On some of the smaller islands I have observed young players fishing ..AT the same time practicing their instruments ! TRUE.
    SWITZERLAND ..I have seen Farmers having their lunch in the fields with the inevitable practice afterwards
    I could go on ....but the message is clear , work hard and with the right coaching , most players get there. Their respective National Youth Bands show that .
    I realise there are less alternative attractions to tempt the young players to abandon their practice, and there is also a high regard for young players by the population in many of the villages from which they come. So the players feel almost like Celebrities...especially if they manage to gain a place
    The recent Eikanger documentary is a good illustration of what dedication, hard work and passion brings.

    I have seen these bands develop over many years, and I am sad to see present state of English Bands , when so many are short of players, cannot rehearse more than once weekly , won't travel to play unless the money is good .Even in Championship contests, the audiences have become smaller and smaller, Take away from those who listen , the relatives , friends etc., and the actual number interested is frighteningly small. In an area like the N/West. the Blackpool Opera House , home to the Spring and Regional Championships, not long ago boasted circle and Balcony longer, the balcony is sealed off empty and the circle half full when the favourite band is on.

    I suppose every generation has something to go on about, BUT don't anyone under estimate the foreign bands . and please give them the credit and the following they deserve. It would be a pipe dream to imagine the same effort from many bands in England ( unless money is involved )...BUT maybe day.
  2. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Excellent points made above. The other thing that always strikes me with the non-uk bands is the way they are always keen to support one another, many players and supporters making the effort to listen to their rivals, and not only in a critical way. I think it is that obvious enthusiasm, coupled with the two-test piece format, which brings more variety than a single set work, that have made the europeans so memorable for me, whether attending in person or following the live feeds that have occasionally been made available.
  3. critic

    critic Member

    Iagreewith the twotestpiece format but the apathy in our movement in our country is something that has been happening for years. lack of leadership, money, but most of all a lack of getting of our backsides and helping ourselves. Alot of players at the top level go round from band to band mostly to the highest bidder im sure we all know who they are and yes we have some great bands but im afraid the interest is not there as much as it used to be. Mabe its a sighn of the times
  4. Mello

    Mello Active Member

    Both Peter Bale and Critic are absolutely right. Re supporting others. Even in Colleges abroad, that is so obvious . I was once examining in Bergen Conservatoire ,and the cheering and support exhibited to each candidate by the other (same instrument ) candidates was overwhelming. Regarding players moving for money ...I have to agree. This has been going on for decades ..perhaps the works bands were responsible for starting the trend. I don't know, but I do know that when I was 15, I was earning more playing for a Works band than my tradesman father! In addition to a salary from the company, I got a retainer, engagement fees, soloist pay and expenses when away. When jobs are hard to come by, I cannot blame out of work players going where the money is, even if it is against the grain. Mortgages still have to be paid, and if dedication and hard work makes a player 'wanted' by a rich band or company , then it is difficult to resist the financial package offered. That is the way it is I am afraid. At one time, professional players were barred from contesting,,, which was a farce , looked good on paper, but impossible to monitor and simply did not work. Finally, I would say, money buys players, buys success ( usually - otherwise the weak players are out ) , buys better and more lucrative engagements , and more exposure .....sometimes to the detriment and demise of the feeder bands. Not a good situation , virtually a self destruct process. I have no idea how to stop the rot....does anyone ?
  5. Ali

    Ali Member

    Not every player moves for money. Alot just do it for the prestige of playing for the bands.
  6. Mello

    Mello Active Member

    Quite right, I agree wholeheartedly. I did myself, and am proud to say that when I left the works band scene, I declined many offers from similar works bands, and never , ever, moved for money . Even my one works band came about on the recommendation of my dad. Even when in later years I contested with such as Grimethorpe and Fairey, none of it was for the money, and never would I leave my job to work for the sponsoring company. I never turned down my share of prize money though and received the same as everyone else. One point worth mentioning is : when a player has the desire to improve his lot musically , such as I guess you have, that is absolutely great. However, when another outfit comes along that is better, and offering a good financial package on top of the music , that is when the conscience versus reasoning starts. Eventually one accepts that this predicament is part and package of being recognised as a special player , and the temptations become no longer tempting , probably because the grass you are on , is green enough not to look over the other side of the fence. Good luck in your chosen outfit, long may it continue. As long as you are honest with yourself, and the people you are with , you can't go wrong.
  7. StellaJohnson

    StellaJohnson Active Member

    I think Europeans tend to be a little more laid back than us and probably shows in there playing and there attitude towards banding. There is still a still upper lip towards the orchestral bands and military bands in this country and my third point, just because one plays or conducts a top band doesn't mean they can coach or teach at grass root level.
  8. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    That's very true Stella. and besides grass roots conducting, I've known some absolute top notch players who were poor band conductors and, conversely, I've known some very average players who've turned out to be excellent band trainers and contest winners.
    Of course, I've also known average players who shouldn't be let anywhere near a stick, and top players who did become excellent and noted band trainers !

    ~ Mr Wilx
  9. euphymike

    euphymike Member

    life is slightly different out there. I spent sometime out there working. there was then an excellent band in the far north of Norway who didn't travel much to compete because they couldn't always get back home for six months of the year. the rest of the year was spent doing things in readiness for the winter. apart from a bit of reindeer hunting (yes I had a go and shot one) playing was all that was left. the TV was dire. we here still have lots more distractions. another advantage was that most people in the village appeared to be related to each other???? at least you didn't have to drive a long way to visit your kids! Instruments then were very hard to get hold of>
  10. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    There are places out there in non-UK Europe where that lack of distraction holds. But surely not many? The myriad fine bands tucked away in the Swiss Alps (or spread over their Northern plateau) aren't in places where the comforts of life are hard to find - and must have the additional recreational temptation of skiing to contend with too! The low countries and Southern Norway are both home to hugely flourishing brass band cultures - all nice places complete with all the same trappings of civilisation that we have here... The USA has well over 150 brass bands now, from a standing start 30 years ago - I'm 100% certain that they don't have fewer ways to occupy their time there than we do.

    Is it a youth training thing? Do we simply not give enough kids the bug for it as we go along to create banding growth? I could well believe that.

    It is the case that our tradition for our style of brass banding is the longest established out there (bit of a circular argument, of course), but there are many Swiss bands out there that were formed in the 19th century as all-brass groups, so it cannot simply be that we've been doing it for so long that we've become jaded.

    I think our strong focus on contesting has a lot to answer for. One of the points raised on the English Nationals thread was that the non-UK competitors are able to prioritise the contest more highly due to the fact that they aren't already operating at full capacity just maintaining their current regimes. Our top bands spend vast sums on superstar conductors week in week out (and in a contest run up rehearsal fees must add up to better than the full time salaries that most of us see!), and to fund this they have to throw themselves around the country nonstop charging for concerts.
  11. StellaJohnson

    StellaJohnson Active Member

    I've had a quick look at some of the Norwegian bands website and they don't do anywhere near the amount of gigs or contests as we in the UK do and I'm not just talking about the top championship bands. You can do too much sometimes and not prepare well for concerts or even contests. If you do too much then the quantity of quality players isn't there. You only have to look at myself and many others as to why I no longer can give the commitment to banding and this isn't at the highest level. I could quite easily swop shoes with our Norwegian Bands and make a comeback!
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I think you're right - the impression I have is that adult banding in various places away from here tends to be seen on more of a project basis. That is to say, they get together to prepare hard for engagements, but don't have many engagements. It is many ways an appealing model - more appealing than the 'drop your life to do this' model that a lot of our top bands have to offer.

    That said, there are plenty of bands in the UK that aren't overloaded with jobs. I remember years ago a fine cornet player of ours moving up the road to another band because he wanted to do more summer park jobs than we do - there are enough bands around that we can have some that are out twice a weekend throughout the summer and keep up a busy schedule year round and some that pick and choose. So it isn't as if we do not have bands that work more that way - indeed, look at the way Desford have tended to run - quality band run on a for-each-project basis. ZOB also, although they haven't touched the same heights. I think also we are seeing a gradual movement among more bands towards this direction, if not all the way to the end of the route - witness the numbers of bands that now rehearse regularly only one night a week, stepping that up sharply for contests.
  13. I suppose that we are all expected to think how wonderful that was, and how great you were. Why not stick to the subject, which, I believe, is brass bands?
  14. davidsait

    davidsait Member

    Indeed - there are many other successful amateur ensembles outside of brass banding that follow a similar model.
  15. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    My understanding is that in these countries there is less of a culture of players moving around between bands. This means they have stable bands for longer periods of time. Anyone who has been in a band like this knows that players who are used to playing together become more consistent in style and tend to be more supportive of each others playing.

    Another issue is that in some of these countries there are shorter working weeks (more rigid sticking to contracted hours) and less difficulties travelling (it took me 65 minutes to drive the 14 miles to band practice last night).

    There can also be a greater acceptance by family members of the "civic pride" of being in the local band.

    All of these things are small in themselves, but add up to a different banding experience for the players.
  16. euphymike

    euphymike Member

    as a bit of a relief from professional playing for years there used to be nothing like playing with Portsmouth Sinfonia in the early eighties. to turn up with a double bass and have it taken off you and given an oboe to play, some charts, a fingering chart and ten minutes to learn it was the most musical fun ive had. Do the swiss have a similar set up or do they take music too seriously? Knowing people from the Nordic area I don't think they do it either. the only instrument I had trouble with was the bassoon. eight thumb keys? seven to many!
  17. Bob Sherunkle

    Bob Sherunkle Active Member

    Dear euphymike

    Have you ever shot a drummer?

    Regards Bob (Portsmouth Sinfonia fan)
  18. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Would he ever consider it?
  19. euphymike

    euphymike Member

    No but there is always a first time for everything?
  20. katieeuph

    katieeuph Member

    I know they are only lighthearted banter, but I'm not sure these last few post are going in a particularly 'tactful' direction given this morning's news........(just saying!)

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