How do you like your regional test piece?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by julian, Jan 6, 2018.

  1. Repman

    Repman New Member

    I liked world tour the first 5000 times, getting a bit stalled with it now!
    mikelyons likes this.
  2. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    The more we play Odyssey, the more I like it :)
  3. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    I think the whole selection this year is very likeable. Theres usually been 1 or 2 pieces which I'm not bothered about but I regularly listen to the whole of this years Regionals CD and I'd quite happily listen to every section at the contest
  4. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Indeed - they're all very listenable... Whether they're good picks (produce fair and uncontroversial results) waits to be seen, but they're certainly nice to listen to.
    Euphonium Lite likes this.
  5. julian

    julian Active Member

    My friend, you answered your own question! The only way to build stamina is with practice! - Sorry, and all that.......
  6. GER

    GER Active Member

    It can become a problem, maintaining interest in a piece that you've played over and over again
  7. grjeuph

    grjeuph New Member

    Am I in a minority in thinking that the Euph Solo in Brass Metamorphosis is really difficult?
    I have played quite a few difficult test pieces with hard Euph Solo's. This one for me is the most difficult.
  8. Euphman2

    Euphman2 Active Member

    Napoleon annoyed me with accidentals written on the split euphonium parts for the top or bottom line and not annotated for the other line in some bars then written on both in other bars. Took some studying to work it out. I appreciate it's late to rant rang but perhaps in future a publisher might take note!
  9. Euphman2

    Euphman2 Active Member

    PS, too much Arban may be injurious to your health!!!!!!!
  10. sop@55

    sop@55 Member

    thanks guys and gals.....yes yes and yes ...more practice of the right sort. must have worked as had special mention on flug from David Hirst on Sunday when we took Napoleon for romp at SCABA 's rescheduled spring contest. great idea to have an opportunity to try out the area piece. taaraa.
  11. Barry92

    Barry92 New Member

    I don’t think you have to paint a picture to the adjudicators. Just play the piece, in Tune, together, Good sounds, good articulation etc. Just what’s on the score in a confident and convincing (quality) manner. No hidden secrets in test pieces. The picture is the score, the secret is being able to deliver it!
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    The easier you make the test piece, the higher the likelihood you get weird results - too many performances to adequately sort cluster in the same kind of that-was-pretty-good place. I think that's what mjwarman meant?
  13. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Had a good chance to get to know it by now. It's a funny one, Odyssey... It's not one to take in on first listen or play-through; it's quite a complex piece of music, made up of many elements. It's been a good piece to have set in my opinion, but I won't remember it with especial fondness when we're done. Trying to think of a pithy summary for it that sounds profound while actually avoiding saying anything particularly meaningful, I decided on: "I like the language that it speaks, but I don't much like what it says". Which hopefully conveys something useful about it?

    As a test, it does the job well - it's hard, often exposed, and tests all the seats, the ensemble together, and the MD in all the required ways. There's a challenge for everyone in it. It's written bittily, entries being passed from section to section and player to player, and it takes a deal of knitting together to sound cohesive.
    As a piece of music? Like I say, I like the tonal language of it - piles of 4ths used to good effect, though often a bit simplistically e.g. bar 47, and quite a few pleasingly crunchy extended chords. It's quite listenable - not the sort of thing to frighten an audience too badly, and it even has a cheesy tune on the last page - though this is the weakest part musically, I think - it isn't a great tune.
    But what does it say? Considered as abstract music (and all programme music has to work without its programme to be good music), it's a group of too many too-short segments laid end to end. The gear changes between fast tempos of slightly differing velocities provide a clear test to MD and band, but they don't add much in the way of musical point; indeed, the shifts that they introduce to the flow rather distract the ear. There isn't much in the way of a
    clear structure to these segments - some recapitulation, but nothing that leaves the ear feeling like it understands why things have been recapitulated...

    So we look at the programme notes... The score intro talks the standard-issue SA music story about a journey from darkness into light - something done so well in the past by people like Eric Ball that people ought to hesitate more before using the same message for a band piece, it seems to me... Either do it beautifully, or one suffers in comparison. Info online talks about Dante's Inferno as an inspiration without specifying how - which sounds impressive, but I have read it, and the piece does not programmatically match it in the slightest - I went through the score with a precis of the Dante in hand, and ended up completely baffled in trying to assign parts of the music to parts of the story.

    The other cited influence is the hymn tune Slane ("Be Thou my Vision"), which turns up in a handful of places in it, and does a better (but still not wonderful) job of being a unifying motif. In other places Norbury has annotated the score with the words "Be Thou my Vision (Norbury)", which I presume means that the music commencing at that point is his own tune to the words. The slow cornet tune is one of these - but when one tries to sing the words to it, they don't fit very well... The other is the Brillante at bar 213, which is just a baffling annotation, as it doesn't even begin to fit.

    So I've laid out the ways in which it does and doesn't do it for me there, and there's more text taking it apart than commending it. Which is slightly unfortunate, because I am enjoying it. But I do also see exactly why it disappeared mostly without trace after being given the ultimate high profile airing for the Europeans in 1999.
  14. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    A piece of music has to be exactly that rather than a succession of notes - without a picture to paint, there is no life, no interest. The music doesnt really "go" anywhere and will sound uninteresting and dull, even if all the other basics are good. Its like speaking in a monotone with clear annunciation - yes you may be able to understand it clearly but you'll probably switch off quite quickly
    Having said that if the composition is good, you should have a clear picture in your head from playing everything correctly - as you rightly say in such circumstances it is there on the score
  15. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    I think to be fair Moomin a lot of your comments can be aimed at most of the test pieces this year. Theyre all very likeable and listenable to - but in a lot of cases there is no meat to the substance. Ex Terra is possibly going to become the new "Fire in the Blood" in that I can see a lot of bands playing it at own choice in years to come - including bands from lower than 2nd section. But thats because if you only scratch the surface, most of the notes are playable for most players, although whether 3rd and 4th sec bands will be able to achieve consistency on repeating patterns is doubtful. However its probably too easy for the better 2nd section bands - other than a semi-tricky Euph solo and a requirement for the Principal Cornet to sound "Jazzy" without improvising too far from the dots, theres really not too much in it for most players. The only caveat to that is you need a decent bass section - again the better bands at this level should have this - with reasonably quick brains and fingers and a pair of extra lungs at the end (2nd Euph also needs these - Pedal Es at fortissimo.....).

    Napoleon is less likely to be played to death although its still a nice piece of music. However the key here is whether bands can perform at dynamic extremes - play quietly but consistently at the start of 1st and 3rd movements, not overblowing at the end of the 3rd. A few odd "tone row" tunes in the Solo Cornets inviting splits. Other than that its not particularly frightening, especially when you consider bands at the same level were asked to play Vaughan Williams' Henry V Overture at Butlins this year, starting on fortissimo "A"s (for Bb instruments) in unison throughout the band. There are other pitfalls in terms of basics for bands at this level, but most will be able to play the dots. The piece just seems to be lacking a bit of substance for me as Ive got to know it better.

    I dont know World Tour that well although my son is playing it with a local 4th section band and Ive listened to the Regional CD tracks several times. Again, compared to English Pastorale in 2015 there isnt a lot of substance behind it - its more Indian Summer without Eric Ball's quality scoring than some of the 4th section area pieces of the last few years. Nice to listen to, yes. Would I get bored of it if I was playing with a 4th section band - probably. A less experienced player perhaps less so.

    The exception to the above - in my opinion anyway - is the Curnow, which has a defined musical "circle", tests MD ensemble and soloists equally, has some nice tunes and a few modern ones to balance out, and will sort out some of the men from the boys - not every band will get through it unscathed but its not so hard that only a small handful will be able to play it.

    Overall - a nice set of pieces. Would I sit and listen to a significant number of bands in each section? Yes. Will they test bands at the set level. Yes. Are they "Quality music" that will stand the test of time and be revisited in future - Probably not, perhaps with the exception of Metamorphosis, and possibly Ex Terra as Jonny Bates seems to be rapidly becoming the new PLC. Whether Bates and Lovatt-Cooper are so fondly viewed in 20 or 30 years time remains I guess to be seen
  16. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    I think it's a case of priorities and balance between the two.
    I've heard many an over-elaborate, descriptive 3rd or 4th section performance quite lacking in the fundamentals that Barry outlines. Sometimes leaving me wondering if the 'style' in these renditions is an attempt to hide weaknesses or if it's just that the conductor has overlooked the basics, hoping that they will sort themselves out.
    Euphonium Lite likes this.
  17. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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  18. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    Absolutely. The basics should not be ignored. But without painting a picture its just notes.

    Ironically Ive seen adjudicators go for both options at the expense of the other - ignore the markings and interpret despite a very in tune and together performance has seen bands marked down badly - a couple of years ago at the Midlands area springs immediately to mind. On the other hand in the LSC area the following week on the same test piece, the adjudicator placed a band 1st that - despite having the odd moment of tuning etc - in his mind had taken chances and made music

    In an ideal world as you say, you would have a balance between the 2
  19. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    As you say, without painting a picture it's just notes... and yet... if the notes are incorrect, out of tune or not together, then that's an objective marker that can uncontroversially be used for placing - which band was most musical (in the adjudicators subjective opinions) is something that musical equals wouldn't necessarily agree on, and the average bandsman with his perfectly natural biases could rave about for months.

    We have to decide what these contests are about and what they're for - I personally think it's fairly self-evident that they're primarily functional (areas) and sporting (areas and all other contests) first and musical some way behind.
    By which I mean - the areas is functional because it's primary purpose is to stratify us into ability bands (by region), this is what allows us to band together with people of similar personal ability, similar desire and so on (which IMHO is a significant driver behind the sheer quality of the very best bands - without it, I don't think you'd see people travelling 1-2 hours to rehearsals for a hobby)... Sure, in an ideal world the musicality of the bands would be part of that judgement, but then we come back to how fairly and how reliably that can be done on such a subjective criterion.

    If nothing else - if we know what to expect to be judged on and turn up as prepared as possible, it's hard to feel hard-done-by... if we turn up expecting to be judged on one thing and finding a completely different, then I think it's perfectly understandable that some people will star to wonder what the point of it all is.
    4th Cornet likes this.
  20. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    For my money the balance has to be more towards accuracy. Musicality needs a good foundation.
    Tom-King likes this.

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