Howard Snell`s comments on SP&S

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by IanHeard, Dec 11, 2004.

  1. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    Very interesting to read the latest edition of Brass Band World.
    Howard Snell has made in my view some very pertinant observations re. the Salvationists growing influence on banding.
    I quote-

    "It (SP&S) has a hugely monopolistic position and is a thoroughly bad thing for banding"

    On composing-
    "Unfortunately and realistically ,composers for brass band must now be defined separately: independent composers on the one hand, and, on the other, the elect, the SP&S composers."

    "SP&S is primarily a support organisation for a religious body"....."Banding should not be used in this way. It should not be secondary to anything else. I believe that it is socially and musically too important to be used for others` hidden purposes."

    "Remember that a performance of one SA work means one less performance of an independent composer. Where does that lead? Independent composers leaving banding (not just in the UK, but wherever).

    "Looking at the progress of SA banding these past 50 years, the prospects of the SA/SP&S running banding are not good, if the record is anything to go by."......"Taken together with the modern SA`s impressive abilty to lose its money down miscellaneous and sundry black holes, the prognosis is not encouraging."

    "SP&S can and will dominate the future direction of banding because of its size and wish to do so. I have it from a very reliable source that Salvation Army members have been heard recently saying "We are in charge now" "

    When Howard Snell makes observations like these I suggest we take note!

    Ian Heard.
  2. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    I feel disinclined to comment myself, not really knowing enough about Salvationist banding to make any qualified observations, but Howard Snell made his comments in a previous issue of BBW. In the next issue, Trevor Caffull replies. (Unless, of course, Mr Snell has since replied to Mr Caffull's reply!)
  3. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    I think Howard Snell`s comments are less about Salvation Army banding but more about the Salvationist influence on "mainstream" banding.
    And yes this is Howard`s second letter on the future of banding and does cover other issues also.

  4. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Honest competition is healthy. I have commented before that, in my opinion, there seems to be a favouritism towards a few, select composers in the UK with many others sadly getting lip-service for their ideas and work. SA and Associated Band composers have existed side by side for many years and the recent access to both catalogues can only be seen as good. The funding and organisation of UK bands was up for grabs and the SP&S took the lead when no suitable competition was offered at the time. No-one can be forced to affiliate with one religious organisation or another and I'm sure the SA know this. As for the choice of music, I'm sure the deciding bodies would be sensible enough to be aware of the interest of the players and not just the political consequences of their actions.
  5. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    I believe that Trevor Caffull has already commented on at least some of the issues raised, on 4barsrest.

    I agree that if someone of Howard Snell's stature speaks, then we should listen. But that doesn't mean that we have to agree; and it doesn't mean that Mr Snell is necessarily right!

  6. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    Perhaps in the interest of friendly debate you can tell me why Howard Snell is wrong?

    Perhaps the many Salvo`s who use this forum could also give their views, I genuinely feel uncomfortable with the current situation and need convincing there is`nt a more sinister religious agenda at work here.

    Ian Heard.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 11, 2004
  7. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    I'm not these days a Salvo and for now am keeping an open mind on the growing SP&S ownership in the band world. But I do wonder if those who seem to have a sense of doom about the matter could point to one negative factor evidenced so far. I think the MD of SP&S Ltd (a commercial trading company of the Salvation Army) has explained that it is a business opportunity to make money to support the work of the the SA, which is not only an organisation that preaches the mainline Christian Faith, but a charity that brings help and relief to people around the world. Since the late 19th century it has also had a vested interest in brass bands: it knows a lot about banding traditions.

    Would it not be fairer to wait and see if there's a "more sinister religious agenda at work here"?
  8. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    I think the worrying thing for other 'mainstream' and 'non-mainstream' Christians and other believers in other faiths as well is that the Sally Bash are an Evangelical organisation. The whole point of evangelism is that you actively seek to proselytise and 'convert' others. It has to be said that there is not a lot of that going on on here (as far as I know) but it does go on and I think some people feel that the evangelical nature of the Sally Bash will be directed towards banders when the organisation feels it has a firm enough foothold in the banding world.

    Wait-and-see is not a good option - if you wait too long you're likely to be too late!
  9. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    I think in spite on Howard Snell's stature I will choose to not to agree with him in this case.

    Just for an example of one thing I disagree with

    While this is a true statement. If we play SA pieces and it forces a 'good' composer out of banding than that 'good' composer obviously wasn't as 'good' as the S Army composer we are we have in effect voted out the weakest link (goodbye)

    The one thing I will say about this wait and see approach... the one thing that makes me a bit weary is that I have never heard of Mr.l Snell campaigning against the S Army. Perhaps, he was unhappy when their music first was released fot the public to play and said "This worries me a bit, but I'll wait and see." No he has waited and found things to be getting out of hand and decided to speak out.

    There is an old saying that if you put a frog in a jar boiling water it will jump out, but if you put it in a jar of room temperature water and turn up the heat it will stay in there and boil to death.

    [edit] sorry if the frog reference disturbs you kirmat ;)
  10. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    Howard Snell says-

    "SP&S is primarily a support organisation for a religious body"....."Banding should not be used in this way. It should not be secondary to anything else. I believe that it is socially and musically too important to be used for others` hidden purposes.

    Sorry Brian,
    I refer you to Howard Snell`s point above, why does`nt this scenario bother you?
    it bothers me!
  11. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    I don't want to put words in Brian's mouth, but I think agree with what he is trying to say. Because the Salvation Army doesn't seem to have a hidden agenda (they seem to come write out and say they use band music to promote their agenda of passing on Christianity, helping others, etc...) I don't have a problem with it.

    If they were all like "We're doing this because we just want to help brass banding, because brass banding is swell" and then behind the scenes were like "We are going to take over the world with our spreading of christianity and good faith MWAHHAHAHA (Okay that's a bit of an exageration)" Then I would have a problem with it.

    But, the S Army seems to be quite up front with their agenda. So it doesn't bother me.
  12. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    Music published by The Salvation Army does indeed generally have religious overtones - that's because SA bands are not just for hymn accompanying and march leading, but also play music during the services in a similar function to an Anglican church choir singing an anthem ie. to aid religious worship and to expand on matters of a sermon with tunes! Now, the idea of a church using music that isn't in any way religious for the purposes of religious worship is clearly nuts, and SP&S has for years supplied SA bands of all sizes and abilities with suitable repertoire. However, I can't remember reading that the SA has at any point offered the view that all brass band music should have the same 'religiosity'; if this is not the case, then I would appreciate it if someone could point me in the direction of the relevant article.

    With reference to kirmat - I didn't mean that Mr Snell was wrong, just that being famous doesn't automatically make you right! I happen to disagree with a lot of what he is saying - I don't think that SP&S has an ulterior motive and, as others have already pointed out, it's hardly as if people are clamouring to take the lead in banding issues. Yes, they now own British Bandsman, but it's not being edited by the same people who edit The War Cry, is it?! If there comes a time when the SA are trying to use BB or any other sphere of influence in contesting banding for religious campaigning then that will be an entirely different situation.

    In the interests of open-ness I should point out that I am ex-SA, but I have no axe to grind either way. What is great is that people who have doubts about recent developments can express them sensibly, and that they can be answered equally sensibly; this sort of debate can only help banding move forward.

  13. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    I guess the main thrust of Mr Snell`s comments are that if the SA are true to themselves, everytime they make policy they must take account of their own religious mission first, if they have influence over banding what is their priority-
    their own beliefs or what is best for banding, accepting of course that sometimes either view might not be mutually exclusive.

    I remember in the Eighties attending the Reading Contest which was run by Salvationists, at one of the satellite venues (Ryeish Green School) a local Publican had organised a free mini-bus to help ferry bandspeople to his hostelry up the road.
    The Publican enquired as whether the organisers would announce the service on the PA system in the hall...he was politely told no, because this would upset the organisers religious sensibilities......

    Are there any current SA members out there with a view ?..........cue a "masonic" type silence!

    Ian Heard.
  14. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Which has ensued for 2 1/4 hours

    Ian, you appear to be a voice heard in the wilderness. ;)

    It would be nice if the SA members on here would at least make some response. Personal, if they don't feel up to speaking for the whole organisation.

    Are the SA going to try to preach abstinence, abstemiousness and generosity of spirit to the contesting bandsman? Mine's a JD!:shock:
  15. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    I`m guessing it being Sunday might explain the lack of response.

    The real frustration for me is the real lack of a national banding body capable of running our banding institutions and planning our future.
    In Besson we have a Company who are accountable only to themselves (and their shareholders?) and own the rights to OUR National and European contests.
    In SP&S/Kapitol we have religious business people slowly buying up/and being awarded by Besson, every facet of our movement.
    Come on BFBB, it`s time to take on these people and at last let ordinary bandspeople run their own affairs.

    Ian Heard.
  16. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    OK, I'll be a current Salvationist voice (I must say at the start that I am not an officer or employed by the SA in any way, so this is personal opinion only).

    As a Salvationist, I am slightly uncomfortable with the rapid commercialization of the Army's music "industry". I believe that this will eventually lessen the effectiveness of the Army's traditional music programs in relation to the overall mission of the organization.

    As far as the opposite, having SP&S have a negative impact on the rest of the banding world, I think that there is a bit of conspiracy hysteria happening with some people. Yes, the Army is an evangelical organization. Yes, almost all of the music published by the Army has a religious application. Yes, we have moral standards that are (supposed) to be applied to our musicians. How is any of this a threat to the the "outside" banding world? No one is being forced to play music published by SP&S, or subscribe to their publications.

    There are many, many people in banding who have a "agenda" other than playing. Does Besson sponsor championship contests simply because they want to promote the brass band "movement"? No - they are trying to sell instruments. Any band that accepts sponsorship of any kind is agreeing, at least in part, to the beliefs and policies of the sponsor, and to further the sponsor's "agenda". Mr. Snell and others seem to be indicating that an organization with religious motivation is somehow more dangerous than an organization with market motivation. I find this a little hard to accept.

    I'm not saying that the Army is a perfect organization, and I understand why some in the band community might be concerned about recent developments. However, I challenge anyone to show how the moves made previously by the Army, such as opening the music catalog to all and allowing Army bands to play non-Army music, have in any way weakened the brass band world as a whole.
  17. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    Kirmat's confession in the first sentence suggests he's been misplacing his real annoyance on the wrong people when firing off against the likes of SP&S. He seems to think the companies of SP&S and Kapitol are linked together and that the latter (of which I have little knowledge) is a religious organization. I've never seen or heard that claim before. In the case of SP&S, I very much doubt they have plans of running a "banding institution and planning our future." They are simply working in our capitalist marketplace in competition with other recording companies, music publishers and magazine publishers. That to me appears to be a commercial venture. They must think it is worthwhile and have taken a financial risk where others probably wouldn't dare. It's true they were originally set up to supply the needs of Salvationists (and became the object of many goodhearted jokes), but I suspect they have adapted to the professionalism required in today's world to survive; that requires a more entrepreneurial administration. This probably worries a number of Salvationists, too, who see such diversity as a distraction from the core business of SP&S. But fear of SP&S attempting a religious take-over of the brass band movement seems a bit like looking for reds under the bed. Any such attempt would be pointless and counterproductive to business.

    It is the aim of companies run by Christians and Christians themselves to uphold standards of honesty and fair-dealing practices in the marketplace. To suggest there is anything sinister about it might indicate a religious phobia.
  18. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    The BFBB - as is my understanding - is bandspeople running their own affairs!

    Yes, abstinence is a personal issue; and maybe abstemiousness up to a point (although what's so sinister about moderation in all things?!). But generosity of spirit is something that we humans can sometimes lack in abundance, and maybe more individuals and organisations should try and promote it. It's not even a particularly Christian thing, let alone a particularly SA thing!

    And now getting back to the matter in hand....

  19. rosibroad

    rosibroad New Member

    Ok I thought I might try to add my thoughts to this, I am a Salvationist Bandswoman and also I play for a townband, I must say though this is MY personal thoughts and not any to do with the SA.

    To be honest when the SA decided to release all their band music so that non-salvation army bands could use it, it sadden me. Yes our music and our banding is firstly Christian and then secondly Brass Band music but thats the way SA composers intended it to it has been stated our music is used during our worship time.........I have to say has anybody thought about it this way.....the S.P&S will not use their influence towards christianity upon non amry banding but banding on SA Corp/Churches....i have to say this might actually work to reistabilish Banding within an Army context in some struggling corp.

    As for the comments on the fact that whenever Army music is played by non SA bands one Brass Composers suffers all I have to say about that is don't play SA music if you feel that way inclined its not like we force you to use it, it won't make a difference to to the composers that wrote it. proberly would to SP&S though after all they are the ones you pay when you buy it. But you have to agree the SA does have some very very talented composers writing for both non army and army bands.

    Rosi (who thinks she might of just stuck her size 9 foot right in it)and apoligies if I have offended anyone, but that my thoughts and feelings

    by the way how many of you are using the SA's Carol books for Caroling? I know at least 7 non army bands that do!!
  20. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I feel that the SA music is being treated unfairly. Yes, it has some sacred background to it's content but at least people can try and understand the imagery or story behind it. It doesn't seem to bother banders when they play traditional sacred music, Christmas or otherwise! I must ask what other alternatives were there when the Bandsman, Doyen or otherwise was put on the market?