Is the British brass band movement dying?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by ericthered, Mar 20, 2009.

  1. ericthered

    ericthered Member

    It may be only what I see but is banding slowly fading away? There seems to be too many bands and not enough players. The general quality of players is also diminishing with some quite average players filling seats in some traditionally fine bands.

    There is also a big disparity within areas and indeed within area contests. Any band in the Yorkshire and the North West Championship section could hold up well at the National Championships as the traditional heavy weight areas contain the cream of the movement but if you look at the bands within those areas alarm bells start to ring.

    Generally the Yorkshire area is won by one of the big three Black Dyke, Grimethorpe or Brighouse who between them have hundreds of thousands of pounds going through their accounts each year. At the foot of the Championship table i.e. Yorkshire Imps, Hammonds, Hatfield etc who are good bands and would hold up in any other area it is more or less a penny by penny existence.

    Comments from adjudicators this year have also raised alarm bells in my mind. Reports of adjudicators looking for the tell tale bands, i.e. the favourites, getting the correct top three or four and then after that who cares it “could be any order”. Well the bands being relegated will care as demotion for any band often results in a large change of personnel which brings me to my final point. Too many bands have empty seats. They fill up for the area by bringing out friends and family for the event but come the concert season the same deputy players float around filling empty seats here and there. This masks the general situation, white washing the fact the movement is slowly fading away.

    Thoughts or comments please.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2009
  2. Despot

    Despot Member

    If you forgive me I think you're confusing "contesting" with the "nature" of bands!

    While people are still joining and learning to play, the movement will continue.
  3. yoda

    yoda Member

    I'm not sure that this a something new ericthe red.

    seems to me that this has been the way the movement (i use the term advisedly) has been slipping for the last 20 years of so.

    Its not all doom & gloom tho. there are still some bands at all levels which buck the trend.

    You can point the finger of blame in many areas: professionalism (paid players) contesting (over emphasis on results etc) other things to do, etc etc but surely the bottom line is that the sooner we all get back to doing banding for the love of the music and the love of performing (however that may be, contest or concert) then the better we will all be for it.

    there are many things "wrong" but there is also much that is excellent. brass banding is the leader in all forms of amateur music making (not going to comment here on the pro players/bands etc) that must be because things have been done well for a number of years. evolution rarther than revolution is the key, but a word of warning..... evolve the wrong way and revolution may be the only (and last desperate) option.

    happy music making :)
  4. brownrob

    brownrob Member

    The movement needs to appeal to more youngsters

    Until playing in a brass band can be as "cool" as playing a Guitar or the drums it will be tough to get more kids in

    The face of pop music has changed with every generation, from Buddy Holly to whatever they call it nowadays

    I know I would prefer to play some of the less cliched pieces now and again.

    I always felt that with bands playing pop music items (read bernaerts) when I hear bands playing them, it seems very... how do I put it (apologise the dyslexia for the lack of thinking of a more appropriate term) polite and dainty. I always think pop music, although highly produced, is still rather rough but brass bands tend to play it very rigidly, I think that a big band approach could help reinforce my point?

    One of the last tunes that I heard that I really liked was Mas que Nada on the bernaerts CD, it actually sounded like a pop song

    Sorry for straying off the point!
  5. Simon_Horn

    Simon_Horn Member

  6. Aurora771

    Aurora771 Member

    I just assumed that there would be some brass band culture shown at the opening ceremony of the Olympics in 2012. Didn't they say that they wanted to cover all different aspects of British life? I'm expecting a Brass Band and Pipe Band to be there definitely. Maybe I'm too optimistic about the Olympic committee living up to expectations.

    The problem has always been getting kids wanting to play a brass instrument, I get the feeling that most authorities would rather have a ten year old learning the violin/cello/piano than a cornet/horn/euph. And then once you get them an instrument, the task is getting them to stick at it! *sigh* the number of people I know who played in the school brass band and then just stopped saddens me. (I'm still plugging away though... got a couple to come to the local band :D)

    Brass Banding will never be seen as 'cool' to the majority of people, but who cares? We know that brassers have more fun!
  7. themusicalrentboy

    themusicalrentboy Active Member

    A brass instrument takes a lot more work to get to a decent, aurally pleasing standard than say a guitar (Drums are NEVER aurally pleasing ;) ) My friends say I'm uncool for being in a Brass band, but do I care?? NO. I get to entertain hundreds, possibly thousands of people per year and at the end of the playing if time allows we go and get some neck-oil down us. I wouldn't want anything more than to spend a weekend with 25 close friends, making music, having fun and maybe getting a little lashed as well.
  8. el_blasto

    el_blasto Member

    Youth Bands are better than ever these days, with more members, and a better standard of musicianship. I don't think the movement is dying, merely changing.

    Contesting, whilst not dying, is starting to struggle though, in particular the Regionals, which seem to feature fewer bands these days. Is this to be unexpected, though? Blasting through the same unplayable piece for weeks on end can surprisingly enough become tedious for many bands.

    I feel that own choice and entertainment festivals should be the future.
  9. Squeaker

    Squeaker Member

    I disagree with this. Brass banding may not be seen as cool now, but you can't say it never will. Irish tap dancing was considered un-cool until Riverdance! Then everybody wanted to do it.
    Maybe something similar will happen for brass banding. Until then I believe it's the job of every brass band to try and get youngsters into the training bands. Also to play music that will appeal to a younger audience at concerts. Some bands I've heard do themselves no favours playing too much traditional and old music.
  10. Fedman

    Fedman Member

    "What is needed is stronger representation nationally to take forward our agenda on a strategic level. Perhaps this is happening and maybe a representative body like the Brass Band Federation think that they are fulfilling a strategic role - but as someone who has been involved in brass bands for the last 20years I've obviously missed that memo!"

    The BFBB Development Officer, Phil Watson, has been extremely close to any discussions re the Olympics and brass bands. From his Board position on Voluntary Arts Network and as secretary to the All Parliamentary Group on Brass Bands, Phil is probably the only person working for bands on this issue and will be the first to hear of any opportunities. He has already produced a paper on the subject but you must have missed that! There is no money available at the moment. I was however present when the Chairman of the BFBB discussed a possible involvement for bands with the Sports Minisiter.
    On the future of bands I do agree with the problem of apathy and sheer laziness on the part of many "involved" in banding - take your region, the BFBB held its AGM there last year and not one local band rep. turned up.

    Generally on the future of banding: My own band has a total of 66 members covering a senior band and two levels of training bands. Plenty of young people there thinking its "cool". Well something they enjoy, if not exactly "cool". I suggest you come to the National Youth Champs at the RNCM in April and see how many young people are involved!
    Finally, contests are not the only measure of the health of banding and many bands are now feeling that contests are a boring interuption into the normal, extremely varied, music making in the year.
  11. Ali.Syme

    Ali.Syme Member


    We're still one of few countries that has more amateur brass bands than amateur orchestras - I think every now and then there's a lull in fresh players. If you imagine most people will take up an instrument at maybe 12 years old - maybe something happened 12 years ago which prevented that...maybe even later than that.

    With tutor cuts from local authorities cropping up, we might see a generation of children who simply don't get the chance to learn - so maybe we're seeing the effects of the last reccession.
  12. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    I agree with the original poster. There are 3 bands within a 20 mile radius of me and none of them can perform a concert without help from the other two. Player numbers are decreasing and not being replaced as us oldies retire.
  13. StellaJohnson

    StellaJohnson Active Member

    Introduce a new contest rule, bands competing have to have at least 6no under 18's. Problem solved ;)
  14. MajorMorgan

    MajorMorgan Member

    Rayleigh, Essex
    "Take forward our agenda on a strategic level", Simon?

    You've been to too many meetings at work...
  15. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    I generally agreed with the first part of your post but I really can't agree with the last section.

    I would say that the opposite is true, contests are a chance to play challenging music at as high a standard as you can attain, a much welcome interuption to the normal concert programmes aimed to please an audience, not neccessarilly(spelling) the players themselves.
  16. 2007besson2052

    2007besson2052 Member

    Swindon, Wiltshire
    Maybe in many areas of the country, young people are put off by the average age of their local bands that they could get involved with, and the younger generations in this country are more opposed to socializing and making music with 'much older generations' compared to previous generations. :(
  17. marksmith

    marksmith Active Member

    Anyone who wants evidence that the Brass Band movement is alive and well, should look at the Leicestershire bands.
    The Midlands seems to have gained a reputation for struggling in comparison with certain aspects of the national scene. but Leicestershire definitely bucks this trend.
    Bands such as Ratby, Hathern, Enderby to name a few, are the focus of the local community and run several bands, at all levels.
    The positive ethos that is evident for all to witness, is an example to society in general, in what can be achieved by a few dedicated individuals, to the good of all.
    The Leicestershire Association encourages the 'family' feel to it's member bands and a more friendly, committed group of enthusiasts you will not find anywhere.
    ( No, I am not a member of any of the named organisations).
  18. ericthered

    ericthered Member

    Having read the recent posts it is nice to see people with enthusiasm and hope for the future.

    However I find the talk of the 2012 Olympics baffling. The 2012, LONDON, Olympics will be seen as many as a LONDON centric event and NOT as a UK/British/England Olympics. Therefore brass bands, traditionally seen as a Northern pastime, will be white washed out of the events.

    OK you may see a few in and around the venues etc playing to spectators travelling from A to B BUT do you think bands will be seen in the opening or closing ceremonies? Not likely, what would the organisers prefer “Girls Aloud” or a good brass band!?

    The likelihood is a token presence by brass bands and for token fees so the politicians can say they have been included but in general ignored.
  19. brownrob

    brownrob Member

    I know what Id prefer! :D
  20. SuperCat

    SuperCat Member

    Head in sand??

    I would say that people are packing in playing at a faster rate than people are learning to play and there are too many bands for the amount of players that are about.

    How many people for instance can say that their band attended the area this year with only their regular players? I would guess not many at all as there are so many empty seats these days which need filling for a contest.

    Having looked at the results this year, it struck me that the number of bands in the sections seems to be ever decreasing. In my first ever area contest (20 years ago :eek:) there seemed to be loads of bands, so I've just checked. In 1989 the Yorkshire 4th Section had 24 bands. 10 years later there were 13 and this year there were 9 bands in the fourth section. A greater than fifty percent decrease in 20 years and there's no problem?!

    First prize was £200 in 1989 and it was in 1999. Not sure how much it was this year, although if I had to hazard a guess, I don't think it will have gone up that much.

    I realise that is only a snapshot and it maybe that other sections have increased in numbers in this time, but I somehow doubt it.

    Also, it seems that the adjudicators are not accoutable, why isn't some quality control introduced to monitor them? Why can't it be questioned why they think a piece should be played like it was on a recording (and not how it was written)?

    Whilst prize money is a joke and the results that some judges come out with are allowed to continue, brass banding will continue to go downhill.
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