Listen To The ......... Band?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by 1st Position, Aug 6, 2006.

  1. 1st Position

    1st Position Member

    Due to my playing committments, I rarely get chance to listen to the BBC Radio 2 programme 'Listen To The Band', but last Friday stuck in the car I had chance. The chance to listen to a programme of quality brass musicians, playing quality brass music. Or so I thought.

    What were the main band items:-
    Festive Overture - Shostakovich
    Prelude to Act 3 Lohengrin - Wagner
    Pagliacci - Leoncavello
    Finale from Symphony Number 3 - Saint Saens

    All rehashed orchestral works. What happened to programming original works for brass band?

    Having read through several threads recently regarding dwindling audiences, is this the way forward? I would say not. Yes, perhaps include one orchestral arrangement, but not the whole programme. If we are to attract new followers, we need to show off our movement at its best, especially on this programme which can reach a national/international audience. To make matters worse, the Wagner was introduced as a classic brass band piece.

    I am not having a go at the Black Dyke Band (their playing or programming - because as always the playing was very good, especially for a live concert recording, and I don't know if the Band had been engaged to play a themed concert), but just wondered what other people think. Is this a shop window for brass bands, or an advert for radio 3?
  2. dyl

    dyl Active Member

    Last Friday's show was actually the first of two featuring highlights from the concert. I guess I'll see what's on next Friday's show, as it may well be that the LTTB producers chose to group similar items together for each broadcast?
  3. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    One thing is sure. There IS a certain type of music people expect to hear when they show up for a band concert. Dyke may be able to get away with all that orchestral music, because they've always done that kind of thing, but in my experience, stuffing a programme full of orchestral transcriptions is a one way route to disaster. But then, featuring too much of any type of music is the same.

    There are so many brilliant original brass band works out there, and as an ensemble, a brass band is very versatile. Surely orchestral transcriptions should be in the minority on any concert programme?
  4. T Winch

    T Winch Member

    I couldn’t agree more. It frustrates me to think of the amount of excellent original brass band music that never gets played and the number of talented composers we have in our movement that the general public have never heard of. Too many bands, when organising programmes, have the attitude that our audiences only want to hear marches and “stuff they know”. Why can’t we credit our audiences with some intelligence and present them with good music they haven’t heard before interspersed with the old favourites? When programmes are arranged can we not take into consideration what we enjoy playing as well as what the audience want to hear? My own band did a park job at the weekend, which as usual consisted of marches, classical arrangements and cheesy Goff Richards arrangements of popular tunes. As I was leaving I heard one old boy say to his friend “I wish they would play something livelier” to which his friend replied, “Yes. They all seem to play the same old stuff”. I’d just wasted an afternoon playing music I don’t enjoy playing to people who don’t want to hear it! What’s the point?

    As far as Listen To the Band is concerned, their problem is that they only have half an hour and they’re catering to a particular audience. I don’t know many brass band players that listen to it and whenever they have a requests programme the music requested always seems to be classical arrangements, marches, hymn tunes etc. It’s a shame we can’t have a regular radio programme dedicated to original brass band music. This might go some way to proving to those snooty orchestral types that look down their noses at us that much of our original brass band music has just as much merit and credibility as any contemporary orchestral music.
  5. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    This, of course, is exactly what the old "Bandstand" programme used to do, on Thursday evenings on Radio 3: still only half an hour, but a programme consisting of 2 or 3 mainly original works, even if it was shared between brass and wind bands. It was certainly one of the factors in rekindling my interest in "serious" band repertoire after many years away.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2006
  6. T Winch

    T Winch Member

    Anything that can help to rekindle interest in our ailing movement can only be a good thing. Even better if it can generate interest among people not already familiar with what we're about and maybe even dispel our flat caps & whippets image

    (greetings from another ex Millfield bandsman)
  7. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    To an extent, it depends on what you define as 'original bras band repertoire'. Obviously, there are very talented people out there who write original concert items for the medium - I've certainly played a fair few of them on Listen to the Band over the years.

    Bandstand was, as Peter has said, a completely different kettle of fish and was intended as the outlet for the more serious side of the movement. As far as I can think (it's sunny down here in Cornwall - stops my brain from working!) the only vehicle for this kind of repertoire is the Festival of Brass. It'll be interesting to see what happens to the radio coverage of that even after next year now that Paul Hindmarsh has left the BBC. I just hope that enough influence wielded to keep it going.
  8. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    there have also been other occasional features, such as the series on choral/band repertoire a while back, and items on various youth bands & ensembles, although these have often been tucked away in the daytime schedule, appearing in a compendium rather than as a dedicated brass band programme.

    They have also, in the past, recorded the Brass in Concert on the Sunday following the Open, but not for the last couple of years, as far as I can remember.
  9. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Still nothing on a regular basis though for 'serious' material.

    The way it's going is probably that someone enterprising somewhere will set up something like a subscription based podcast for us....hmmm, that's not a bad idea....hmmm...

  10. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    "Bandstand" was superb, and as a teenager I listened to it religiously (yes, I was/am a bit sad) - I wasn't particularly interested in LTTB, which has always been pretty lightweight. I remember hearing Eikanger playing Variations on an Enigma making my jaw hit the floor. I simply hadn't realised it was possible to write stuff like that for brass band and play it so supremely well. For a long time I had a prized, if somewhat illegal :oops: , bootleg tape of "Bandstand" performances including stuff like Grimethorpe Aria. I was mortified when that muppet Drummond axed it.

    It's annoying when the only regular national brass band programme on the radio consists entirely of lollipops and arrangements, but LTTB has always had an audience that wants and appreciates that sort of stuff. Horses for courses I suppose.
  11. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Yep, it's all about the audience demographic unfortunately and us insiders aren't it :rolleyes:
  12. 1st Position

    1st Position Member

    Which begs the question, Who is?

    I know that most bands feature a mixture of music in their normal concert programming, both so that the audience hears something that they expect and appreciate, and also so that the band gets some pleasure out of their performance. If we can programme both original, and arranged music, then why is it not possible for LTTB to do the same? Or is it being broadcast on the suspicion that the music played is what listeners want or expect?
  13. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Most likely the latter.

    All radio stations work to playlists that encompass a percentage of their 'average listeners'. Remember the scandal when Cliff Richard was pulled from Radio 1 because his music wasn't what "their listeners" wanted? I suspect that programme acceptance for LTTB is based on the expectation of a statistical sample of Radio 2 listeners. I've never been involved in a programme submission for LTTB - perhaps someone out there who has could clarify how much free choice is available to Bands and exactly how much influence the Producers have (i.e. do they ever tell you that something is unsuitable, or is some of it predefined.....). In terms of audience reaction, I have to say that - even coming from a Band that at one time pioneered new repertoire - you tend to get the biggest applause for something that an audience is familiar with.

    Radio 3 was always the pioneer of original music - LTTB was always there for the pops and light entertainment music. Much of the latter genre is or at least was arrangements or transcriptions - that's inescapable. I think that situation's changed significantly over the last few years.

    Don't get me wrong - I'm definitely on your side - but I wonder exactly how much influence the recording artists get? Particularly on national radio - they can't afford to take risks.
  14. 1st Position

    1st Position Member

    I have played on several LTTB's in the days when other than the named bands got a look in. Both with Kennedys Swinton and Ever Ready, we used music that was part of our repertoire at that time. In fact the one with Swinton consisted almost exclusively of music we used at the Yeovil contest (including two movements of Year Of The Dragon). With Ever Ready, one of the recordings was filled with music that we had just recorded on the CD 'Early One Morning', which included some old favourites (Army Of The Nile + Albinoni Adagio) and also some original music (Captiva Sound, Flight Of The Tees, Grand Parade). So far as I know, no music was rejected by the BBC because it was not on on a play list.
  15. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    I've played on a few as well ;) and AFAIK we never had anything rejected either.

    Times have changed, though - as you've said, it's become less frequent that the lesser known bands are getting a look in, there are far too many 'CD compilation' shows....I think that in terms of Radio bands wield much lower influence than they did even 10 years ago. You've cited Swinton as a reference - that's quite a long time ago now.

    I think it's a travesty that bands get so little radio exposure. Perhaps now with things like Jim fox's All Brass Band internet radio and the Podcasts we can take a little of the movement back within and, er, start exposing the best bits of ourselves again?
  16. 1st Position

    1st Position Member

    Yes, especially given the standard that many bands play at now. There are not many local radio brass band shows now, yet plenty of air time in this area is given to up and coming rock bands. The only time we have been on in recent times was when we played at the opening of The Deep in Hull. Radio Humberside did a live recording of us playing the newly commissioned piece done for the occasion, broadcasting some of it live, and holding the rest back for the following day. When our latest CD comes out I'm going to try get on one of the shows to publicise it, and maybe get a couple of tracks played. Well it's a start - if my plan comes off.

    It's not so long back that David Mellor did his Classic FM Sunday show 'If you like this.....' on brass. Not a brass band to be heard, yes there are some brilliant orchestral brass musicians, and we would be daft not to listen to them, especially when they are the calibre of Maurice Andre. But given the ratio of brass band brass musicians to orchestral brass musicians, you would think that the powers to be could have included some example of original brass band music.

    The only thing with doing that is there is the possibility of becoming quite insular. Unless the podcast could be well advertised for everybody. Well only two days to the next installment of LTTB. I wonder what will be get..................
  17. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Classic FM's an interesting one.

    Somewhere on here, there's an old thread that - to paraphrase somewhat - refers (funnily enough) to brass bands only playing arrangements and transcriptions, thus making them a relatively unsuitable ensemble for their purpose. Yet they broadcast vocal arrangements of Barber's Adagio for Strings! What's that about?

    A couple of years ago there was an Evening concert scheduled - in recent years they've taken to most of them being from CDs or off older recordings - that had the Overture to Iolanthe as the first item. Imagine my surprise when the Radio Times and at one point their own website credited it as the Besses recording from the Besses in Australia LP (later becoming part of Around the World with the Besses CD).

    I tuned in for that - curious to hear what they'd say about the Band - and they'd substituted it for an orchestra :(

    However, there was no pulling punches when Brassed Off came out and Grimey were all over the station (and all credit to them) - but again it's all down to what the Station Managers expect the audience to want to listen to.

    In terms of the publicity for the Podcast - this site delivers over 5 million page hits per week (I'm sure John will give us the correct number ;) )...all of which go to brass band enthusiasts.....all we have to do is become evangelical and spread the word.

    I was originally thinking in terms of pseudo live recordings the same as Bandstand - but that may present logistical and financial problems - but if you want the non-top 4 bands involved, then either that's what you've got to do, or bands like yourselves have to commit suitable material to CD.

    Tough call - but it'd make an interesting experiment at the very least.
  18. T Winch

    T Winch Member

    David Mellor was one of the snooty orchestral types I was refering to.
  19. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I don't think the major radio stations are going to promote original brass band music if the public perception of us is poor. Ratings are all important for programmes to survive. Education may be the key but who will give priority to brass bands above many other activities that are in competition?
  20. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Yep - spot on.

    I know I keep talking about it, but Classic FM is a commercial radio station - it's sole purpose is to make money. The powers that be obviously believe that their programming is the best way to achieve it - and it doesn't involve Brass Bands.

    I'm afraid that I belong in the camp that believes that, entertaining as it is, Brassed Off didn't do the movement as a whole a huge favour. Public perception does lay in the marches / overtures / let's play the Finale from William Tell to win London whilst getting over inebriated at Whit Firday :eek: (OK, so some of it is true ;) ).

    Listener figures were more than likely the reason for Bandstand being dropped - I'll try and remember to ask Mr Hindmarsh when I speak to him next week.

    So the question then is, how do you educate people if you can't get the exposure. I'm definitely of the opinion that on demand services that can now be provided through the medium of the web are the only real way forwards....but someone somewhere needs to take the reigns.

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