Massed Bands - Brilliant or Pointless?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by David Mann, Apr 18, 2007.


Massed Brass Bands - Love 'em or hate 'em

  1. Love 'em

    29 vote(s)
  2. Hate 'em

    19 vote(s)
  3. Neutral

    18 vote(s)
  1. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    Although I'm a big fan of massed military bands outside (Trooping the colour, Remembrance Sunday), I don't like playing in or listening to massed brass bands inside as the volume tends to increase in inverse proportion to the precision and intonation. I've no problem with a few extra players (see my thread "more players on stage") but two or more bands? In fact, I think it's a bit like playing 22-a-side football...
    What do you think?
  2. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I've voted "neutral" as in many instances the result is quite negative, with either an ill-advised choice of music - usually something that's full of "blastissimo" markings - or else a total lack of interest from the players concerned.

    This is a shame, as there is great potential when you have a couple of bands together: it should give you scope for much subtlety and refinement in the playing, with proper control and the opportunity for a really full, balanced climax. When it works, it can be really special, as when I heard the students from the RAM joining with Black Dyke on the occasion of James Watson's last concert with them: fantastic sound that just grew and grew, without getting out of control.
  3. Veri

    Veri Member

    Lots of fun to play in though, particularly outside!
  4. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    The British Bandsman Centenary Concert was quite a good one - I enjoyed playing in that....although there were one or two rather hairy moments conductor wise....
  5. CubbRep

    CubbRep Member

    I played at Symphony Hall last year in a massed bands spectacular.It was absolutely fantastic and the sound was good.We played some really good music and the massed choirs were fantastic.
    I think Steve Pritchard Jones did a grand job putting it all together and the audience really appreciated it as well.If I get the opportunity to do it again,I will.As an ex military musician/drum major,I hated doing tattoo's.The only time I enjoyed doing them,was when I was a Drum Major.All I did was look pretty at the front.Not saying that it was easy.Not by any means.
  6. on_castors

    on_castors Member

    Only played in one, years ago (1975 or was it '76?) under Edward Gregson - a great experience, but I doubt the greatest event in musical history for those listening, but for those playing it was tremendous.
  7. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    I voted "love 'em" simply because they're great fun to play in. Not so sure about the listening aspect though - massed performaces are quite often under-rehearsed and once the element of friendly rivalry kicks in they tend to be slightly over-loud!

    Every time I've played in a massed band the rehearsal was a quick run through before the concert, and during the concert the MD spent the whole massed perfomance trying to keep the dymanic under control! But as I say, great fun.
  8. Ipswich trom

    Ipswich trom Member

    We do one with another local band where we do a half each then play together for a couple of pieces. It is normally good fun and the audience love it. Did similar last year with Whitburn and that was excellent.
  9. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    Did a massed band finale once with William Davis and Kettering Citadel, playing the last movement of the "New World" symphony. It was certainly very loud and impressive. The visual impact was pretty strong as well with the clash between the Davis yellow duster jackets and the Army bright red festival tunics!
  10. I voted to "love em"........ That concert at Symphony Hall really was a day to remember..............
  11. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    Unless it is two bands doing a joint concert, ay more than that is usually a mess. Most bandsman in most groups I know, would rather just get out of there.
  12. Pastit

    Pastit Member

    I remember being in the audience for that and thinking exactly the same thing!!!
  13. barrytone

    barrytone Member

    Not very keen on playing in them but love listening to top bands when they do massed band numbers. Having said that, last year I participated in two excellent massed band concerts, one with California State Wind Band and the other with Black Dyke, absolutely fantastic experiences but for different reasons!


    Played in one when I was small and had only been playing for a few years. It was Nobby Challis, my original teacher's, 75th birthday celebration concert in the Playhouse in Oxford. I found it stunning and awe inspiring as a kid sat amongst some amazing players, was really something to aspire to. So I have voted 'Love em' as I think they are a brilliant idea for kids like I was, inspires them to stay in the movement and shows them what they can achieve if they work at it!
  15. Nah, they're always under rehearsed and lack content and variety. Steer well clear
  16. persins

    persins Member

    I have done a few massed bands jobs in the past and nearly everytime wondered why I bothered.
    I just don't think it works. You end up with a mess as, more often than not, the music is ill concieved and very under-prepared. In the Basingstoke area, 5 local bands came together in 2000 to form a Millenium Brass and have done a concert annually. The format has changed slightly but there was always a massed band element. It may be that the individual players were not all top quality but you generally got the feeling that it really did not matter what you played, because it was always overshadowed by the 50 or so other players playing your part.

    Even combining two bands, it still reduces further the clarity without adding massive amounts to the sound. A good band playing together will rival the noise level a massed band in any case.

    However, in the case of Leighton Rich's recent memorial concert, the massed band idea was used to great affect by allowing the maximum amount of players possible to play. It is a fantastic testament to Leighton that so many wanted to be there to support his family and remember him.
    In this instance the musical standard was definitely a secondary consideration in my view.
  17. John Brooks

    John Brooks Well-Known Member

    I voted for "Love 'em". I do have a couple of qualifications however: no more than three bands; adequate rehearsal; and appropriate music selection (the last goes for every performance, not just massed bands).

    To some extent the challenge of adequate rehearsal can be overcome with the conductor visiting the individual bands and then bringing the group together for minimal massed rehearsal on the day.

    Like most, I've both played in and listened to some great and aweful performances. For me probably the worst examples were from the Gala Concerts in the 60's and early 70's at the RAH where often five or six bands "attempted" to perform.

    At the other end of the spectrum I would cite the Black Dyke / ISB performances at the Eric Ball Memorial Concert in Nottingham; for me that was outstanding. Other examples would include Men 0' Brass, particularly the "Cathedral Brass" recording.
  18. Daisy Duck

    Daisy Duck Member

    I voted for Hate 'em!

    We've done a couple of joint wind band concerts and it always just turns into a "we can play higher and louder than you" competition between the trumpets (which we, of course, win) but there's no musicality... it's just volume!
  19. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    I'd agree with that 100% - I played in the NYBBW 10th anniversary where we had over 100 players on stage, intonation and accuracy were fairly dodgy, but it was a right laugh.

    I've spoken to people who played in the Nationals Gala Concerts on a reasonably regular basis in the 80s and they told me that, because of demanding contest rehearsal schedules, they were regularly woefully under-rehearsed with players often a bit worse for wear from spending the day in the Mews. One year (so I'm told ;) ) Rigid Containers Group (GUS), having just come last, were doing the massed band with Desford, who'd won, and the gloating/sledging/ribbing was of Aussie cricket team standard.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2007
  20. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Besses did lots of these in the late 70s / early 80s...I can still remember the look on my Dad's face when the Bourgeois arrangement of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" dropped through the door for that very reason....three bands + new arrangement with lots of sharps + half a pint of lager shandy = possible disaster (as it was it was OK, and made it onto the LP ;) ). Quite like that arrangement as well - about time it resurfaced I think.

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