"Optional" percussion

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by McEuphie, Jan 10, 2005.

  1. McEuphie

    McEuphie Member

    Hi Folks

    I will be playing "Divertimento" by Brian Kelly in the 4th section regional at Blackpool and have been browsing through the score and have a couple of question that I would be gratfeul to hear your thoughts on.

    The percusion parts are written as "optional" on the score so:

    If percussion is not used would a band be discriminated against?

    If percussion is used would a band be judged "better" than if perc wasn't used?

    If percussion is used then should the playing of be discounted by the adjudicators - with a note from the regional committees explaining this?

    There was also an article in recent BBW about perc at pontins - too difficult for lowr section bands so was discounted by adjudicators - is this a common theme?

    I would be grateful for your views.

  2. jo

    jo Member

    we have a similar instruction with an "optional" glock part in rienzi for the areas....I would say that optional isnt really an option when contesting, if you can get the players then use them...it cant hurt and it might be the difference between top 3 and bottom 3 placings depending on the mood of the adjudicators on the day. If you cant get the players then you just have to hope for the best, but I think it would be unfair for the adjudicators to discount any percussion that was put in as some bands and players will have worked hard on the parts they are putting in. I would be seriously annoyed if I had turned out to multiple extra rehearsals and sectionals only to find out on the day that I have wasted my time!
  3. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    I think these are both issues that need addressing.

    At the SCABA Autumn contest there was a prize for best percusion section. Maybe every contest should have a prize for best percussion section to make sure the judgess liten to them?
  4. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    Do a search on "Thorny Percussion Question" and you'll find a debate about it.
  5. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    There were some very good points raised in the BBW article refered to earlier, and I see that Simone Ribello is addressing the ABBA on the subject of percussion in contests: it certainly needs to be addressed properly, or else there are going to be a lot of very frustrated percussionists around - if their efforts are not going to receive due recognition, it could prove virtually impossible to recruit new players in the future.
  6. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    Hopefully Simone will have some sort of impact at the ABBA, because:
    1) there already are a lot of frustrated percussionists
    2) often - in fact I'd go as far as to say in my experience normally - our efforts don't recieve enough recognition from adjudicators
    3) it already is pretty near impossible to recruit new percussionists in a lot of places.

    I like the idea of more 'best percussion' prizes for motivation, as long as they are judged by someone who actually knows about percussion - and preferably can see as well as hear what's going on. It can be very annoying to be one of two players who work their socks off and cover pretty much everything in a 20-minute entertainment programme, only to be beaten to the 'best perc' prize by a quartet who barely broke sweat and made no better a contribution to the overall sound of the band.

  7. skweeky

    skweeky Member

    if you have percussionist who can play it then play it. If the part says optional that is usually to remind you that if you play it wrong it will make the band sound crap.
  8. sparkling_quavers

    sparkling_quavers Active Member

    I agree with some of the earlier comments in this thread. It's difficult enough to get percussion players in (especially in 3rd/4th section). If they are just going to be ignored this will compound the problem. The same could be said for sop players, many bands at the lower levels struggle to get a sop player in, should that mean that we discount what the sop player is doing (although sometimes that could be a useful thing for the band ;) hehe) or just ignore the fact a part is not going in. I believe if any part is missed out it should be noted, I don't mean the band should come last just because they miss a timp roll out but missing parts (whatever they are) will make an overall difference to the sound of the band- therefore the overall performance (in my opinion).
  9. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    Skweeky...I love you mate, but...the idea is to encourage brass banding on this website. A bit harsh for many of the band that are struggling to get percusionists (I think) and just have so beginners or former player helping them out :(
  10. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    Remember, up until the early 1960s percussion was not optional in many contests, it was forbidden.

    "Optional" percussion parts have their origin in this idea. Once percussion was permitted, many bands did not have percussion resources, so composers provided the optional parts for those that did.

    Percussion is now an accepted part of the brass band in almost every context, and optional percussion parts are something of an anachronism.

    The same thing could be said for any part in the band, particularly when discussing any test piece.
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Regarding the 'optional' glock part in Reinzi, may as well say that Wagner did not use this instrument as part of the percussion rig in the overture. Lorriman covered the flute part with glock as part of his colour scheme, but why he marks it as optional is anyone's guess. Has the sop. part got the same line?
  12. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    No... doubt that very much... yes, you may lose points, but at the end of the day, if the band pulls off a good performance, it wont harm you too badly... you'd still get a half decent result.

    You saying we play too loud? :p ;)
    In answer to the question.... Maybe so, maybe not.... we MAY hide some stuff sometimes... like, poor phrasing, something minor like that... so, less percussion, poorer mark for you brass types maybe?... (hehe... :p )

    can't answer this.

    No... I played in lower section for 2/3 years and never found the parts a problem...
    What were the pieces for Pontins anyway? (I dont get BBW)

    All in all, remember... Optional on parts means it's not nessessary to play if it is not possible for a player to get to the part, or you have a shortage of players... if a player can't play it they can't play it...

    With Reinzi, it is an ARRANGMENT, not a TRANSCRIPTION.... so, doesn't matter if it was in the Orchestral score or not... it's there now, and optional to play it... must be doubled up somewhere....

    I wouldnt worry too much about whether you have a full percussion section or not (if the band is short on players and worried about it effecting the result, they should naturally try get the players they need)... it isn't going to change the way the band play on stage at the end of the day.

    :-? What a load of nonsense.... as Brasscrest says, that could be said for anyone in the band... I remember playing in a band where the sop player was...................

  13. tsawyer

    tsawyer Member

    "Optional percussion" to me means that you fill up the other parts with players first. If you have enough players to play the part, then it's up to the MD whether it gets played or not. If he doesn't like it, you miss it out.

    I seem to remember some chaos at the Grand Shield a while back, where there was an old piece with new perc parts (somebody will remember which one!). The new percussion part contained some bonkers stuff on tambourine that was eventually marked as "optional" or "don't play it" in one of the errata sheets that came around. Most bands didn't play it if I recall correctly.

    From an adjudicators point of view, I would expect that if the optional part was missed out, that fact would be ignored when awarding points/placings. Naomi is right about the percussion covering up band stuff though, so if you miss it out and something else is exposed because of it, you would lose points. Likewise if you try and put it in and play it wrong, expect to lose points.

  14. Craigsav83

    Craigsav83 Active Member

    Hey, I've just spotted that! :-? :cool:

    Ahem! Back on topic....

    Personally, I find it rather odd, why a composer would go to the trouble of writing a part, then marking it optional. Is all the percussion optional in Divertimento?

    There was a case several years ago when Dunfermline played in the Scottish with no percussion (it may have been the same piece even) and on the adjudicators remarks, guess what?? Well done percussion!!! :-D :-D
  15. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    As a Conductor and Percussionist I think . .

    i remember a few years back this question was addressed by the area commitee's. I vaguely remember it was said in the lower two sections (3/4) that you wouldn't be judged on the lack of percussion. If you haven't a player for that part then its' fine that its' missing! Just don't play it and get it wrong!!!

    also . . . I've just heard tonight that this years Adjudicators have been told 2nd section bands are not expected to put the Celeste part in Variations!
  16. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    Although percussion is a relatively 'new' conception within the brass band I presonally think that 36 years of using percussion at contests is more than enough time for the 'powers that be' to now be making a stern decision about judging these instruments within the contest environment. Modern day test pieces are specifically written using percussion as an integral part of the ensemble, so why is it basically being overlooked/ignored when it comes to the contesting platform.

    My own opinion on this is that the people who sit in judgement of our bands at contests do not have enough musical knowledge about the plethora of percussion instruments being used, therefore chose to 'ignore' the section in the overall picture. I also think because of this lack of understanding from the judges that they (as an organisation - ABBA) are afraid to admit their downfall and continually 'blame' the lower section bands for not being able to field full percussion teams.

    At last weeks ABBA meeting on the subject of percussion in lower sections bands Derek Broadbent suggested: "that a list of the number of percussionists used by each competing band would be a usefull tool to allow judges to be more sympathetic towards parts missing during a performance".

    If the powers that be are starting to think along these lines, we might as well go back to pre 1969 and not use percussion at all. These ideas and comments do very little to encourage percussionsts to join our bands. All bands work very hard to secure percussion players, as they do any other player within the band, so what hope do we have keeping these players within our ranks if they are to be given the 'sympathy' vote when playing at contests. The sooner adjudicators and 'the powers that be' realise that percussion is now an integral part of the instrumentation of 'The Brass Band' the sooner the test piece selectors (which seem to be in the same organistation!) will chose test pieces with 'substantial' percussion parts to encourage these players to stay.

    An interesting debate - thanks

  17. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    Kelly Kenyon raised a point in the "Thorny Percussion Question" thread that I think is highly relevant.

    If bands are forced to have percussion players because of absence of them being penalised, in the bottom section especially, the number of bands competing may reduce markedly.

    I don't think that anyone wants that to happen.

    I would have been very annoyed, mind, if a band without percussion finished ahead of my band and (in 2004 at least) qualified for the Nationals.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2005
  18. Andy_Euph

    Andy_Euph Active Member

    Would have thought that if its optional then technically you shouldn't lose points for not using any percussion
  19. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    In the case mentioned at the head of the thread, bits of the percussion part are optional, but not all. I was commenting on the wider issue that the thread had veered to.
  20. bigmamabadger

    bigmamabadger Active Member

    Good point, Dougie, and we had the same problem last year. Did it really affect our markings?
    We came 4th @ Preston and bombed out at Blackpool, with exactly the same percussionist playing whatever bits of perc she felt she could manage each time. Granted, she got the jitters big-stylee @ Blackpool but could one player have made such a difference?
    Optional should mean what it says - if you have a competent perc section, field it, if not, not. Anecdotes aside, adjudicators really should be able to tell how much, if any, percussion is being used.

    Another option might be to register number of percussionists used which could then be announced: "Band number 4, using one percussionist". That one percussinist should then be judged on their own performance, not as if competing against 3.