Regionals 2008: Championship Section Test Piece: Festival Music

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by Di, Sep 30, 2007.

  1. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    I am a firm believer in brass bands constantly moving forward, and I agree that we should really embrace contemporary composers (I particularly agree in inviting composers from other musical arenas).

    But, this has to be balanced with musical heritage.

    It would be a complete disaster if orchestras decided just to play totally contemporary music and didn't balance this with bringing out Beethoven, Mozart etc. on a regular basis (are we including Mahler and Stravinsky as heritage? we really should as music constantly moves on – should a piece be played once and never again? I realise this is the bizarre extreme, but where does the ‘contemporary’ music definition end?)

    There was a lot of rubbish written in Mozart's time but this doesn't get played. Mozart does as it remains some of the finest music ever written, and is still an inspiration to musicians today. So Mozart gets played much more than many other composers of his day.

    I'm not saying that Eric Ball is quite in Mozart’s league, but he was a shining example of how to write melodic music for the Brass Band. Rhythm and effect are all wonderful things, music has to progress, our tastes and preconceptions must constantly be challenged, but when music is this good, it doesn't matter when it was written, it should remain within our contest programming.

    (And I'm afraid the argument that there isn't much for percussion doesn't hack it. Shall we specify to all new contest composers that each part has to have the same amount of work to do, the same technical content etc? This is music, not a car factory. Contests are about progressing musically, not about ticking boxes, or measuring criteria)
  2. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    I do however, completely agree with this post.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 5, 2007
  3. Sandy Smith

    Sandy Smith Member

    .... and that's the rub.

    Contest pieces really are all about ticking the "right" boxes and maybe because of this we are in danger of stagnating musically.

    When did you last listen to an orchestral piece and make a judgement on its' musical merit based on whether there was a hard enough.......( insert name of instrument here)..... solo or plenty of opportunity for the strings to scurry about a lot ?
  4. nhrg

    nhrg Member

    Balance in all things

    I agree there should be balance. Wholeheartedly. The Nationals and the Regionals are the flagship contests, there are plenty of opportunities in the banding year to play Eric Ball et al in concerts and other contests. Adopting this criteria would send an important message, continue to generate new music and should really challenge conductors, players and the movement.

    As for arrangements, the day I go to a jazz gig or a classical concert and hear them play an arrangement from a brass band piece is the day I will advocate picking pieces like Rienzi for our top contests.

    How to define what classes as contemporary is an interesting debate.

    Contemporary music is more likely (looking at the evidence) to have testing parts for all areas of the band including percussioninsts.
  5. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    You're completely right. I probably should have said:

    "This is music, not a car factory. Contests should be about progressing musically, not about ticking boxes, or measuring criteria"
  6. nhrg

    nhrg Member


    Good point. I think the best test pieces are the ones that have musical integrity AND still manage to test all players in the band, that's what makes brass band contesting unique.
  7. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Admittedly it doesn't happen very often, however
  8. nhrg

    nhrg Member

    Good one. Should be a new thread really...I've got a recording of Malcolm Arnold's "little suite.." arranged for orchestra, it's really nice, especially the Siciliano.
  9. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    I disagree about assigning Eric Ball to concerts.

    If you were to test how good an orchestra was, how would you do it? If you just asked each to play technically difficuly contemporary pieces you would be able to judge one aspect. But what about the rest? how good is an orchestra that can't play Mozart?
  10. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    sorry last post should have said concerts and minor contests. too late to edit! :)

    ROBTHEDOG Member

    This whole discussion is probably the subject of separate post rather than "Next Years Area" but it seems to raised a few points. However carrying on, the stereotypes of Brass Bands are often held up to the images in "Brassed Off" where William Tell is what we do, even though the film did great things for our audiences..

    Good music is Good music - who decides Berio is better than Mozart, is better than Frank Zappa !!! - or should that read Ball is better than Wilby, Bingham or Vinter

    Remember Vinter's "Spectrum" was thought completely outrageous !!!

    I was a member of The Jones & Crossland Band that played at Granada Band of the Year and opened with the Britten's Fanfare for St Edmundsbury (on trumpets) and finished with the Tippett Festal Brass with Blues. Not generally well received in fact Granada dubbed loads of applause when it went out on TV - BUT I think we played to make a point. Beaten that day by a band throwing peanuts into the audience! (The good news was the Tippet was then used at Next Natonal Youth Band course

    My concern is that it is US that spend our HOBBY time preparing the music and I just feel we ought to be able to be involved in the choice be it in voting scheme or what ever. We have been lucky (at Derwent) that we can chose two or three "own Choice" contests a year and generally discuss amongst the band (Thanks to our MD) what we would like to play In the last couple of years that's resulted in us doing.

    Dances & Arias
    Year of The Dragon
    Paganini Variations

    and have looked ant many others ...

    GOOD MUSIC is GOOD MUSIC old or new but we have to push boundries

    We lament not having more Tippett or Vaughn Williams, but when composers are 'put off' by the reactions of audience and in some cases Adjudicators (I remember Steve Sykes saying that the latest erata for Prague was in fact a typo in the Title should be called Plague)

    Anyway enough of this, we will play Festival Music and enjoy what it has to bring and I'm it will sort the top bands out..

    C'est la vie
  12. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member


    3 seperate contests for the regionals. 1) A solid piece of Brass Band heritage (maybe even an excellent arrangement of classical music) 2) Contemporary test-piece 3) Entertainments contest (and I don't just mean playing a Robbie Williams anthology! - could be a jazz programme, a contemporary programme, whatever the band or MD feel is musically entertaining)

    The winners of the regionals are decided from a combination of each result.

    Then the Nationals each year is a newly commissioned piece from a respected contemporary composer - given out 4 weeks before the contest. No recording, and really pushing boundaries.

    The National Champions really would be the best band around. It would also add a real 'buzz' to the very staid contest format and maybe finally bring interest and respect back into brass bands.

    (I realise that this may not be possible, but it's a nice idea)
  13. Timpking

    Timpking Member

    YOUNG? Last time I checked, Sion (my bro) was 30 something!! Oh sorry mate that is young to you!! :D
    I think I'll take the area off as well!!

    Well played last weekend good result.

    See you soon.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2007
  14. nhrg

    nhrg Member

    I love it! Why not add a 3 minute sight reading test as well. Each band would have to get something different but comparably challenging. You'd get the music as you registered.
  15. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    hmmm no comment!

    Anyway, Festival Music is a beautiful piece of music. I love prague and I love Extreme Makeover etc etc, but there is no denying that this is writing of the highest standard.

    Really looking forward to performing the piece at the area and listening to the other bands. I'm sure there will be some beautiful performances of this.

    ROBTHEDOG Member

    Well said & heads down as we were told recently by well know conductor "during the preparation it should be the favourite piece of all of us !

    ROBTHEDOG Member

    Thanks Al - actually Sion looks younger every week.. Rgds
  18. flugelboy

    flugelboy Member

    i totally agree there no comment to the sightreading thing lol
    festival music is a good piece and i think it will test a lot of bands especially the soloists in the bands as there is a reasonable amount for them,
  19. MoominDave

    MoominDave Active Member

    We ran through it last night. Interesting, yes, I see where you are coming from now with regard to Mozart, etc. It's a pretty convincing pastiche, isn't it?

    I have to agree with Andy in disagreeing with the sentiment of yours I've quoted though. Mozart liked his innovation, instrumentally speaking, and would certainly have been happy to write for band if it was a viable medium. His style would have been the style that he brought to his writing for other media - and Eric Ball replicates this quite faithfully in the first movement, although his structural sense was not quite as 'tight' as Mozart's was.

    It's an interesting challenge to bands, and one that's possibly more intriguing now than it was at the time it was written, before bands subscribed to the 'bigger is better' ethos. If I can just persuade our tenors onto peashooters, I may have a serious band use for that G/D trombone that Steve Butler sold me... If I can't, I'll just play the bass part on a tenor; there's no need for that fat bass trombone sound at all in this piece.
  20. MoominDave

    MoominDave Active Member

    So what's the story behind the piece?

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