Regressive Butlins Choices ... ?

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by GJG, Aug 5, 2018.

  1. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

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    So, has anyone read this?

    Butlins announces their overtures to bumper prizes in 2019

    The organisers of the Butlins Contest have announced that every single test-piece will be an arrangement (in most cases a "dated" arrangement) of a classical orchestral "pot-boiler", with not one original composition for brass band. And they seem to be quite proud of this …

    It really makes me despair for the future of the movement.
     
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  2. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    I think that I see your point in that the selected pieces weren’t originally written for Brass Band and therefore don’t necessarily take full advantage of what a Brass Band can do - and might be hampered by what a Brass Band can’t give too. Using old music doesn’t develop or support currently writing composers either and as such doesn’t keep the art alive - they need the funds.

    On the other hand those ‘Classical’ composers knew how to put a tune together in that much of their work has remained popular with the public for many generations. In contrast arrangements specifically for Brass Band contests are, IMHO, typically not things the general public want to listen to for their catchy tune and appealing melodies. Of course the object of such pieces is to test and as such I shouldn’t expect to enjoy listening to them too?

    At the end of the day the organisers have given Bands choices and it’s up to each Band to make of the event what they can and then be judged by that. The pieces have been arranged for Brass Bands by well respected Brass Banders, it’s a level playing field, many bands will already have these pieces so perhaps fewer will have to buy new music and perhaps the practiced pieces might also come in handy for some concert too. Good luck to all involved.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
  3. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

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    Personally I think it's refreshing... As a one off.

    Plenty of bands/bandsmen turn their noses up at "brown music" as if it deserves to stay in the past...
    On the contrary, there are lessons to be learned and stiff challenges aplenty therein - perhaps the older generations have already learned some of those lessons, but many younger bandsmen haven't and would be much the poorer if they never do.

    IMHO
     
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  4. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    About ten years ago the band I was playing in dug out some arrangements, brown stuff, that an earlier incarnation of the band used to play. It was jolly hard stuff and I wondered how players in the past managed it, after all aren’t all players much more skilled these days, haven’t we all got so much better with time, yes?
     
  5. Slider1

    Slider1 Active Member

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    In my opinion "No" :(
     
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  6. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    I see your point Gareth, and I can imagine that there's going to be a lot of stuff played that I won't care to listen to.

    I like the idea of revisiting the tests of yesteryear. We shouldn't forget our heritage. I applaud the Butlins organisers for the concept.

    But... This seems nostalgia-driven rather than heritage-driven. These are not banding's strongest choices music-wise - the dominion of Frank Wright arrangements as the pinnacle of our art in the 50s and 60s marked a musical low point for banding, when we collectively retreated back into the same repertoire choices that bands were making a hundred years before then, returning to being nothing more than tonally limited imitations of 19th century art.

    Berlioz was a sparkling orchestrator. At least half the magic of his writing lies in his outside-the-box scoring. Some of his striking tonal effects (e.g. in the final movement of Symphonie Fantastique, the Witches' Sabbath) stand comparison for innovation with anything written later. Frank Wright was a competent band arranger who had none of Berlioz's maverick flair in scoring and a bit of a leaden hand. Listening to a band play a FW arrangement of a Berlioz overture is like viewing a famous colour painting photographed on an old black and white camera - all the colour is lost and there's a certain amount of degraded detail due to the technology of the time.

    It is the year 2018. Those that grew up listening to FW's arrangements as the Albert Hall thrilled to the best bands are now elderly and in charge of things like major contest repertoire choices. This is their nostalgia that Butlins 2019 is reliving, and the title points us to that: The Year of the Overture - this is explicitly recapturing the old association of banding with operatic/symphonic transcriptions.

    Like I say, I approve greatly of the idea of reminding bands of what bands used to be. But there are various other periods of repertoire that I would revisit before the era of Frank Wright. And if I was in charge of a project to revisit past eras in this way, I would be tempted not to bother with that era at all...

    Not quite true. Three of the eleven are original for band - Rimmer's Rule Britannia in the 3rd section, plus Hughes's Overture to Youth and Goff Richards's A Saddleworth Overture in the 4th section.

    But the comment above is really more aimed at the choices offered to the higher sections.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
  7. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

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    Point taken. I obviously didn't pay as much attention to the lower section choices.
     
  8. GER

    GER Active Member

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    It would have been interesting if the choice had been between a 'brown piece' or a more modern piece of music. My guess would be the lower sections would lean towards the older music, whilst the higher sections would be pretty evenly spread between both. It would have given an insight into what happens in the bandroom though.
    Must admit I play for a lower section band, and included in our summer repertoire are Light Cavalry, Grand march from Aida and Bramwyn, they all seem to be very well received.
     
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    I do wonder if any band at all will play the Johns Rienzi arrangement. I personally don't know it at all, and I can't imagine that anyone else bar the odd person will either, given that BBR doesn't have any record of it being used in any capacity at a contest in the UK in the last 40 years (and only one since 1963, in 1975 as an own-choice by Drybrook band). The cohort that played it at the top section Areas in 1963 may (or may not) have the odd member still playing in the championship section 56 years on, but effectively the banding memory of the arrangement's long been lost.

    Which is not an automatic barrier, of course. Worthy repertoire should be resurrected. But we have another arrangement of the same music, more recently known - the Lorriman transcription used for the 2005 Area. Now the Johns arrangement may well be better work than the Lorriman, which is pretty turgid. (But then the original is moderately turgid itself...) But who can tell if it's worth the effort without buying a new score? Bands last longer than players - original scores may be found in the libraries of those 1963 championship section bands - those that still exist, anyhow, roughly half of them. Detective work may be required where libraries of defunct bands may have passed into the hands of other bands.

    56 years is a long time. Of the 8 bands that entered the Butlins championship section last year, 3 didn't exist in 1963 and 3 were in the 3rd section. Only GUS and Jaguar Land Rover might be able to go to their library to see what it was like.

    It would be interesting to know how this particular arrangement found its way onto the list.
     
  10. Mello

    Mello Active Member

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    Interesting topic for sure...I honestly believe today's bands ARE generally technically superior to the bands of yesteryear. higher /faster /complex time signature's etc...But I am not alone in thinking that certain things got lost along the way.
    I am not going to harp on about melodic /lyrical artistry or rich sonorous sounds ,warm tones etc ..you pays your money and takes your choice.
    What I will point out that in my opinion,some brown & yellow music certainly stands the test of time.
    Severn Suite, Pageantry ,Epic Symphony, Downland Suite...then . Festival Music, Tournament for Brass, Resurgamto Year of the Dragon ,Blitz ,Of Men & Mountains" etc, with pieces like Fireworks, Grimethorpe Area , and Kaleidoscope pushing boundaries along the way.
    None of which are easy to play well and all considered brown music.

    So in this regard I feel 2nd tenor is one of those players ,who when confronted with such brown music ,realise the
    players of the time were perhaps better than first thought.

    I do know the players of the Wallace Collection were full of respect for the players of the Cyfarthfa Works Band when playing their pieces in the recording of The Origin of the Species. The Solo which John Wallace had to play is testament in itself.

    Whilst Mooning Dave is correct in mentioning the limitations of Frank Wright, I agree with the late Alex Mortimer when introducing Orchestral arrangements such as Flying Dutchman, Scheherazade , Cavalleria Rusticana all 'our brown music '..."He believed it was better to hear the music of the masters in any form , rather than to never hear it at all.
     
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  11. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    You must know the Johns arrangement, Mello?
     
  12. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

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    I couldn't agree more. Many of the pieces you mention are musically much harder to play than some of our modern test pieces. I stress "musically", because the technical requirements of many recent pieces are obviously much harder, but I've recently had to rehearse both "Severn Suite" and "Pageantry", and it very quickly becomes apparent that you have to give thought to the shaping and phrasing of virtually every note, not just worry about shoehorning as many notes as possible into as short a space of time as possible.

    And at the time, he was almost certainly right to say that. But we are talking about an era when the demographic of the bras band movement in general meant that very few players were in a position to regularly attend orchestral concerts. Radio broadcasts of classical music were few and far between, and the prospect of owning a record player was limited to the rich and privileged. In this day and age we have Classic FM, and almost everyone has access to an almost unlimited library of instantly downloadable music via the internet. I cannot see that we are doing anyone a favour by introducing them to the music of the great masters by means of second-hand arrangements of dubious quality.
     
  13. Mello

    Mello Active Member

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    Sorry I addressed you incorrectly MoominDave..
    I agree with you regarding not very good arrangements .

    Mind you - what is a good or poor arrangement is always debatable, a little like saying ' beauty is in the eyes of the beholder ' I suppose.
    I confess to being a fan and friend of Howard Snell..and that maybe clouds my judgement... because I think his arrangement from the Pines of Rome as an example, is excellent (And I have the original Orchestral on CD in my car ,which I also love)'. However as I said ..it is rather subjective.
     
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  14. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    Whilst accepting that the counter point has validity I also think that there’s a lot to be said for the late Alex Mortimer’s perspective when introducing Orchestral arrangements: "He believed it was better to hear the music of the masters in any form , rather than to never hear it at all”. (With acknowledgements to Mello). Some Brass Band arrangements of Classical music aren’t brilliant but they do show that Brass Bands can attempt Classical Music and convey such classical tunes even if some richness is lost. Having heard such stuff in the past prompts one to question and seek out more Classical Music, but played with the intended instruments instead. I’m also a strong believer in Brass (Bands or smaller groups like Quintets) playing Classical Music and indeed some stuff does come across, in terms of entertainment at least, very well - it all depends on the piece, the format and the arranger.

    I note that options or alternatives are offered such that bands competing in the same section could be playing different pieces. How does that work, please, in terms of judging which band has performed best? Surely that must be difficult as there is no direct comparison between each and every band (assuming that the alternative pieces are used) and that must surely cause judgements to be questioned.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2018
  15. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely agree with Mello (no worries at all about the name, btw, but thanks for noting it in response to my PM) that a good arrangement is a wonderful thing, and that Howard Snell has provided some great examples. I could perhaps be kinder to the work of Frank Wright - he was writing for a brighter-sounding ensemble than we have today, and his technique was often to write in such a way as to mellow the sound out. Now we play on mellower-sounding instruments the effect is more than he would have intended.
     
  16. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

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    Regarding richness lost by transcribing orchestral masterpieces...

    Surely the same can be said of poor quality performances with the original scoring?

    Yes, the very best orchestras are going to find the light/shade and bring out the magic that makes such pieces "masterpieces"...
    But without lesser orchestras playing them also, live performances remain as inaccessible as ever - at which point, surely it's only a short hop to using different instruments to portray those ideas?
     
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  17. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    Well, no... A badly played oboe still sounds much more like an oboe than a cornet. And then a badly played clarinet still sounds much more like a clarinet than a... cornet. And a badly played flute still sounds much more like a flute than a... Oh, we're stuck with the cornet still, are we? I think we can guess where the violin and trumpet parts go too.

    There's a plethora of widely varying tone colours in the treble range of the symphony orchestra, and the masterpieces of that genre make full use of that variety. Our ensemble strength is our blended tone colour, and we work musically rather differently in consequence. The best of our arrangers know what to do to maximise the light and shade inherent in the band, but it always produces something markedly different to the original when done well, something with much less tonal variety.
     
  18. Mello

    Mello Active Member

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    There's a plethora of widely varying tone colours in the treble range of the symphony orchestra, and the masterpieces of that genre make full use of that variety. .[/QUOTE]
    I agree entirely , and in my opinion Brass bands are unable to reproduce the same magical sounds a great orchestra can. I will never forget the first time sitting in the RAH at the proms ,when the sound of the strings shimmering as if coming from nowhere ...yet everywhere ....just magical.

    Many years later , I was fortunate to play with the Philharmonia in the RFH ...the highlight was a Prokofiev masterpiece ...." Cantata for the Anniversary of the October Revolution " . When he completed it , the state banned any performance of the work due to the lyrics within ..It was not performed in Russia until 1965 & then abbreviated. Kirill Kondrashin taped approved highlights for EMI in 1970.but the rest was still prohibited thanks to inclusion of texts by Stalin.
    In 1992 Neemi Jarvi managed to bring it out of Russia & performed it in full for the first time, with the Philharmonia at the RFH. with Jarvi directing. Actually, Kirill Kondrashin made a cameo appearance on the night, as man with Megaphone during one of the Battle movements. The Orchestra was obviously augmented , 8 part Choir , 14 hns 4 harps , 6 accordians , etc etc even saxhorns and more ....creating an almost unbelievable live performance . We later recorded it for Chandos...in full. I have to recommend hearing it It lasts 46 minutes and is in sections . there are excerpts on You tube.(various Orchs )....well worth a listen ....
    Afer hearing this , you will know why a BBnd arrangement of this must be well nigh impossible.
     
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  19. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    I can’t argue against those that say that a Cornet doesn’t sound like a Violin and that their are some things that it can’t do. However Brass Band arrangements of Classics are relatively short and give the audience a ‘taster’ of what the original piece or tune is like, as such I think Tom’s points are very valid and wonder whether the conversation isn’t properly recognising what Brass Bands can offer and is, instead, focusing on what they can’t.

    As I understand it Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue is an organ piece but give it to four Trombones and it sounds fantastic too, think I prefer the Trombone version(s) but perhaps I’m biased.

    A brief search produced this:

    and Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 - Wikipedia
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2018
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  20. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    I don't think anyone's arguing that arrangements are a bad thing, full stop...
     
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