Regular Cheese in Programs

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by toby hobson, Aug 17, 2010.

  1. toby hobson

    toby hobson Member

    I notice there have been one or two things in the banding press moaning about cheese. "We wont be taken seriously", "they don't do that in other country's" etc etc etc.

    Has Cheese really become a dirty word? While I played a lot of the modern serious stuff during my time, I rarely enjoyed it, the reason I didn't enjoy it wasn't because I didn't have the capacity to understand it, it wasn't because I'm a Luddite, it wasn't because I couldn't play it, it was because often or not it sounded rubbish! Luckily for me, I played in one of the best bands in the world, we had options program wise, we played great/hard entertaining programs, we were lucky, we had the capacity to do that, the majority of bands in the country don't. So they play popular cheese.

    In my opinion Cheese will always have a hugely important place in banding because we are a music group of the people. I feel sometimes the balance certainly test piece wise is moving over to the squeaky gate merchants, thats fine, a certain amount of experimentation has to to happen but bottom line, a very small amount of our listener will ever be interested in it and a large amount of our best players will add it to their list of reasons to sack banding.

    A bit like the New Labour shifted their policy's to pick up mondeo man, I feel the squeaky gate mob are insistent on trying to pick up/import a different clientèle of Guardian reading Newsnight review types, the sort of mob who apparently really think a unmade bed is beautiful art and not just a unmade bed. Thats fine, a new type of listener is always welcome but their numbers will never replace the client base we have. I think we as a movement must not become so insular that we play to ourselves and a few pretentious sheep, we must always play to the people who pay to listen to us. People don't want to be educated, they want to be entertained.

    I think its easy to knock our movements cheese merchants but people must never forget most bands wouldn't be able to play a lot of the modern stuff technically, would gain no pleasure from the experience and wouldn't have the client base to fill a hall to listen to it. Cheese will always have a place in banding.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2010
  2. P_S_Price

    P_S_Price Member

    People like to hear what they are familiar with. Its one of the reasons that in the SA, many of the really old festival series pieces retain their popularity. I guess its the same with secular music. I depped on Eb for a band recently, and the biggest applause was for the well known and popular stuff (Pomp & Circumstance for example)
  3. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Cheese? How very dare you! We've just added 'Baggy Trousers' to our repertoire. My favourite piece, at the moment. :)
  4. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    How do we know what people (audiences and players) will like without putting new music in our programmes? I'm all for playing music that we know people like (because of feedback at concerts etc), but I'm also way in favour of trying out new stuff too....its amazing how well some pieces go down in concerts.
  5. StellaJohnson

    StellaJohnson Active Member

    In my view "cheese" is poorly arranged popular music tunes. There are some that have been done very well and I wouldn't call them cheesey at all.
  6. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    Well pointed out Stell.

    - Mr Wilx
  7. toby hobson

    toby hobson Member

    But then again, you may know they are poorly done, I would know, anyone who plays would know. Jo public probably wouldn't. He would hear popular music and naturally like it.
  8. Di B

    Di B Member

    Depends on your interpretation of cheese. I would say any popular music is cheese.

    But.... there is good, quality cheese and cheese that has gone green in the fridge....

    Love good quality cheese, and so does the audience.
    Think poor arrangements, whatever the music always sound awful.
  9. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    But for non-players are they really bothered about that? i.e. the audience. At KSB we have been reliant on deps for lots of gigs recently and consequently the programme has had more than the usual percentage of Bernearts arrangements - because it means the deps dont blob and the tunes are popular. Agreed some of these arrangements just dont compare however the choices go down with the audience.
  10. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Don't do yourself down. Everyone has the capacity to understand things. In the case of more complex music, it is often just a case of overcoming prejudices and unjustified feelings of inferiority.

    Not true, sadly. The stuff that goes out on Radio 1, or Classic FM, or Capital Gold nationwide, every day of the week, is the music of the people - that's what the word 'popular' means. For the vast majority of 'the people' brass bands are a complete irrelevance, having no place whatsoever in their lives.

    How strange. I get the feeling that the flow, in the contest field at least, is going in exactly the opposite direction. Contests seem to me to be favouring what a distinguished tenor horn player recently described as 'lego' music - popular with those who have to play it, constructed by template to include all those features deemed necessary for competition, but ultimately rather shallow.

    Does it have to replace the existing 'client base'? Couldn't a different 'client base' exist perfectly well alongside the existing one? In fact, doesn't it do so right now? The turnout every year for the RNCM Festival suggests that it does.

    To modify my first comment, don't do down your audience. There are plenty of people who want to be challenged with new music and new ideas. I'm one of them, and I am by no means alone, even in the brass band world.

    Apart from all that, I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'cheese'. Could you be a bit more specific please?
  11. JR

    JR Member


    I think you make a very important point

    One of the first things Elgar Howarth did at Grimethorpe, before he introduced any of the aforementioned squeaky gate music, was to win the Granada Band of the Year in 1972.

    His programme included his own fresh takes on (from my sad memory):

    Londonderry Air
    Embraceable You
    Post Horn Galop

    Often it's the arrangement that counts - I recently revived an old Gordon Langford version of Blow the Wind Southerly -it's beautiful.

    With regard to Test Pieces - I agree that if anything, the trend is backward looking and some recent choices are the encapsulation of first class cheese - don't forget it's 27 years since Images was the area test.

    John R
  12. blue juice

    blue juice Member

    Our most enthusiastically applauded piece over the summer has been Abba goes Brass. I hate it personally but bands need to capitalise on popular music and movies. For example, the a team theme, pirates of the caribbean, harry potter etc. You always see a surge in the number of bands playing this music after a film has come out for the simple fact as it is what the public wants. If you went to a bandstand job and played a really serious, technically difficult program there would be a couple of people who would enjoy it, but the majority would rather you played stuff they know, abba, singing in the rain etc. Even in bigger concerts the key to a good program is contrast
  13. Al

    Al Member

    "Cheese" is a relatively new brass band buzz word, much and very much over-used by the kids and 20 somethings, who know better of course.

    With so many now being able to go to University to study music these days, they come back after the first term with sackfuls of bravado and arrogance.

    Cheese is not for them, they have been learning 'proper' music.

    Yes, they have risen above the staple diet of the British brass band
  14. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    Other terms Ive used in the past have been "throw away" but that upset some old guys in our band so they were re-named "lolipops" was just away of trying to explain the kind of stuff needed for a lazy afternoon in a sunny park.
  15. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Great OP, Toby. I find myself nodding in agreement with lots of it. :clap:

    I find that brass bands are often caught between trying to play music which pleases the punters and playing something a little bit challenging. As an amateur organisation, we receive little or no public funding so most bands have to pay their own way. We do this, of course, by working our socks off playing parks jobs in the summer and Christmas carols at the appropriate time.

    I think this constant need to be self-supporting often means that we are shackled to playing a certain type of music to a certain type of audience. This is no bad thing at all, but I do find that it stifles individuality.

    I often think that we sometimes could be accused of patronising our audience by sticking to popular lolipops. I often listen to ClassicFM, not because I like their choice of music, but because it is the most listened-to independent radio station. They play a fairly predictable selection, but occasionally they might play something a little more challenging. I think ClassicFM have got something right by providing a good balance of music, while keeping to their 'populist' remit. I think we could learn a lot from this - a park job can be 80% cheese, but the odd original work could easily be justified.

    I'll give an example: I remember depping in a summer concert for a band a couple of years back. It was an indoor concert, but was billed as 'Music for a Summer Evening' or something like that. The conductor decided to include Spectrum in the programme :eek: However, he was a very good compere and actually took the trouble to explain to the audience what the piece was all about and his reasons for including it. The concert was a roaring success!

    I think that all music has it's place, but it's place has to be justified. You can't try and educate an old-folks home audience in the ways of John McCabe, but in the same way, a music festival audience might feel a little short-changed by Frank Bernhearts!

    BTW, before I'm accused of defending the squeaky-gate stuff, my band did a park job at the weekend and I included Bandology!
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2010
  16. toby hobson

    toby hobson Member

    Cheese will always be the mainstay of program make up over contemporary for the same reason we see televised darts and not chess. Chess very clever but ultimately boring darts very basic but ultimately over quickly and understandable to the average viewer.

    If "Images" came in 27 years ago and still relatively few have taken that type of music to their hearts then maybe it could be suggested that sort of music was given a fair crack of the whip but didn't float the boat of the general public enough.

    As for the direction of piece in recent years being more populist than squeaky, I could give you a list of at least 20 pieces that were considered a bit rubbish by many players who free of charge practiced them solidly for 2/3 weeks before having to play them at a contest. Obviously there will always be a few enthusiasts who love that sort of stuff and there will always be a largish group of people who pretend they love that stuff to make themselves look clever more more importantly not look dim (emperors new clothes effect) but by in large top banding has lost many good players because of it and audiences have dwindled away because of it.

    Trouble is a bit like education suffering from lack of discipline because of various namby pamby diktat's thrown the way of teachers from the mid 70's onwards, the horse has bolted the wrong people are calling the shots and the direction is set....To change the direction would virtually take a mass revolution.
  17. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    I do agree with you on this, but I will say this: I think there may be as many people who have left bands because of the constant lolipops too! I know many of them personally. I think this is very common in the 4th section and non-contesting bands. They are limited to music that they can play for reasons of difficulty, so when a better player is not challenged, they will get bored and move on - it happened to me after the 10th concert in a row playing Oklahoma!

    As for Images - well it's one of my favourite pieces! But I do realise the musical language is very far removed from the Eric Ball we were so used to. Am I trying to look clever by saying so?

    I'll reiterate my previous post. It's all about balance. ;)
  18. toby hobson

    toby hobson Member

    by the way, talking of radio programs, i often listen to Friday night is music night, the Alan Titchmarch program and the other one hosted by that fella in the urine stained old folks home in Perth..... all popular stuff, all band programtastic and not one alliatoric section, not one multiphonics section, not one off stage playing random notes section, not one bleedin' muted tuba solo and not one standing up and doing a cadenza turning around for no apparent reason section (as i recall in one delight shoved down the throat of the bandsmen one year!!!!)
  19. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    LOL! Yeah, I think I played that one too..

    You forgot spinning round on the spot (1970's Vinko Globbokar piece)
  20. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    Amongst our audience friendly programme in Weston Park Bandstand, Sheffield at the weekend, we started the 2nd half with Malcolm Arnold's Little Suite For Brass, I thought we'd got a very knowledgable audience in as they didnt clap between the first and 2nd movements.

    Only for it to be shattered when they gave a round of applause after the 2nd and before the final - though it is a lovely movement