SA v. Non-SA Bands

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Brian Bowen, Feb 8, 2004.

  1. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    In another thread refering to SA band music BreadOfHeaven wrote:

    Brett's playing on GS and on the other solos is just sublime and the Band items are very well delivered too. (Especially considering the band met just for the recording). The band's sound is both huge (King of Kings) and exciting (Tallis) and the best compliment that can be paid is that it dosen't sound like an SA band.

    I’m not sure I know what the writer really means regarding the “best compliment”. I’m not closely connected to either camp (SA / non-SA) but in fairness I think a distinction needs to be made. Many non- SA bands are contest driven and must be limited in size accordingly. The focus tends to be on winning the approval of particular adjudicators and technique is emphasized. Doubtless this can lead to tightness of ensemble and clarity of line (usually) but not necessarily any better communication of valuable musical and spiritual understanding. Perhaps SA bands have traditionally attempted to portray a message when the music has called for it (the big picture), which might well have been at the expense of other important musical and technical considerations. Keep in mind also that most SA bands try to use the by-no-means uniform talents/abilities that happen to be available in a local corps (church). So in some respects we are not comparing like for like. Both types of band have their good points and the best of each reach very high standards and are well worth hearing. Some Salvationists, rightly or wrongly, may consider “not sounding like an SA band” hardly complimentary where music with a gospel connotation is concerned.

    I think there are definite tonal differences between the two kinds of bands and with larger SA ones (e.g. Hendon) this can be a plus quality in certain types of music (e.g. rich, full tone especially in the middle of the band, and the absence of unrequired “soloistic” lines, etc.). But can SA bands learn anything from contesting bands? Of course they can!
  2. BottyBurp

    BottyBurp Member

    Personally, as an ex-SA bandsman, I would take that comment of BreadOfHeaven as an insult! I have played with very good SA bands...
  3. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    Personally, I think you can only mark a remark like that and get away with it, because you have been given some amazing brass band opportunities over there, as I am always saying.

    Over here, Salvo bands are usually filled by the same types of people that used to fill brass bands when I first started - self taught players doing it for love.

    You CANNOT make a living out of brass band playing over here. Even the greats have "real jobs. Teachers, store owners, lawyers, Justice of the Supreme Court of Qld, gynacologists (Haven't you guys heard of Noel Cassels??). And salvo members are usually filled up by plyers whose beginnings are like this. The Staff bands would probably be even better because they play a lot more often!!

    So how do say SA bands sound un-SA-ish if they are (and over here they are) the same people as those powering our brass bands that we come here everyday to worship and praise and so forth??

    NExt you'll be saying that the orchestra used to make James McFadyen's next work famous doesn't sound like a real orchestra?? It'll be made up of real orchestra players, probably "borrowed" from LSO!!!
  4. Cantonian

    Cantonian Active Member

    There are differences between SA and non-SA bands and their sounds but some of the reasons for this are explained below.

    The ISB ( arguably the SA premier band) has some tremendous players, some who work for the SA and some who don't. The 'catchment' area is spreading so the level of commitment has to be very high. However each staff bandsperson also has to show a commitment to their Corps band. Obviously whether staff band or Corps band you are busy on a Sunday playing at meetings, open airs hospitals etc. Those in the larger SA bands (Hendon, Enfield, Regent Hall, Bristol Easton) are busy most Saturdays with ISB or Corps band. Thus the ISB have one rehearsal per week and Corps bands one rehearsal ( sometimes two).

    Approaching a contest, how many rehearsals per week will a championship section band have and over how many weeks? This is why, as good as the ISB are, in a contest with Black Dyke, Cory etc., they would not win!

    Non SA bands have no qualms about telling a player he is not up to scratch and replacing him/her.

    The SA bands accept all. We have a gentleman in our band playing second cornet who is autistic. He plays the notes but is understandably limited in his abilities. He loves playing in the band and we love having him in the band. Interestingly for this thread Brian Bowen was the BM who first welcomed him into a very good Corps band.

    I really enjoy brass bands, both SA and non-SA. I practice my horn every day and would love to have played with any of the Championship section bands in Wales but with being active in the SA ( Songster Leader as well as bandsman) and my children being active in junior and senior sections cannot find the level of extra commitment.
  5. BreadOfHeaven

    BreadOfHeaven Member

    First of all I'm both a Salvationist Bandsman and play in a contesting band and if I had to choose I'd still pick my SA band becasue my reasons for playing with them are more important to me.

    My comment wasn't a dig at the quality of SA Bands. I just happen to believe, from listening to many bands, that there is a difference in sound between the two kinds of band even at the top level of each. To my ears there seems to be a typical Army band sound, for whatever reason, in that it is top and bottom heavy i.e. no middle (horns, baris). I thought that the Fuoco sound was far fuller and rich than that most Army bands and I commented as such.

    Certainly no offence was intended and I'm very sorry if any was taken. Just an opinion.
  6. carlwoodman

    carlwoodman Member

    I'm intrigued by the 'BreadOfHeaven' username here as that would indicate some Welsh blood?
    However, I believe you are very firmly Scottish and may have something to do with Alan Ramsey. Am I right?
  7. Camp Jimmy

    Camp Jimmy New Member

    I'm an ex-SA player, and from my experience of most of the bands around my division, each had no more than 10 players anyway - people around there considered that to be an SA band. Because I thrive off the challenge (and it was fun) I used to play in our DYB and we rocked! I'd have to agree that the lack of horns & baris was an issue (from my perspective playing bari then), but whilst it's not the same sound as what the big name bands achieved, it doesn't make it any less of a good sound.

    I'll shut up now coz I'm woffling on (rant over)

  8. fair comment!

    All readers of this thread!
    I believe that the idea behind TMP is that brass band enthusiasts can share their opinions with each other, I therefore don't see how bread of heaven's comments have caused that much controversy! I know bread of heaven very well and know that he is steeped in a fine SA and brass band background. I believe his opinion to be fair comment and I also agree with his comments in the fact that there is a lacking of middle in a lot of SA bands. I think bread of heaven was generalising as there is few SA bands (if any!) that are outside his generalisation as most seem to be cornet and trom focused instead of the "triangle" approach of non SA bands! (ie:- basses big and solid and sop being the icing on the cake!)
    Alls fair in love and war remember!!!!
  9. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    Re: fair comment!

    Is JWC being overly sensitive? He has hyped his new CD on tMP and it has produced opinions which are out there to be debated. tMP is doing what was intended. My initial post was to look with fairness at a particular statement made by BreadofHeaven. There have not been many responses so far and none hurtful.

    As I understand it, Con Fuoco is a pickup group of Salvationists — that doesn’t make it an SA band. What is its purpose: to challenge contesting bands at their own game, or at least to be compared with them? I confess I’ve not heard them so cannot offer an opinion on their playing; but in any case they need to be established longer before a useful evaluation can be made.

    On another of JWC’s points, from what I’ve heard for some time now, many contesting bands are top and bottom heavy. Just listen to the number of macho soprano players (blend and sensitivity is an art that does not come to mind) and the excessive bass pedalling that has become the norm (even on Black Dyke’s latest broadcast).
  10. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Regarding the queston of the horn/baritone sections in SA bands, as I posted previously on another thread my experience has been that, because the parts tend to be doubled, the individual players do not project the sound in the same way that they would if it were one on a part.

    Many of the SA bands I've been involved with have actually had very strong horn sections, and I must confess that I like the extra warmth of sound that can bring to the middle of the band. Certainly, the horn section in our band at Hadleigh is one of its most valuable assets.
  11. johnflugel

    johnflugel Active Member

    :shock: This is all a little heated..... I don't think any comments made here should be taken out of context.

    There is an obvious lack of horn and baritone players within the army. This was highlighted for me when the 'Essays' series came out. All these sounds I had previously not heard came flooding out. This is in no way a reflection of some the fine SA bands such as the ISB, Enfield, Canadian Staff that I had previously heard playing this material but for me stressed the difference between the movements when training these particular instruments.

    In my experience within the army, people often 'end up' on horn/baritone rather than actually being trained on it. I would encourage people within the SA to train young players on horn/baritone because you can count the number of top (top) SA horn and bari players on your hand. Where as with cornet, troms, euphs and basses, you will need a few more pairs!

  12. Gorgie boy

    Gorgie boy Member

    Support for Bread of Heaven

    I'm struggling to see what all the fuss is about. Knowing Bread of Heaven as I'm pretty sure I do (or Charlie Pessimist as he's sometimes called!) I feel that what he was aiming to do was to compliment Fuoco rather than slag off SA bands. Bread of Heaven is very much established in the Army tradition, takes his Army banding very seriously and does a power of work in nurturing and developing young players within the movement. The last thing he would do would deliberately seek to undermine the Army.

    Just a shame he supports Rangers isn't it?

    Paul Drury
    Edinburgh Gorgie SA Band
    Fuoco Brass
  13. BreadOfHeaven

    BreadOfHeaven Member

    Thanks for the support Mr Drury. Nice to see you on the board at last.

    At least we are not in administration. Well not yet anyway :oops:

    Trust you are looking forward to your weekend away with us this weekend and that yourself and the band play well. You never know if you stick in son you might get an invite to play with the "Premier SA Band in Scotland" across the city :lol:

    Stand Up Collars Loyal :D
  14. Re: fair comment!

    I don't think JWC is being too sensitive, if bread of heaven thinks what he does then let it be. He was merely complimenting the Fuoco recording, I think maybe someone has been reading between the lines of what he said. Also, may I be the first to congratulate you on noticing that the band isn't an SA band :wink: . Well done! It has never been and never will be an SA band due to the fact it doesn't provide a ministry, which as we all know is the key factor in an SA band.
    Hope things are going well in Florida? Heard your sursum corda last year when the NYSB were over. Very good.
  15. drummerboy

    drummerboy Member

    Re: fair comment!

    I agree. Very few bands I'd say have a good sop player who can naturally blend well but come to the fore as needed, and basses pedalling when it will sounds good, not just because it's a bottom end passage and adding a pedal will add more. As an obvious example, YBS I'd say have got this spot on (granted they have got Peter Roberts on sop, but still...)

    In my experience as a (now ex) SA musician, it was the larger bands (ie Hendon, Enfield etc) that had larger horn, baritone and trombone sections. I think its standard for larger corps bands to play four troms, and with (as an example) 3 baritones and 5 horns which is what I've seen a few times, you suddenly have this rich middle texture which contesting bands just can't get due to player restrictions.

    What SA bands bring to their music is an immediate textual knowledge (say of the hymn used, or the Biblical associations) which very few contesting bandsmen have.

    In my opinion, neither is better than the other. They each serve a purpose, and could no doubt learn in some way from the other!
  16. Camp Jimmy

    Camp Jimmy New Member

    Re: fair comment!

    Whilst I think your point on player restrictions is valid, it is a problem experienced by SA bands - (although from what I hear, SA bands also struggles to retain players - just rumours though). As mentioned before, corps in the part of my division where I was (in my SA days) were lucky to have a band with more than 5 players, majority of those players had been playing only a short period of time.
  17. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Re: fair comment!

    Whilst I would agree to some extent, it has to be asked how many of today's players would be really familiar with many of the tunes featured in older compositions, many of which may not be in current usage. Equally, the score notes will normally give sufficient background information to enable any band to get the feel of what the piece is really about.

    Although a personal faith and commitment can make a difference, it does not have to be the case, any more so than needing to belong to a coven in order to perform Berlioz's "Witches' Sabbath" effectively :!:
  18. johnflugel

    johnflugel Active Member

    Re: fair comment!

  19. BreadOfHeaven

    BreadOfHeaven Member

    Agree with John. Knowledge of words and Biblical basis is clearly open to interpretation. In fact as regards SA music this understanding is perhaps just as, if not more, relevant to the listener who we hope will receive a blessing.

    The MD should try and fully comprehend ALL his music and SA music is therefore no different. Every piece a band plays must have some background to it and the band and MD should always seek to capture that. Just because we are Christians and have some kind of Biblical knowledge does not give us an inherent ability to interpret music better. This is musicianship.

    The myth that only Army bandsmen can "really" play Army music was blown out the water by YBS. Some of their Essays tracks had a greater Christian impact on me than some Army band's interpretations. The point that I'm trying, very badly!, to make is that the ministry is in the music. All it takes is a good musician.
  20. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Re: fair comment!

    Very valid point john. I've lost track of the number of times our bandmaster has had to stop in rehearsal to remind people that they are not "giving their testimony", as they were maybe trying to spin out a melody because it was the way it suited their personal interpretation of the words.