Salvation Army Music and Secular Bandis

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by P_S_Price, Jul 18, 2012.

  1. P_S_Price

    P_S_Price Member

    Parking the purpose of SA music from an SA perspective, in its own right as pure music, I enjoy playing SA Band music for the music itself.

    However it doesnt seem to be in the slightest bit popular outside the SA itself. The secular bands I have played with typically have a couple of pieces of SA stuff in their Rep; but its usually the same suspects (Lightwalk, Goldcrest for example).

    I am lucky enough to be at a corps where we have a band still able to play most things, but this is not the case at many corps.

    I personally, if at a corps without a band, would look to become a member of a secular band; but I know that I would miss playing SA music; even though much of what I get to see in secular practices is great to play.

    This leads me to wonder why it is not considered by secular bands, in its own right, as music. One of the comments that I hear in secular circles is that the availbility of marches is limited, hence the repeated playing of the same old marches again and again at say Whit Friday, but the recent Black Dyke CD's surely reveal that there is a wealth of marches available within the SA publications.

    I was wondering why this should be - what is the perception of MD's about the musicality and quality of SA stuff in its own right? and why isnt soem of it included in repertoires?

    On the opposite side SA bands dont tend to play much secular music which is a crying shame, but I know that this isnt about the quality of that music, but more about Rules and Regs within the SA movement which preclude SA bands form playing anything not approved by the SA musical ministries department.

    I have occasionally wondered if one was to form a new band with the experss intent of mixing up the 2 forms, purely as music, how easy would it be to find members, and would the music be penalised if played as Own Choice within the contesting world?

    I would definitely like to hear the opinions of others on this; particularly why it just isnt considered to be good enough.
  2. carlwoodman

    carlwoodman Member

    It's my understanding that this is an issue for discussion by local leadership, i.e. the Bandmaster to discuss with his/her corps officer, and not the responsibility of the Music Ministries Unit which would be an impossible task.
  3. P_S_Price

    P_S_Price Member

    The officer is responsible for enforcement I believe, but the following is taken from O&R's:

    "... All brass band music must have been published by The Salvation Army or have received the approval of the Territorial Music Council prior to its performance. Each member of the band should play from a legitimately published copy (when the music is not manuscript) or a photocopy reproduced through a licensing procedure in order that copyright law is upheld..."

    Last edited: Jul 18, 2012
  4. Active Member

    I think this is more to do with bands playing marches which they think will give them the best chance of appearing in the prizes and so stick with the 'tried and trusted'. Certain bands are also associated with certain marches and play them at Whit Friday come rain or shine.
  5. P_S_Price

    P_S_Price Member

    I guess so, and certainly I expect Dyke will play Knight Templar, Fodens The President and Brigus Ravenswood, but having listened to many lesser Bands struggle with a performance of a march that is cleary beyond them I have wondered why they dont consider a Triumph series march, which if played well would surely give them a better chance of a prize?

    But I am interested in the reasoning behind the choices hence this thread.
  6. bassendworld

    bassendworld Member

    I suspect from experience on both sides that it will be a pre conceived attitude of mind
  7. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    I doubt that many 'secular bands' (or 'bands' as I prefer to call them) do consider SA music as of lesser quality. Indeed, I can think of many fine works, most notably from the pens of Wilfred Heaton and Ray Steadman-Allen, in the SA repertoire. But for me the least appealing aspect of much (most? all?) SA music is the requirement that a hymn tune or other religious element has to be incorporated into it. This has lead to a highly conservative and cliched style of writing which, as far as I can see, leaves the composer with nowhere to go, which in turn leaves the listener with a sense of unfulfillment.

    Indeed, I have always thought that it must be crippling, creatively speaking, for anyone to have to write music with such demands placed on them. I did try to make this point, admittedly in a highly unsubtle and tongue-in-cheek way, earlier this year:
  8. JR

    JR Member

    At last! - a statement by Jim Yelland in 2012 that i can wholeheartedly agree with...

    John R
  9. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Commenting on the original post, I'm actually finding that more and more non-SA bands are playing SA music now. A really good thing in my view.

    Until about 10 - 20 years ago (the memory is fading), the SA band in our town were forbidden to play with us. Even, to the extent that suggestions of playing as massed bands on Remembrance Day was met with aghast response. I don't think this was just a locally applied principle.

    But then something relaxed (a direction from SA executive maybe?) and we held a joint concert. This led to a number of players from the SA band joining us permanently. With them, they brought ideas for music from the SA repertoire, which we received enthusiastically and continue to explore and play regularly. I hear many (not all) other non-SA bands play SA music regularly too.

    Prior to this, I think there was a perceived taboo for our non-SA band to play this sacred music.

    So the suggestion " doesn’t seem to be in the slightest bit popular outside the SA itself." I'm pleased to say is not true from my experience.

    I fear that in our so-called politically correct society, religious music will unfortunately become squeezed more and more out of brass band programmes (religious events excepted obviously), due to expression of discomfort from players and audiences alike. I hope to be proved wrong on this. In the meantime, let's make the most of the superb writing from the SA stable. Any band that hasn't ventured there is missing a treat!
  10. P_S_Price

    P_S_Price Member

    Interesting. This would seem to indicate that Bands do approach SA music initially from an intirinsic awareness of its Christian implications.

    The Unfulfillment angle is interesting too. Certainly not how it leaves me but.

    Cliched is probably a good point; but that can be levied against a lot of music - Many composers have a style that is recognisable as their own.

    But your comments would seem to confirm my underlying feelings that bands are, in the main, not able to approach SA music purely as a piece of music.
  11. P_S_Price

    P_S_Price Member

    This would appear to be the case on both sides; although as I mentioned its not just a pre-conceived attitude of SA bands, but the instructions laid down in the rules.
  12. Red Elvis

    Red Elvis Active Member

    Yep - I'd go with this.
    I've played in a number of bands now since getting into playing again back in 2004 , and without exception we've always had a couple of SA pieces on the go. A lot depends I'd suggest on the familiarity of the bandmembers / MD with SA repertoire - when I played with Ipswich for example I was the only member of the band at that time with SA links (somewhat unusual that as all the other bands I've played with / depped for down here tend to have a smattering of former / current SA in the ranks and at one point Becontree had about 12 !!) and so it wasn't that SA music was looked down on in any way , the band just weren't familiar with it.

    Certainly at own choice contests down this neck of the woods its not unusual to hear a number of SA works used , particularly in the lower sections. I would agree to a certain extent with James Yelland however in that the requirements associated with SA composition tend not to be what composers / adjudicators / MD's are looking for in terms of challenges in the higher sections. That's not a criticism as such but the works just weren't written with that in mind.
  13. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Maybe it's just a case of education? There are some SA pieces that are obviously settings of SA songs and it's difficult to ignore this when including them in a programme. There are also many which have very subtle connections and can be used with a pseudo-secular purpose.

    This thread is at risk of going down the same route as the 'brass bands will never be popular' chip on the shoulder type of discussion. Your last comment above suggests a determined focus on the negative view; one that your opening post seemed to want to dispel, yet you seem to have chosen to ignore the equal number of comments in favour of SA music. There feels like an underlying desire to want to keep SA music as the underdog. Just an observation ;)
  14. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Absolutely. But how can they, when the composers themselves are not able to approach their pieces purely as pieces of music, but as conduits for the promotion of their faith?

    In the days when the SA restricted performances of its music to its own bands, for consumption largely by its own members, it wasn't a problem. When the SA relaxed its restrictions on the purchase and performance of its music, the music's functionality, its primary strength, suddenly became one of its weaknesses, because many of the new audience felt, rightly or wrongly, that they were on the receiving end of a mild but subtle means of religious indoctrination. Many people don't like that - especially those of other religions!

    I don't say bands shouldn't play SA music - just that it ought to be kept in proportion to the sensibilities of both the band and its audiences, in my opinion.
  15. P_S_Price

    P_S_Price Member

    Point well made and taken. There were some clear positives, but my (and I agree its limited) experience of playing in Bands is that in general there is, with notable exceptions, a clear derth of SA published music in most bands Reps, and I am interested in the reasons for this. Which is by implication I suppose a negative.

    Clearly there are pieces which are popular (Lightwalk for example - but which, clearly encompasses the objections of James in that it is almost entirely a working of a Hymn).

    If as the positives in James' comments state that some SA music is quality from a pure musical perspective then why is it not more prevalent?

    Im not seeking to place music in one form as an Underdog. Im interested in the perceptions.

    For example one of the reasons that I always speculated that SA music was not more prevalent was the scoring; particularly for cornets (where SA music has at least one less cornet part) and Trombones (where ocassionally, particluarly in older music) there can be a requirement for 4 or 5 trombones. This doesnt readily fit with the makeup of contesting format bands.

    But it was interesting to me to see that the initial reservations of the contributors was not anything strictly technical about it; but was its ethos!

    Its not a prejudice or anything on my part. Im just as happy sitting with Dobcross playing their test and entertainment pieces as I am at RCB playing SA music.

    (Does one form have a different meaning for me - Yes of course it does because of my personal beliefs, BUT that doesnt mean that musically I think one is better than the other! In fact some of SA music I think is pure dross artistically - but again thats just my opinion).

    So please dont think of the purpose of this thread as a decrying of one form over the other. Im interested to know why Bands dont play it, and where it is played - why they play it.

    The posters so far havent said why they play it, only that they dont play it because of its underlying ethos. A very Fair point.
  16. P_S_Price

    P_S_Price Member

    Very true James. As you say thats it purpose, But a lot of stuff produced nowadays is based not upon 'traditional Hymns' but upon SA Choral pieces; most of which would have no association to the words because the melodies are almost unknown outside of SA circles.

    The subtleties of Faith in the SA music for me are in the ability of the listener to associate it with the words. otherwise surely it just becomes a tune (Resurgam for example is secluar, not SA Hymnal based, but its style of melody is in my view recognisable with Eric Ball SA specific compositions).

    Your points are however very interesting, and thank you for contributing :)
  17. DRW

    DRW New Member

    In my mind I thought that I had written why we play it - I notice that it didn't get as far as the screen though - doh!

    For me / us it's quite simple, aside from the 'cheesy' song chorus marches, the arrangements are generally great. Use of tasteful and unusual harmonies in the slower pieces is unrivalled by most mainstream brass band conductors. The contemporary faster pieces are exciting to play and listen to.

    The catalyst was, as metioned earlier, the introduction of SA players to our band who brought with them the knowledge of this music. Maybe listing some good numbers in this thread will help guide 'virgin' bands towards the repertoire?
  18. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Because it's up against a lot of very strong competition.
  19. P_S_Price

    P_S_Price Member

    A great point awareness is probably important.
  20. Bob Sherunkle

    Bob Sherunkle Active Member

    This may of course have something to do with the piece of music being titled "Sing Hallelujah to Praise His Glorious Magnificence" if a serious work, or "Pull 'em up and follow me!" for a more jaunty number.

    Captain Bob

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