tMP Piece of the Week #1: Journey Into Freedom, Eric Ball

Discussion in 'tMP Library' started by TheMusicMan, Jun 27, 2006.

  1. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    tMP Piece of the Week #1: Journey Into Freedom, Eric Ball

    We start our "tMP Piece of the Week" feature right at the very top of the tMP Favourite Test piece poll, with Eric Ball’s Journey Into Freedom, which has been voted the most popular test piece for the two years the tMP survey has been running.

    Journey Into Freedom was written as the Championship test piece for bands competing in the 1967 National Finals at the Albert Hall with the Black Dyke Mills Band conducted by Geoffrey Brand being the popular winners. F.J Beckingham was prophetic when he wrote the sleevenotes of their 1968 LP ‘The Champions’ that said it "will stay in the annals of band music history for a very long time". The piece has been used for two area contests since then and has made regular appearances in others. It has endured as a favourite choice for bands to record on albums and has even been transcribed for Fanfare Band.

    Eric Ball had very clear ideas of what he wants players and listeners to realise when they come into contact with his compositions, and Journey Into Freedom has strong links for the time period it was written. Eric Ball previewing the work in the British Bandsman said this … “whether they know it or not, today’s competing amateur musicians – and the tens of thousands more they represent – are helping to keep open the ‘Windows Of Heaven’ in this harsh, materialistic age.” He goes on to say that players and listeners alike would focus on “some unexpressed longings of the human heart” and that “in the realms of the spirit, mankind’s greatest victories can be won. May today’s brass band festival brass band festival give us all hope and inspiration for these troubled times, as well as entertainment and happiness”. Eric Ball emphasised these strong images again at the 1968 Star Lake Festival when he was talking about the work.

    So what about the music? It is a Rhapsody that the composer starts with portraying the harsh, violent realities and struggles of a World that he wanted us to triumph over using human love and compassion. It is written in one complete movement, split into six sections and played without a break in continuity. Brief outlines for each section are noted below …
    1. Moderato & Feroce. (Violence and Materialism) The atmosphere evoked is of rigid, unyielding materialism, machine-like, enslaving and cruel.
    2. Alla Marcia. (March Of Protest) Music of protest, revolt, but in variable mood; a mixture of high resolve, bravado and fear which attempts to overcome the mood set by the introduction .
    3. Moderato E Molto Feroce. (Violence Returns) The return of the opening motifs come back with more force and new elements are introduced in to the texture and dynamics stepped up.
    4. Andante Con Expressione. (Human Love) Escape, freedom, is sought through human love of which various solo 'voices' sing hopefully.
    5. Allegro Scherzando. (Spectacular Waltz) There is some release for a short while when abandonment is displayed by a high spirited waltz.
    6. Andante Cantabile. (Love Theme Transformed) The 'love theme' returns, transfigured. Ideal love and contemplation of The Eternal bring, at long last INNER freedom.
    It must be noted that the basis of the love theme is derived from a hymn tune by Johan Scheffler, which Eric Ball quoted at Star Lake in 1968...

    "Oh love that formest me to wear
    the image of thy godhead here,
    who soughtest me with tender care
    through all my wanderings dark and dear -
    Oh love, I give myself to thee,
    Thine ever, only thine, to be."

    Eric Ball then followed this up with "Then comes freedom. Then comes freedom."

    Feel free to share your experiences of this fantastic piece of music, which was deservedly chosen as your choice of best test piece ever written.

  2. nickjones

    nickjones Active Member

    It's not that good....

    played it a few times , bit dated now...heard it played badly a few times ( which is a shame) played it once at a competition ( 1st place at the 1993 National First section finals some brilliant playing from the Band especially Ronnie the Lizard on Solo Eb)and a few times in concert ( St Andews hall Norwich , Royal Acadamy,Wessex Hall Poole). no emotional attachment to the piece , just a piece of music.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2006
  3. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Not your favourite then Nick eh...:)
  4. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    Interesting to hear someone else say that - I said something similar on here last year and nearly got taken out to the firing squad! :clap:
  5. nickjones

    nickjones Active Member

    It's ok....not the sort of person to wax lyrical about the emotional content of music.
    had a bit of success with it , but competitions are not the only reason to play music...
  6. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    remember that this thread will be archived for later reference, so if there are any people who have special strories or anecdotes involving this piece, feel free to share them with us! :)
  7. played it at easter with nybb and it was amazing

    especialy the really quite bit at the end where its just the basses before the entire band comes in , beautiful ....
  8. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    I'd take the opposite stance to Nick, though with perhaps personal reasons (Thanks Nick ;) ).

    The Area testpiece in 1991, Journey was my first top section testpiece playing 2nd EEb with Point of Ayr. Welsh politics led to us being "first out of a field of one" in the North Wales Area, and yet still being demoted as our mark was half a point below the average of the other Welsh qualifying bands (or some similar arbitrary ruling). After a fantastic year in 1st section where we were the top scoring band in all the areas, second at the grand shield & won the mineworkers we (along with all the other bands) objected to the choice of test for the 1st section finals and for once the test piece commitee listened to voices of reason and gave us JiF instead It proved a serious test at 1st section level with the adjudicators commenting that only one or two bands could really play the piece. Anyway, a fantastic day in London and a performance I'll never forget took us back (after some more politics) to Championship status.....for a while at least.
  9. nickjones

    nickjones Active Member

    Yes It was a brilliant day Ron ( going on the the politics of the welsh can one band get demoted on an average mark...daft (the 1991 Point of Ayr performance was good enough to win or qualify from most areas.)the onslow court hotel ,my dad making a mess in his room..Bjorn in a viking helmet , a stormer of a performance , I think the original test piece was Confluence ( William Himes) whatever happened to that????
  10. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    I've spent many a boring training course practising figurings of the opening semi quaver passage. Firstly in Eb, then in Bb as well if I was REALLY bored!
  11. Lothianh

    Lothianh Member

    JIF - What a great piece of music! Challenging yet rewarding to play, unlike some test pieces.

    I love the ending, especially the ascending line in the Eb bass part in the last two bars: C, D, jarring E, resolve on F - it's so simple yet so well written. Wonderful!

    Yes, I'm a fan. And I'm not just saying that as an Eb bass player. :)

  12. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Active Member

    I suppose in the same way that Mozart is 'a bit dated' ???? Of course, it was written in a different age from today's test pieces, but this doesn't stop it being a great piece.

    From a purely technical point of view, I would recommend it as the perfect score for young composers and arrangers to study. It's a masterpiece of brevity in brass band scoring; there is not a single note that cannot be justified, everything has a reason and there is no 'padding'. Scoring perfection.
  13. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    Played it only once at a contest MIDLAND AREA 1990 and came a well deserved last quite funny as well.
    The band i was with at the time had just had a new conductor and he had only ever been to one contest conducting with the band he had not got much experince on the contest stage but qualification wise Kneller Hall and all that etc.
    Well he had got the balance wrong to beging the opening with the triplets were just not coming through all you heard was the quavers :oops: .
    Well we told him but he would not listen and wanted it is way :( "Im the conductor if you know any better come up here and try".
    On to the Contest:
    So we played he said"Weve Won it no doubts about it thats a winning perfromance"
    we knew more like its a winning last prize performance more like.
    The adjudicator was Jim Scott who is more than well respected by us all in the band movement:clap:
    He came out and said his thoughts but did say "One band did not make the most of the triplet passage and it was not heard hardly"
    We knew it was us by then the penny dropped to our conductor that we were right and he was 100% wrong.
    We got the remarks back and the opening comments were:
    Opening Bars are NOT BALANCED i need more of the triplet sound coming through.
    But on a better side i heard Grimethopre Colliery Band in the same year at the Yorkshire Area play it and it was just brilliant.
    Those are my memories of Journey Into Freedom
  14. Craigsav83

    Craigsav83 Active Member

    Although I have never performed the piece, it is one of my favourites to listen to. Still challenging, although possibly not at the top level of banding any more, it is probably underplayed. IMHO, I dont think the piece sounds particularly dated, as Mr Sparke pointed out, it is from a different period of music, so it does sound rather differet to the structure and form of modern music.
  15. Steve Marcus

    Steve Marcus Member

    This past year, our band performed our MD's favourite brass band piece: Resurgam. He said that he never dared to conduct it previously, because he feared that no real performance could equal the glorious music as he heard it in his head. Nevertheless, I think we did Eric Ball and Resurgam justice, and my impression is that our MD was pleased.

    Perhaps we'll have a go at Journey Into Freedom in the not-too-distant future.
  16. flugelboy

    flugelboy Member

    i have never personally played it before but heard abit of it and heard many good reports from it(mainly fro mr savage there)it was the first section piece at pontins and the people that i spoke to there seemed to think it was a really good piece!!its one that i am looking forward to playing.
  17. huggie

    huggie Member

    It was the first test piece I ever played in the championship section, on second baritone with Carlton Main. A real classic in my opinion, ah the memories
  18. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    Also, FYI....

    Journey into Freedom is the Honors (1st section) test piece at this year's North American Brass Band Championships.
  19. Rodney

    Rodney Member

    Interesting.....Geelong West played this as our 'Own Choice' at the 2007 Australian Nationals. Awesome piece of music imho


  20. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    Great memories for me, my first big contest with Yorkshire Imps at the 1971 British Open as a raw 18 year old on solo EEb.
    Great performance - I can still remember the tingling down my spine at the marvelous ovation -
    1st place with 197 points as I remember.
    Then broadcast and an almighty p*** up at Strangeways (Fred Muscroft had contacts everywhere).
    Nice nostalgic re-visit for me at this years area, but did not quite match the 70's performance.

    I like the piece and Mrs B even sat through all the bands at the area, which is a first!

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