Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by Dave Payn, Oct 15, 2003.

  1. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    I can see you feel very strongly about this James! However

    (a) If we take you at your word when you say Scottish banding isn't up to the English standard, wouldn't something like Vizcaya kick start an improvement amongst the lower sections up there? It was (I believe) once said of Life Divine when that was used as the Nationals test piece that it improved the best bands by 50% and the worst by 100%. I don't know about quite that much with Vizcaya, but when it was used as the national 4th section finals piece in 1995.... well, I've certainly never heard a 4th section play to that standard since.

    In any case, whatever the pereceived standard of Scottish bands in general, there are also perceived standards of London bands in general band (Croydon - 3rd section) are in a rebuilding phase at the moment but when we do get enough bums on seats, I can't wait to get my teeth into Vizcaya! As for an uproar, I heard more of one when Denis Wright's Tintagel was chosen as the 3rd section area piece a few years back!

    Finally, how many bands up and down the UK, when attending own choice contests, have picked a piece which would generally be considered too difficult for the band, but justify their choice because they wish to 'stretch themselves?' I wonder if any of those are complaining now when a 'stretching' piece is chosen for them instead.....

  2. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    Let me just say, that I'm not saying Scottish Brass Bands are crap, I'm saying they're on the whole not up to par with English Bands, although this remains my opinion.

    And, yes certainly bands like Whitburn, etc show the best of Scottish Banding, but it's a differant kind of banding up here, English Bands are more serious about contesting, I think. I'm not saying that Scot's are not serious about banding, but it's just a different attitute, a Scot's attitude.

    I don't wish to turn this into a Scottish v English debate, it's :twisted: evil :twisted: and unfair.

    In terms of why I think it's starting to get a bit political, especially in terms of Vizcaya, I am rather scared to say anything towards this for politics are highly contraversial and i'll get beat down and I canny be bothered anyhow.

    As I'm sure Philip Sparke will agree to (after being a Music Producer for a long time) The music industry is all about politics and commercialism. It's an eternal battle between articistic expression and political/commercial responsabilities. Don't forget we've had the Eric Ball centenery this year, perhaps this inspired to bring the music of an equally powerful musical legend, Gilbert Vinter.

    We've knida drifted from the original point a bit, but self-expression, research and the asthesics of music are the building blocks of the musical language........and, of course we'll never find even ground, but that's the whole point. I guess why I'm saying this, because I realise I voice my opinons a bit loud and sometimes can be a little aggressive, and I don't want to be viewed as being so - as a composer I have a reputation to make and protect, but I'm the sort of Composer that hang my balls out there (so to speak!) and I'm not afraid of that, but if anyone is deeply offended by my views, then all you have to do is say so. I'll probably regret saying that! :lol:
  3. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member


    I for one, am certainly not offended by your views. On the contrary, I like a good argument! (What do you mean. 'No you don't?' :lol: ) Seriously, I'm enjoying the debate. In the end, test piece selectors are never going to please everybody. I do assure you, though, as someone who tried manfully to get to grips with the sop part for Vizcaya in 1995, I enjoyed the challenge, even if I never got quite on top of it, playing wise.
  4. The Cornet King

    The Cornet King Active Member

    I dont see any reason why anyone should be offended by your views. After all surely everyone has the right to voice their own feelings!
    My opinion on this as an independant body who wont have to play this for being in another section (as i write i am listening to Vizcaya for the umpteenth time,!) is that, sure, their are moments (such as the triple tongueing) that may prove very difficult for the less able players in the section. Their also seem to be a lot of exposed ensemble areas that may prove tricky for the bands. (good luck Sop players!)
    However on the whole it seems like a perfectly acceptable choice (even though it does seem rather harder than previous pieces.)

    It has to be left to the bands now, to stand up and prove to the banding world that they can give this a real go and hopefully prove everybody wrong! We do seem to forget that a lot of the bands in Section 3 have some very good players(both of old and of the younger generation) who could learn a heck of a lot from the experience, and who hopefully can find great enjoyment in 'pulling it off'.

    Have any bands out of curiosity had any rehearsals on it (i know its early but has anyone sneaked a quick look at the end of a rehearsal?) Any Views??

    Good luck to all.
    CJ, Front Row, Cottingham band.
  5. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    i think its a good idea for lower section bands to get reasonably difficult pieces some years to avoid the jump to the higher sections being too great. If the lower bands only ever play easy test pieces, when they are promoted they will more than likely find themselves in last place in everything, and we'll have a situation of some bands bouncing between sections.
  6. Revel8ion

    Revel8ion New Member

    Surely James, if this was in any way a commercial/political decision, then the choice of test piece would always be a new work. With a brand new work, every competeing band would need to buy a set of music, whereas with a relatively old work like Vizcaya, most bands would have that in their library or borrow it from another local band. I don't understand your thread on the political/commercial line or maybe I am just playing Devil's Advocate :twisted:. Possibly the well respected Mr Spark, could shed some light on this? He did however, seem as confused as i am, in an earlier comment.
  7. Keppler

    Keppler Moderator Staff Member

    Just to make this point here...

    There is a vast difference between playing an "easy" piece of music, and playing the same "easy" piece of music well

    Would be interesting to have all the sections assigned the same test, and the adjudication becoming less and less forgiving as you go up the sections.

    Dots on a page are just dots.. is the test just to see who can manage the dots, or is it an interpretation question as well.. Surely, at the end of the day - the band with the most musical performance on the day should win..
    (disclaimer: - in the adjudicator's opinion of course)
  8. The Cornet King

    The Cornet King Active Member

  9. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    And more....

    Good points Keppler but in the end, I feel that some of the music for the lower sections in the past, whilst acceptable in their own right, are for instance 'comparatively' easier than say, the likes of Vizcaya, with the result that there are probably more bands who could have played those 'easier' pieces well but maybe didn'tt have the impetus to practice as hard as most of the 3rd section players will have to where Vizcaya is concerned.

    As I intimated earlier, I felt the overall rise in standard of the 4th section in 1995 (when Vizcaya was used as the National Final test piece) was remarkable. Even the adjudicator said that the winning band (Todmorden Old) gave a performance that a 2nd or 1st section band would have been proud of.

    Are there any other players from that day at Wembley 8 years ago using this forum? What do you think about it all?
  10. Keppler

    Keppler Moderator Staff Member

    also good points Dave..
    to clarify my opinion..

    I don't disagree with having "difficult" tests for lower sections
    nor do I disagree with having "easy" tests for lower sections

    easy and difficult, are of course open to interpretation, but by all accounts, Vizcaya seems to be regarded as "difficult"

    What is required though, is a balance between the two. Not all bands will be able to make a fist of the more difficult end, and so scheduled easier tests are required to give these bands something to work on. You have made the argument that playing more difficult parts encourages standard. I don't dispute that. However, I can pull out Cambridge Variations and attempt to play it until I'm blue in the face - but it'll do more harm than good. I won't magically raise my standard in the 6 months until the contest day. Rather, I'll be concentrating on all those things that are beyond me at the moment, and the band will sound frantic, and forget all those things that really cause a band to improve - attention to detail, ensemble, tuning and intonation and above all style.

    What's called for, I think, is some sort of task-force to examine the long term effect of chosen tests over a number of years, and to strategically choose them with the goal of gradually raising the standard of *every* band, while still allowing space for newcoming and struggling bands. To do this, a mix of "easy" tests and "difficult" tests will undoubtedly be required, but bands will have some confort in knowing that if they struggle one year, they will have it easier on the next - and can thus use the "difficult" piece to work on things that they can apply to the following "easy" piece - and vice versa.

    It's a fault of many associations and bands I think, that the thinking is year to year, with little or no thought for strategic growth.

    Anyway - that went on rather longer than I expected - hope some of it made sense to someone.
  11. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    perhaps politics in Brass Banding is just a Scottish thing, but I thought it was present althoughout the United Kingdom.

    Did they even think about contacting me to have one of my testpiece debuted - HELL NO!!!
  12. Max

    Max Member

    [What's called for, I think, is some sort of task-force to examine the long term effect of chosen tests over a number of years]

    Surely we can do this by looking in the back of recent contest programmes and observing that test pieces that were once used for the higher sections 15-20 years ago are now well within the capabilities of most lower section bands.

    Is this not all the proof we need that the choice of test pieces is having the overall desired effect of improving bands?[/quote]
  13. KennyC

    KennyC Member

    There should be no problem with Vizcaya as a 3rd section piece. I listened to the whole 3rd section at Dundee recently and the best of them would have no great problem with the technicalities of the piece. Musically, well that's another thing but I can think of a number of championship section bands who would struggle just the same on that front.

    I think it's important to remember that test-pieces should be chosen to challenge all the bands in a section, including the best ones. How many times have we had what has been widely perceived as an unsatisfactory result because the test-piece was considered to be too straightforward? On these occasions most of the bands handle the technical side of the piece to a decent standard and it then becomes more difficult for the adjudicator to pick the so-called 'better' bands out of the pack. Often it becomes a contest purely of interpretation and some of the finer technical issues get overlooked. I’m not advocating making all test-pieces too hard, but Vizcaya, for me is a good choice for the 3rd section.

    On the Scottish banding point, I'm not so much offended by James McFadyen as utterly bemused. I really would be interested to know why he has developed this one-man national inferiority complex. The facts simply do not back up his feelings.

    2003 has seen the resurgance of Scottish Co-op Band (National Champions 1990 & 96!) following a couple of years when they have performed slightly below the standard we have come to expect from them. 1st in the Scottish Championships, 2nd in the Grand Shield and a safe result at the Open shows a band very much back on the rails. We have also seen Kirkintilloch become established as one of the most consistent and settled bands in the movement. Their fine performances at the Scottish and European Championships have been backed up by a great result at Troon and further improvement in their British Open status. I wouldn't be surprised to see either of them in the prizes in London at the weekend. Possibly both.

    Whitburn average better than 6th at the Open over the last 3 years. 2nd place this year along with other great performances at Livingston and Troon shows there isn't much inferiority around here either. But, such was the standard at the Scottish Championships we weren’t good enough to qualify for London - and I mean that most sincerely folks!

    These 3 bands are very firmly established in the top bracket of banding but if you need further proof, have a look at the 4BarsRest rankings. In general, our bands are only bettered by those from Yorkshire, the North-West and Wales. Not the whole of England. Not the rest of the World.

    West Lothian Schools are the National Youth Band Champions, again, but it's true to say that, on the whole, Scottish bands disappointed slightly at Dundee. My own opinion is that this is a reflection on the depth of talent, rather than any inferiority in attitudes or ability. The bands in Yorkshire and the North-West of England are undoubtedly more numerous and many have a greater tradition, but the result is a wider and only slightly higher pyramid. I really do not believe any of the other English regions can claim to be as strong as Scotland right now.

    It is also interesting to note that in 1990 the entire line-up for the British Open was English. This year there were 11 English bands out of 18, with 3 from Scotland. Prior to the 2004 Grand Shield, there are now 9 English bands in next year's line-up. A true indication of a shift in power, away from England at least.

    Organisationally, there is no doubt that Scotland are making giant strides for bands at all levels. Admittedly, there was a bit of catching up to do but the structure is emerging to make Scotland every bit as powerful as any English Region. It’s up to the bands now. New events like the Scottish Open, West Lothian Challenge, Brass in the Park and the revamped Solo & Ensemble Championships show that there is a will to improve that I don’t see too much of elsewhere in the banding world.

    As for the whole 3rd section being in uproar about Vizcaya, what utter nonsense! If James McFadyen knows so much about banding in Scotland, how on earth could everything I’ve just mentioned above escape him?

    Kenny Crookston (Player with and President of Whitburn Band and Member of the Scottish Brass Band Association Executive Committee and very busy with all that, but, strangely enough, not feeling at all inferior!)
  14. Tom

    Tom Member

    Couldn't agree more Kenny

    Hope you're right about the weekend

    Tom McCrone - Kirkintilloch
  15. Keppler

    Keppler Moderator Staff Member


    Not wanting to sound critical - but again, a prime example of looking backward rather than forward..
    I am not disputing that the general standard has improved. I am merely wishing for it to continue to improve - and simply to assume that it will because it has doesn't make much sense to me.
    Observation is tactical, rather than strategic, and deals with short term rather than long term.

    When I said "long term effect of chosen tests over a number of years" I was referring to future years rather than past years, and perhaps picking a set of tests for the next 3 or 4 years which provide some sort of framework for sure, dedicated advancement.

    I can see I need to get my thoughts a bit clearer, to articulate my feelings on this one clearly..
  16. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    If anyone else is bemused by my feelings and comments then I apologize, perhaps I am not supplying enough facts to back up my views.

    The point I was trying to make has been lost in my unfortunate ability to babble! :lol: I'm a Composer, if I've got anything to say, I should stick to saying it in my music!! :lol:

    One thing I would very much like to 'put across' is that things are not all what they seem, as I'm sure I mensioned in an earlier post somewhere, things get kinda candy-covered and the real facts and never really surfaced.

    Hear I go again, getting involved, self-inflicted mind you, in the politics and tribulations of British Banding, therefore I leave this topic forever with a final POLITICAL statement that I, despite my posts on this subject, wish to endorse -

    "British Brass Banding is slowly but steadily improving the music industry through Brass Band music. Concerts, Contests and self-critic are improving our standards as a banding community, to make friends and to show an apreciation to the composers who supply brass bands with quality music to play, for without composers, there will be no new music for bands to improve upon. May banding continue to thrive on young players that will help form the band of years to come."

    Thank you.
  17. Re: And more....

    Yep, I remember that day well, I also remember comming last (insert all we wuz robbed comments here), but at that time i was too drunk to really worry bout it that much!

    I must say though that at the time Vizcaya was (in my oppinion) difficult for the 4th section, I remember thinking I wish we had the 3rd section piece! (cant remember what it was now, but sure it sounded easier than vizcaya) I really think vizcays is a good 3rd section test piece.

    But have to agree the standard on the day was REALLY good and as we were promoted that year anyway it was a good platform to launch out assault on the 3rd section, bands (especially lower sections) need pieces that they are going to have to work at, so the players have to practice and improve, and the band as a whole ups it's standard as (in my oppinon) they should be looking to move forward and progress and that isn't going to happen if the piece isn't challenging!
  18. KennyC

    KennyC Member

    You still haven't.

    Becoming increasingly worried Tom.

    See you in London. Prove me right.

  19. JessopSmythe

    JessopSmythe Active Member

    Too right. How many bands got caught out in Dundee by thinking that, just because they could play the notes, this years test pieces were easy?
  20. satchmo shaz

    satchmo shaz Active Member

    hi all, I played top cornet with the band that came 3rd with Vizcaya and even though we had little kids in the band (my sons) we enjoyed rehearsing the piece and it did raise the standard of the band. yes we also had some very good players inthe band who could have (and some now do ) play for top section bands, but if you have a happy consistant band, whatever the section you are in, you will attract players!, making it more successful! :wink: I am now looking forward to conducting my own band on this piece again with good players and not so good players aged 7 to 80!!

    we might not win but I can say that we will be the best that we can be on the day and I'm sure that LE will enjoy themselves :p

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