What SHOULD a Brass Band play?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by ploughboy, Mar 4, 2010.

  1. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    Hi Folks - I'm about to open a can of worms, beware!

    In the 1m for the band thread, we started talking about what music promotes bands best, the old "yellow stuff" or the Brand New Stuff. I was typing a reply when I started thinking I'd better start a new thread. . .

    What do you think a Brass Band should play or even record? Either to sustain it's future, draw in crowds, move the movement forward or keep the movement where it is!?

    I'm only a begginer at this, I've been a conductor for about 8 years. I've always set out to do the same things, regardless of standard (there's music out there for every standard of band).

    I always try and offer variety, I like variety in my playing, conducting or listening so I figure the audience must too. I don't just mean March/Hymn/Solo type variety tho. I change my program about as much as possible, Classical, Jazz, Orginal BB works, Hymns, Marches, Salvation Army, Film, TV etc - you name it, i've had my band play it. My motto is always if everyone goes away from my concert talking about a piece they really liked then I've done my job. I figure my audience may range from about 6/7/8 yrs old up to 70/80/90 - it's my job to please them all at some point in the concert.

    Does it work? don't know ...but we're booked up all this year without a space left to play for anyone new, almost every job has rebooked and most are having us back for the 3rd or 4th time and I believe thats because they realise they'll get a new program and it'll havce something for everyone...

    So what should brass bands be playing to keep the audiences coming and to find new enthusiasts at every gig. . . . .
  2. IJK

    IJK Member

    Gary i dont think you have opened a can of worms at all

    I think everything you said is true. The Programmes for concerts etc have to suit everyone from the old guys who like a good march or hymn to the young blood who like Pop Rock etc.

    also how will we get new blood in to the movement if we keep playing the same old stuff.....

    Dont get me wrong the old stuff is great but you have to move forward at the same time...

    As for what to record I would say it depends on the title or idea around the CD.
  3. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    ....and hopefully it won't just follow in the usual "Songs from the Films and the Shows"...or, if it does (and I freely admit it's what some people want to hear), don't just trot out the same ones that the Band from the town next door have recorded....you're likely selling to the same people....give them something different.

    (that doesn't necessarily mean modern, just different, and it doesn't necessarily mean for the whole CD.....but create a unique selling point)
  4. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    I have to say, Gary, your approach sounds bang on to me.

    Brass bands are musical omnivores, and always have been. Several of our best known pieces are orchestral transcriptions, military marches, traditional hymns and melodies that are well over 100 years old - yet there are several which have now gone down as band 'perennials' which are much more up to date.

    It's my opinion that if a band play the broadest variety of music possible:

    1) it increases the possibility an audience member will hear at least one piece they really like
    2) it increases the possibility an audience member will hear at least one piece they like and wouldn't previously have considered as their type of music
    3) it keeps things interesting for the band, and builds versatility into them as players and yourself as a conductor.

    So everyone's a winner!
  5. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    We try to vary what we record, with a foot in the camp of our supportive, traditional villagers, and one towards new/unrecorded stuff. Our last track listing with Freckleton (In the Search for Atlantis) was:

    1. Washington Greys
    - old favourite request

    2. The Arcadians
    - another light request

    3. Lord of all Hopefulness
    - Sally Ann arrangement

    4. Seguidille (from Carmen) - (Vocal - Vicky Byrne)
    - custom arranged for mezzo soprano singer

    5. Ballad from Tenor Horn Concerto - (Horn - Ben Tubb)
    - new composition

    6. The Rose - (Cornet - Alex Thomas)

    7. In the Search For Atlantis - (Premiere composition by Ben Tubb)
    - new major composition

    8. Variations - (Euphonium - Pat Howard)

    9. Normandy - (Composed Henry Geehl)
    - first CD recording of historical work

    10. Charivari - (Cornet - Alex Thomas)

    11. Elegy (Parry)
    - New custom arrangement

    12. Valero

    13. Praise My Soul - (Premiere - Arranged Ben Tubb)
    - new custom arrangement

    14. Du Bist Die Ruh - (Vocal - Vicky Byrne)
    - custom arrangement for mezzo soprano singer

    15. One Voice
    - request

    16. Into the Future

    It's been fairly well received, even by some members on here, and had favourable reviews. Of course, we're only a local band, so most people don't know it exists, let alone that there's plenty of new/unrecorded stuff on it!
  6. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    I liked it :D
  7. TrumpetNick

    TrumpetNick Member

    Music, I guess
    :tongue: Your question have 2 aspects:
    1. Concerts
    2. Recordings

    As far as concerts are concerned, IMO it is not repertoire that should move forward (as someone pointed brass bands have been and will continue to be omnivorous) but the way they present the show. Why groups like Mnozil Brass, Venezuelan Brass Ensemble and all performances conducted by Gustavo Dudamel are so mesmerizing? Probably because they manage to communicate more efficiently their passion and love for music...a bit of theater and comedy doesn't hurt either...About recordings...I will leave that to more experienced people, though I think that the old "Best of" or "Brass favourites" mix is not fashionable anymore...
  8. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    Thank you Keith, your opinion is one I trust!

    Mainly because you're an old curmudgeon like me, but still....
  9. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    The trouble is what we want to play as "musicians" and what the audience want to hear don't usually go together. Besides what you SHOULD play is whatever suits the venue... you can't play Dove Descending at a Fete... well OK you can but no-one will get it!, perhaps thats why contesting is still so popular, because we can challenge ourselves as musicians.
  10. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    I don't like to dictate what other bands play (alright I do, but I try to restrain myself), but I strongly believe that all bands should have an annual budget of a couple of hundred quid that they spend on new music. And "new" is the important word there. Stuff written in the last 5-10 years at least.

    For example, why are there so many bands that finish with the Floral Dance, when there must have been hundreds of big finish pieces written in the last 20 years? And lets face it, they can't be much worse!

    If bands actually had a strong turnover of music, they'd have more regular audiences, they'd probably have more motivated players, and they'd be supporting talented, contemporary composers.

    The particular choices with regards styles, themes etc. are up to the individual band, but PLEASE try and update the libraries!
  11. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    I couldn't agree more. My band is still growing its library, as we are only coming up to our 6th birthday and I have just spent over £300 on music. It doesn't help though, when, having ordered a piece of music at one price, I'm told the publisher has just increased the price by more than 22%.
  12. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Some great points made so far - I'll cherry pick a couple..

    Over the last couple of years I've really begun to believe we should be working as much on our presentation as on the music. Ten years ago I had the totally opposite view, but the years I've spent since watching the top section at Butlins and DVDs of Brass in Concert have proven to me that bands can [sometimes] present music really well - and that doesn't have to mean bass players in tu-tus and naff 'comedy' items. If you think about it theres not much difference between a band sitting stock still for an hour and a half in a concert, and sticking a CD on...

    I agree with this too. Although 'variety' is as important as 'new' (and don't forget not all 'yellow' music is rubbish). Spending all that precious money on orchestral transcriptions or reworked traditional melodies would be wasting it. Having said that good arrangements of both absolutely have their place. So that 500 quid should really go on a number of good pieces that cover the whole spectrum of the music we play.

    Also don't forget that there are plenty of original pieces for brass bands that are not 'test pieces' (and while I'm on my soap box can we stop calling them that - while some undoubtedly are written purely as excercises for band it gives completely the wrong impression of the best examples), Philip Sparke has done several for instance and they have always gone down well whenever I've heard / played them at a concert.

    Next - mix it up. While there's nothing wrong with a good march I can think of nothing more tedious than to open a concert with one, and then why not go for the double whammy of following it with an overture? Whats wrong with sticking one in the middle of the half?

    Lastly (who said 'hooray'? ;)) its definitely horses for courses as someone I think has already alluded to. Your 'garden fete' repertoire should be different from (but not exclusive to) your 'serious evening concert' repertoire.

    Anyway - good debate. Those are some of my thoughts I'm looking forward to reading other peoples thoughts.
  13. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    Blimey! When was the last time you bought some new music!! My budget for new music is based concert earnings, meaning if I do my job well and help create good programs then we get better fee's and bookings and I get more money to buy new music. . . £450 vanished this year very easily indeed!

    I do agree with the presentation comment earlier!
  14. simonium

    simonium Member

    As regards music that shouldn't be played, whoever said to Alan Fernie, "I tell you what, Baggy Trousers by Madness would make a cracking brass band arrangement" needs their bumps felt.
  15. sugarandspice

    sugarandspice Active Member

    It's Garry! Although I guess it's an improvement on 'Oi Hallas!'

    Interesting points!
    But- should people really devote an entirely different programme (of cheesy music?) to those jobs they consider to be 'crappy park jobs'?! I've always really enjoyed the variety of music we play at Emley and am proud of the fact that we 'put on a good show' at all of our Jobs- often playing our prize winning entertainment programmes at said 'crappy park jobs'.

    On returning to Cornwall last summer I went to listen to a band I previously had a lot of admiration for. As they have recently been promoted to the Championship section I thought I was in for a treat- however I was met with one of the dullest programmes I've possibly ever heard- I believe the 1940's war medley was probably the lowest point before we left at half time.

    Is there/should there be a 'pecking order' for concerts, and should this really determine the amount of 'cack' music you play?! I've certainly lost faith in bands for which this is the case!

    Also someone mentioned that music the band want to play and music that the audience wants to listen too often differed- in which case which is more important? I certainly wouldn't want to hang around in a band where I did not enjoy the music we chose to play.

    Does the bands attitude towards the music reflect on the atmosphere of the concert itself? Does a happy band = better attended concerts?

    Anyway, I should probably go and teach now.........

    Hallas' Girlfriend. (IJK: My name is Kelly, just incase you ever wanted to use it.)
  16. TrumpetNick

    TrumpetNick Member

    I strongly believe that it does as far as it is accompanied with a good performance. Music, brass band or other, has for a main purpose to communicate...Another one of my beliefs is that joy/pleasure of making music is easier swallowed by audiences than boredom...
  17. IJK

    IJK Member

    I know your name Kelly!!! How could I forget it?????????

    and Garry I am sorry if I spelt your name the wrong way it seems to of ****ed Kellie off

    see you tomorrow and good like to Emley and Flickley tomorrow in the 2nd section
  18. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    Would you stay in a band that played the music you enjoyed playing, but in empty concert halls? Surely there is always a compromise to be reached.

    Attendance at concerts depends on so many things, marketing being very important. But to keep audiences coming back for more, I do believe the deportment of the band is important. I recall going to see a solo performer, whose music (on record) I enjoyed. He came on stage, went through his sets and went off again. He did not interact with the audience once, not even to thank them for coming. I never went to see him again.

    If your audience can see that you enjoy making music for them and it's not just a chore, they get much more pleasure from it and are more likely to come again. No-one likes being around a grump (so my wife tells me :( )
  19. Souter

    Souter Member

    Great points noted above.

    To throw another thought spanner into the thread - look at the way we stage and present concerts.

    In the modern world, who in their right minds wants to sit in a church on hard pews for a couple of hours? In the 80's my band was filling maybe 3 rows of seats in a huge hall for concerts. We changed conductor and the new conductor , Alan Fernie, suggested to the committee to completely change the way we do concerts. We moved to a much smaller venue and had the public sitting at tables with waiter service for a bar, initially the same amount of public attended, but in a much samller venue it was a lot more intimate. About 4 concerts later, as word that the band concert was a good night out, got around we had to move back to the big hall in the town. We have never looked back and now have 3 concerts a year, always sold out, we always try to have a mix of the old, new, cheese and comedic pieces. To get a younger audience, we always have a 15 minute slot from our beginners and youth bands, which brings in the parents, relatives and the parents friends and siblings who then go away and sign up for our beginners programme.

    I have helped bands out at concerts who still play in the church hall format and asked why they still do it - the usual response is that a concert layout of the type we do wouldn't work in their town. It is this attitude that is still holding the image of banding back (in my opinion) you need to make a concert, a night out, not merely something that you feel obliged to go to. Take a step back initially, as we did, find a club in the town e.g. miners welfare, bowling club etc., make it a night where the public enjoy themselves (alcohol always helps!!!) they then go away looking forward to the next concert and tell their friends.
  20. sugarandspice

    sugarandspice Active Member

    Just checking! ;)