Which section for these test pieces ?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Sandy Smith, Mar 16, 2014.

  1. Sandy Smith

    Sandy Smith Member

    Curious to find the thoughts of everyone on the following -

    In which section would you place these test pieces ?

    Dances and Arias Edward Gregson
    Three Figures Herbert Howells
    Ballet for Band Joseph Horovitz
    Pageantry Herbert Howells
    Variations On A Ninth Gilbert Vinter
    A Downland Suite John Ireland
    On Alderley Edge Peter Graham
    Variations on the Shining River Edmund Rubbra
    A London Overture Philip Sparke
    Seascapes Ray Steadman-Allen
  2. iancwilx

    iancwilx Active Member

    This should be interesting.
    I reckon Seascapes is still top section, Downland probably 2nd Section, Voa9th good quality 1st Section, Pageantry good 1st Section.
    I've heard all the others, but not played them, so I can't really judge.

    ~ Mr Wilx
  3. Andy_Euph

    Andy_Euph Active Member

    Some cracking pieces there, but none too many would be lower than 1st section I would have thought, although you'll have some trying to convince us that they aren't that hard and should be 4th section!
    I absolutely love Variations on the Shining River, it's one of my favourite pieces, but not easy.

    Dances and Arias Edward Gregson - Championship
    Three Figures Herbert Howells - Championship
    Ballet for Band Joseph Horovitz - 1st
    Pageantry Herbert Howells - 1st
    Variations On A Ninth Gilbert Vinter - 2nd (at a push)
    A Downland Suite John Ireland - 2nd
    On Alderley Edge Peter Graham - Championship
    Variations on the Shining River Edmund Rubbra - 1st
    A London Overture Philip Sparke - 1st
    Seascapes Ray Steadman-Allen - Championship
  4. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Interesting question! And a well thought out list, carefully testing the dividing line between championship and non-championship banding.

    C = championship; 1, 2, 3, 4 sections. Add F for finals. ST = Senior Trophy, SC = Senior Cup, GS = Grand Shield.

    Dances and Arias Edward Gregson C - would make a challenging 1st section finals piece, or maybe good for ST
    Three Figures Herbert Howells C/1F - this sorted out the ch section at Pontins well in 2005. Again, good 1F or ST piece. Maybe 1 at a stretch. Was set for 2F in 1999, where it reportedly caused carnage.
    Ballet for Band Joseph Horovitz C/1F - similarly, this was set for 1 in 1997, where it was too difficult for most bands. Not been seen for a little while now, but before it disappeared it still did a good job of sorting out ch sections.
    Pageantry Herbert Howells C/1F - as with BFB, there's nothing technically outrageous, but it's music that requires thought and is fiddly to put together.
    Variations On A Ninth Gilbert Vinter 1/1F - bleurgh, hate this piece! Personal dislikes aside, it's again fiddly to assemble, but just a notch or two more straightforward than either of the last two.
    A Downland Suite John Ireland 2 - quality music, well within the scope of most 2nd section bands.
    On Alderley Edge Peter Graham C - for definite. Well set for GS this year.
    Variations on the Shining River Edmund Rubbra <don't know well enough to comment>
    A London Overture Philip Sparke 1 - it sits happily at this level already.
    Seascapes Ray Steadman-Allen 1F - this is difficult music for the MD, not necessarily difficult for the players. An intelligently-led 2nd section band might make a good fist of it while an unintelligently-led championship section band might not play it well at all.

    These are my opinions for set pieces - obviously a carefully chosen band of a lower level might be able to do each one justice.

    To some extent the grading depends on what one is trying to achieve - if the objective is to really sort bands out a la St. Magnus, then knock every one down a half section or so.
  5. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Are you on the selection panel now? ;)
  6. bassmittens

    bassmittens Member

    I can verify that having played it with Barrhead! The finals were in Nottingham that year. Hellish piece - V. hard for 2nd section, and still a stern test for the 1st.
  7. chingchongchew

    chingchongchew New Member

    Dances & Arias Championship
    Three Figures 2nd section
    Ballet For Band 1st section
    Pageantry 1st section
    Variations On A Ninth 1st section
    A Downland Suite 1st section
    On Alderley Edge 1st section
    Variations On the Shining River 1st section
    A London Overture 1st section
    Seascapes Championship section
  8. cornetcheese

    cornetcheese Member

    I think there are still a number of very challenging works in there - nothing below 1st section level in my opinion.

    Dances and Arias Edward Gregson - Champ
    Three Figures Herbert Howells - 1st
    Ballet for Band Joseph Horovitz - 1st
    Pageantry Herbert Howells - Champ
    Variations On A Ninth Gilbert Vinter - 1st
    A Downland Suite John Ireland - 1st
    On Alderley Edge Peter Graham - Champ
    Variations on the Shining River Edmund Rubbra - 1st
    A London Overture Philip Sparke - 1st
    Seascapes Ray Steadman-Allen - Champ
  9. Sandy Smith

    Sandy Smith Member

    No. Nothing to do with the selection panel, just curious to see where everyone thinks the differing challenges of these pieces places them re. which section.
  10. euphoria

    euphoria Member

    I would pretty much agree with these. Although the list looks pretty much like the own choice selection of the Norwegian 4th section :cool:

    I actually played Shining River when it was the set test piece at the nationals in Denmark in 1994. Our own choice that year was A London Overture. No question as to which piece was the most fun to play when you are 2. euph!
    Variations on a shining river is a great concert piece but very boring to rehearse unless you are sat at one of the end chairs.
  11. Gadgie

    Gadgie New Member

    I'd broadly go along with that. Couple of comments to add:

    - Pageantry is a bit like Contest Music - parts look stunningly simple until you try to put them together. I heard most bands when it was the first section finals piece at Harrogate a few years back and it was one of the most disappointing contests I've ever sat and listened to. Word was it was too easy; fact is few got near it.

    - more generally, some pieces on Sandy's list are wonderful and testing brass pieces that shouldn't slip down the ranks in grading terms but are entirely inappropriate for modern use as test pieces. Two reasons for that - one is use of percussion: you can't expect your 4 percussionists who played St Magnus over the last month to hang around for a bit of Pageantry. The other is that some were written for 4 cornermen and tuneful supporting cast, wonderful music but tedious to rehearse and I'd agree Shining River is in this bracket.

    Maybe the question could be more usefully be framed as which of these pieces can still be successfully used as a set piece, and which section would they be set for. On that basis, I'd accept what's been said above about sections but take Pageantry, 3 Figures and Shining River off. Love to hear them all played, but not at a contest now, think they work best as championship section concert items (along with, e.g. Journey into Freedom, Vaughan Williams Variations).
  12. Statto

    Statto Member

    This is pretty much spot on I think (although Shining River would still test a lot of C section bands!).

    Good post Sandy and you'd get my vote for being on the music panel!
  13. Mr_Chairman

    Mr_Chairman Member

    Very interesting post!

    Over the years the pieces have evolved from just testing the corner men to every individual player!

    Without wishing to hijack, would be interesting to see where you would place 'Sovereign Heritage' ?
  14. Sandy Smith

    Sandy Smith Member

    Please feel free to hijack !

    I think there is a huge urgent debate to be had here. The list of ten pieces was done off the top of my head in the time it took me to type them in. None of them match St. Magnus but I am sure we could all come up with lists of pieces which seem to fall in the crack between C and 1st section - almost as if we are missing a section in between.
  15. Sandy Smith

    Sandy Smith Member

    ... or perhaps an "Elite" section above ?
  16. bestsection

    bestsection Member

    Great selection of pieces and all contain their own demands for end chairs, ensembles and MD's -maybe the question should be altered slightly to ask if they should ever be selected a set test pieces in a particular section - at various times bands can be in differant positions to tackle a given piece - own choice gives them that opportunity. Then we come to adjudication, a set work allows bands to be measured at a point in their development against the same piece, but in an own choice what scores highest a simpler piece played well or a more difficult piece struggled through? Not sure there is an easy answer but great to see Sandy championing the debate.
  17. Sandy Smith

    Sandy Smith Member

    In the first four area contests this year seven of the eight newly promoted championship section bands have, I believe, been immediately relegated again. There are a glut of bands like this yo-yoing from C to 1st section because the gulf in test pieces is just too much. Yes St. Magnus sorted out the best bands but what about the development of all those other bands struggling to cope with a piece like St. Magnus where it would be more logical - for the development of all bands and players to allow them to compete on pieces which they have a realistic chance of of real success.
    I believe we need to reorganise the sections keeping the ones we have put adding an Elite section on the top. If Championship section is to remain the pinnacle then there is no way anyone can justify having c. 90 bands around the country in it.
    To continually subject developing players to pieces they cannot realistically cope with will only add to the ranks of those leaving the movement.
  18. Fat_Bari

    Fat_Bari Member

    Speaking as a member (but not on behalf of) of one of the bands that yo-yoed this year, I'd like to state what a pleasure it was working on St Magnus. Working on this piece brought our band on leaps and bounds and on the day we put on a show that we all felt proud of. The fact that this time we will be coming straight back down has no real effect on on individual or band development, it will all be put down to experience. I do think that the choice of first section area pieces needs a thorough review though.
  19. boourns

    boourns Member

    Is that not exactly what the Championship section was designed to be when the 'top' section was first split into Championship and 1st? You could maybe argue that too many bands have filtered up, as the lower section numbers have balanced out, but I'm not sure adding yet another section is the answer.

    How would you decide how many elite bands is 'enough'? Would you have it as a percentage of the total bands in the region? What would happen in the smaller regions? Would Wales see an annual clash between just Cory and Tredegar?

    Would you still have relegation from, and promotion to, the elite section? If so, are you not likely to encounter exactly the same problem, i.e. bands will be promoted into the elite section who are arguably not good enough to be there? If not, then how will you change things as bands' fortunes vary?

    If there actually is a problem, and I'm undecided on that, then I think the answer might be to set more realistic pieces for the Championship section Areas and leave the likes of St Magnus to the Finals and the Open (and Europeans) to sort out the truly elite bands.
  20. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    This looks like the same suggestion as Iwan Fox at 4BR favours - the idea that the reduction in championship numbers performed by the 1992 regrading is still insufficient. Personally, I think that although the current system has its problems, the idea of hiving off the top few and reserving the difficult pieces for them is not the way forward. The selection of more difficult championship section area pieces in the last few years has done a lot to raise the standard of championship banding in the corners of the country, in the lower reaches of the section, and this is a benefit that would be lost. To a certain extent, selections for area pieces should be hard enough to make all comers work to master them - while this has the benefit given above, this is also the only way to provide a reasonably reliable grading through the result - the 2008-2009 philosophy of setting pieces that would have been more suited to the 1st section with the aim of obtaining near-perfect performances resulted in some stranger-than-usual results and relegations.

    Such a proposal would also leave those of us who do not live anywhere near an elite band and whose work precludes living anywhere else but still would like to play championship pieces with no options. It might well increase the height of the UK's banding peak, but it would do so at the cost of quality on the next tier down. As someone in that position, I could not bring myself to favour it, even if the objection in my first paragraph didn't exist, and I'd like to think that more geographically fortunate banders would have sympathy. It does intuitively feel to me that it is a better thing to have quality spread wider than to be primarily focussed on being able to completely maximise the standard at the very top.

    I think a more practical move, one that would find favour all over the country, would be to start setting the 1st section harder music. It is a nonsense that there is in many years relatively little gradient from 4th to 1st sections in terms of expected set piece difficulty - followed by a massive hike between 1st and championship sections. As I mentioned in my previous post, Ballet for Band was set as the 1st section area piece in 1997 - and was moreover preceded by Spectrum in 1996. These two pieces were a tough ask for that section, and did their bit to raise expectations of what could be handled in that time. But recently we have seen a succession of insipid (often mountain-based!) pieces set that fail to either stretch the section or in any way select for promoted bands that can have a hope of playing the pieces set recently in the championship section. There is a real lack of consistency (both year on year and relative to other sections) in the selection of 1st section pieces that borders on the negligent - illustrated by the fact that several times in recent years many people have honestly wondered whether the 1st and 2nd section pieces have somehow been confused.

    If we prepare those arriving in the championship section more adequately, then more of them will stay in it. This seems obvious to me. Given that the setting of pieces of substantial technical challenge in the championship section now seems to happen consistently every year, it must be a no-brainer to start setting pieces somewhere near halfway in between top and 2nd section for the 1st... What is the mid-point between St Magnus and Chaucer's Tunes? Between Harmony Music and The Plantagenets? Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and Cross Patonce? I would submit that most of Sandy's original list sits somewhere close to that point.

    And finally, a little commentary on how many bands yo-yoed this year, as I don't think the given statement is quite accurate... Noting firstly that the Scottish region is something of a special case, as it weights three results so that it is all but guaranteed that the bottom two placed bands will be relegated, by my hasty calculations we have the following 2014 results for bands around the country newly promoted into the championship section (from North to South):
    Scotland: Newtongrange 9/10, Johnstone 10/10; both relegated.
    NoE: Harrogate 8/8; stay up. Only one appears to have been promoted due to small 1st section.
    NW: Freckleton withdrawn, Wardle Anderson 10/10; Freckleton relegated, Wardle stay up.
    Yorks: Hebden Bridge 13/13, Drighlington 12/13; Hebden Bridge relegated, Drighlington stay up.
    Mid: Foresters 8/11, Hathern 11/11; both stay up.
    Wales: Tylorstown 5/7; stay up. Only one appears to have been promoted due to small 1st section again, I presume.
    L&SC: Kidlington 5/12, Alder Valley 10/12; both stay up.
    WoE: Lanner 9/11, Michelmersh 10/10; both relegated.

    So of the 14 bands newly promoted to the championship section for 2014, 6 are relegated back to the 1st section for 2015. If we take out the special case of Scotland, it would be 4 out of 12. In fact, this does not seem an unreasonable proportion to me overall. Of the first four areas run this year - in fact Yorkshire was run alone on the first weekend, while four more (Scotland, Midlands, NW, WoE) were run on the next, so I'm not quite sure which four are meant. If we take those five, 6 out of 10 were relegated. However I cut it, I can't make it tally 7 out of 8. N.B. No bands yo-yoed between these two sections in the three areas run on the final weekend (L&SC, Wales, NoE).

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