Why do bands put on concerts with solely arrangements?!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Mr_Euniverse, Nov 10, 2008.

  1. Mr_Euniverse

    Mr_Euniverse Member

    Why do bands put on concerts with solely arrangements?!
    There is some great original stuff out there and it should be played and promoted. IMO.

    Also I think bands should educate audiences and display a testpiece at each concert too.

    We played a load of what we assume as "audience friendly" music, but what people were talking about afterwards was our performance of Variations on an Enigma by Sparke.
    Also putting a testpiece would attract banders to the concert too. (would attract me)
    What brass bander would actually pay to hear light music?

  2. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    In my experience of running a professional showband for over thirty years, if you try to educate an audience you end up playing to empty chairs at your next gig.

    If you advertise your gig as a concert of original brass music, then it will attract folk with an interest in that sphere of musical activity, but it will be a niche audience and I doubt whether the admission fees would boost the bands coffers by much.

    I love original brass music, especially good test pieces, but I am well aware that they have little appeal to the general public.

    - Wilkie
  3. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    My neck of the woods isn't exactly know for it's brass band history or tradition. We're still trying to educate some of the locals that brass bands play more than only marches and hymns (not that we don't play them, of course ;)).

    At a recent charity concert in a hall where tables had been set out for the audience, one member of the audience was overheard to express surprise that room hadn't been left for the band to march up and down!

    I think that, too often, test pieces and original works appeal to the already-converted. To reach the wider audience and attract new blood it's necessary to play music that is more familiar and, dare I say it, easier to understand.
  4. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    I agree, concerts of just arrangements grate on me too. Unfortunately, to move to playing the serious, interesting stuff generally involves a change of audience. Like Ian says, if you try to educate your usual audience, most of them will leave.

    However, I've long been of the opinion that with perseverence, good publicity, and sensible programming (ie. don't step change to "all Judith Bingham" nights) you can replace that audience with, or transform them into, one which is more appreciative, knowledgable and interested in brass band music. Hell, it might even make the classical music world take us seriously (eventually).

    Of course, this might all be idealistic daydreaming, but in my experience a lot of musicians who would otherwise write off brass bands as old-fashioned, march, hymn and singsong parpers, have been surprised and impressed when they've heard some original works played well.
  5. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    Does anything a brass band plays actually appeal to the general public? The brutal truth is that those people who will actually go to a concert are a small minority of the population.

    I firmly believe that any musical ensemble has a responsibility to educate its members and its audiences - but in the right time and the right way. Brass bands always used to do that; that's what all the orchestral transcriptions were originally for. It doesn't always have to be a full-blown test piece, but it often can be. (I am of course talking about in a concert here, as opposed to a bandstand or summer fete style gig in which a different approach is quite rightly called for)

    There are, as I see it, a few key points:
    1. No matter what their original function, look at the pieces as 'major works' or 'extended works' rather than 'test pieces'. It's only a 'test piece' if you're playing it for a contest.
    2. It doesn't have to be national-finals-perfect. No-one's adjudicating.
    3. Take a few moments to explain to the band what you are doing with the programming and why.
    4. Take a few moments to explain to the audience what the piece is and what to listen out for.

    The typical concert goer will almost certainly be familiar with Paganini's 24th Caprice and Rachmaninov's piece based on it. It's both patronising and ignorant for a brass band to assume that they won't be able to cope with hearing Wilby's Paganini Variations. That's just one example.

    At the moment there seems a danger that we are indeed educating audiences that we don't just play marches and hymns - but what we're teaching them is that we play arrangements of movie themes and second rate pop music instead. If that's the case, we should probably have stuck to marches and hymns in the first place.
  6. Mr_Euniverse

    Mr_Euniverse Member

    Neither was I suggesting play solely original music, or to play some weird modern testpiece that quite frankly most of the band movement never wants to hear.

    To advertise as original brass band music would be a serious mistake I agree.

    But I do think the "Right" testpiece can educate and promote the "other side" to brass bands. Can't go wrong with much of Sparke, or a Peter Graham. However playing Revelations could be a mistake, but it also could be superb if the compere communicates the composers intentions to the audience, in a light way of course.

    We play a huge variety of music and so I think we should show it off to audiences March, Solos, Orchestral/Show Arrangement, Light Jazzy number, Testpiece. In adequate proportion of course!
  7. Mr_Euniverse

    Mr_Euniverse Member

    Agree with that 110% :tup
  8. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    I prefer to think that we are teaching the public that a brass band concert can be an enjoyable experience. Isn't that what a public performance should be - enjoyable for the audience, who are paying the money, after all?
  9. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    If we don't think original brass music can be "enjoyable" are we really in the right game?
  10. Ipswich trom

    Ipswich trom Member

    At our last concert we played a mix of arrangements, transcriptions, a hymn tune, and original music for brass band. The comments afterwards were that the piece that people enjoyed the most was the test piece that we played. To be fair, it is one of the most tuneful and instantly likeable pieces you could imagine, Philip Sparke's "The Saga of Haakon the Good". The audience was made of mainly people brought up on classical music.
  11. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    We have in the past played so-called test pieces (I hate that term too) at concerts. The two that spring to mind are Diversions - Variations on a Swiss Folk Song by Philip Sparke and Spectrum. Both went down very well, but with Spectrum in particular we took some time to explain what the piece was about.

    I reckon it can be done, but it takes a bit of effort and careful selection of the piece.
  12. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    It already has been....on a few occasions...but I'm not going to look for them.

    It certainly can happen - the anecdotal story of Brighouse at Durham University, for instance.

    Not if you listen to the audience research that's made by certain radio stations.....which implies that the second bit is indeed on the nose.

    ....but it's a good one. Fairly short, enjoyable piece with a tune that people know.

    And importantly, it's not an arrangement or transcription.

    It's on that last bit where people who shout loudly through a loudhailer at places like Classic FM get it completely wrong. Trying to sell them things on the basis of "you play X, Y & Z and we'cve got fantastic arrangements of it" falls completely on the wrong side of the demographic. Their listeners (on the whole) don't want to listen to arrangements of The Marriage of Figaro played by a brass band - they want the original.....so ringing in to lunchtime requests and asking for it will get it played....until you ask for it by a brass band....not least because it won't be in their CD rack.

    Absolutely. As an extension of that, country wide most people seem to play the same arrangements of movie themes and second rate pop music within a very short time of each other.....and that's occasionally borne out by the CD programmes that people record...

    What's your endpoint? Who are you doing this for - the Bands or the audience? And what are you hoping to achieve by it?

    Before anyone accuse me of attempting to rain on parades, I should point out I'm in total agreement with this - I'm just interested in the answers.

    Depends who you're doing it for ;)

    Great choice - it's an extension of the Paganini above in as much as you've gone for something that you don't have to think about. Something else that falls into this category for me, for instance, would be Hinemoa by Gareth Wood....just tell them the story first and the job's a good 'un.

    And the right kind of concert - but absolutely.
  13. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    I think you pick the programme to cater for the audience you are playing to. For example if you were playing a park job in the summer, you probably WOULD pick a programme of music that people would already recognise, but say you were playing at a music college or a cathedral or something like that, then there would be a bit more scope to play original music.

    I don't have a preference over arrangements to original stuff - its the quality of arrangements that gets my goat. Some of them are pitiful, and are an actual insult to the original piece being arranged!

    Also, some arrangements can give a whole new lease of life to a piece of music....it depends.
  14. hicks

    hicks Member

    An "ABBA medley" from one of our pond concerts springs to mind. Thankfully we only played part of it, but what we did play seemed to go down well with the audience.
  15. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Bits of a 'Test Piece' maybe, but 12- 15 minute pieces would bore most audiences to death, me included. I don't enjoy brass concerts that want to show off how good they are at a test piece much either. But then I don't like 'finger flinging' pieces, no matter how clever it is to play it. (I hasten to add that doesn't mean I'm not impressed with those that can do it, but I certainly can't.)
  16. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    100% Spot on.
    In my pro days I would have played a vastly different programme at a Student Union or a Forces Naafi, to that which I would play at a Corporate Dinner or Golf Club.
    I would also have used very different compere techniques.
    A case of "Horses for Courses".

    - Wilkie
  17. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    Has anyone stopped to consider Marsches are mostly orginal music for brass bands, or is the point to play more modern music written specifically for band? We have been lucky enough to play PLC's Dark Side of the Moon this year and went on to use it in 4/5 concerts, always going down a storm. I think time has to be taken to think about the audience you're trying to perform to. I always try to include something for everyone in the hall from the 7/8 yr olds that have dragged along by grandma (Scooby Do?) to the 30 somethings like me (Birdland?) and maybe be slightly older generation (Barber of Seville?). you wouldn't always have to play a full test piece to play original music, Goff Richards, Doyen? Rock Music Three, there's loads out there. Or a classic movement from a test piece John Irelands Elegy from a downland suite.

    It's easy to play arrangements and they entertain some of the band and some of the audience and it's sometimes trickier to find orginal works but from a players point of view i think there's more to get into pieces that are written for our genre.
  18. Sonny Barker

    Sonny Barker Member

    err... no - it's been done to death.

    Isn't that true of all concerts? Even ones like Madonna and the like?
  19. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Not so. We've included Sparke's Music for a Festival at a concert this year, and we gave the audience feedback forms and it met with the approval of 80% of the audience.

    I'd like to see top section bands in particular playing lower section "major works" - note the avoidance of the "T" word - like Triptych, Variations on Laudate Dominum or Vizcaya for instance. Wouldn't take much more rehearsal than a reasonably complex concert item for a good band.

    And incidentally, if you aren't actively asking your audience what they like, how can you possibly know what they like, and what would or wouldn't bore them to death?
  20. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    A lot of good points covered here. Being relevant to your potential audience is of great importance to getting them back for your next concert there. The top bands can afford to perform showcase works like major test-pieces or extended original works because they command a following of banders. This doesn't stop the majority of bands using shorter, original concert items if they are introduced properly to the audience. Many works emulate recognisable forms or styles that can be understood and digested by Joe Bloggs.

    And yes, there is a huge variation in quality of writing, original or arranged. It's up to the bands and conductors to choose what they think works best.

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