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Thread: Bring the Nationals back to London

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    Bring the Nationals back to London

    Well done to all the bands for putting on such good shows at last weekends lower section finals in a venue that was never designed to be a concert hall. It is a Conference Centre, the name sort of gives it away... It may be an excellent venue for the organisers but not for performers. It was designed to be dead, thats what all the carpet and sound insulation boards are for. The only music that works in there is amplified, and before anyone says 'yes but orchestras play there', yes they do and they hate it!

    Brass banding had the perfect set up for years: All in London, on the same day, all sections within an easy walk and a certain audience for the Gala concert at night. This only changed because petty parochial little band officials wanted to bring the event out of London. Go back to the winning formula and stop bands playing in empty halls with dire accoustics.

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    tMP Friend DiG that cornet's Avatar
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    Nationals venue

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Stout View Post
    It may be an excellent venue for the organisers but not for performers. It was designed to be dead, .
    I agree, it's like playing in a desert. It's terrifying enough just being at the National Finals, without having to play on a stage where you feel as if you're playing entirely on your own!
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    tMP Friend for Life Anno Draconis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Stout View Post
    Well done to all the bands for putting on such good shows in a venue that was never designed to be a concert hall. It is a Conferenece Centre, the name sort of gives it away... It may be an excellent venue for the organisers but not for performers. It was designed to be dead, thats what all the carpet and sound insulation boards are for. The only music that works in there is amplified, and before anyone says 'yes but orchestras play there', yes they do and they hate it!

    Brass banding had the perfect set up for years: All in London, on the same day, all sections within an easy walk and a certain audience for the Gala concert at night. This only changed because petty parochial little band officials wanted to bring the event out of London. Go back to the winning formula and stop bands playing in empty halls with dire accoustics.
    The best venues for band contests are conference centres and the like. If you want somewhere that's easy to play where everyone sounds wonderful there are a limitless supply of churches and boomy halls we could play in up and down the land. A dead accoustic allows no hiding places and lets the adjudicator hear absolutely everything. Plus in a conference centre there's always somewhere to eat and drink, plenty of space for trade stands and meeting areas, and a generous assortment of staff available to sell programmes, mind doors, etc. and there are always more than enough toilets, rooms for changing, warming up, etc., without having to go outside, or squeeze into a dressing room designed for a maximum of 6. I've played in contest venues that were accoustically wonderful but had to change in the car.

    I played in a couple of the lower section venues in London and they were c**p. In fact, the RAH was also c**p until the recent facelift - plus, they weren't an "within an easy walk", or not every year anyway. I agree that the audiences this weekend were tiny; we played to about 100 people, I reckon and when I listened to Northop there can't have been much more, and both bands had been tipped to be in the prizes beforehand. However simply putting the contest in nice concert halls or in London will not improve attendance - witness the number of empty seats at the Open. Letting bandsmen in for free would have improved audience attendance, but that's up to the organisers. Let's not forget, bands had the chance to organise their own Finals (the BFBB at Torquay) and it was a miserable farce.

    I'm all for putting all the bands together (including Championship) on the same weekend but not in London - or at least not every year. We could have the whole contest in Manchester quite easily, using the Bridgewater Hall and the Conference Centre. Birmingham and Edinburgh have similar facilities in close proximity and I'm sure there are other towns/cities that could do it. Even in Harrogate the extra parts of the International Centre could be opened up to allow a couple of lower sections to play while putting the top section in the main auditorium.

    The only people, really, who are going to listen to band contests these days are bands and their supporters, and generally speaking we don't want to pay. So it seems silly to have the showpiece part of the Finals (the top section) in a different part of the country on a different day, when there is the opportunity to have upwards of 2500 banders in the same place at the same time simply by putting all the sections together.
    Andrew Baker

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    tMP Prime Friend iancwilx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anno Draconis View Post
    The best venues for band contests are conference centres and the like. If you want somewhere that's easy to play where everyone sounds wonderful there are a limitless supply of churches and boomy halls we could play in up and down the land. A dead accoustic allows no hiding places and lets the adjudicator hear absolutely everything. Plus in a conference centre there's always somewhere to eat and drink, plenty of space for trade stands and meeting areas, and a generous assortment of staff available to sell programmes, mind doors, etc. and there are always more than enough toilets, rooms for changing, warming up, etc., without having to go outside, or squeeze into a dressing room designed for a maximum of 6. I've played in contest venues that were accoustically wonderful but had to change in the car.

    I played in a couple of the lower section venues in London and they were c**p. In fact, the RAH was also c**p until the recent facelift - plus, they weren't an "within an easy walk", or not every year anyway. I agree that the audiences this weekend were tiny; we played to about 100 people, I reckon and when I listened to Northop there can't have been much more, and both bands had been tipped to be in the prizes beforehand. However simply putting the contest in nice concert halls or in London will not improve attendance - witness the number of empty seats at the Open. Letting bandsmen in for free would have improved audience attendance, but that's up to the organisers. Let's not forget, bands had the chance to organise their own Finals (the BFBB at Torquay) and it was a miserable farce.

    I'm all for putting all the bands together (including Championship) on the same weekend but not in London - or at least not every year. We could have the whole contest in Manchester quite easily, using the Bridgewater Hall and the Conference Centre. Birmingham and Edinburgh have similar facilities in close proximity and I'm sure there are other towns/cities that could do it. Even in Harrogate the extra parts of the International Centre could be opened up to allow a couple of lower sections to play while putting the top section in the main auditorium.

    The only people, really, who are going to listen to band contests these days are bands and their supporters, and generally speaking we don't want to pay. So it seems silly to have the showpiece part of the Finals (the top section) in a different part of the country on a different day, when there is the opportunity to have upwards of 2500 banders in the same place at the same time simply by putting all the sections together.
    Spot on. 100% good logic.
    It beats me how folk can complain about these modern magnificent venues and their acoustics.
    Remember the British Open at the Kings Hall in Manchester ?
    There you were truly aware of being very alone on stage, only hearing your own instrument and with the capacity audience (? 5000) stacked to the roof around you, completely surrounding the stage (Boxing Ring !) - terrifying.
    See the attached pic I'm on the stage, can you spot me !!!
    ("Life Divine" 1963)
    I recall playing in a Lower Section National Final years ago in a local town hall in London (Was it Fulham ?).
    It was old, dirty, small and had a painted stage backdrop scene from a pantomime. The changing facilities were basic, and warm up area ? - don't make me laugh !!
    The acoustics were akin to playing in my garage- dire !
    As far as us young bandsmen were concerned, the RAH was as far distant as the moon.
    I have been to London many times, I even worked there for a year, but
    I wouldn't want to go to play there because IMHO it's a cess pit !!
    - Wilkie
    PS We came 3rd that year on Eric Balls "Four Preludes"
    Last edited by iancwilx; 31.07.2008 at 20:28.
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    tMP Master Friend brassintheed's Avatar
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    I don't know what it sounds like from the audience, but I get the impression that it wasn't really condusive to live music.

    I agree that dry acoustics increase the 'test' and in some ways that can be argued to be a good thing. But I've always thought that a music contest should be about improving musical groups along the correct musical lines eg within the same parameters that would work within a concert environment.

    I don't think that judging bands in an environment which is not condusive to that is a good thing. If all contests were held within 'non-concert' acoustics, then brass bands would be heading in the wrong direction.

    I do think it would be very wise to put all sections back togethor though. Just the fact that the gala concert would be much better attended has got to be a good thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by brassintheed View Post
    I don't know what it sounds like from the audience, but I get the impression that it wasn't really condusive to live music.

    I agree that dry acoustics increase the 'test' and in some ways that can be argued to be a good thing. But I've always thought that a music contest should be about improving musical groups along the correct musical lines eg within the same parameters that would work within a concert environment.
    Have to agree with this one. It can't be a good thing to hold a music contest in a place with a dead-as-a-dodo acoustic, because it just isn't fair on the people playing. There are acoustics that come somewhere between a conference centre and a cathedral...Symphony Hall perhaps? You never hear complaints from Open bands about playing there. And with Birmingham Town Hall now open for business again about five minutes walk away, surely that's the kind of thing we're thinking of? Two good sized rooms with decent acoustics (or in the case of SH, superb acoustics), lots of facilities around, lots of hotels, transport links as good as this country gets.

    I'm not saying it should always be Birmingham, it just happens to be a good example and a place I know well. But the Scottish and Northern bands especially would have every right to be pretty annoyed if it was always London - how many lower section bands could afford that journey on a regular basis? And it's impossible to justify the RAH on acoustic terms alone, though the prestige of the venue cannot be underestimated.

    There's a difference between making things a test and a torture, and I think super-dry acoustics for a contest are more like the latter. A music competition should be a test of artistry, not just clinical accuracy.

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    Music not Sport

    I have sympathy with the comments on trips to London, my only point is that there are not that many concert halls in Britain that hold 6000 people. Yes it doesn't have the perfect accoustic but where does? Anybody who has played or listened to a band (and I am only talking top section, no point having a 4th section band playing in front of 400 people) in a packed Albert Hall will know its a special occasion.

    As for your comments on acoustics, when will bands start thinking of themselves as musical organisations and not sport. If you want sport let's forget the test piece and have a top C contest. Raise the bar until you have a winner and if there's a nice coffee shop even better!

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    tMP Friend for Life KMJ Recordings's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Stout View Post
    I have sympathy with the comments on trips to London, my only point is that there are not that many concert halls in Britain that hold 6000 people.
    Just out of interest, when was the last time you saw a brass band contest audience of 6000?
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    tMP Prime Friend johnmartin's Avatar
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    Glasgow has the Royal Concert Hall and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in close proximity, easy walking distance. We held the Scottish Open and Youth Championships in these halls on the same day some years ago and it was relatively successful from an artistic point of view. What let it down was the cost. Glasgow RCH want at least 5000 for a days hire and I can't imagine Symphony Hall or any of the others mentioned would be much different.
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    tMP Senior Friend T Winch's Avatar
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    We have a little concert venue up here in the north-east of England called The Sage. Two halls in the same building. Superb acoustics, plenty of places to eat and drink (a bit pricey but aren't they always?), excellent backstage facilities no shortage of reasonably priced hotel accomodation and (this bit's really going to stick in my throat) some of the best nightlife in the country just accross the bridge in Newcastle!!

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    tMP Master Friend brassintheed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Stout View Post
    As for your comments on acoustics, when will bands start thinking of themselves as musical organisations and not sport. If you want sport let's forget the test piece and have a top C contest. Raise the bar until you have a winner and if there's a nice coffee shop even better!
    I bow to you. Couldn't have put it better myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Stout View Post
    I have sympathy with the comments on trips to London, my only point is that there are not that many concert halls in Britain that hold 6000 people. Yes it doesn't have the perfect accoustic but where does?
    Nowhere has a perfect acoustic, but there are plenty of better places than the RAH - mushrooms or no mushrooms. And at 6,000 people in an audience they would be way over their official capacity of 5,222 (according to their website)! What you could do there which would be interesting is to have bands "in the round", like Wilkie's photo earlier.

    Nevertheless, the point about it being music not sport is well made!

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    tMP Friend for Life Anno Draconis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnmartin View Post
    Glasgow has the Royal Concert Hall and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in close proximity, easy walking distance. We held the Scottish Open and Youth Championships in these halls on the same day some years ago and it was relatively successful from an artistic point of view. What let it down was the cost. Glasgow RCH want at least 5000 for a days hire and I can't imagine Symphony Hall or any of the others mentioned would be much different.
    I can't remember, is the City Hall near there? Or is it a bit of a trek? It used to be a toilet but I believe it's been hugely improved by a recent renovation and it's now home to the BBCSO, plus the accoustics are (from what I remember) superb.
    Andrew Baker

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    tMP Friend for Life Anno Draconis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Stout View Post
    As for your comments on acoustics, when will bands start thinking of themselves as musical organisations and not sport.
    Your guess is as good as mine, but it hasn't changed in the 25 years I've been playing so I don't imagine that it will anytime soon. Contesting is far more to do with sport than with music. Points, promotion, relegation, closed adjudication, registration of players - if it's purely about making music why do we need all this?

    Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather play somewhere like Symphony Hall than a carpeted conference centre. But a contest is about more than just the stage accoustic, and top notch venues like SH are both too expensive and too big for 99% of band contests. The RAH is never full for the top section finals, and the first few bands always play to a handful, unless one of the real big boys gets an early draw.

    I remember when I started playing going to contests like the North Wales Rally at Kelsterton College, or the Wigan Contest, or the Burtonwood in Widnes. These have all gone by the wayside (imho) because the facilities for bands other than the stage itself were rubbish. Nowhere to get changed, nowhere to warm up or leave cases, nowhere to get a brew. You might not like it, but that's increasingly what the modern band looks for in a contest.

    Anyone remember Pontins in Southport? - you had to get changed in one huge, cold room, leave your cases and walking out jackets unsecured in a heap in the corner, warm up surrounded by a load of other hairy-ar$ed bandsmen getting changed , walk across the car park surrounded by razor wire, rain and seagulls to play in a dead hall that stank of stale beer and fags. It had "atmosphere", especially when the top section played, but that's not enough for bands these days. As a result, the entries dropped to the point that the Easter contests are no more.

    Contrast that with the facilities at the International Centre at the weekend. Plus, call me a masochist, but I quite enjoyed playing there! What would have really rounded it off though, would have been the chance to go and listen to the top section playing on Sunday.

    Anyone from Kapitol reading this?
    Andrew Baker

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Anno Draconis View Post
    I can't remember, is the City Hall near there? Or is it a bit of a trek? It used to be a toilet but I believe it's been hugely improved by a recent renovation and it's now home to the BBCSO, plus the accoustics are (from what I remember) superb.
    The City Hall isn't too far away (George Square) and the refurbishment has been a great success. Acoustics were always one of it's attractions.
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