2019 Area test piece discussion thread

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
I wonder if he was perhaps Australian or some other non-British, as Philip suggests. Certainly there was much brass band music sent from the UK to Australia at and for a generation before the 1920s - the top Australian bands were playing the same repertoire as top UK bands back into the 19th century - and there was some travel in the other direction, e.g. Frank Wright at a slightly later date.

However, I've given the online Australian newspaper archive a few searches (it's a marvellous site, highly recommended if you like that sort of thing), and turned up nothing more than a report of his Three Dale Dances arrangement being used at a contest in Brisbane in 1925. So probably not Australian, I guess.

Another possibility - perhaps he was a pseudonym? William Rimmer for example used many pen names. Not sure his scoring is quite like Rimmer's though.
 
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Sunnyside

New Member
There was a Sidney/Sydney Herbert active as a musical director in and around Croydon between 1911|1932. According to a newspaper report, he died while conducting the South Metropolitan Gas Company’s Military Band at East Greenwich in October 1932. Apparently they had just played Sullivan’s “In Memoriam,” but Herbert “dropped dead before any applause could be given.”

No specific mention of composing, but it’s worth a look!
 

Pauli Walnuts

Moderator
Staff member
There was a Sidney/Sydney Herbert active as a musical director in and around Croydon between 1911|1932. According to a newspaper report, he died while conducting the South Metropolitan Gas Company’s Military Band at East Greenwich in October 1932. Apparently they had just played Sullivan’s “In Memoriam,” but Herbert “dropped dead before any applause could be given.”

No specific mention of composing, but it’s worth a look!
So, if it's the same guy, his arrangements would be out of copyright in 2002, Holst out of copyright in 2004. That only leaves the other copyright in the physical printed edition.
 

Pauli Walnuts

Moderator
Staff member
Only 25 years after publication, I believe.
So on that basis, it would appear that the set of the Eb suite as used in the 1972 regionals can be copied but the latest edition from Studio can't. (It is physically different, both in paper size and additional text on it).
Which leaves one last question for me: would a regional committee ban any band playing from the 1972 edition ie. is the ISBN number they provided for guidance or mandatory? (Would they really be that picky?)
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
There was a Sidney/Sydney Herbert active as a musical director in and around Croydon between 1911|1932. According to a newspaper report, he died while conducting the South Metropolitan Gas Company’s Military Band at East Greenwich in October 1932. Apparently they had just played Sullivan’s “In Memoriam,” but Herbert “dropped dead before any applause could be given.”

No specific mention of composing, but it’s worth a look!
This seems promising. The dates fit the known body of work and a London wind band conductor would have been in a position to know the Holst so soon after its publication. Is there anywhere to look for source info?

I think I'll delete that 1988 date on BrassBandResults. It seems obvious that it's wrong.
 
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MoominDave

Well-Known Member
We have a family subscription to Ancestry - not much to do this evening, so just looking for records pertaining to this Sydney Herbert (which I think with fair confidence is the correct one)...

Here's his probate record:
Sydney_Herbert_probate.jpg


And his death record:
Sydney_Herbert_death.jpg

Age 56 on 4/10/1932 makes him born in 1876 or late 1875 (unless the age is wrong, which is not unheard of). Poor chap - 56 is no age. But then I suppose Holst himself didn't live to much more of an age; their dates are very similar - Holst lived 1874-1934. Perhaps Herbert and Holst knew each other, hence favoured arrangement permission access? Just speculating.

Then, working backwards, we find him getting married aged 26 on 19/5/1902, with profession given as "writer" (or have I misread the Edwardian scrawl?):
Sydney_Herbert_marriage.jpg

On this record we see his signature.

We also find him in the 1911 census with wife and children in Lewisham (aged 35), listed as "Artist (fashion)", in 1901 with his mother in Deptford, listed as "Sign painter" (aged 24 - 1 year out), in 1891 with his mother and siblings in Deptford, listed as "Coach painter" (aged 15 and as "Sidney" with an "i"), and in 1881 as a child with parents and siblings in Deptford (aged 5). Helped out on these by the pre-existing research of another user of Ancestry, in whose family tree he appears. It's intriguing to see his job titles over the years! He evidently tried a few professions.

Finally, we find his birth recorded in his baptismal record from St. Paul, Deptford, from 1878:
Sydney_Herbert_birth.jpg

So he was born 22nd May 1875.

Unless we've got the wrong Sydney Herbert entirely (seems unlikely?), that's added a lot of context for him. My apologies for rather hijacking the thread over this! It's been interesting to me - I hope it's been interesting to others too. This would have been much more difficult if not for the info provided by @Sunnyside - thank you! Have now updated his entry on BrassBandResults with this info.

By the by, we also learn from the family tree I found that some of his grandchildren are still alive.
 
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Anglo Music Press

Well-Known Member
All of his arrangements registered with PRS give ‘Boosey and Co’ as the publisher. As that company presumably didn’t publish under that name after the creation of Boosey and Hawkes in 1930, that would fit nicely with the dates found on Ancestry.

But it’s quite odd that he was not a PRS member, particularly as Lesley Boosey was on the board.
 

Euphonium Lite

Active Member
Looking for more Sydney Herbert arrangements out there... He is looking definitely 1920s now, I retract my argument above in the thread.

Copyright dates between 1921 and 1928:
https://www.justmusicuk.com/publications/catalogue/quicksearch/sydney herbert/sort/shorttitle/perpage/20

Would still be interested to learn who he was if anyone knows...

I do remember reading somewhere that Herbert did the arrangement in the 1930s but that may or may not be accurate. I also have an older copy of the (same set out) score with a print date from memory of 1963 - and there was an earlier issue as well. So its a fairly old arrangement

Personally I think its an inspired choice after so many bands complained about the percussion requirements in Napoleon and Darkwood. Proves that the music panel do read comments and do something about it. Whether its gone too far the other way is open to question I guess, and I'm sure some bands that recruited on the basis of the last couple of years now have some percussionists twiddling their thumbs or staying away

Of the 5 testpieces the only one I dont really like is the Barry work - which is the testpiece I'm playing this year. Its very basic in its melodic construction - the Bearnarts sized repeated sections (which appear twice) to me shows a certain lack of composition effort, especially when compared to some of his other stuff. Its tricky enough to sort bands out, which is the point of it, but whereas Ex Terra Lucem was a fun piece to play (and to listen to) Rise of the Pheonix is not

Stantonbury Festival has been slated especially in the Facebook groups - however I do think a lot of that is unjustified. I appreciate there isnt a huge amount of technical challenge in terms of wiggling fingers, dynamic extremes and range, but I think a lot of 4th section bands have under-estimated it. Whether they continue to do so, or change their mind as we get closer to the areas will remain to be seen I guess. Steadman-Allen seems to be ignored a lot in the middle and lower sections, which is a real shame because he wrote some great music

Suite in Eb is another in this category - as mentioned above there are a lot of delicate details in the score which can easily be lost. Chaconne is probably one of Holsts finest works especially for something so simple (as per the Rise of the Pheonix there is a lot of repeated phrasing) but there is a world of difference between Holst (even allowing for the not particularly great Herbert arrangement) and Barry in this case

Symphony of Marches is a classic - the Curnow work last year shows the perils of a 1st section band thinking that they can just turn up with minimal effort - and it looks as if some of them are treating Vintner in the same way. The funeral march movement in the middle especially is full of musical pathos and I cant help but think there are going to be bands that just dont "get" it

As for Seascapes, its the only one I havent played but it was the testpiece the first year I went to listen to the Albert Hall final. Great piece - not perhaps in the same mould as some recent years but will provide enough of a challenge without (I think) being completely unplayable
 

CousinJack

New Member
It does feel like there will always be people complaining about at least one of the test pieces every year. I'm not familiar at all with either of the Championship or First Section test pieces - I've listened to them a few times - but Seascapes certainly seems well picked and is definitely the most musically interesting piece IMHO.

Speaking as a composer it is somewhat disappointing that 3 of the 5 pieces have previously been used at the Areas (even if the Holst and the Vinter were in different sections) and the other 2 (Seascapes and the Barry) have been used at other major UK contests. That's a stark contrast to last year where none of the pieces had been used as a set test piece in a major UK contest before - Odyssey is the closest that, being used at the Europeans in 1999. This isn't necessarily a bad thing though, Seascapes has hardly been touched since 1988 when it was the Nationals test piece and the Holst is a good piece of music that should provide a close contest. I also know that working composers aren't exactly lining up to write extended works outside of commissions - particularly for lower section bands. Whilst I think that the test piece selection is good I'd like to see more new pieces played, mostly for selfish reasons though!

Enough complaining from me though! I am enjoying playing the Holst, it's my first contest on BBb bass (moved there from baritone) and whilst the part isn't particularly meaty it's a good crash course on tuba playing. Breath control and articulation is tested, and I get to practice pitching a staccato D below the stave many times in the middle movement! I suppose a good third section test piece is very much about getting the basics of ensemble playing down (I thought Darkwood was great at that)
 

nhrg

Member
My frustration with the Herbert arrangement of First Suite is that it misses out large swathes of Holst's fine writing for no apparent reason. Entire sections are missing. And certain notations are inexplicably missing. There's a beautiful part of the Chaconne where Holst inverts the tune in a minor key for 8 bars that is simply not transcribed, it's totally missed! There's 8 bars of quavers in the first movement omitted as presumably too hard for a brass band. And to top it off, a simple quaver run on the last bar up to the top note is left off. The timp parts are missed out and some of the e flat clarinet parts aren't included.

I don't expect arrangements to mimic the original, they're not supposed to, however it's baffling as to why some sections are missed out. Who would I rather turned in their grave on hearing this arrangement the composer of the Planets or Sydney Herbert? That's why there'll be a few subtle changes to the arrangement in our performance and if the adjudicators want to side with Herbert then so be it, I'd rather side with Holst.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
My frustration with the Herbert arrangement .......

I don't expect arrangements to mimic the original, they're not supposed to, however it's baffling as to why some sections are missed out. Who would I rather turned in their grave on hearing this arrangement the composer of the Planets or Sydney Herbert? That's why there'll be a few subtle changes to the arrangement in our performance and if the adjudicators want to side with Herbert then so be it, I'd rather side with Holst.
I don’t Contest and feel sure that there is much in the (contesting) rules that I don’t know. If your band wants to play this piece outside of the Contest Hall and modify it to suit your taste then to my way of thinking that’s fine. However, as I understand it, the point of a Contest is to judge bands against each other whilst they play the same (completely identical) written parts of an arrangement or piece. Surely to wilfully present the Adjudicators with anything other than the set piece is either to disqualify your self or to put the Adjudicators in a difficult position where they might be accused of missing errors or deliberating favouring a Band who played prearranged differences. In their position, no matter how good your variation, I’d feel forced to deem any variation from the designated score as an error and mark you down accordingly.
 

nhrg

Member
Yes I agree. A few subtle changes are being made, I'm not adding the missing bars in just making a few adjustments to balance and tone. They're changes that many bands would make even for an original piece of music ie one a part where it's quiet, re-balancing so the different voices can be heard. I'm looking for ways to differentiate our performance from other bands as we're still on the journey of improving the core standards of brass playing so in terms of competing musicality and interpretation is where we can make the biggest difference. So my percussion players are playing off the original score and in the very last bar I may very subtly add the ascending quavers in as a nod to Holst. I'd be surprised if the adjudicators even noticed. Most of our remarks will be on tuning, intonation and togetherness. My view is that if the brass band movement thinks that a variation from the designated score to achieve a more authentic rendition of the original piece is an error then the movement is impoverished by this thinking.
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Therein is captured quite neatly the basic problem of musical contesting - in some ways it disincentivises using one's brain about the music that one's playing.

In any case, this level of change is already routinely offered to adjudicators in contests, in rewritten sections. In last year's championship section Area piece, Odyssey there was a long cornet solo backed by trombone trio. I'm told that many bands doubled the trombones in baritones! Couldn't believe that when I heard it... Further down the contesting tree, in 1998 I played solo euph in a 4th section band in the Midlands area contest. We were set two short pieces that day, one of which had a lengthy euph solo that included some high register work that was pretty inappropriate for 4th section. Many of the other bands put parts of the euph onto solo horn that day.

These differences aren't going to show the adjudicators which band to place above another - that will be obvious from more fundamental musical criteria.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Therein is captured quite neatly the basic problem of musical contesting - in some ways it disincentivises using one's brain about the music that one's playing.

In any case, this level of change is already routinely offered to adjudicators in contests, in rewritten sections. In last year's championship section Area piece, Odyssey there was a long cornet solo backed by trombone trio. I'm told that many bands doubled the trombones in baritones! Couldn't believe that when I heard it... Further down the contesting tree, in 1998 I played solo euph in a 4th section band in the Midlands area contest. We were set two short pieces that day, one of which had a lengthy euph solo that included some high register work that was pretty inappropriate for 4th section. Many of the other bands put parts of the euph onto solo horn that day.

These differences aren't going to show the adjudicators which band to place above another - that will be obvious from more fundamental musical criteria.
Thank you, an interesting insight that leads nicely to my next questions.
# If bands are not to penalised for incomplete adherence to the written score then how much variation is considered acceptable and is it defined in writing? Anything else but one (enforced) rule for all seems destined to be unfair in some way .......
# If a band chooses to move sections of the score from one instrument to others, or to double-up/bolster with other players (who are likely more able and also add both safety and volume) is that not a form of cheating? The score as written tests particular parts of the Band but if difficult passages or notes are moved to other players or other instruments then isn’t one the original objectives of the piece (to test specific parts of the Band) deliberately defeated?
 
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MoominDave

Well-Known Member
It's a sliding scale kind of situation. At one end you have... I don't know... One of your 3rd cornet players missing out a top G because they can't reach it and it's doubled with the whole cornet section and shouldn't have been given to the 3rds anyway; while at the other you have a band playing something completely other than what's expected - a whole different piece, maybe. The former is obviously no kind of problem to anyone, the latter an obvious strangeness.

What on that scale is acceptable? Well, the presentation of a band to an adjudicator is not about individual players, notwithstanding solo spots... It's about the whole ensemble effect. You could probably make an attempt at quantifying what changes were permissible in a particular piece to a particular adjudicator on a particular day for a particular band and MD, but every occurrence is a special case. Despite contesting being an attempt to make sport, this sort of thing is hearteningly much more an art. To pick an unsubtle example, some adjudicators will nod appreciatively at a tastefully and discreetly added tuba pedal - others will drop marks for it. Most often, aural trickery simply goes unnoticed - or perhaps the adjudicator does notice but does not think it worth making anything out of (or if they do, aren't certain of their diagnosis in the absence of visual confirmation). There are many sections in "test-pieces" that are scored in ways that don't come over well with the players available - whether to be deliberately difficult, or because the writer didn't think about it enough, or maybe because it was scored for a specific band whose talents lay in different directions to those of the available players. It is common practice to rescore such sections, minorly or majorly, so that the change is not obvious in the heat of the moment even to the carefully listening ear, and so that a better general ensemble effect is produced.

With reference to this specific example, I don't know the Herbert arrangement in great detail myself, but I see that all of those who are paying closer attention to it here and elsewhere that I've looked find it rather substandard work. One could undoubtedly rearrange the whole suite to more satisfactory effect, but that would be clearly over the line - I mean, one or two adjudicators out there might love it and applaud the intention if executed and played very well, but I would hazard that many more would write comments along the lines of "Is this really the same score as I'm looking at?". It's a plausibility thing - if the adjudicator ever looks at their score and thinks "This isn't what I'm hearing", then you're in trouble. But a surprising amount can be altered to suit without that happening. Another example: St Magnus at the Areas a few years ago; there's a section where the whole back row play quiet and exposed octave slurs Bb to top Bb - not together, but one after the other. Scoring asking for trouble, you might think! We had our annual Area piece workshop on it with a top MD, and we played through that bit - to their credit our back row played it well. Top conductor (also a top adjudicator, note) said something along the lines of "Very good - but we don't need to risk that", and then proceeded to instruct the sop to play the first one, and then hold the top note while all the others simply missed the top note out, only playing the bottom note! Very very much easier - and safer on the contesting stage - and did the adjudicator on the day pick it up? No they didn't.
 

John Brooks

Well-Known Member
I'm really enjoying this discussion. IMO it's one of the best in a long, long time. Getting back to the Herbert arrangement of the Holst, there appear to be several "musical" (as opposed to technical) reasons why this version is inadequate, well articulated by nrg. Keeping in mind that it was completed in an entirely different era, this brings a couple of questions to mind: 1. Is this version adequate for this purpose?; 2. Is a new arrangement or transcription needed?. IMO, the answers are No and Yes respectively. That said, the musical challenge of the Herbert version might serve it's purpose in the third section whereas a newer version might not? Bottom line is it's a great piece of music and I'm now going to have a listen to it in it's original scoring.
 
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