Forgotten pieces, part II

Dave Payn

Active Member
Another point, or question I'd like to raise, emanating from the earlier Forgotten pieces thread. (I particularly approve of the suggestions of Ragtimes and Habaneras, and the works of Robert Simpson!)

Interesting point made in the earlier thread about how we're being 'forced fed arrangements'. How true! I've been arguing on here (and elsewhere) for the case for brass bands being featured more regularly at the Proms. Quite a few of the comments have been along the lines of 'not enough quality music' and 'test pieces won't go down well' etc. etc. The quality of a piece of music shouldn't be nullified by its choice as a set piece for a contest, but it is interesting to see that music written by composers not necessarily associated largely with brass bands don't get featured as much in contests, like Robert Simpson, as mentioned earlier, Birtwistle, Henze, and look at the furore Judith Bingham's Prague created, might be a while before that's featured as a set test piece again..... Even Arthur Butterworth's works don't see that much airplay in contests.

So here's a question for you tMPers.... (I don't really know one way or the other yet!), do you think the music of the more regular compositional 'faces' at contests, like Messrs. Wilby, Sparke, Graham and in years gone by, Vinter (and, I dare say, the arrangements of classical works by Frank Wright if we're talking about years gone by!) appeal to a wider public if say, featured at the Proms (or indeed as part of other classical music festivals) or is it really the domain of brass band enthusiasts only? (I am being VERY careful, by the way, NOT to get into a debate about any perceived quality of the works of the composers mentioned, either the regular brass band composers or the ones who didn't contribute so much. I enjoy listening to them all, anyway!)

Brian Bowen

Active Member
Programming for the Proms (which Dave mentions) seems to be composer-driven, i.e., planners may have an overall “theme” but it’s the music that that counts, not the type of group that performs it. Brass bands are a niche interest and it’s most recognized composers are probably thought to be more closely associated with “light” music — which the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music describes as “an adjective applied somewhat patronizingly and vaguely to music which is supposed to need less concentration than ‘serious’ music (another objectionable term).” Many renowned composers have contributed to the light music repertoire, but such works are hardly likely to form a complete Prom concert.

If a band is asked to perform at a serious music festival, I think most organizers will say what pieces are to be played. However, those organizers will have little, if any, knowledge of the band repertoire unless its publishers, or other movers and shakers, plug those works. That is something serious music publishers certainly do.

All credit to Hyperian Records for including in its complete works of Robert Simpson — a highly-rated ‘serious’ composer — his brass band music (recorded by Desford in 1990). But how often do you see Simpson’s music being performed at the Proms (and he had been employed by the BBC)? As has been said by others on tMP, the BB movement needs well-respected advocates in the serious music world to make headway in that direction.

If a prom-type concert becomes a reality in the future, I’d like to think a composer of the quality of Wilfred Heaton is represented (e.g. Partita).


Active Member
I was a member of the National Youth Brass Band of Wales for a few years , and every year we would play a series of concerts which featured some brilliant contempory music.
Euphonium Music - Brian Bowen
Euphonium Concerto - John Golland
Of Men and Mountains - E.Gregson
Big Sky - Matt Lima ( commissioned by NYBBW from a composer with no Brass band background )
Men of Stone , Wildfire- John Pickard
Concerto for Harp and Brass Band - Gareth Wood
The New Jerusalem , Lowry Sketchbook
Concerto For Euphonium - P.Wilby ( commissioned by Wamf )
Song of Courage - Eric Ball
the list is long and large , as on previous posts we should encourage composers not to just write " test pieces " , but music of real stature.

Okiedokie of Oz

Active Member
Why I am yet to experience anything on the scale that Dave refers to, what I have seen seems to lend itself to the idea that brass bands are a minority (in Oz at least) and as such don't get the publicity like Beethoven and Tchaikovsky got for orchestral.

Why not? Because their artform is relatively newer?? Because we don't pour our art down peoples throats like orchestras, pop musicians and so forth?

The quality of "original" brass band music is no way inferior to original orchestral work. Like orchestral work, it lends itself to one's personal taste. It's just a case of getting it out into the audience, along with Haydn's surprise symphony and Water Music and so forth........

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