Even before the COVID-19 crisis struck UK banding seemed to have arrived at a moribund state. The letters page of 4 Bars Rest used to be the most lively forum for (reasonably) intelligent comment and debate but the last letter was published more than five years ago. Similarly, the last 4BR editorial column was in August 2015. And as an aside, speaking as a lover of the English language, I've found it increasingly difficult to put up with the mangled syntax which is a feature of most of 4BR's output nowadays. There's more to good writing than looking up long words in the dictionary!
The other sign of a moribund state is the stagnation in the brass band recording industry which also dates to long before COVID-19. I collect brass band CDs but for the past 18 months, at least, there's been b****r all to collect. World of Brass seem to have cottoned on to this with there recent streaming service, and 4BR have been reduced to reviewing ancient LP recordings from the 1970s!
I am as well Jim and have to agree with you about the lack of releases in recent times. I get it that maybe CD's aren't the big sell they used to be and downloading is becoming the new normal but there haven't even been any new releases for download. Surely there must have been projects in the can prior to COVID? Also, there must be a truck load of recordings from unfinished projects and similar sources that could have been compiled during COVID. Very disappointing to say the least.The other sign of a moribund state is the stagnation in the brass band recording industry which also dates to long before COVID-19. I collect brass band CDs but for the past 18 months, at least, there's been b****r all to collect. World of Brass seem to have cottoned on to this with there recent streaming service, and 4BR have been reduced to reviewing ancient LP recordings from the 1970s!
I hadn't heard about the WoB issue and find that both surprising and disappointing. If you are right in surmising that bands may have resorted to selling their own product that, in my opinion is a step back to the 70's and 80's when it was often difficult to locate some new recordings, especially when you don't live in the UK. It's a niche market that I think benefits from an organization such as WoB. I guess time will tell as I'm not a fan of streaming and hope that's not the future.I would certainly agree with you regarding the cd market. It used to be that the major contests would see at least half a dozen new releases, with several retailers offering them for sale. There may be a number of reasons for this, including bands deciding to sell and promote their recordings via their own concerts and web-sites, which may mean there are recordings out there that we know nothing about unless we happen to come across a facebook post or similar. There can be licensing issues involved with this, and I know World of Brass were penalised when an audit found they were selling items that were not licensed for sale through a third party.
We need major classical composers to write for brass bands. They do write for brass, just not brass bands.
This would bring in fresh musical ideas and give brass bands exposure outside our current narrow audience.
I think that bringing in fresh material can not only make it more interesting for audiences, but equally create enthusiasm amongst players - particularly for those in bands whose focus is strongly on contesting. But there is a 'but'; unless and until bands can start rehearsing and playing together, and re-start their lessons for junior bands and learners, everything else is a side issue.We need major classical composers to write for brass bands. They do write for brass, just not brass bands. This would bring in fresh musical ideas and give brass bands exposure outside our current narrow audience.
Surely there must have been projects in the can prior to COVID? Also, there must be a truck load of recordings from unfinished projects and similar sources that could have been compiled during COVID. Very disappointing to say the least.
I can honestly say that when (please God) my band re-starts, I will carry on with my banjo - it's a long time since I had so much fun!Playing something is good for us and (IMHO) playing complementary instruments is even better; in a way it’s a form of helpful cross-training. ‘Go for it’ Jack and enjoy!
Good points as always Keith. Thank you.I'm not saying that this is the case, John, but it's entirely possible that things like furlough rules - if they indeed they were furloughed like a lot of my friends in live sound were - may have actively stopped them from being worked on.
As a 'leftie' born in 1962 I consider myself very lucky that no one ever tried to make me use my right hand as the dominant, although I know there were some people of my age that were made to change. For some reason though playing a valved instrument with my right hand has never felt wrong. I guess that as there was no alternative for me I just got on with it.There have been no lessons / rehearsals for my junior band since the end of March - and I've no idea when / where / how they will re-start. It's really brought home to me how much I enjoyed playing with other people, even with only another two or three - and how empty it sounds to be playing just on my own. I have to say that my motivation for playing or practising has dwindled. Playing or even just listening to brass playing in multi-part harmony is wonderful; just listening to myself playing a single line doesn't cut it for me at all.
So what have I done? With one door shut, I've looked round and found another door to open.
Back in my teens (about 50 odd years ago) I tried playing guitar. After two years of struggle, and little progress, I gave up - just one of a string of failures (including violin and piano) which convinced me that I wasn't a musician and never would be. It wasn't until I hit the old codger stage that I tried baritone horn and found to my amazement that I could play it! Then came lockdown . . .
One day, I was doodling round on an electric bass guitar - a right-handed one - and, remembering that I'd been born left-handed, and been forced to switch to my right hand before I was even old enough to sit up in my cot (thanks for nothing, stupid and bigoted father), I tried swinging it over to pick with my left hand and fret with my right hand. I can only say it was like suddenly realising that I had my shoes on the wrong feet, and swapping them over to being the right way round! Talk about a revelation . . .
That started me thinking; was there another instrument I could take up which has a complete sound in itself? Doodled around in the eclectic mix of music I have on CD and on my computer, Beethoven, Bert Sullivan, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Delibe's Flower Duet, Dave Brubeck, AC/DC, von Suppé, Crooked Still, Valentina Lisitsa, Albert Ammons, Khachaturian, Holst and Larkin Poe, I decided to go for a 5 string banjo. Why? For what is, to me, the most important factor of all in choosing an instrument - that the sound really grabs me!
Ignoring all the people on various banjo forums who said they were born left-handed and learnt to play on right-handed banjos, I was guided by the way it felt when I swapped that electric bass over, and ordered a left handed banjo - a Grafton Gem, made by a small company in Kent who will, pretty much, make a banjo any way you want it - and it cost no more than one from China! It really is a peach with a gorgeous sound!
I also found a top-notch banjo teacher in Sheffield, and have been making rapid progress. Much to my surprise, I found a great deal of what I learnt with baritone horn transfers across; looking ahead a few notes all the time, so that your fingers are ready to move to the next notes in good time; practising simple exercises to the point where my fingers are familiar enough with the layout that I can look at the music, rather than having to think about my fingers all the time; getting familiar with 'this move makes this sound' - so when I have to make this sound, my fingers know where to go; the need to keep to a steady tempo, no matter how slow. My teacher commented on how even my tempo is, even when playing a new piece - and it goes right back to my early lessons on baritone, when my band's tutor helped me to see how important tempo was (thank you, Nathan!). And making sure that every note is clean and clear, not fluffed or 'near enough'.
I've no idea how this lockdown business will pan out, how long it will take, and what the future holds for banding (and many other things). As for Covid-19 (which has certainly been around in this country since at least last autumn), I had it in late March, treated it as though it was bog-standard Seasonal Flu, had a few days in bed and that was that.
What matters now is that I'm making music again, and enjoying it. As for the whole process of learning how to play my banjo; it's as though I've woken up after spending months sleep-walking, feeling I had nothing to look forward to - and now, I do.
PS - re. forcing children to use the right hand when they're left-handed. I didn't find out that I was born left-handed until in my late teens. Some while after, my sister met a woman who dealt with children with emotional problems, who told my sister that one of the biggest sources of work for her was children who had been forced to change to right handed.
When my sister mentioned that I'd been forced to change, the woman asked her:
"Did he stammer, or bite his nails?"
Moira said "He bit his nails."
"Yes," said the woman; "they always do one or the other - sometimes both. That's a measure of just how much it stresses children out, and the damage it inflicts on their self confidence. Because what does it say to those children? Everything that you want to do, and try to do, is wrong."
Obviously COVID has blocked all Banding as we know it....and some bands have begun virtual concerts which they stream .Anything happening in bands these days?