Novelty Pieces

BigHorn

Active Member
What do people think of novelty pieces? The MD of our training band has dug out Sand Paper Ballet from the library. This fills me with dread, because I know one of the older members of the training band, a member of the full band, or worse still an unsuspecting member or the audience is going to get picked on.

Sometimes these items work great but at other times they don't and I find myself cringing with embarrassment.

Last summer we did a job at a local school fete and played Teddy Bear's Picnic. There was a representative from a toy shop dressed in a teddy bear costume who decided to dance about at the front of the band. Unfortunately this bear did not possess any sense of rhythm at all. It just shook its big backside, knocked music stands over and looked completely stupid. Many of the youngsters couldn't play their parts because of the giggles. Ok for 20 seconds or so, but after 2 or 3 mins it was just pure embarrassment.

During the same concert season the training band played Jamie's Patrol and as the sound diminished and parts dropped out the players walked off stage, leaving just a bass and solo cornet. That seemed to work ok.

Question is - what's the secret formula. What makes one item work and the other cringe-worthy?
Any funny stories? Suggestions for pieces that go down well?
 

jameshowell

Active Member
Sandpaper Ballet works well, I played it a few years ago with a concert band and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves... but be careful, I ended up taking off a few layers of skin in the process...

The best one of all time though has to be a story my trumpet teacher told me of a comedy routine he does with a band he plays with...

Posthorn gallop for tuned hosepipe and band.

The comedy (other than playing it on a hosepipe, obviously) is that the band starts playing the intro, and then when he comes in with the start of the gallop, he's in the wrong key. Cue funny looks from band, rushing off stage, soaring back stage, then back on stage, at which point the band starts again.

The intro goes fine, until... Yep, you guessed it, he's in the wrong key again... :roll:

Cue yet more funny looks, cursing, a trip backstage, sowing and coming back on stage, hot and flustered.

Again the band starts to play and - alas - finally band and hosepipe are in the same key! Cue cheers from audience, and the worls'd first hosepipe feature 8)

(Note: there are actually three pre-tuned hosepipes, with a piece of wood and a saw backstage to give the effect of actually shortening the hosepipe...)
 

Maestro

Active Member
Similar story with PHG. A firend of mine was doing a schools tour with his Guards band, and the DofM told him it would be a great idea if he got a chair and played PHG on that. My friend duly marked a chair for this purpose. Cue PHG, and the kids were loving it. Mate gets up, wanders into the audience and picks up the chair to play. What he didn't realise was that the chairs had been moved. 3 or 4 chairs later, and much redness of face, he ended up miming. I only wish I had been there to see his moment of 'glory'! :twisted: :twisted:
 

Maestro

Active Member
Take the little rubber feet of the school chairs.
You can also do it on an old Lee Enfield rifle, or any gun for that fact. Just make sure all the workings have been removed first though. :twisted: :twisted:
 

Bones

Member
BigHorn said:
What do people think of novelty pieces? The MD of our training band has dug out Sand Paper Ballet from the library. This fills me with dread, because I know one of the older members of the training band, a member of the full band, or worse still an unsuspecting member or the audience is going to get picked on.

Sometimes these items work great but at other times they don't and I find myself cringing with embarrassment.

Last summer we did a job at a local school fete and played Teddy Bear's Picnic. There was a representative from a toy shop dressed in a teddy bear costume who decided to dance about at the front of the band. Unfortunately this bear did not possess any sense of rhythm at all. It just shook its big backside, knocked music stands over and looked completely stupid. Many of the youngsters couldn't play their parts because of the giggles. Ok for 20 seconds or so, but after 2 or 3 mins it was just pure embarrassment.

During the same concert season the training band played Jamie's Patrol and as the sound diminished and parts dropped out the players walked off stage, leaving just a bass and solo cornet. That seemed to work ok.

Question is - what's the secret formula. What makes one item work and the other cringe-worthy?
Any funny stories? Suggestions for pieces that go down well?

Stan Lippeatt always maintains that you have to work arder at the novelty pieces, cos you are doing so much more than just playing music. If you treat it slapdash, it sounds slapdash. Thoresby and Ever Ready (sorry Reg Vardy's) contribution at the Mineworkers last year were absolutely first class, because and I suspect they were well rehearsed.

Just because someone is dressed in fairy costume playing the Village People Medley doesn't mean the music shouldn't be spot on. Mind you if that is what bands would play, I'll be taking my shotgun to a few more concerts.
:lol:
 

brasscrest

Active Member
Novelty pieces can be real crowd-pleasers, but sometimes can become overbearing.

Any piece designed to embarrass or make fun of anyone specific should not be used.

A key ingredient in making a novelty piece work is that the people chosen to do whatever the novelty is must have a good sense of timing, and be flexible enough to modify the performance to correspond to the audience and the band, taking the current mood into account.
 

PeterBale

Moderator
Staff member
One thing to bear in mind with any novelty number is the need for the full involvement of the band if it is to work. Although they may have played the item dozens of time, every effort must be taken to make it appear fresh, as if they are also seeing it for the first time, otherwise it is likely to fall flat - the audience will soon pick up if the band is fed up with using it, as with any music that we feel has run its course.
 
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