This years test pieces.......


Having played 'Prague' and ended up enjoying it (well...sort of!), then Aubade (The Birds) at the Europeans which I really thought was 'way out' then we move on to the Masters and this piece 'Chivalry' which is soooo saturated with tunes that you'll have to go on a tunes diet after next sunday. Whats going on this year ? Two movements of the Planets ??? What is that all about ? If you want to play transcriptions, at least we should play the whole of it or nothing.
The question that crosses my mind is 'We had Maunsell Forts last year and people didn't like it, so why don't we play something traditional that everyone will know. What a joke! I am not impressed. This was the direction that the Open, musically, has adopted for decades. Anyone with knowledge of history will find that a new piece that hasn't truely pulled the punters has resulted in the test piece for the next year being hyper conservative. Examples....Fireworks (Howarth 1975) was controversial so the next year An Epic Symphony (Fletcher 1976) was chosen. Spectrum 1969 Open test piece, 1970 Pageantry. In the case of Fireworks in '75 the controversy must have stung quite a bit because, not only was Epic Symphony chosen in 1976, but orchestral transcriptions in 1977 and 1978. ARE WE GOING DOWN THE SAME PATH AGAIN? *SNORE*
And as far as Enigma Variations ???? Enuf said. I have played the orchestral versions of both Planets and Enigma Variations and I can't believe that it has been carved up like this. Of all the pieces that Eric Ball composed why Enigma ? and most of all why only certain movements ? It shud be the case that if an orchestral transcription be used, it should be used in its entirety. This time limit issue is an absolute joke. Test pieces in the late 19th century often lasted half an hour long!! We are stuck in a rut which is test pieces must be a maximum of 16is minutes long, the instrumentation is the same as its been for donkeys years. endless Romantic period which cannot expand and evolve because the composer is limited to 15 minutes.

Enuf of a rant, really, really, really cheesed off with the choice of test pieces. I would have loved to have seen Concerto Grosso or a large scale work in an up and coming contest. At least the Masters seems to have a music policy or plan !


Active Member

I couldn't agree more. I love the old transcriptions - and many of the new ones - but that our two major contests should pick 'bleeding chunks' in the same year is unacceptable.

The Masters, as you say, has a policy of altenating new commissions and original works, but the other contests seem to base their selections on 'gut reactions' to the prevailing mood and lack any real sense of purpose or direction.



Active Member
i think the masters have done well..
2 new decent pieces in 2 years and an excellent old piece 3 years ago :D


Glad to see agrement!

I thought I might have been in a minority in my thinking. Had I the time I would put a few graphs on here showing all the 'gut reactions' that have happened over the years.
As you rightly said Pageantry was a brilliant piece, not because we won on it but the fact that it is a hard musical test for every band. It's a shame that the people who choose the music did not notice that it is now 20 years since the death of Herbert Howells.
This is a case of loads of chiefs in charge of loads of tribes and whilst they don't talk to each other the cowboys take over!! There should be a board which controls the whole band contest scene..not one in control of one and another in control of another!

Jeses wept!!


Phil Green

Supporting Member
I have to admit that I've been very disappointed with the choice of test pieces for a couple of years now. This year however has taken the biscuit. The choice of Prague for the Area's, whilst possibly a limited success with certain sections of the audience, was a real durge for players. The powers that be had an ideal opportunity to put things right at the Open and Nationals and yet what have they done? The Open have given us two movements from the Planets, one of which most top bands could programme after a single rehearsal and the Nationals have completely missed the opportunity to celebrate Eric Ball by cannibalising his ARRANGEMENT of Enigma Variations. How popular would Journey into Freedom be with players and audiences alike or how testing would the beginning of Resurgum be on the RAH stage??

Like the Masters the Scottish Open have balloted bands and it appears that some good pieces have been put forward. Let's hope so. Also Pontins, with Festival Music, are proving that the oldies sometimes still are hard enough. Look out for lots of my band 'helping' out as usual and actually enjoying rehearsing the music!



I have to say that Prague did nothing for me although I did finally find that I enjoyed Aubade.

As for the Open and the Nationals, I am fairly convinced that the choices are all about putting bums on seats and contest timings which is a shame. If we were prepared to accept a longer contesting day then we could start using some great pieces which have been sadly neglected - how about
The Four Tempraments - Simpson or Wilfred Heaton's Partita for starters


My Eric Ball choices would have been Festival Music or High Peak


I think the last few years have been particularly depressing for new test-pieces. I particularly enjoyed rehearsing Masquerade for London and Jazz at the Scottish the year before but the last new pieces that made any impression on me were Tallis Variations and Dove Descending.

Howard Snell had good ideas about the allocation of test pieces in a 4BR article recently where he pointed out the fact that there is no overall strategy at the moment for picking them. I think serious questions need to be asked of some major contest organisers who don't really appear to have much of a clue what the bands or audience want and none of them seem to speak to each other.

The bands themselves need to play a bigger part in the way the movement is run but like so many other things in life, apathy rules.

Concerto Grosso for the Open or National, that would be interesting. Who would clean up the stage between bands?

Kenny - Whitburn Band


Active Member
Hope your garden's big enough for 667 and counting tMP people - and that your neighbours are deaf and own a pub!!!

Rach x


Tom said:
I have to say that Prague did nothing for me although I did finally find that I enjoyed Aubade.

Glad you liked Aubade - I sat and listened to all but 2 performances in Bergen and apart from the YBS performance which I felt was a class apart from the rest of the field and possibly Corys who had a cracking sound I couldn't tell how you could see any difference in the other performances - Trying to follow the study score was a nightmare which I gave up after 1 1/2 bands......In all I found it bloody hard work just to sit and listen to what was torture to the ear drums - and I didn't see many bands coming in to listen to other bands like they did in the own choice section.

I guess we won't be hearing Aubade (All Bad??) again. :hammer

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