What pieces would you like to see at the 2020 areas?

CousinJack

New Member
It's that time of year where some may be discussing rumours about the area test pieces, so instead of starting a rumours thread I thought it would be good to discuss what pieces we would like to see be set for the areas.

I'll start with the first section. For the last few years they've largely been set older championship works so I think it would be nice for them to set a newer piece like The Raid or Blackout (Waespi and Doss respectively).

What other pieces would people like to see?
 

Tom-King

Well-Known Member
I find this a difficult question because the pieces I most enjoy listening to tend to be "musical tests" (pieces which are not technically as difficult but are difficult to give convincing musical performances of)...
But those kinds of tests tend to produce more controversial results.

In an ideal world, a piece would be difficult enough to cut a few loose at the bottom and only a few at the top would find the music.
In practice, every piece lands differently in different regions (the relative standard of each section varies quite a bit by region - section grading isn't an objective standard, it's a standing relative to what's available to compete against in a given region).

I'd have to give it some thought...
 

CousinJack

New Member
I know that last year Harrison's Dream and Cloudcatcher Fells were rumoured alongside Seascapes as a potential championship test. Harrison's Dream would probably do a good job of sorting the bands out but I'd be more likely to watch the section in full if Cloudcatcher Fells was set.
 

Tom-King

Well-Known Member
I know that last year Harrison's Dream and Cloudcatcher Fells were rumoured alongside Seascapes as a potential championship test. Harrison's Dream would probably do a good job of sorting the bands out but I'd be more likely to watch the section in full if Cloudcatcher Fells was set.
Cloudcatcher is an all time favourite... but it's definitely a musical test first and foremost - very few championship bands would (should?) be struggling to survive the dots. So you'd be likely to see a few controversial results (IMHO).

If I were put on the spot to pick right now, I'd probably plump for Year of the Dragon - more than enough technical challenge and very listenable (especially the middle movement).

Down the sections a bit... I hope second section gets something that isn't yet another youthband test piece (partly selfish as I'll have to listen to it), maybe even a real oldie... Lorenzo perhaps?
 

CousinJack

New Member
Year of the Dragon would certainly be a very popular choice, but if it had to be a piece from the 80s there must be one worth a revival rather than an already popular one. I know someone on here is often seen calling for Odin to be set! Trouble with a lot of those 80s national finals pieces is they'd be perfect for 1st section nationals, but would probably turn 1st section areas into a technical contest and championship areas into lotteries. Not sure if Odin falls into that (having a listen and I don't think it would) but looking at some of the other test pieces from that era they would fall into that.

Regarding 2nd section and youth band test pieces the trouble is that it appears most new test piece length music is either commissioned by championship section bands (or contests of that standard) or by youth bands for their courses which just happens to be around 2nd section standard. It'd be nice if Kapitol had a commitment to commissioning a new lower section piece every year but that would be very expensive. There's a piece called Inclusion that has been used recently at Butlins for the 2nd section and it would make a good area piece. Was written by one of the ISB's solo cornets and whilst I'm sure he was aware that it could be used as a test piece it doesn't sound like it was written to be a test piece.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Here’s an alternative thought about test pieces and what would be, IMHO, a worthwhile exercise. I’d like to see Bands tested on their primary function which is to entertain an audience and preferably a paying audience at that made up of the ordinary public. Play music, challenging music, with the soul objective of providing a faultless and entertaining performance of a set piece; obviously the piece is selected by the contest organisers who should have in mind high entertainment value first as well as contesting section appropriate difficulty in delivery. Contest specific music is surely just a complete and utter waste of resource in that it has no significant link to what matters most which is does anyone in the public actually want to listen to your music (if not then you may as well pack it all in and take up another hobby).
 
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Tom-King

Well-Known Member
I think you miss the point of area contests, 2T.... there's always one that takes a snipe at it in threads like this (not necessarily just here, but on facebook etc also) and I can never let it pass.

Contests are not about entertainment or about what the "ordinary public" might be interested in - they're about benchmarking, standards and a continued fair-platform for other competitions.

The whole point is to keep bands sorted into sections of similar ability and keep those sections fair (by promoting those that become too good for a section and relegating those that become too weak for a section).

This serves several useful purposes - it makes competition fair (compared to throwing everyone together), it gives an approximation of the ability of a band (if you're looking for one to join, it gives you some idea; if you're contemplating going to a concert, it gives you some idea of what standard to expect, etc).
It also, in my view, is a significant driver behind the exceptionally high standards achieved towards the top end - very few amateur arenas come close, and even fewer in comparable numbers. I suspect this is partly due to a point I made above: the sectional gradings encourage people to band together with others of similar ability (and believe it or not, driving upwards of an hour for bands rehearsals isn't especially uncommon!).
And all that's before you get to the learning experience that spending time working into the nitty-gritty of an appropriately difficult test provides...

At the end of the day, contesting is about establishing a structure and foundation for the banding movement - there's plenty of time the rest of the year round for catering for the public... you can call it selfish that competing bands would dare use their time for something other than entertaining the public, but it's a hobby and I'd contend that not only are hobbyists entitled to enjoy a bit of sport, but that when that sport drives up the standards of bands and thereby produces higher quality performances for the public everyone's a winner.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
I think you miss the point of area contests, 2T.... there's always one that takes a snipe at it in threads like this (not necessarily just here, but on facebook etc also) and I can never let it pass.

Contests are not about entertainment or about what the "ordinary public" might be interested in - they're about benchmarking, standards and a continued fair-platform for other competitions.

The whole point is to keep bands sorted into sections of similar ability and keep those sections fair (by promoting those that become too good for a section and relegating those that become too weak for a section).

This serves several useful purposes - it makes competition fair (compared to throwing everyone together), it gives an approximation of the ability of a band (if you're looking for one to join, it gives you some idea; if you're contemplating going to a concert, it gives you some idea of what standard to expect, etc).
It also, in my view, is a significant driver behind the exceptionally high standards achieved towards the top end - very few amateur arenas come close, and even fewer in comparable numbers. I suspect this is partly due to a point I made above: the sectional gradings encourage people to band together with others of similar ability (and believe it or not, driving upwards of an hour for bands rehearsals isn't especially uncommon!).
And all that's before you get to the learning experience that spending time working into the nitty-gritty of an appropriately difficult test provides...

At the end of the day, contesting is about establishing a structure and foundation for the banding movement - there's plenty of time the rest of the year round for catering for the public... you can call it selfish that competing bands would dare use their time for something other than entertaining the public, but it's a hobby and I'd contend that not only are hobbyists entitled to enjoy a bit of sport, but that when that sport drives up the standards of bands and thereby produces higher quality performances for the public everyone's a winner.
I see your point Tom but I don’t agree and I think that you might have misunderstood part of what I was saying. By all means Contest if it makes you happy but do so with music that is appropriate to the key function of a Band. The current system must surely be misleading, judging and ranking bands against their abilities to play notes rather than music can’t make sense and I see it as just some form of silly game of one-upmanship. However, give a Band a test piece that is written and played for entertainment and it immediately has value.

Raising standards and identifying differentials between levels of Bands surely doesn’t have to be at the expense of music making, it must be possible to pick or commission appropriate (musical and entertaining) stuff through which to judge. In another form of competition Football Clubs ‘contest’ for a little over half the year. They understand that winning has value but they also understand that if their play doesn’t entertain then there will be reduced viewing revenue, at the end of the day it’s all about entertainment (cause that’s directly linked to revenue) and position in the league is just one part of a bigger picture.
 
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Tom-King

Well-Known Member
I see your point Tom but I don’t agree and I think that you might have misunderstood part of what I was saying. By all means Contest if it makes you happy but do so with music that is appropriate to the key function of a Band. The current system must surely be misleading, judging and ranking bands against their abilities to play notes rather than music can’t make sense and I see it as just some form of silly game of one-upmanship. However, give a Band a test piece that is written and played for entertainment and it immediately has value.
One-upmanship is pretty much the definition of sport... and contesting is music as sport to a certain extent.

Have you ever attended a contest of this sort?
I can see that the idea itself may not appeal to you, but you might find it interesting to see just how much the standards of performance and the interpretations of the very same piece can vary...

Raising standards and identifying differentials between levels of Bands surely doesn’t have to be at the expense of music making, it must be possible to pick or commission appropriate (musical and entertaining) stuff through which to judge.
Raising standards is often a result of difficulty... with more technical proficiency comes more ability to express yourself musically in a controlled and repeatable fashion - as an individual and as a band.

If you can show me an objective way to judge musicality in a structured and fair way, I'll concede that you're right... otherwise, you need a certain level of technical difficulty to help seperate things out fairly/objectively in order to achieve any meaningful kind of hierarchy.

The goal is not to produce robotic, empty performances... everyone looks to find a certain amount of music, it's just that the technical aspects provide a fairer (less subjective) criterion to judge by.
 
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CousinJack

New Member
Personal choice to play and listen to would be breath of souls.. you never know!!
I'm not a huge fan of PLC's music so I would rather not, but then again I won't be playing it!

RE: 2T's and Tom's conversation

I think the problem, 2T, as to why more people don't watch area contests is that they are set tests rather than the test pieces themselves. Thinking back to the previous areas I don't think any test piece (except maybe Rise of the Pheonix) would be out of place in the right concert programme. I know that both my old band and my current band have used the march from Holst's First Suite in their concert rep for this summer. In a formal concert setting a whole 'test piece' would work well. Of course with some pieces it is painfully obvious that they were written as test pieces. Most people won't listen to the same piece 12 times in a row no matter how good it is, especially in the lower sections, but it makes for a fairer contest.
 

Slider1

Active Member
Surely the Test Piece set for whatever section should test all sections of a Band (inc. percussion, but that opens a can of worms in all directions -1st & 2nd triangles, finger cyms., whirly tubes etc.) If i got to a contest that I'm not playing in I listen to all the Bands in that section, if I'm playing I might listen to the Band-s who play after but not before, depending on the piece.s being played. Having played and contested for over Fifty years I think the standard of playing in the top halves of the lower sections has improved, the first section was conjured up to be a buffer section but the difference from top of that to middle of Championship is a huge jump. IMHO I think the Overall standard of the Championship section apart from 5 or 6 Bands as fallen to a degree,
probably due to star players and M.Ds pursuing their careers in music (which I can't blame them) but not having regular players on seats and "Deps will be here next week" doesn't help with tuning & balance problems. regarding Test pieces in Concert program's Championship Bands that used to come down and give Indoor Concert's twice a year always played at least One. Then the quality of the bands players slackened ( Good Bands but lots of Deps.) so the program quality dropped off for sight reading purposes which led to poor audience figures which led to cancelling the Concerts.
Nowadays a lot of Band personnel think that unless the Music content is fast and furious, lots of Octave jumps and Dynamics, then it's not a test for their Band. But top Orchestra's play The Mountain and the Flood, (4th section) Eine Kleine Nacht Music (youth section) etc. they probably don't enjoy it but they play it as it should be played, I had a L.P. of Black Dyke playing The Shipbuilders (4th section) and part of the New World Symphony. all good music but what should test the Bands is our well it's performed. I personally prefer listening to an easier test piece played very well than a harder piece murdered, but do enjoy attempting Difficult stuff,(in rehearsal). And that is where the problem lies.
I love the Albert hall but don't go every year, but "Breathe of Souls" sorted them out and you came out with Tunes you could hum or whistle all the way home unlike a few I could mention that have followed since, but I'll probably go again
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Nowadays a lot of Band personnel think that unless the Music content is fast and furious, lots of Octave jumps and Dynamics, then it's not a test for their Band. But top Orchestra's play The Mountain and the Flood, (4th section) Eine Kleine Nacht Music (youth section) etc. they probably don't enjoy it but they play it as it should be played, I had a L.P. of Black Dyke playing The Shipbuilders (4th section) and part of the New World Symphony. all good music but what should test the Bands is how well it's performed. I personally prefer listening to an easier test piece played very well than a harder piece murdered, but do enjoy attempting Difficult stuff,(in rehearsal). And that is where the problem lies.
I love the Albert hall but don't go every year, but "Breathe of Souls" sorted them out and you came out with Tunes you could hum or whistle all the way home unlike a few I could mention that have followed since, but I'll probably go again
This gets towards the centre of my own points on contesting.

The bold is added by me and I corrected one typo.
 

Tom-King

Well-Known Member
We've swung way off the original topic at this point (partly my fault)...

Yes, in an ideal world it should be possible to judge on how well it's player regardless of how easy/difficult it is... But in practice, it doesn't work that way and pieces that are too easy lead to controversial results time after time.
 

MissBraz

Active Member
Here’s an alternative thought about test pieces and what would be, IMHO, a worthwhile exercise. I’d like to see Bands tested on their primary function which is to entertain an audience and preferably a paying audience at that made up of the ordinary public. Play music, challenging music, with the soul objective of providing a faultless and entertaining performance of a set piece; obviously the piece is selected by the contest organisers who should have in mind high entertainment value first as well as contesting section appropriate difficulty in delivery. Contest specific music is surely just a complete and utter waste of resource in that it has no significant link to what matters most which is does anyone in the public actually want to listen to your music (if not then you may as well pack it all in and take up another hobby).
This sounds alot like an entertainment contest...

Here’s an alternative thought about test pieces and what would be, IMHO, a worthwhile exercise. I’d like to see Bands tested on their primary function which is to entertain an audience and preferably a paying audience at that made up of the ordinary public. Play music, challenging music, with the soul objective of providing a faultless and entertaining performance of a set piece; obviously the piece is selected by the contest organisers who should have in mind high entertainment value first as well as contesting section appropriate difficulty in delivery. Contest specific music is surely just a complete and utter waste of resource in that it has no significant link to what matters most which is does anyone in the public actually want to listen to your music (if not then you may as well pack it all in and take up another hobby).
Wow (the bit ive made bold) is in its self a very bold statement, I feel like you should have said in your opinion because you have just belittled a lot of work that people do.

As for the test pieces, I have no preference will just wait and see what is selected..
 

kaderschaufel

New Member
As I'm not from the UK, I'm not sure how appropriate my suggestions are, just some pieces I like from an outsider's perspective:

Championship Section: Music of the Spheres - Philip Sparke
Obviously, Sparke is always brilliant, and this has never been a set test piece at a major contest.

1st Section: The Essence of Time - Peter Graham

2nd Section: The Son of Light - Bertrand Moren
Ok, this is a composer from my home country, Switzerland, so I imagine he's not played that often in the UK. His music isn't actually very deep musically, but it's incredibly fun to play, and also interesting to work on.

3rd Section: Toccata Festiva - Jan van der Roost
I don't know why this one isn't more famous, probably my favourite piece at this level. Very powerful opening and coda, and a gorgeous middle section.

4th Section: Purcellian Fantasia - Jan de Haan
Very recent piece about Purcell's March from the Funeral of Queen Mary.
 

CousinJack

New Member
As I'm not from the UK, I'm not sure how appropriate my suggestions are, just some pieces I like from an outsider's perspective:

Championship Section: Music of the Spheres - Philip Sparke
Obviously, Sparke is always brilliant, and this has never been a set test piece at a major contest.
It hasn't been set, in the UK at least, as rules for the Nationals and Area contests state that a band is up to 25 players plus percussion as required and Music of the Spheres is for a band of 26! It has an additional flugelhorn part. At the Europeans, and indeed in some counties' national championships, the rules aren't so strict on number of players. It could potentially be picked for the British Open or Spring Festival (not 100% on the rules) but I think that's unlikely. The British Open is trying to have premieres or new pieces and I can only see it being appropriate for the Grand Shield (top section at the Spring Festival) but in recent times that contest, being the qualifying contest for the Open, has been using the Open test piece from two years prior. I agree that it's a cracking piece, it was that and Metropolis 1927 that really got me interested as a composer in writing for brass bands (as opposed to just being a composer who happened to play for one).
 

Anglo Music Press

Well-Known Member
It hasn't been set, in the UK at least, as rules for the Nationals and Area contests state that a band is up to 25 players plus percussion as required and Music of the Spheres is for a band of 26! It has an additional flugelhorn part.
Slight correction needed! MOTS is indeed written for 25 not 26, as the 2nd Flugel replaces the Repiano part. The piece is perhaps a bit too long to use as a set piece. 19 mins. 20 bands would take 9-10 hours, I would guess.
 
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2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
We've swung way off the original topic at this point (partly my fault)...
Yes, we have swung off topic, I’m mostly responsible for that and I hope that the OP doesn’t mind too much.

Yes, in an ideal world it should be possible to judge on how well it's player regardless of how easy/difficult it is... But in practice, it doesn't work that way and pieces that are too easy lead to controversial results time after time.
I suspect you meant to say ‘played’ rather than ‘player’ ... autocorrect catches us all out at some point.
It’s time for us to agree to differ. I’ve made my points and hope that it's provoked some constructive thought about what Bandsmen (and women) do and why, we all have slightly different tastes and preferences so no one situation will suit all.
 
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