If I was Dictator Maximus...
Five Banding Decrees for a Happy New Year
By Howard Snell
1. Players must sign for a Band for twelve months, August
1st to July 31st. A simple job-move/address-move clause will deal
with life-related moves within those dates.
To give stability to personnel for the sake of each band. No leaving,
To encourage conductors to (learn to) train players rather than
sack them, and to encourage players in responsibility to a Band.
2. The Setting Up of Democratic Forums for each Banding
Country, using the New Zealand model. One Band, One Vote.
To encourage bands to take responsibility for banding.
Please, oh please, stop grumbling about other people and do something.
3. All Bands and Record Companies to itemise concert programmes
and Recordings to PRS and MCPS, in full.
To encourage talented young writers, of all types, to write for
Composers and arrangers need a fair crack. They don't get it from
banding. There is very little encouragement for young music writers
to enter Brass Banding on the scant rewards available. Not all writers
can have the good fortune that I had, namely, to write for my own
very good bands. For most music writers, sales and performance royalties
will buy no more than the occasional bag of dog biscuits.
4. The Conduct of Contests
Forums will license all contest promoters, who will
be required to meet minimum criteria for the treatment of participants.
More respect for the musicians
Upgrade of contests
Repertoire will rotate in six year cycles.
Year One: an original commissioned work by
a composer chosen by band players.
Year Two: an existing major arrangement.
Year Three: an Original commissioned work by
a composer chosen by the relevant contest organiser.
Year Four: a band classic original.
Year Five: a new, commissioned arrangement.
Year Six: a band classic original.
Commission fees will at the going rate, not a bygone rate from
the days of shillings and pence, and composers will write to
instrumental and time specification. Prize money will be inflation
linked from the rates in 1980, when the link was broken. The
main contest organisers will co-operate to run their cycles
from different start-points so that, each year, there is constant
variety of types of repertoire.
To ensure, firstly, that bands keep in touch with the full width
of banding repertoire, both composed and arranged. Secondly
to ensure that the repertoire is refreshed and expanded in the
future. Thirdly, to aquaint the young with banding's full repertoire.
Banding has three basic constituencies: musicians, audience
and composers/arrangers. This system has something for everyone.
Composers will be well-rewarded, but must write for contests
and bands as specified - (Bach, Haydn and Mozart did it, every
day) - within those specifications they will have complete musical
freedom. For their part, players and audience have the responsibility
to recognise that the point of creative composition is not to
provide something that is a copy or cover version of something
written previously, but quite possibly the opposite.
Composition is a journey into the unknown like no other. Apparent
'failure' is part of the process, and is not helped by players
and audiences flaunting their ignorance without any shame or
sense of stupidity. (From time to time '4barsrest' comments
page contains some blistering offerings of this sort of thing!)
The history of music is littered with pronouncements about how
terrible such and such a piece is, only for posterity to deliver
a special laurel to that very piece. In banding, remember that
Vinter's Spectrum was assailed, Howarth's Fireworks assaulted
and McCabe's Images insulted!
Further afield, Bach was told that his music was too complicated
and Mozart was informed by some inbred, idiot royal that he
used too many notes. His reply - that he used exactly the number
he needed and no more - instantly reduced his career prospects
by some 99%.
The European Contest will be returned to the slim-line
format of the 1980s when it was fun.
Rules, Rules, Rules, Rules, Rules.
The British Area Contests.
Repertoire will be chosen by band-ballot from four pieces submitted
to the Bands and their conductors. Squalid facilities will not
be tolerated any longer: they must be brought up to at least
basic Animal Standards at once. (see above) (There will an outbreak
of human foot'n'mouth if things don't improve.) Any backstage
official speaking rudely to a band member about to go on stage
will be painfully liquidated to the strains of the trombone
fanfares from Life Divine, fortississississimo.
All contests will be adjudicated by one person sitting
in the open, who, in turn, will be judged by the audience at
the end of the contest. Cumulative rankings of judges will be
No Alchohol available at any Contest venue
They'll listen to the other bands, Ha! Ha!
Overall Aim of this Contesting Decree
To focus on Contesting's real values.
Look after the musicians and the composers, expect something
back … and banding looks after itself.
5. All Members of the Houses of Parliament (the Commons)
will, for the whole duration of their appointments, play in brass
bands in their own constituencies, two rehearsals per week and absence
on medical certificate only. No expenses paid for travel as they
are in receipt of plenty already, and must provide own instrument
and stand. Not allowed to speak at any time. All affairs of State
will have to wait.
To educate and enlighten MPs in the values of music, the usefulness
of music performance, individually and socially, to re-balance their
self esteem to realistic levels and bring them back from their lives
of virtual reality to the real thing.
Members have plenty of time on their hands, as obedience to the
Party Whip is their only work. Those in the Government will not
be excepted and certain appointments are non-negotiable. The Prime
Minister, however musically untalented, male or female, will, ex
officio, hold the position of assistant Second Baritone, (might
stop the odd war), the Deputy PM will be The Shifter of the Instruments
(might start the odd war) and the Chancellor of the Taxchequer will
do handwritten accounts for his Band, and will make up all taxes
that impinge on any British Brass Bands, in any way, out of his
The inability of any Minister or MP to pass all and every one of
the Five Banding Tests - on Repertoire, Sight-Reading, Scales and
Arpeggios, the History of Banding, and Banding Trivia - will result
in the permanent reduction of their wages and perks to the national
Compliance Officer in charge of the Five Tests will be Dr David
King, as Ozzies are good at Tests, and he is obviously qualified
to prescribe headache pills for the poor dears.
A Happy New Year!
Previous articles by Howard Snell:
• Article 5: Regulation Junkies - licensing laws - more
• Article 4: Judge for yourself - more
• Article 3: The whole truth and nothing but - more...
• Article 2: The gang of four, or was it five - more...
• Article 1: Hours with the Masters - more...
© Howard Snell 2003 [© 4BarsRest]