2008 Brass in Concert Championship - Did work/Didn't work?


4BR gives the lowdown on what worked a treat and what worked like Newcastle United's back four on the weekend at The Sage...

As always at Brass in Concert there were things that some bands tried that came off a treat, and others that had as much going for them as booking Newcastle United season tickets for next year…

Some things were great and brought joy to the heart, some made you bite the tops off your fingers in embarrassment – whilst one had both in equal measures…

What Worked:

Not quite Billy Piper, but it worked...: Whitburn use the bagpipe man...
Picture: Ian Clowes

1. Frank Renton
Without him the whole day would lose a great deal of its appeal. Some great little jokes, plenty of information and the ability to keep things ticking along when audience stamina was on the wane.

2. On screen projections
From the use by the sponsors to fill in the gaps between bands, to some of the bands utilizing it to enhance will placed reflective musical items. 

3. The international invites
The premiere entertainment contest in the world is enhanced by the very best bands from around the globe. Time to make a few hard decisions then…
4. The odd bit of magic – Fairey Band
Where did the girl in the box go? A pity it took the attention away from the music though – or was that the plan?

5. Able March – Reg Vardy
On a day when decent a march was a rarity, this was a little gem.

6. Well rehearsed choreography – Stavanger/Fairey
When done well it works a treat – these two did it and looked like they actually enjoyed it.

7. Use of a bagpiper – Whitburn
Who would have thought it, but never has the old octopus squeezer been used as effectively. 

8. Sousaphones
Strange as it may seem, but the instrument rather suits the brass band.

9. Side events
The weekend benefited greatly from the brass open day on the Saturday – it brought in plenty of families. The Gala Concert was a bit of a triumph too – thanks to the Norwegians – again.

10. The results ceremony
Well done the organisers – short on speeches, so plenty of time to hand out the awards without the sound of shuffling feet and yawning from the audience.   

What Didn’t:

Given it the bird: Cory opt for the Tweety Pie approach...
Picture: Ian Clowes

1. Slapstick humour
No more comedy fancy dress (although Fairey were very good – Whitburn’s George Michael and Cory’s Tweety Pie were not.  Mimed indifference by players to unintended soloists or prancing idiots should be banned by law.

2. Close harmony singing
Brass band players are no Men Aloud wannabes. Ensemble Karoake belongs in pubs and X Factor, unless you really know what you are doing.

3. Fodens opener
Great idea – but the misplaced volume brought claims for industrial deafness from the first ten rows in the hall. The ears bled.

4. Trumpets
Not all, but conductors should realise by now that not every cornet player in the band is a potential Arturo Sandoval of Maynard Ferguson.

5. Conductor participation
If you are to get involved then make sure you know what you are doing – and don’t just stand there like a frightened rabbit in the headlights when Frank Renton tries to get a reaction from you…

6. Getting the balance right
It is still called Brass in Concert folks – so guitars, saxophones, keyboards, barstools and even coffins are great, if they are used to enhance the brass inspired musical spectacle rather than replace it.

7. The scoring system
Time for a change. The balance between music and entertainment is still wrong. Copy the Norwegians – scrap the 60 points for entertainment value, use marks for musical programming out of 10 and let the audience give a separate ‘entertainment prize’ by text voting with a nice big prize to the ones that tickle the fancy.

8. The judges
Just a minor tweak if the scoring is to change. Why bring over the truly great Ian Bousfield and just have him sitting judging the solo and section prizes. Seemed like a real opportunity missed.

9. Fanfare Trumpeters
Why? It isn’t Miss World, and given that this year’s effort produced more split notes in 15 seconds than had been heard all day from the bands, the standard wasn’t to clever either.

10. Teach percussion kit players to swing
A brass band will always swing as stiffly as Jordan’s cleavage until the kit players learn the art (and it is an art) of the swing rhythm.  Only Stavanger’s player did it – and the result was a joy to behold.

Special Award:

Stavanger’s Gala Concert programme

A Norwegian musical version of Brokeback Mountain meets the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town.

No – it wasn’t just us either. The subtle hint of the love that shouldn’t be spoken of couldn’t have been more telegraphed if the main characters had been played by Julian Cleary and Graham Norton.

Odd, funny, interesting, clever, intelligent and brilliantly played and choreographed.

Never has being touch with ones feminine side been so satisfying… 


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