On Thursday October 20th some of New Zealand's brightest brass talents gathered together at Nelson's Teapot Valley Camp for a week of music making and fun for this year's National Secondary Schools Brass Band (NSSBB).
On arrival, an ever growing game of rounders took place for an invaluable bit of team building before the first rehearsal began.
The band had a very tight schedule this year due to the term changes for the Rugby World Cup. Performances at St John’s Church and Nelson Cathedral on the 23rd October were followed by a concert at the Nelson Theatre Royal on the 24th and then demonstrations at primary schools throughout the Nelson Tasman region on Tuesday 25th.
The first real change to NSSBB this year was the introduction of the NSSBB Choir. Before the course began, the band were asked what, if any, experience they had of singing and what type of singing voice they had. The singing range of the band was massive, with a lot of members having had no singing experience. At the opposite end of the scale there were a handful of very experienced singers, such as sub bass voice Kent Russell and grade 8 soprano Rosie Evans. Singing tutor Robin Randall from Marlborough Girls College had no problems with this range at all, and within minutes the choir were delivering two part songs in rehearsal.
The Friday saw the first full day of activities, with full and sectional rehearsals, as well as course electives and small group work for touring primary schools. This year the course electives were ‘conducting’ (with Alan Spence), ‘marching’ (with Leigh Martin), ‘percussion’ (led by Kapo Tauranga), and those who elected for ‘composing’ were lucky enough to work with the renowned New Zealand composer John Rimmer. All of the electives above would come into play with performances at some point later in the week. The first seminar for the course, delivered by Brad Teal of Wellington Music Services was on instrument care and maintenance. Brad was accompanied by some well thought out props, the first of which was a cornet lead pipe that, which whilst looking completely normal to the naked eye, was full of holes due to ‘red rot.’ The second prop was the bell of a cornet which had a ‘dint’ (not a ‘dent’) which he then invited the band to damage some more. The band took to this task with great enthusiasm, with principal euphonium Luke Spence actually needing to be separated from what was left of the instrument.
The Marching elective gets into full swing
After more of the same activities on Saturday, including a masterclass with leading NZ tenor horn player Mike Ford,the evening saw the inaugural NSSBB slow melody competition. With the prize of the competition a solo in the concert, each section was sent away to decide who would represent them in the competition that night. The solo cornets selected Kieran Smith, the back row Kent Russell, the horns Rosie Evans, the Euphoniums Luke Spence, the baritones Emma Cardwell, the trombones Dale Hounsome-Vail, and the tubas Matt Huirua. After much discussion about a triangle slow melody the percussion decided not to participate. After some great performances, the winner was declared as Kieran Smith, who would go forward to play ‘Share My Yolk’ in the concert. All of the performers played fantastically well. Competition judge Mike said of Kieran’s performance: “The competition was pretty hot, and it was a pretty tough call, but in the end it was the lovely sound and musicality of Kieran’s playing that won the day for him.”
Sunday morning saw the band split into two groups to deliver some hymns outside Nelson’s St John’s Church and the Nelson Cathedral. Alan Spence selected two conductors from the conducting elective to put the bands through their paces in public. Both bands were very well received with the Dean of Nelson Cathedral, Nick Kirk, commenting ‘Many thanks for a most enjoyable repertoire after our service at the Cathedral on Sunday. The musicians were very much appreciated. I have only heard excellent comments of appreciation.’
The Band practising some moves
After arriving back at Teapot Valley early afternoon the band got straight back into rehearsing for the concert (time was ticking on) and also more small group work. That evening the course talent quest took place with four exceptional acts which will remain in the memory for a long time (particularly Scott Rusbridge, Kent Russell, and Fraser Robertson). With talent quest over the band settled in front of the big screen to watch the rugby and we all know what a tense occasion that was.
Monday was concert day, so after a mornings rehearsing, the band travelled to Nelson’s Theatre Royal to put together the show they had planned for that evening. When putting together this year’s programme Nick Sharpe wanted to fully utilise the whole performance space, so the concert featured antiphonal brass in the two boxes of the theatre, and walking out and performing in the audience. Composer John Rimmer was also there to rehearse his own piece ‘Riffs’n’Ructions’ (composed originally for the Nelson Brass Academy) and to rehearse the band on Dail Hounsome-Vails ‘Gethsemane’. This was a piece Dail had bought with him to show John for the composition elective, which was immediately deemed of a quality good enough to go straight into the concert. Come concert time and a nervous, but excited, band walked out onto the stage and delivered a ‘fabuliscious’ concert which left the audience smiling and laughing. Highlights of the concert were Kieran Smith’s ‘Share My Yolk’ and the performance of Philip Wilby’s transcription of Purcell’s Fantasia on a Ground (which used principal cornet Nick Garrett as soloist and antiphonal brass choirs in each box).
Special mentions should also go to the choirs renditions of ‘Under the Sea’ and ‘Pokare Kare Ana’, and Kapo Tauranga’s debut conducting the NSSBB percussion elective ensemble – a piece based on Japanese Taiko drumming called Summon the Spirits but with a decidedly Haka feel. An audience member commented ‘We thoroughly enjoyed the concert, they were amazing. They’re an incredibly talented lot on stage!’
After the massive high of the concert, Tuesday saw the NSSBB break into small groups for a tour of the Nelson Tasman region. The task was for each small group to come up with a half hour presentation to primary schools demonstrating to children all the brass instruments they played and how they work. No staff were allowed to speak on this tour, only NSSBB members. Five teams went out on tour, Team (Laura) Settle, Team (Nick) Garrett, Team (Kieran) Smith, Team (Rosie) Evans, and Team (Brad) Mancer. All team leaders were given a wide choice of music to play for their groups.
The schools visited were (deep breath) Lake Rotoiti, Tapawera, Dovedale, Brightwater, Upper Moutere, Lower Moutere, Appleby, Hope, Mahana, Stoke, Enner Glynn, Hira, Motueka South, Riwaka, and St Peter Chanel. Team Mancer had a great day out, beginning with Lake Rotoiti school, a school of 33 members in the Nelson Lakes. This particular presentation was a great experience for Team Mancer as 21 pupils of the school play in the schools very own brass band! At the end of the presentation those pupils got up and joined the band for a play through of UK composer Neil Jones’ ‘Apple Crumble Rock’. The team then moved on to Tapawera Area School, where the whole school watched the presentation. The audience really enjoyed watching one of their own pupils have a go at conducting the band. Percussionist Jeremy Richardson in particular gained a couple of fans. Lastly, Team Mancer visited Dovedale School, where they played their presentation on the school lawn. The children really enjoyed this and ended the concert dancing! All through the day the teams kept in touch with each other, so Team Mancer heard, amongst other things, about the great reception Team Evans got from Enner Glynn and Hira, and also about Team Smiths ‘recruition’ exploits at Motueka South.
Team Smith in Motueka
Jeremy Richardson and fans
After the tour, the band met up for a final 45 minute rehearsal on Paul Lovatt Cooper’s The Haunted Halls which was to be played the next day at Broadgreen Intermediate. The marching elective members also showed the rest of the band their marching display (keep an eye on Youtube for this).
After a chaotic day, there was a much needed evening off and the band travelled into Richmond for a night at the bowling alley. During the bowling the tutors got together to decide course award recipients for the 2011 NSSBB.
Afterwards, the band gathered back at Teapot for the awards. Elective awards recipients were: Kapo Tauranga for his great work with the percussion ensemble, Jeremy Richardson and Emma Cardwell for their conducting in the conducting elective, Patrick Webb and Dail Hounsome-Vail for the composition elective, and Anna de Boer for the marching. The next award to be handed out was best section. This award caused much debate amongst the tutors, with some passionate cases put forward for various sections. In the end, all agreed that the back row cornets had earned the right to be best section, a decision that excited them very much.
Onto the main awards for the course, and the tutors award, an award for being a general good kiwi bloke (or bloke-ess), which went to Kapo Tauranga for his easy going, approachable attitude (and a very popular choice he was too). The best audition award (with honourable mentions for Dale Hounsome-Vail, Rosie Evans, and Kent Russell) went to Emma Cardwell for her excellent playing in her audition. The outstanding player award went by a completely unanimous decision to Dale Hounsome-Vail, who had a stunning week leading his section by example, barely putting a foot wrong.
Lastly, the bandsperson of the course award went very deservingly to Nick Garrett, who not only led the band, but accompanied the choir on piano, and arranged his own version of Pokare Kare Ana just in case the other version didn’t arrive. He also led Team Garrett with some gusto, and generally made himself very helpful in every way, a true band member in every sense.
Wednesday had the band packed and ready for home after a final performance at Broadgreen Intermediate School. The school had a full school hall comprising not only Broadgreen pupils but also pupils from Nayland Primary next door. With a programme of only four pieces; The Big Top, Way Down Yonder in New Orleans (with a trumpet trio of Rosie Evans, Laura Spence and Nick Garrett), The Haunted Halls, and Salsa Tres Prado, the band may have been forgiven for thinking it would be an easy concert. After a very quick and stylish Big Top, musical director Nick Sharpe surprised the band by introducing each section of the band to the audience and asking a random member of each section to give a solo, which really put them on the spot.
All soloists played very well but special mention must go to Jack Bewley on 2nd baritone who delivered a cracking ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. The Haunted Halls was the highlight of the concert with the children alternatively enthralled and terrified with the special effects the band produced, particularly Hayden Richardson’s maniacal giggle, and Danielle McQuinns bloodcurdling scream. Lastly, the band let their hair down with Salsa Tres Prado, and it was time to go to Nelson airport and home. There were lots of handshakes, hugs and sad faces as each member got on their flights.
The Band at Broadgreen School
Thanks must go to the people at Teapot Valley, Marlborough Districts Brass, Nelson City Brass, Pat Heaphy, the wonderful tutors (Alan and Tanya Spence, Leigh and Morrine Martin, Chris Lawton, Mike Ford, John Rimmer, Kerry Garrett, Robin Randall), and managers Rob Wilson and Evan Sayer. Further thanks must go to Yamaha, the Lion Foundation, Pub Charity, Musicways, and the Ministry of Education for making the course possible.
Nick Sharpe, Musical Director for the course notes; ‘I will remember the 2011 NSSBB as one of the most fun times I’ve ever had. The way they came to the party, not just for the concert and school stuff, but for all the beforehand stuff like Brad Mancer (repiano cornet) designing the advertising poster, Dale Hounsome-Vail coming up with the email flyer, the small group team leaders picking their groups music, and the Nelsonian members tireless efforts when we were promoting the concert. I was amazed how the band threw themselves into the music, from the singing, to the body percussion, to the learning of music by heart. It all led to an absolutely dynamite concert! The school trips were a joy to be involved with. It was great to see these players not only develop as musicians but as presenters and educators in their own right. All in all, a fantastic week that I will always look back on with a smile.’
Advertising poster designed by Brad Mancer (Rep)
The final word should go to 7 year member Laura Settle who said ‘A great week of fun, friendship and music, definitely one I will always remember. Both the Nelson general public and a few hundred primary school children were blown away with the final results of our camp. A truly memorable way to spend my 7th and final year in the National Secondary Schools Brass Band of New Zealand.’