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2011 Brass in Concert Championship — Is prescription better than the cure?

Is the current Brass in Concert winning prescription better for its long term health than an innovative cure?

the entertainer
The entertainer - Archie Rice aka Laurence Olivier...

There is something about Brass in Concert that reminds you of Archie Rice in the film ‘The Entertainer’.

Despite the wonderful new venue, the tweaks to the adjudication scoring and the relaxation of the registration rules, there is still an aura of the old music hall tradition that permeates the soul of this contest.

Dorian Gray

Times have changed in the past 35 years – but the basic premise on which the audiences are entertained seems to have been set in musical aspic.

It’s Archie Rice in brass band form: An entertainer stuck in time, playing to an audience that is the equivalent of the portrait of Dorian Gray.

On stage you see ever younger stand up performers. Look into the auditorium and you are met by a sea of ever aging faces.

Audience
A Picture of Dorian Gray...

Cul de sac

As a result Brass in Concert has become a contest won on prescription rather than innovation – a cul de sac of musical limitation that has been defined by an inherently conservative attitude to change from the competing bands, and to a degree, the organisers themselves.

Free thinking spirits are treated with a degree of suspicion, whilst true inventiveness is frowned upon with the most damming exhibition of collective distain – polite applause.   

As a frustrated Archie Rice says with sarcastic resignation to his apathetic audience: “Don’t clap too loudly, it’s a very old building.”

That may not quite apply at The Sage, but its foundations are sponsored by the Northern Rock Building Society – and look what happened to that.   


A new box of tricks from the organisers?

Tinkered

The last few years has seen the majority of bands provide little in the way of progressive thinking, whilst the organisers have tinkered around the edges with the contest’s format and design.

Variations on tried and tested themes remain the contest winning raison d’etre: Flashy opener, solo, comedy insert, slow piece, big finisher.  Insert a bit of cool jazz/orchestral filler to make up to the 23 minutes of playing time and hey presto.

The competitors may well argue that a points format that lacks a coherent weighting towards the quality of performance over the visual entertainment stops them from really going out on a limb – and they have a point. The current system seems badly thought out.

Nordic world

Both Stavanger and Eikanger have showed us a glimpse of the brave new Nordic world in the past few years here – although the reception to their programmes was Euro sceptic to say the least.

It will be a cold day in hell you suspect when a band is able to perform John Cage’s 4’33” – as was the case at SIDDIS a week ago. 

Prescriptive programme sets remain the norm, although thankfully the fashion for ‘non swinging’ swing music seems to have ended – the folly of which was perfectly summed up by Cory trying to kid us that the 'King of Swing' was Glen Miller and not Benny Goodman.

Brass in Concert
A Welsh Male Voice choir...: Tredegar in full voice

Harsh lesson


The Brits should have learnt from the harsh lesson in musical reality that was handed out when Brass Band of Central Florida first came and showed us just how it should be done in 2006.

They are back again, and may be about to dish out a lesson on the art of performing cool American modern jazz - the current flavour of the month in many a band programme.

Comedy?

Unfortunately, there still appears to an insatiable appetite for lame, overlong comedy items – from men dressing up as busty middle aged women to mad maraca playing trombonists, and a puzzling new phenomena – the brass band as a male voice choir, even though Gareth Malone would struggle to make some back row cornet players sing in tune.

Multi media presentations may have come and gone quicker than a new brass band app for an iphone (although it’s real potential is still there), whilst it is hoped that audience members of a certain age will now be spared ropey trumpet players trying to burst their eardrums with misplaced Maynard Ferguson impressions – nearly all of which sound more like Sir Alex Ferguson on best hairdryer form.

Ovehead
Come and gone? The multi media screens may have been a fad...

Glimpse?

So will we get the first glimpse of a brave new brass band entertainment world at The Sage on Saturday, or will the contest move sedately into comfortable middle age (it’s now 35 years old), satisfied with the cosy thematic repeats, the odd chuckle of laughter and a Ben Hur finisher?

Wait and see.

But as Archie Rice found out to his cost – growing old with your audience is not a recipe for long term success.

Iwan Fox



Boarshurst Silver Band - Saddleworth Musical Society

Sunday 15 May • New Saddleworth School. Huddersfield Road. Diggle. Saddleworth OL3 5NU


Perth Festival of the Arts - The Brewin Dolphin Gala Opening Concert

Thursday 19 May • Perth Concert Hall, Mill Street, Perth PH1 5HZ


Perth Festival of the Arts - Reverie: The Life and Loves of Claude Debussy

Friday 20 May • Perth Theatre, Mill Street, Perth PH1 5HZ


Perth Festival of the Arts - Perthshire Brass at Perth Festival of the Arts

Saturday 21 May • St Paul's Church Plaza, St Paul's Square PH1 5PA


Black Dyke Band - 2nd Rossendale Scouts, Rossendale Male Voice Choir

Saturday 21 May • The Bridgewater Hall, Lower Mosley St, M2 3WS


Syston Band

May 15 • We are looking for Bb and Eb basses to join our enthusiastic 4th section Brass Band, conducted by Colin Jones. The Band meet on Mondays 7.30 to 9.15pm at Syston Conservative Club.


Syston Band

May 15 • We are looking for Front Row Cornets to join our enthusiastic 4th section Brass Band, conducted by Colin Jones. The Band meet on Mondays 7.30 to 9.15pm at Syston Conservative Club.


Corby Silver Band

May 14 • Corby Silver Band have vacancies for Solo cornet or Soprano cornet and a Bass player (Eb or Bb) to complete the band. Rehearsals, under the leadership of our new MD, Andy Mayell on Monday and Wednesday at 8pm at our own band club in Corby.


Sam Fisher

BA (Hons), PGCE, Dip.ABRSM
Conductor, Adjudicator (AoBBA), Composer/Arranger, Cornet & Flugelhorn Soloist


               

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