Brass in Concert contest (long post)

Hi All,

Sorry about the long delay in posting.  Last week was incredibly busy with B&R, but I also had to keep a tight lip about our program and preparations for the Brass in Concert Championship at The Sage in Gateshead last Sunday.

The preparations and planning for the Brass in Concert are different and more fun then a regular contest.  As an entertainment contest there is much more going on then just sitting down and playing a ridiculously hard piece to be judged by “the men in the box”.  To start with, there was no box.  Everything is in the open so the entertainment judges can get the full show.  And it is a show:  opener, slow piece (euph solo for us), march, show piece, and finale. Lots going on.

We came in 4th, just a bit behind defending champs Cory.  Richard Evans was our conductor and working with him over the 3-weeks we had to work on the program was great fun.  He is an outstanding musician and motivator.  The band worked very hard and it was intense.  That said, on the day, everyone seemed very relaxed and were easily able to play their best.

We had some minor precision issues (which I think cost us a higher placement) but no major splits and I think we were happy with the way the show came off.  5 pieces, all except 1 either written or arranged just for the day. They included Leigh Baker’s arrangement of Tiger Rag which had Eb Bass player Shaun Crowther running around the stage playing tuba, trombone, sousaphone, and cornet (which he stole from me during the show).  He also threw the trombone and cornet off the stage after he finished playing solos on them.

You can see the 4BR pre and post-game reports here:  2009 Brass in Concert Championship

On the personal side, B&R went way, way, way, beyond the call of duty and basically created a spot for me so I could play the contest.  There are no “number of players” rules at Brass in Concert so I wasn’t really taking a spot from anyone but I did end up doubling parts with 3 different cornet players. These three players (Alex on Rep., Richard on 2nd, and Andrew on front row) could easily have made it very difficult or even objected to having me next to them.  Instead they were incredibly welcoming, helpful, encouraging, and kind.

I ended up seated between Alex on Rep and Richard who plays first-second.  I doubled (tripled actually) 2nd with Richard and Mick (who was with Grimethorpe when they did Brassed Off!) for most of the stuff, and ended up cutting and pasting my own hybrid (Rep/2nd) part for the finale written by Black Dyke percussionist Paul Lovett-Cooper.

For the show we were in the band room EVERY night last week and 3 nights the week before.  M-F rehearsals for 2+ hours each day.  This is a big deal for some players who drive 2 hours or more each way.  We had all three composers/arrangers working with us and Mr. Evans over the 2 weeks prior to the show and the band really came together well.

I really don’t want to paint the picture that these guys are so far beyond us in the states and we have no hope.  We do have hope, and chops, and the ability, but I think they just have a different standard, training, and tradition.  As the flugel player reminded me on Sunday when we were talking about Fountain City (which played very, very well and still only came 7th!) “We are all amateurs.  We are doing this for fun”.  Still makes me shake my head. As you know FC has many professional players.

That said, the accuracy is still amazing.  In some sections players almost never miss.  The time is tight but the rhythm isn’t always exact and we did break things down, learn notes as needed, and did them slowly to make it right.  Evans always had his metronome with him.  When things were not together everyone knew it, and people from all over the band were asking to rehearse sections they felt were not quite together. But, to be honest from almost the first rehearsal we are talking about subtle things like how long is the crotchet vs the quaver in the Viennese march, do we want to play at 95 or 98 bpm…….

In addition, the visual effect of how and when to lift horns (downbeat 1 measure before you have to play), when to put them down, how to get from point A to point B, how to stand up, how to set the stage, who sets the stage, literally every aspect of how we presented ourselves onstage was planned. Every one.

OK, that’s all for now.  Keep in touch and working hard.  I have another lesson with Mr. McCann coming up so I’ll post some vibrato video so you can see/hear what I’m talking about.  Also trying to arrange a lesson with Roger Webster.


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