The weekend of 26 – 27 January 2008 saw members of the National Association of Brass Band Conductors gather at the Britannia Hotel, Bolton, for their annual two-day convention.
This year’s convention had the underlying theem of “The Way Forward” and tried to find the answer to one of the biggest problems in the brass band movement at the present time – how to bridge the gap from youth bands to the adult band world.
The weekend opened with a welcome to all the delegates by the association’s Chairman, Walter Ritchie. The association’s President, Dr. Roy Newsome, followed with a keynote speech which highlighted that, whilst the number of adult bands was going down, this was not the case with youth bands. He went on to say, ’We as adults have to try and encourage the youngsters into the adult movement once they leave their youth band. Whilst the better players will join the better bands, what of the remainder, where and what happens to them? Hopefully, through this weekend and in particular the question time style forum may be able to answer some of the problems.”
Dr. Newsome then led a conduction workshop, “Sorting out those bad habits”, with all delegates encouraged to take part.
This was followed by a presentation from the convention’s first guest speaker, Colin Duxbury, the musical director of the Stockport Schools Senior Band. Colin highlighted the number of young people there were in all three Stockport Schools bands and how enthusiastic they all were. Whilst he conducted the senior band, there was also an intermediate band and a junior band. Students from other schools in the Stockport area all had the opportunity of joining and going through the three Stockport Schools bands. The underlying word from Colin was that being in the band both on engagements and rehearsals has to be fun.
Colin then conducted his band as a warm-up before Russell Gray took over to give a conducting masterclass with the delegates. The association was grateful to Russell, who was standing in for Richard Evans, who was unable to lead the class because of illness. During the masterclass, four delegates stepped forward and no doubt gained valuable experience from the encouragement and advice given by Russell.
One of the biggest problems for conductors can be choosing programme repertoire. The second speaker, Ian Porthouse, gave an in-depth discussion about a large number of concert pieces and a number of young composers who are all writing new music and exciting arrangements. Not just music for the top end of the band world, but music that could also be played by 3rd and 4th section bands. He followed this part of his presentation with a short talk about “The Conductor as Teacher”, an aspect of conducting that was of great interest to all the delegates.
The first day closed with the question-style forum. In the Chair was Iwan Fox from 4BarsRest. The panel answering the questions included Ian Porthouse, Richard Evans, Chris Wormald and Colin Duxbury. The question: “What can an adult band offer a member of a youth band for them to consider stepping up to join?” In some cases the answer was “Very little” Boring music, boring conductor, no opportunities to play a solo, no social life (which must take into account the age of the young person), spending week after week practising the same piece, telling a percussionist not to bother coming because the conductor does not need them at the rehearsal, being given the tail end of the better instruments, awful rehearsal facilities, the list went on and on. It was clear to all the delegates that many adult bands must look inward and say to themselves “What have we to offer?”
On Saturday night, the National Convention dinner was entertained by guest speaker Richard Evans who went through aspects of his varied and colourful musical career.
The association opened the Sunday morning session of the convention with the annual general meeting. Dr. Newsome was reappointed as President and Walter Ritchie as Chairman. Ted Howard and Martin Obermuller were reappointed as secretary and treasurer, respectively, and Chris Helme was appointed as the editor of the association’s magazine, The Conductor.
Paul Lovatt-Cooper, “young composer in residence” and lead percussionist at Black Dyke, followed with a fascinating insight into the brass band and the Internet followed by “some thoughts on percussion”.
Every band, irrespective of the level at which they play, should have a publicity and marketing manager. David Kaye, President of Wingates Band, gave a fascinating presentation about these two roles and the work he has done since the early 1990s. In this day and age of financial difficulties in the brass band world he certainly gave all the members something to think about.
The two-day convention closed with a short concert given by the Wingates Band under the direction of their musical director, Andrew Berryman. Various members of the association were given the opportunity of conducting this famous band, all those who conducted the band (in most cases, the first time they had had to opportunity of conducting a championship section band) this was an absolute thrill. Before closing the convention Chairman Ritchie thanked Andrew and the members of the band for a wonderful performance which culminated with Johan de Meij’s test piece for the 2005 European Championships, Extreme Make-Over, which the band played from the bottle and marimba section which was superb and brought the convention to a climactic conclusion.
For more information about the National Association of Brass Band Conductors, please visit their web site at www.nabbc.org.uk or contact Chris Helme via email at email@example.com.
Submitted by Christ Helme