[NEWSLETTER of DAVID E. SMITH PUBLICATIONS, LLC]

NEWSLETTER of DAVID E. SMITH PUBLICATIONS, LLC

VOL 9. No 2. SUMMER 2007

 


NEWSLETTER of DAVID E. SMITH PUBLICATIONS, LLC
VOL 9, NO 2, SUMMER, 2007

© 2007 Copyright of David E. Smith Publications
All Rights Reserved. Made in U.S.A.

Table of Contents
The Publishers' Space
The Lone Arranger's Space
The Guest Writer Space
The Brass Space
The Percussion Space
Brass Bands In Britain




Preach Christ Always
And As A Last Resort
Use Words.
St. Francis of Assisi









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THE PUBLISHER'S SPACE
by David E. Smith


DESPUB has been quite active as of late putting out a variety of solo and ensemble sacred literature for the various companies it distributes.

Under the DESPUB label new works of Dana F. Everson include a real dynamite arrangement for brass choir titled O God Our Help at a level four and priced at $16.00-#145922. It is scored for three trumpets, four horns (highly doubled so you can use fewer), three trombones with substitute treble clef baritone on the third part, and tuba.

Upcoming is a brass quintet that has optional parts for a sextet as well, We Are More Than Conquerors, priced at $12.00 is written at a level three-#145548. Under the same title but a different arrangement is a brass solo priced at $4.50 at a level two and one-half in difficulty-
trumpet version-#135142,
 horn version-#137155,
 trombone version- #139136
and tuba version-#143131.

Then a delightful solo rendition by Wayne Fritchie.  It is based on the hymn Redeemed and at a level three and priced at $4.50 including the piano accompaniment. There are some minor deviations between the woodwind versions and the violin version such as  keys.
Flute solo- #110156;
Oboe solo- #112130;
Clarinet solo- #118147;
Alto sax solo- #124144;
Tenor sax solo- #126134;
and Violin solo- #161143.

Also upcoming is a sensitive but yet dynamic rendition of Be Thou My Vision for two violins and piano. It is priced a $7.95 and is a level four. It is written by Donald Young, the newest writer in the DESPUB stable.

DESPUB, as the exclusive distributor for the music of Washington Music Ministries and Bob Walters, is pleased to announce some delightful new works for weddings and other events. The Bach “Air For Strings” is a string trio that has parts for all kinds of string trio set ups (a good mix-n-match set up.) It also has optional piano, harp or harpsichord parts and the cello can even be substituted by a harp or piano. The product number is W079601 and sells for $9.95 for the whole set.

If you're looking ahead to Christmas, WMM has a new piece entitled Christmas Medley #1 for strings. It follows a nationalist tour of sorts with Carol Of The Bells from America, Good King Wenceslas from England, Fum, Fum, Fum from Spain, O Tannebaum from Germany, and Pat-a-Pan from France. The strings also incorporate a piano part which can be very effective with an accordion as well. The arrangement comes in three formats:  (1) as a full string orchestra with acc. (W076211- $28.95,)  (2) string quintet with acc. (W075511- $24.95,) and,  (3) string quartet with acc. (W075413- $21.95.)

DESPUB also serves as the exclusive distributor for the music of Rich Heffler and is pleased to announce the additional of several new solo/duet arrangements. These provide acompletely new genre to the DESPUB catalog in that they are essentially solos for voice with piano accompaniment along with integrated instrumental obbligato. Each arrangement sells for $7.95 and includes the vocal line, the piano accompaniment as well as instrumental parts in every needed key and range for woodwind and string instruments. At a level four are He Hideth My Soul and, He Leadeth Me, and at level five is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. If you want some tastefully conceived pieces that will fit a variety of venues these may serve your needs very well.

More solo literature includes, Thank You, Lord, a level six solo with piano accompaniment and is priced at $5.95,
Flute version is W29133FL, 
Oboe version is W29133OB, 
Bassoon version is W29133BN, 
Clarinet version is W29133CL, 
Bass clarinet version is W29133BC, 
Alto sax version is W29133AX,  
Tenor sax version is W29133TX, 
Violin version is W29133VN, 
Viola version is W29133VA and
Cello version is W29133VC
and recorder versions.

Also, And Can It Be is a level five solo with piano accompaniment and is priced at $5.95.
Flute version is W29134FL, 
Oboe version is W29134OB, 
Bassoon version is W29134BN, 
Clarinet version is W29134CL, 
Bass clarinet version is W29134BC, 
Alto sax version is W29134AX,  
Tenor sax version is W29134TX, 
Violin version is W29134VN, 
Viola version is W29134VA
Cello version is W29134VC and
recorder versions.

In addition to all this new wind and string solo literature, Mr. Heffler has produced almost four dozen arrangements for soprano and alto recorder with piano. One can find more details on these works at either www.despub.com or www.churchmusic.biz.

In addition to all this new solo literature is music for woodwind ensemble.  Redeemed, #W29315, woodwind trio, level five, price-$11.95, optional instrumentation for each part. Higher Ground, #W29506, woodwind quintet, level five, price-$14.95, traditional quintet instrumentation. Glorious Things Of Thee Are Spoken, #W29507, woodwind quintet, level five, price- $14.95, traditional quintet instrumentation.   All Hail the Power of Jesus Name (Diadem), #W29508, woodwind quintet, level five, price-$14.95, traditional quintet instrumentation with optional piano.  Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, #W29441, woodwind quartet, level five, price- $19.95, optional instrumentation for each part. Love Divine, #W29442, woodwind quartet, level four, price- $19.95, optional instrumentation for each part.  Take My Life And Let It Be, #W29443, woodwind quartet, level four, price- $19.95, optional instrumentation for each part.  Crown Him With Many Crowns, #W29444, woodwind quartet, level four, price-$19.95, optional instrumentation for each part.

New works for strings that have necessary parts for string quartet, quintet or even string orchestra are at a level four in difficulty and sell for $14.95. Take My Life And Let It Be, #W29406. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, #W29402. Love Divine, #W29405. And, Crown Him With Many Crowns, #W29407.

A bit of an overview of the structure involved with Washington Music Ministries might serve interesting to our readers. From outward appearances one might not even notice a difference in Washington Music Ministries and Rich Heffler Music as most of it is internal in nature here at DESPUB. The business workings are now separated, the web sites will show them as separate database cataloging and the next print catalog will see them as separate entities. But the best part is that all the great music you have come to expect from Washington Music Ministries (Bob Walters etc.) and Rich Heffler Music is still right here. For many years the two entities were under one roof.

It might be of interest to know how these two gentlemen came to work together in the first place. Bob and Rich were both musicians in the military- Bob in the Air Force and Rich in the Marines. Both are now retired from the military but certainly not in their creative endeavors as writers, performers and publishers.

It was through mutual Christian acquaintances that Bob and Rich met, performed together and became involved in church music together. Eventually Rich began writing arrangements for other players that were associated with Bob and later became part of the WMM Catalog.

Both men have a high regard for each other. Bob says of Rich, "Rich is one of God's very unique people. There are no duplicates. He loves the Lord, and is faithful in worship and in giving to the Lord the gifts he was given. He is a brother for eternity.”

Rich says of Bob, "Bob and I lived only a few miles apart... we didn't see each other that much. I wished that we had the opportunity to work together more often... I admire his amazing ability to improvise the most wonderful musical ideas right off the top of his head, particularly harmonically.

“I must admit being a little envious of this ability since I strain to write music and have to pray for inspiration. It takes me forever to complete an arrangement while Bob just sits at the piano and streams out great stuff! From Bob I learned self-sacrifice. He is motivated only by a desire to serve God and provide the instrumentalist with arrangements that minister to both the performer and the listener."

Both of these Christian gentlemen continue to produce fine arrangements so keep your eyes and ears tuned to all the musical possibilities that exist on www.despub.com and www.churchmusic.biz from their fine companies, along with all the other great publishers found there.

 





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THE LONE ARRANGER'S SPACE
by Dana F. Everson

THE GREAT ARRANGER DANGER

Of all the pitfalls that writers can face, there is one that can literally spell death to one's musical creativity. I have alluded to it in several previous articles, but never addressed it directly. It is a danger that can affect even the most skilled, most educated, most well-trained writer. It is as common as sand and as corrosive as sin; in fact it IS sin…in the form of ARROGANCE.

No writer has the “edge” on anyone else in terms of their natural abilities, or their potential for creativity. Everything we have comes from the Lord.

Of course we want to work hard, learn more about our craft, and develop our gifts as far as possible….but we should never forget that we had no control over what ever talent we have…No control over the time in history we were born so as to be able to take advantage of the tools and equipment for becoming writers.  

No one has a reason to boast. The greatest writers are humble people, not perfect people, but teachable, and gracious, and willing to encourage others. Arrogant arrangers destroy the spirit of their work with their pride and conceit. So you had a “hit” and you received a lot of kudos…well, turn it back over to God. Graciously thank people for their encouragement; but realize the opportunity this presents to deflect praise to the One Who gives the gifts of musical ability.

And don't forget that even the skills you have developed were likely first initiated by your parents getting you started with music lessons, or with a teacher who urged you on when you were about to quit, or someone else along the way that you may not have thought about for quite a while.

  Friends, don't fall into the Great Arranger Danger: rather, thank God and thank other people who have helped you along the way.

This will improve your writing in ways you cannot now imagine; and, it will expand your ministry in a God-honoring way.

Dana F. Everson holds the BME and Master's in Saxophone Performance degrees from Michigan State University, and a Master of Sacred Music from Pensacola Christian College. He has over 300 published works.





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THE GUEST WRITER'S SPACE
by Rick D. Townsend

Funding Strategies for Christian School Music Programs-Part 2

 Instrumental music is not optional. Although singing provides a good foundation for music learning and assessment, the most important musical understandings can only be adequately achieved in an instrumental setting. Refer to the supplementary article for this edition of Lines and Spaces, entitled “Christian School Instrumental Music: It's Not Optional,” explaining why instrumental music is essential for our children.

Administrators who have developed and maintained quality programs, including a commitment to instrumental music, know that the only way to start the process is to prayerfully act, trusting that God will bless their efforts.

AXIOM 2: Every successful school music program begins as a step of faith.

Where does all the money come from? As I reported in the previous edition of Lines and Spaces®, a quality instrumental program can easily cost $100,000 or more, and that does not include a host of other academic needs for quality music learning. Let's begin this discussion by looking at three characteristic, and disturbing, Christian school music program funding models. I say “disturbing” because these approaches practically guarantee annual frustration for administrators, board members, and parents, as well as constant, daily frustrations for music teachers - frustrations that are easy to avoid and that send an extremely negative message to the students. We will call these three strategies “The 'No Plan' Plan,” The “I've Got Your Back, Man” plan, and “The Royal Conservatory Plan.”

The “No Plan” Plan

AXIOM 3: Every successful school funding strategy begins when a music director's vision turns into a realistic quality plan.

I know many music teachers who are expected to raise their own funds, either through overt fundraising by their music students and/or parent organizations, or through actively seeking donations from the well-to-do members of their ministry. This is neither fair to the students and their families nor to the supporting families who are continually asked to buy items that they don't need so that 40% can go to the funded group while 60% goes out of town to a company with no personal stake in the group's success or failure. Neither is fundraising a good use of valuable time resources-and it certainly does not provide needed equipment and supplies in a timely manner.

Other schools limit their fundraising efforts (much to the relief of everyone in the ministry), but constantly press the congregation for special donations to keep the program afloat. The director who can inspire well-to-do members of the congregation to focus extra giving efforts on the music program is lauded for being such a good fundraiser.

This condition can only exist with the blessing of the music director (assuming that a director has been hired). A determination should have been made to more appropriately fund the music program during initial job interviews, but if that did not happen, there is no better time than the present to change course (again, to the relief of the special givers in the ministry). I have seen many generous people hurt by the constant pressure to give large gifts beyond what they are continually asked to give. Many good people have actually left ministries, feeling that they could no longer serve as the school's Daddy Warbucks.

These Christian school administrators fund their music programs like the father who says he is committed to feeding his family, then tells them to go forage for their food. This father might defend his practice by saying that he is merely asking the family to learn to work in the garden, learn to hunt and fish, learn to prepare meals, and learn thankfulness. The problem is that most school and church music directors work dawn to dusk, six to seven days a week, planning, preparing, and administering their music program - and they have families to raise, graduate schooling to complete, and personal lives to live.

Requiring the school music director to toil, hunt, and fish (fundraise) for basic equipment and supplies in addition to performing the daily tasks of planning and operating a quality music program is short sighted. It sends a harmful message to the entire ministry about respect for staff families and sensitivity to their needs, and it promotes an expendable attitude regarding the program. (What if inadequate funds come in? The implicit message is “Then we will just do without the basics.”)

I have recently talked with two administrators about their funding philosophies. One reported that his music teacher seldom asks for anything, but when she does, “I have always been able to grant it (except, of course, the tuba that she is purchasing through a multi-year rental program).” The other administrator was concerned about spending money on music because of “all the other needs at our ministry.”

Most administrators have little experience with music. Those who do have experience have probably graduated from programs that were inappropriately funded, because few Christian school music programs are funded at all. Administrators are operating the only way that they have seen. They do not know that when budgets and schedules align properly, 80% of the students in a Christian high school will be in both band and choir. They do not know that staging a nice Christmas program does not necessarily indicate that quality music learning is taking place. They do not know that a strong music program, properly funded and scheduled, usually attracts and retains more than enough students to pay for the teacher(s) AND ongoing equipment/supply needs. More seriously, their music teachers have not told them differently, assuming that there is no alternative to the status quo. The teachers have probably never seen funding done well, either, and if they have, they assume that it is not possible in their ministry.

I remember the day that my oldest son, at the time an instrumental music education major at a major Christian university (who, incidentally, HAD seen it done well), called for advice about an assignment in a music ed. methods class. For his assignment, he had to decide how he would spend his $400 annual budget for a fictitious music program. I told him that I did not have an answer because he would never be in such a predicament unless God calls him to a “special needs ministry” - one incapable of providing the most basic needs for any of its programs. In this case, I was advising him to educate his methods professor. That is the advice that I am offering to you as you read this article. Educate your people.

Most administrators have little background in music program building, assuming that as a college music teacher educator I prepare my preservice teachers to a) know how to raise their own funds, b) be quiet and grateful when the funding is inadequate for basic music teaching, and c) be able to build a high-quality, “window-to-the-world,” program within a budget that does not exceed that of the church's Sunday School department.

What I do teach my preservice teachers is to a) know how to establish an appropriate, adequate funding strategy with expectation that their voice will be heard and heeded by administrators who value and respect their expertise, b) plan a multi-year program to provide all necessary materials and equipment in a timely manner for the rapid program growth that always takes place when conditions (including schedules) are right, and c) provide a high-quality program that meets individual needs at all levels without financially burdening any small group within the ministry or negatively affecting other ministries in the church.

The “I've Got Your Back, Man” Plan

AXIOM 4: Every successful school funding strategy is durable, insuring for optimal transference when administration and/or staff changes take place.

This administrator actually spreads the costs fairly by agreeing to provide reasonable music program needs from general funds. Most administrators cannot make such a promise, but in larger schools where this is possible there can exist a very healthy relationship between music teachers and administration. Usually, the administrator appropriately asks for a five-year plan so that appropriate budgetary decisions can take place at annual meetings.

What may start out as a wonderful environment for music program development can change, overnight, into a very negative situation for everyone involved. If, suddenly, the school hires an administrator with a different vision for the music program and a different opinion of what constitutes “balance,” then the music teacher is forced to decide whether or not (s)he can even stay at the school.

This is actually the public school model in most areas of the country. The director presents a proposed budget in the spring, then the administration crunches the numbers. Since everyone is working with tax dollars, it is not uncommon to hear of programs that are replacing all of their marching equipment for $170,000, or are replacing all of their concert tubas for $30,000 because they have reached the 20 year depreciation point established when they were purchased. More frequently, though, administrators are under the gun to cut costs and, especially after administrative changes take place, the music program budget is gutted. Much worse, some administrators hold a deep-seated conviction that music directors always ask for too much, and red-line music requests as soon as they see them. This becomes a lose/lose environment of mistrust. This is also widespread in Christian schools.

There are, then, serious problems with “I've Got Your Back.” Even (especially) the best administrators move and the best economic conditions eventually change.

The “Royal Conservatory”
Plan

AXIOM 5: Music program funding strategies must be equitable, providing equal opportunity for everyone.

Just as serious a threat as the “No Plan” plan, this plan requires that each separate school program be self-sustaining. This unfairly places the entire weight of music program development and growth (the most expensive, by far, in a school) squarely on the backs of those who can least afford it - the music families. These families already pay $500 to $5000 for each instrument; pay for private piano, instrumental, and voice lessons; and spend countless hours commuting to lessons and performances. When administrators adopt this philosophy, music families end up paying a broad range of fees to allow their children to participate in music. This ends up resulting in a reversal of Axiom 1. “Even though everybody benefits, only the musicians are asked to pay.”

Certainly, the musicians can, and should, be expected to pay for their own consumables (workbooks, lesson books, reeds, etc.). The school musicians should not, however, be expected to pay specialized fees for their own band and choir music-music that will remain in the school files long after they have graduated. Neither should they be expected to pay for normal school instrument upkeep, piano tuning, instructional costs, computer/MIDI equipment, or any other materials and equipment that become the property of the school. Especially, they should not be expected to pay an unequal share of the music teacher's salary/benefit package.

It is not unusual for an entire music teacher's salary to be funded by fees from the private students in that teacher's studio. Some of the highest quality music programs (in terms of raw performing ability and competitive success), are built by developing a stable of privately funded teachers. This supplies quality teaching but, again, unfairly stresses the musical families. More seriously, we see a tremendous amount of frustration at the college level because of a) burnout by average-interest players pressured to take lessons so a teacher can keep a studio going, and b) serious pain issues caused by inordinate practice requirements for young children. Once again, we cannot allow the high level of technical achievement observed in these programs to mask the damage that such an unbalanced situation presents to families and their children.

Finally, the music culture has already reached a breaking point in private lesson costs in many areas, a point at which the professional teacher can no longer afford to teach, and/or the families are no longer able to afford lessons. I recently talked with one parent who was paying over $400 per month for private lessons for two middle school children. On the other side of the equation, an urban-based private teacher must charge 40 students $20 per half-hour 50 weeks per year to make a $40,000 income (assuming nobody gets sick, has a flat tire, or takes a vacation) - far too little to raise a family in most urban areas. Even if the teacher can afford to pay normal bills, these numbers are far more than most families can afford for their children's lessons.

The time has arrived that churches and schools must supplement lesson and instrument costs so that the church will continue to have her musician population through the next generation. This will represent a welcome change from the current multiple-fee practices so prevalent in today's schools and colleges.

Funding Private Lessons for Every Student

AXIOM 6: Music program funding must provide durability for the sake of tomorrow's church musicians.

Recognizing the serious nature of family fragmentation these days, students should be allowed to take private lessons during the school day, thus lifting a great time burden away from the backs of school families. Private instrumental lessons should be provided by upperclassmen, at no cost, for the first few years. Eventually, many students will need a professional teacher, at which time the school must supplement the cost of lessons as a special benefit to encourage all families to participate equally, regardless of economic status. The percentage of the supplement is best determined through a formula based on economic need and faithfulness. (Typically, a school pays half the cost of individual lessons through a scholarship fund based on each individual student's practice and faithfulness-including faithfulness in giving lessons to younger players in the program.) This system exercises principles of gratefulness, servanthood, and generosity, both for the students taking lessons and for the students giving lessons.

Conclusion

Axiom 1: Everyone benefits from a good music program, so everyone shares equally in the expenses.

In the related article, “Program Development Fees: An Idea Whose Time Has Come,” I describe a funding strategy that passes all of the tests set out in the axioms listed in this article. While it is unpleasant to point out serious funding errors severely hurting today's music programs, it is even more unpleasant to think about what will happen if these habits are allowed to continue into the next generation and beyond. It is up to committed music teachers to effectively communicate funding strategies that will lead to future success. By God's grace, we WILL have exceptional music.

Rick Townsend teaches at Maranatha Baptist Bible College where he directs instrumental music and supervises the music teacher education program. Dr. Townsend earned his B.A. From Alma College, his M.Mus. from Central Michigan University, and his PhD from Michigan State University.





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THE BRASS SPACE
by Phil Norris

Once again, I have some summer listening and reading to do. Here are some of my recommendations. And as before, please send me your favorites (e-mail: pen@nwc.edu; phone: (651.631.5187). Enjoy!

Recordings

CD:

I don't have specific recommendations for audio CD, but I have a suggestion for all us brass players: listen to great singing of arias or art songs. Some singers to look for might include (Soprano) Barbara Bonney, Renee Fleming, Kiri Te Kanawa, or Dawn Upshaw and (Tenor) Jussi Bjorling or Fritz Wunderlich. You may have another favorite, but whomever you prefer, listening to and learning from great singers can only help your playing and musicianship.

DVD:

Georg Solti: In Rehearsal (ArtHaus Musik)- with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra of Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture and Berlioz's “Hungarian March” from Damnation of Faust in 1966 and 1968.

Mozart Requiem & Mass in C - John Eliot Gardiner (Philips, 1991). I watched this DVD recently, and the performances are on period instruments, and the interpretation is stunning.

Reading

I've been giving a great deal of thought to what's happening with worship in many of our churches right now. Here are a couple books that are excellent food for thought that draws on biblical principles as we consider worship issues in our churches. I believe that we musicians have an important responsibility to help lead our congregations in understanding the importance of maintaining integrity in worship: worship that flows from as well as to God, worship that reflects His character and nature in its various forms.

I recommend two books by Marva Dawn:

1) Reaching out without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture (Eerdmans, 1995). This book is a thorough consideration about worship and culture with an eye toward our technological, postmodern society along with outlining the essential attributes of true worship - worship that keeps God at the center, builds believers' character, and edifies the community. She covers music, preaching, Scripture reading, rituals, liturgies, art, and all the accoutrements of worship, and offers practical suggestions for choosing the best tools and forms to deepen worship life as well as how these things relate to outreach.

2) Royal "Waste" of Time: The Splendor of Worshipping God and Being Church for the World (Eerdmans, 1999) - this book follows Reaching Out without Dumbing Down to look at what might be the best tools and forms a church should consider.

As a source that gives perspective historically and theologically, David F. Wells is a trusted author.

David Wells: No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology (Eerdmans, 1993). Wells, and outstanding scholar-historian-theologian, gives excellent, insightful perspective to the history and current state of evangelicalism in America. If you'd like to better understand how things got to where they are today, this is a must-read.

Two summers ago, I recommended Harold Best's Unceasing Worship (InterVarsity Press), and if you've not read this book, it's STILL on my list of must-read books. I read it again this Spring.

Recap

If there's a message in this submission, it's that we all need to develop ourselves as complete persons, not just brass players or musicians. We need to be thinking about our lives as “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

Phil Norris is Professor of Music at Northwestern College in St. Paul since 1993. He holds the DMA from the University of Minnesota, MM/Trumpet, Northwestern University and the BME from Grace College. He is also a musician, teacher and elder in his local church.





THE PERCUSSION SPACE
by Billy Madison

Billy Madison has taught instrumental music in the Arkansas Public Schools for 18 years. He holds both the BME in Instrumental Music and the MM in Music Theory and Composition from Arkansas State University. He studied composition with Jared Spears and Tom O'Connor. Madison has played percussion with the Northeast Arkansas Symphony since 1978.
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BRASS BANDS IN BRITAIN
by Doug Smith


(Part three of an eleven-part series)

THE SOUND

In a conversation several years ago, a conductor who had experienced multiple successes as an American band director passed a supreme compliment onto a high school band that he had scored as “Superior” in a statewide concert band contest.  He characterized their performance as having “…a sweet, musical, rich sound, much like the British bands.”

What about the British (brass) bands?  If their sounds are indeed different from those that we hear in America-and they are!-why would we ever be justified in trying to emulate them?

The single word that seems to fit is “blend.”  Stated convincingly by Dick Arrand of the BRITISH MOUTHPIECE, November 1, 1980, “…the rich, balanced ensemble tone that we would all like to produce…. This exquisite beauty and richness of tone, rare as it is, has taken a hundred years to develop….”

According to the late Denis Wright in his monograph “Brass Colour Contrasts,” there are nine individual voices in the brass band, compared with thirteen for the symphony orchestra.  Whereas the orchestra thrives on the solo qualities of its various instruments, the brass band has as its first objective the melding together of the various subtle shades.

As for Americans trying to emulate that melding using present instruments, other Americans may not mind, but alas, such a group will never sound like the real thing either.  As one of England's top brass band conductors mentioned in a public lecture, “We don't take kindly to using trumpets in our brass bands.  The same goes for French horns.”

Besses O' Th' Barn Band

On an early September evening there was a rehearsal of the Besses O' Th' Barn (named after a local pub!) Band in their headquarters not far from Manchester.  Immediately before the adults began their rehearsal, youngsters from the “Besses Boy's Band” clamored down the narrow staircase, instrument cases in hand.  Soon the men took their places and those of us who came to observe took seats out of the way and settled down for a period of interested observation. 

One of the observers seemed more at home than the others, and he was anxious to let the rest of us know just how much of a brass band fan he actually was.  He was a fountain of insight.

“I work for Arnett Airlines, and so I can take very long trips for very reasonable fares.   I live in Australia, but I come back here nearly every year to hear these bands.

“I hear good groups-orchestras, wind bands, etc.,-in Australia.  In fact, I played French horn and clarinet when I was a young bloke, but there isn't ANYTHING in the world that compares with that big, beautiful (gesturing with his arms as if encircling a very large globe) warm sound that a good brass band makes.

“Most of you are from America.  Why are you interested in brass bands? We hear that your American wind bands are very good indeed.  Do you want to copy the British system in America? Why don't you build your own tradition?  Do you think you could ever match what they have been doing here for a hundred years?”

Every once in a while one of the visitors would try to enter the conversation, but to no avail.  This fellow was on his soap box, and he was not about to give it up.

“Whatever you do, or whatever we do in Australia, it will never quite match the glorious sound of a brass band like that (pointing toward the next room where the band was playing…)”

Unique Characteristics

The 1853 British Open Band contest, where the Mossley Temperance Band walked away with first prize playing all Adolphe Sax brasses, forever influenced the brass band tradition.  Their gently-flaring, conically-bored sax-horns have continued to characterize the sound of British Brass Bands to this day.

In addition to the instruments themselves, the characteristic blend is further enhanced by the simple positioning of the instruments.  Sax wanted the sounds from his brasses to enter the listener's ears indirectly.  He did that by building his bells vertically.  As for the bell-fronts, they were positioned so as to point across the stage toward each other, rather than toward the listener, thus assuring the British band sound.

Black Dyke Mills Band

With all the excellent bands within this tradition, can any be considered the standard of excellence?  Many who make a lifelong study of the competing bands would claim that the best of the group is the one representing a clothing manufacturer-Black Dyke Mills. Most band followers will tell you that no matter how many bands there are, the people in the stands and the judges in the adjudication box can always identify the magnificent sound of Black Dyke Mills, and yet reasons are difficult to pinpoint. One curious thing they felt was very important: In good weather they rehearsed outside in the open air.”

We wondered what most American band directors would think about that:  A national championship band doing serious rehearsing outdoors!  If that were true, the best concert band rehearsal with an American band should be the day after football season (assuming all the outside players and inside players were the same!)  Maybe the British brass bands do not measure up to our university groups. Don't count on it!

The Rehearsal Hall

Black Dyke did have an indoor rehearsal hall, upstairs over the John Foster & Sons Ltd. Display shop in the High Street of Queensbury.  Harold Nash, in a statement from the Autumn, 1975, issue of SOUNDING BRASS attempted to list several ingredients contributing to the success of Black Dyke:  “…the rather eccentric band room with the milking-type stools.”

The gifted players of that highly successful group considered the qualities of that room to be mystical-almost sacred.  The building itself was erected in 1855, and something over a hundred years later the board of directors for the clothing mill determined that it was becoming increasingly dilapidated, so they approached the band members with the offer of a brand new rehearsal hall.  “Just tell us what you want,” they said, “and it will be yours.”

After a lengthy discussion the men of the band said they did not want a new band room at all.  They were afraid that without their special acoustic, they might lose the edge that had kept them at the forefront of contesting for almost the entire history of the organization.

“But the building is sure to fall down!” the officials pleaded, to which the band members arrived at a verdict: “Rebuild the band room-if you must-but build it back just the way it is. Replace the mortar, but keep the beams and the bricks that have been so good for us.”

So they did!  They dismantled the small structure brick by brick, timber by timber, numbering each one as they went. After the foundation was reinforced, the building was reconstructed exactly as the mid-19th century originnal, now ready for another century or more of banding successes.  Some of the men even then said that acoustical qualities of the new mortar changed the band's sound slightly, but the architectural consultant heaved a great sigh of relief when the “Mighty Dyke” was announced as the 1981 “National Champion.”

Doug Smith is a Professor of Church Music at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville KY, where he has taught since 1975. His arrangements for various instrumental combinations have been published by DESPUB, Broadman Press, Theodore Presser, Lorenz, Hope Publishing Co., and several others. He holds the B.S. degree from Carson-Newman College, the M.M.E. from the University of North Texas and the D.M.A. from the University of Michigan.





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