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Band

histories and analysis Thomas P Swatland, @00027703 BA (Hons) Music, Year 3 University of Salford The brass band movement (in its modern form as we see it today) saw its first light of day in the early 19th century, growing arguably as a part of the industrial revolution that took place in Great Britain. The industrialization produced a large working class population and also saw the possibility of mass production, thus making it possible for miners and factory workers to get hold of inexpensive musical instruments, and get together off-the-clock to make music. This was happening all over the country, and before long (ca. 1840-50) the movement had grown to include almost 10,000 brass instrumentalists. Naturally, with that amount of amateur bands and musicians in the country, some competition was called for to rate the best bands in the country. The first national brass band contest was held at Belle Vue, Manchester (now known as the British Open held annually in Birmingham) in 1853. In the early stages of brass band contesting there werent any test-pieces as such written for the medium, the bandleaders would take older works held in high regard and transcribe them to fit the brass band. These works mainly concerned operatic overtures, excerpts from large-scale symphonies and masses. Around the turn of the 20th century, the brass band movement had flourished furiously, and the contesting scene grew with it. In September 1913, over 100,000 people packed into the Crystal Palace pleasure gardens to hear over 100 bands, whose members had travelled from all parts of the country to compete for five trophies in the thirteenth National Brass Band Festival.1 With this growth in popularity came the demand for composers to write original music for the brass band medium, and most famous of these is Percy Fletcher, whose Labour and Love of 1913 marked the start of a transition from contest selections to later and more creative pieces.2 Fletcher stuck to the traditional form of the music that preceded it, shaping the piece like an operatic selection, aiming to story the work around the life of a working class man. One of the most prolific composers (and of course musician!) was the late Eric Ball. His contributions to the brass band movement, be it Salvation Army or contesting bands, cannot be overlooked. His most profound work is undoubtedly his Resurgam (I Shall Rise Again). The piece was dedicated to his sister-in-law, Elsie Dorsett, whom he nicknamed Elsa affectionately. Elsa died of tuberculosis at the young age of 25, and the score has the following quotation from the Book of Wisdom: The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, And no torment shall touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died; Their departure was accounted to be their hurt, And their journeying away from us to be their ruin: But they are in peace.


1 Herbert, Trevor, The British Brass Band A Musical and Social History, (Oxford, Oxford

University Press, 2000) 2 Newsome, Roy, Brass Roots, (Ashgate, 1998)

Band histories and analysis Thomas P Swatland, @00027703 BA (Hons) Music, Year 3 University of Salford Growing up around this era was Gilbert Vinter. Vinter spent most of his life writing and performing light music, and dedicated his days of composing for brass band to experimenting with rhythms and musical flavour, going against all the norms that had characterized the music up until then. He added tuned percussion to the score, and introduced a wider range of muted effects to make the band sound more colourful. Organ-like, homogeneous scoring was no longer the only way to write for brass band. This new approach to sound was realized by arrangers and composers alike.3 Variations on a Ninth (1964) is a composition that clearly has its foundations in Vinters light music background, with romantic melodies and Caribbean rhythms in abundance. The piece, like Symphony of Marches, was met with more than a few raised eyebrows, but it is testament to the longer lasting appeal of Vinters music that it is now an accepted addition to the repertoire. In this piece, many different emotions are present, with the music changing between optimistic, wistful, serious, idyllic, whimsical and jubilant throughout the variations. Vinter further expands the range of harmonic vocabulary for the Brass Band in this piece, and it becomes clear that this composer is no flash in the pan, as many, Im sure, dismissed him. During the early 1960s the Brass Band repertoire was widely conceived as being very stagnant with most of a Brass Bands library being made up of original works from the earlier part of the twentieth century, and orchestral arrangements. Music for contests was coming mostly from the pen of Frank Wright and others like him in the form of orchestral arrangements (Berlioz was among the most popular), as well as new music by Eric Ball (the only real forward thinking composer in the movement). Older original works were also used. However, original music for Brass Band, despite the work of Eric Ball and suchlike, was still some eighty or ninety years behind mainstream classical music harmonically, rhythmically, and stylistically speaking and had fallen into a bit of a rut. Gilbert Vinters orchestral, military, wind band and light music experience, meant that not only did he have a vast knowledge of texture and tone colour, but he also had a good understanding for what the public would want to hear. However, in the same motion, he also introduced daring new harmonies, rhythms and styles into Brass Band music, thus gaining attention as a pioneer. Vinter was also the first composer to really use mutes to alter the sound, tone and texture of brass instruments. Reminiscent of Gilbert Vinter, both in the regularity of the appearance of new works and in the way each one seems to develop from its predecessor, Wilby leads band constantly into new musical territories. Technical demands are usually very high and he often injects spatial elements into the music, demanding that players move to different positions on the stage. In Dove Descending a recording of a blackbird singing is required for the work. He describes his Revelation as a Symphony for Double Brass and calls for a special seating formation.4


3 Herbert, Trevor, The British Brass Band A Musical and Social History, (Oxford, Oxford

University Press, 2000) 4 Newsome, Roy, The Modern British Brass Band: from the 1930s to the new millennium, (Ashgate, 2006)

Band histories and analysis Thomas P Swatland, @00027703 BA (Hons) Music, Year 3 University of Salford Philip Wilby has embraced a view of the musical past of the band movement with perhaps the greatest sense of purpose. He has strong convictions about the place and purpose of the composer.5 Philip Wilby was born in Pontefract, England in 1949. His interest in composition came to life while attending extra-curricular composition classes led by Herbert Howells, while playing violin in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. During his years at Keble College, Oxford, he developed a serious commitment to composition, and gained a B Mus in 1971. His music writing continued even while working as a professional violinist (first at Covent Garden and later with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra). In 1972 Wilby returned to Yorkshire, and took up the position as Principal Lecturer of Composition at the University of Leeds. In recent years, Wilby has established a very significant reputation in the field of brass band and wind band music. In 1990 he received his first commission for brass band, the result being The New Jerusalem for the National Youth Brass Band. The piece was an instant success, and led to further commissions. Wilby is probably most famous for his involvement of themes and quotes from works by the old masters like Mozart, Paganini, Verdi, Purcell and Vivaldi, thus providing nostalgia and familiarity while introducing new musical ideas and challenging lines for the players. One example of this comes from his Paganini Variations, referring to Caprice no. 24 by the great violin soloist and virtuoso Niccolo Paganini.

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Paganini Variations was the result of a commission by the BBC for their Band of the Year 1991, the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. In the opening statement, a sense of excitement is provided from the very first bar. His use of triplets and legatos going in to straight quavers in bar 2 captures the listeners interest from the word go. Also, the first bar and the first quaver of the second bar are all in unison, before branching out more and more before ending on a C7 chord (in Bb pitch).
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Here we see the tonality Wilbys going with. In the duet in bar 3 the cornets move chromatically a minor 3rd apart. The sequence is repeated from bar 5, only a tone up and this time the solo cornets are a perfect 4th apart.

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5 Herbert, Trevor, The British Brass Band A Musical and Social History, (Oxford, Oxford

University Press, 2000)

Band histories and analysis Thomas P Swatland, @00027703 BA (Hons) Music, Year 3 University of Salford The first taste of the Paganini theme comes at bar 15, then lower brass (baritones, euphoniums and basses) play the following:
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Again, the theme is unison but followed by a dense chord involving Eb, G and A (Bb pitch). This is characteristic of Wilbys music, and aids the music in keeping a high intensity throughout his pieces. The main theme is introduced for the first time fully as a euphonium solo in bar 17. Having just the one player perform the melody, the accompaniment stays mostly silent. After the first 8 bars Wilby uses stabbing notions in the trombone and bass sections. The theme is altered into 15 variations, going through all sorts of colours with muted effects and chord progressions, creating white hot intensity and testing the players on all levels. This was Wilbys first test piece, so although he utilizes percussion gear like tubular bells, tom toms and tambourine, he hasnt quite set off down the path of exploration in the ways of percussion just yet. In 1993 Philip Wilby wrote a centenary tribute to Verdis last opera Falstaff. The piece was given the title Masquerade, and was commissioned for the 1993 British Open Brass Band Championships. The basis for the piece is taken from and inspired by the final scene of Verdis opera, when Falstaff has been caught lying. The composer writes in the score: Falstaff has been caught in a web of his own lies by the ladies of the town, who propose to teach him a lesson. The story opens at night in Windsor Great Park. The plotters, variously disguised in Halloween fashion, assemble in the park to await Falstaffs arrival (musicologists will perhaps note a rare use of large bottle in F being used during this scene of suppressed alcoholic revelry!) In this test piece he has interwoven the music of Verdi, and the plot of Shakespeares play to pay homage to the tradition of standard operatic brass band repertoire. Bear in mind this operatic tribute doesnt necessarily mean Wilby doesnt engage in the use of percussion and chords and rhythms that are slightly askew!

Band histories and analysis Thomas P Swatland, @00027703 BA (Hons) Music, Year 3 University of Salford The opening from Masquerade is quite similar to the one of Paganini Variations:

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The Soprano cornet and 3 of the 4 solo cornets play the second bar, the solo cornets Already here Philip Wilby starts experimenting with different sounds and possibilities,

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playing a crunching chromatic descending line of triplets joined by the top solo cornet in bar 3. introducing a bottle to the percussion parts. Again he makes use of the tambourine, timpani and side drum, and here he has also written a short solo for triangle! Revelation was a test piece that certainly gained instant success. Written in 1995, it marked the tercentenary of the death of Henry Purcell, and was written as a tribute to his music and the spirit of his age. The piece is split up into 5 major sections: 1 Prologue 2 Variations on a ground bass I 3 Fugue 4 Variations on a ground bass II 5 Epilogue and Resurrection The score uses many features of the Concerto Grosso from the baroque era, and the composer has split up the band in two equal choirs. Revelation quotes freely from Purcells own piece Three Parts on a Ground in which he has composed a brilliant sequence of variations over a repeating six-note bass figure. The original motif can be heard clearly beneath the duet for Cornet and Soprano at the beginning of the second section:

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As the title suggests there is a religious dimension to the piece, and lines by the 17th century poet John Donne preface. His Holy Sonnet paraphrases the Book of Revelation in which the dead are raised at the sounds of the last trumpet. At the round Earths imagined corners, blow your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise from death, you numberless infinities Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go. All whom the flood did, and fire shall oerthrow All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies, Despair, law, chance hath slain, and you whose eyes Shall Behold God, and never taste deaths woe. John Donne After Revelation Ch. 11 v.15

Band histories and analysis Thomas P Swatland, @00027703 BA (Hons) Music, Year 3 University of Salford In Revelation, Wilby starts to expand the use of percussion. He writes for two bass drums, two triangles, tam-tam and vibraphone, as well as the standard cymbals, snare drum and timpani. Quite early in the piece Wilby specifies that the suspended cymbal should be played with wire brushes. Here, as with Paganini Variations and Masquerade, he makes use of the quick rhythms combined with close, dissonant chords. An example is a semiquaver passage between cornets 1, 2, 3 and 4:

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So, as we see, Philip Wilby has made an enormous contribution to the ever-expanding world of brass band composition, especially with regards to test pieces. Although Gilbert Vinter gets much of the credit (and rightly so!) for the evolution of tonality and use of percussion in the brass band movement, Philip Wilby has followed in his footsteps. Many musicians will agree that due to the nature of the brass band and the instruments involved, the sound colour and texture can often come across as being monotonous and boring. But by pushing boundaries and crossing lines, Philip Wilby ensures that there is always something new and exciting about his music, and that the sound of a brass band is far from as monotonous as some people claim. Music is constantly evolving, and one can only but wait to see where it will next take us.

Band histories and analysis Thomas P Swatland, @00027703 BA (Hons) Music, Year 3 University of Salford APPENDIX Major works for Brass Band by Philip Wilby 1991 1992 1993 1995 1999 2006 2010 BIBLIOGRAPHY Bainbridge, C. (1980) Brass Triumphant, Frederick Muller Ltd. Herbert, T. (ed.) (2000) British Brass Band A Musical and Social History, The, Oxford University Press Herbert, T. (ed.) (1991) Popular Music in Britain Bands, Oxford University Press Newsome, R. (1992) Beyond the Bandstand, Caron Publications Taylor, A. (1979) Brass Bands, Granada Publishing Ltd. Paganini Variations Lowry Sketchbook Masquerade Revelation BBC Band of the Year commission National Finals commission British Open Championships commission British Open Championships commission British Open Championships commission British Open Championships commission For Black Dyke Band at the 2010 EBBC

Dove Descending Vienna Nights Red Priest