Monday, January 30, 2017

Down Under!

The South Gippsland Shire Brass Band
Leongatha, Victoria Australia

I continue my wandering around the web looking for a community brass band in Australia.  There appears to be a thriving brass band movement on the continent.  That brings a smile to my face.  I stumbled upon this group on you tube.  The South Gippsland Shire Brass Band has been around for over 120 years.  The group rehearses in the courthouse in Leongatha, and their mission is community entertainment.  Leongatha is about 85 miles Southeast of Melbourne or about 9,500 miles from where I am writing this post.  It is also 6:15 a.m. Tuesday, January 31, 2017 too.  

Check these links for more information about this group.

The musical performance in the video above is a medley of selections from the folk pop group "The Seekers."  I will be honest, I had zero idea who "The Seekers" were.  My knowledge of 1960's pop music is limited to the Beatles, Beach Boys, Monkees, Bob Dylan, and a few other artists.  Shame on me, I know, but when I was a growing up I listened to jazz, classical, and the country or pop music my parents enjoyed listening too like Johnny Cash, Herb Alpert, Roger Miller, Roy Clark, The Four Lads, Dave Major and the Minors to name a few.  I learned something new.

This arrangement by Stephen Duro is great music for a concert in the park.  The band plays the arrangement well, and you can see some heads bobbing along in time with the music.  If you visit their Facebook page you can see this group plays just about anywhere sharing their gift of music with their fellow citizens.  They also have a training band for those interested in learning to play music.  All I can say is nice work ladies and gentleman!  Thank you for sharing your music with us on the web.  

Friday, January 27, 2017

Plumbing Factory Brass Band

Plumbing Factory Brass Band of London, Ontario
Dr. Henry Meredith, Conductor

The Plumbing Factory Brass Band is a community group founded by Dr. Henry Meredith in 1995.  Meredith is a professor at Western Ontario University, an instrument collector and builder, and it seems a jack of all trades.  According to the web page: Dr. Meredith has approximately 3300 instruments of all kinds.  In the video above, Dr. Meredith plays a natural trumpet modeled after one from the 17th century that he built.

The PFBB is playing Old Comrades by Carl Teike.  Teike was an army bandsman in Germany and over the course of his career he wrote many marches and other concert works, but like many band composers of the late 19th and early 20th century they are largely forgotten by the general public.  Old Comrades is his most famous march, but several others have seen performance in recent years including:  The Officer Candidate March, Deutsche Art Marsch, and Graf Zeppelin.

The PFBB is a community ensemble with an age range of about 50 years or so.  This is an older video, but there appears to be young college students to community members in their early 80's.  The comments below the video on the actual You Tube page are very supportive of the performers.  The performance is far from perfect, but everyone is working hard and having a good time making music with each other.  I am sure Carl Teike, wherever he may be, is happy that someone is playing his music nearly 100 years after his death.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Across the pond to the United States

The Natural State Brass Band
Little Rock, Arkansas

Tonight, I found this video of the Natural State Brass Band, playing Gareth Woods, Brass Triumphant, at the Ft. Wayne Section 2 North American Brass Band Championship.  

You can find the Natural State Brass Band's homepage by using the link below.

This band was founded in 2003, according to their website.  All of the members are volunteers and they do have 501(c)(3) non-profit status.  They appear to perform between six and seven times per year, and they have traveled overseas.  In 2010 this group did a tour in Northern England, where they rehearsed in the Black Dyke Band's rehearsal room.

The piece they are performing is a four movement work written for the 125th anniversary of the Cory Band.  This was used as a test piece for the first section of the 2013 Regional British Band Championships.  It was also used as a test piece here in the States in 2015.  There are numerous solos, and the band must be able to play independently.  

If you are wondering about the name, the NSBB takes their name from the state of Arkansas' motto:  The Natural State.  The band rehearses in a Lutheran church and their conductor is a tuba player!  

This is a solid performance of the piece.  It is a shame the video has only seen around 700 views.  While listening to the performance, you should hear the personality of the band.  Each section has a character that is their own, particularly the trombones.  The made Woods' music their own.  There is a personal flair to it that makes it spicy and fun.  I really like the approach the conductor used with the work.  He collaborated with his band, allowing them to have room to be themselves.  I enjoy this type of music making as it allows the players to engage personally rather than for the conductor.  Enjoy! 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Rushden & Windmill Band

The Rushden & Windmill Band (1875-2014?)

According to the Internet Bandsman Everything Within website ( the Rushden & Windmill Band is no longer active.  

Community bands whether they are independently operated, supported by a company, club, or government agency are always at the mercy of the economy, musician availability, and of course creative management.  What led to the disappearance of this organization is unknown, but their music making lives on with a few videos on you tube.

This particular video is a performance of Sir Malcolm Arnold's The Padstow Lifeboat March Opus 94 (1967) at the 2012 Malcolm Arnold Festival.  This march is actually written for a Lifeboat Station (Coast Guard Station in US terms) on the Cornwall coast, where Arnold lived during this time.  

There is one unique sound throughout the march.  One should hear a diminished fifth played incredibly loud.  This is the pitch of the fog horn at the lifeboat.  There are three versions of this march all scored by the composer:  Brass Band, Concert Band, and Orchestra.  

My first hearing of the march was by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band when I was an undergraduate student in Illinois back in the late 1980's.  It was quirky and forgettable, as I was not into marches or community music then as I am now.  My second hearing of the march was by the Dallas Wind Symphony in the late 1990's while I was teaching.  I always liked Malcolm Arnold's music, but it was not until my early 30's that I recognized why his music had a lot of popularity with audiences (The melodies.)  I revisited all of the Grimethorpe discography and due to my advancing years I really enjoyed the artistry in the e-flat and b-flat cornets (clarinets and flutes) in the wind band.  

This performance is far from clean.  It is over conducted.  Balance is an issue, but some of that is video quality.  I imagine this concluded the performance as you can hear the cornets struggling to play the high notes as the endurance and technical facility of the march require a lot of work.  I still like the performance though.  The music performance is honest, raw, and it is by members of the community who like music, and they do this for the joy of making music.  The imperfections make it feel human.  I'm sure the players enjoyed a pint afterwards and gave each other a hard time for a fracked note or for their intonation too.  Therein lies some of the spirit of community music making.  It brings people together to socialize, to entertain, and to create something greater than oneself.  This is a challenging march for brass bands, and I like the fact they are pushing themselves to be better through this work.

I encourage you my fellow readers to listen to the other versions of the march.  Enjoy!