Published on January 23rd, 2017 by gavin

REVIEW: AoBBA Test Piece Workshop

The Bailiff Bridge Community Centre near Brighouse was packed to capacity on Sunday 22nd January for the annual Association of Brass Band Adjudicators (AoBBA, not to be confused with ABBA which is something completely different!) lower section test piece workshop.

This workshop is a great opportunity for conductors and players of fourth, third and second section bands to get “inside the heads” of the men and women who will be in the box at the forthcoming Regional Championships. As always, it was an interesting insight into the thought processes of the people we often love to disagree with.

Nick Garman presented his thoughts on the Second Section test piece, Dean Goffin’s, Rhapsody in Brass; a very stern challenge for second section bands. This was followed by David Hirst sharing his thoughts on the third section test piece, Darkwood, by Dan Price.

It’s always interesting listening to David speak about music; he has a deep understanding and suggests where the nuances in the music can be exploited to enhance the overall performance.

Finally, it was the turn of Scotsman Alan Duguid who was introduced by AoBBA chairman Alan Morrison, as new to the ranks of adjudicators, to give his views on the set work for the fourth section, St Andrews Variations.

The discussion of this work by fellow countryman Alan Fernie, included a little of the history of the piece, which started out as a junior band composition with fewer variations before it was later re-scored and expanded to it’s current form.

If you could put money on one question being asked at this event, it would be about the use of percussion and this event was was no exception. One conductor of a band makde the point that St Andrews Variations calls for a drum kit player, plus two tuned percussionists; would the band be penalised if one of the parts was left out, because he only had one tuned percussion player?

We have been here before following the aptly titled, ‘Hollywoodgate’, with so much interest in this area that a few years ago, we conducted an interview with David Hirst on the importance of percussion (or lack of it) within the set works for such a contest.

The answers certainly aren’t black and white, but Alan Morrison responded that if it was noticed that parts were missing, the band may be marked down, however it wouldn’t necessarily stop the band getting placed as long as the standard of performance was good and after all, bands had been making the point for long enough, that percussionists were as much part of the team as any other player.

Percussion expert Simone Rebello was on hand to share her knowledge with tips and techniques to help conductors get the best from their percussion teams, ranging from choice of sticks to how to hold them and streamline changes between instruments (glockenspiel to timpani transitions in Darkwood for instance).

Indeed, conductors were encouraged to work with their percussion teams to explore what sounded “best” for the context of the piece: try using sticks on the glockenspiel to produce a softer sound rather than a hard bright sound in a dark passage of music for example.

The whole event was expertly supported by John Roberts and the team from the Unite the Union Band in Sheffield who no doubt, will be looking forward to getting back to Sheffield and getting stuck in to Land of the Long White Cloud as they begin their own preparations for Huddersfield in a few weeks.

–  By David Morris




Photos (c) Copyright 2017 David Morris

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