Personal Development

International Brass Band Summer School

It feels like a life time ago now. On the week beginning the 30th July – I travelled straight up to Swansea on return from my band Tour in Brugges. I arrived half 1 in the morning ready for an 8 O’ clock start.

The course is ran by professor Nicholas Childs, Musical Director of the Black Dyke Mills Band. The tutors are from the top brass bands – a mixture of Cory and Black Dyke. I was under the expert tuition of Dr. Brett Baker who is the acclaimed best trombonist in the Brass Band world. Delegates come to Swansea from about 15 different countries all of them well distinguished in their trade. The composer in residence was Paul Lovett-Cooper, the man who’s composition “vitae aeturnum” inspired me to pick up my degree.

We are split in to two bands, Prestige and Sovereign. Brett decided that It would be a good idea for me to sit on first chair alongside my girlfriend, A decision he may well have regretted after the first day! However, sitting alongside Lauren meant that we could work very well as a section. Sure enough, it worked! As musicians we could read each other like books.

On the Wednesday we had a small entertainment contest, we are split in to 3 bands and deliver a 20 minute programme which is then adjudicated by two of the course tutors. My band the “Brighouse Blowers” played four pieces, the first of which was a Norwegian folk piece called “Pseudo Yoke” the second was an original composition of mine called “Funk Avenue” the third was “Baggy Trousers” and the fourth was a beautiful melody full of reflection. I just can’t remember the name! The band played well but we didn’t have time to perfect the programme as a result my piece sounded a bit messy but it was covered by the relentless beating of the percussion! I will try and upload a video score of funk avenue for you.

Thursday – rehearsals are in full swing for the Friday evening concert, I had a one to one lesson with Brett who helped me with my tone on the trombone. We also had a conducting session with the trombone sections of the combined bands. Where we would stand in front of a semi circle of 16 trombones, it felt like being put in front of the firing squad at dawn! But they are such a nice group of people from all backgrounds. We all head to Verdi’s ice cream and Italian Pizzaria in the afternoon before heading back to our evening site reading class.

Friday is the day of the concert so we have chance to Q and A with the tutors in the morning, however I had caught fire with a composition I started last year so I missed the Q and As to work on my Olympus suite. In the afternoon we had rehearsal for the big gig both bands were in fine voice and so after rehearsal we had some food and freshened up ready for the concert.

The concert went incredibly, my band performed works from Alan Fernie, Hans Zimmer and of course Paul Lovett-Cooper. We then left the stage for the other band to take the next half before all 120 delegates joined together for our massed band set which featured the liberty Bell, a Goff Richards arrangement of Crimond and a truly remarkable rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “March Slave” the concert was received well and there wasn’t a single face without a smile afterwards. After the concert is the party of the year, I don’t need to say the events that unfolded that night other then waking up with pink glittery hair, fully dressed sporting my finest pattern on pattern Hawaiian clothing in my girlfriends room who didn’t look best pleased!

It was a fantastic week in which I learned so much that I can take back to my own band in Wadhurst to teach them and hopefully further the bands cause. We have a busy schedule ahead Eastbourne Bandstand, a wedding, the start of the poppy appeal launch and then in November of course the 100 years anniversary of the ending of the vulgar “great war” hopefully, with what I learned in Swansea – we can give that poor generation of soldiers an anniversary fit for heros!


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