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A big shout-out is due to Paul Fears for his input and expertise regarding the “new look” and for encouraging me to be myself.

Thanks for your patience and I hope you enjoy reading the Blogs and the new look for the site.

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What’s that funny looking thing sticking out of the end of your trumpet?

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I was at Llys Prês, a Cardiff-based instrument repair workshop the other day, and found myself taking a keen interest in the wide variety of tools that Denis Wedgewood had at his disposal. He patiently answered all my innocent (perhaps naïve) questions as to why that was a certain size or this was a particular shape and why he needed 3 or 4 very similar looking tools to complete a certain job, however I left the premises with no more skill; these things come under the heading of D.I.Y. – Don’t Involve Yourself, but certainly far more informed and enlightened as a result.

This then made me think about my own job and the tools that I have to use and I remembered Mrs. Wife asking me similar questions about playing the trumpet. One such question was regarding the “funny things you stick in the end of your trumpet” and what was the point of it all, so this has prompted me to explain a little to those of you who don’t know either.

These “things” are actually called mutes and their function is to change the tone and sound of the instrument, so as to create a variety of effects, moods and timbres to the music.

There are a multitude of mutes available on the market nowadays, with manufacturers constantly striving to develop unique, newer or improved products, so in the Blog I will cover the main mutes used by most trumpet players, however there will be many that I have left out due to the myriad out there.

The Straight mute – This is the most commonly used by players, but there are variations even for this type, as they can be made of metal, wood, fibre and plastic and have distinctly different sounds.

Straight Mute (Metal)

Straight Mutes (Metal) – The mute on the left is for a PiccoloTrumpet and the one on the right is a standard sized one.

Straight Mute (Plastic)

Straight Mute (Plastic)

Fibre Straight Mute

Straight Mute (Fibre)

The Cup mute – This as its name suggests, has a cup shape and makes the sound much mellower and softer. Some cup mutes have a moveable cup that slides closer to, or away from the bell of the trumpet, in order to change the tone slightly.

Cup Mute

Cup Mute

The Harmon mute – The Harmon mute is another mute where the tone can be altered, using a movable stem. The general tone is quite “nasal” and constricted and this is often used to portray a trumpet playing distantly. The further out you pull the stem, the darker the tone gets until you can actually remove it completely.

Harmon Mute (Stem in)

Harmon Mute (Stem in)

Harmon Mute (Stem removed)

Harmon Mute (Stem removed)

The Bucket Mute – This clips on to the bell of the instrument and is lined with a soft padding. This absorbs most of the brightness of tone, making the music sound muffled.

Bucket Mute

Bucket Mute

There are many more mutes, as I have already mentioned; such as the Plunger mute, the Solo-tone and a Practise Mute (designed to keep your neighbours happy when you start ripping through the Haydn Trumpet Concerto at 2.30 in the morning!), but I hope that this gives you an insight to these “things”, commonly known as mutes.

For more information about Andrew Jones and Music for You, please visit www.andrewjonesmusic.com

What music do I have for a Civil Wedding Ceremony?

Music for Civil Weddings

For many, the traditional Wedding Ceremony held in a Church or Chapel, is now longer relevant or practical for couples getting married, particularly if you have very strong thoughts on religion, or perhaps if it is your second time round.

In the past, if you decided not to go down the “traditional” route, your only option was to hold the Ceremony at your local Registrar Office, but over the last few years, there are increasingly diverse options in terms of the venues that hold licences to host Wedding Ceremonies. These can range from Hotels to Country Houses or from Lighthouses to education establishments. In fact Mrs. Wife and I were married in the Undercroft at the fantastic Cardiff Castle!

The Undercroft at Cardiff Castle

The Undercroft at Cardiff Castle

Having the Ceremony at these venues is great, as you are free to design your dream wedding, however this throws up the issue of what music you have. What does the Bride walk in to for her “grand entrance”?  Clearly there is no church or chapel organ and the only other option is the dreaded CD player or house PA (if there is one).

The latter option may be nice and cheap/free, but it has as much soul and vitality as a corpse! LIVE music however, will certainly guarantee to get the tears rolling (for all the right reasons!), the hairs on the back of your neck stood up on end and goose-bumps galore.

Brides – Regardless of whether you have a bold and triumphant fanfare, or a calm and serene entrance, you want it to be special, meaningful and most importantly – memorable! Only LIVE music can achieve this, creating the right mood and ambience for the rest of the proceedings and it will be one of the best decisions you make regarding your “big day”.

Let’s face it; the entrance of the Bride is the first and most eagerly awaited moment of the day – so make it a good one!

Needless to say, Clare (my Wife) entered our Wedding to the sounds of the Fanfare Trumpets of The Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh and the rest of the music was provided by the Music for You Brass Quintet. “Unforgettable!” Not my words, but of my new Wife and so many of the guests who attended that day.

Our Wedding Day at Cardiff Castle

Our Wedding Day at Cardiff Castle

For more details on music for your Civil Wedding Ceremony, please contact Andrew on 07973 869621 or visit http://www.andrewjonesmusic.com/weddingmusic.html

All in a day’s work. The things we musicians sometimes take for granted, but shouldn’t!

On Friday night, I will once again join my colleagues from the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh for an engagement that we undertake some  6 or 7 times each year . It’s a particular job that has been in the Band Diary for around 30 years or more and the players are now seasoned veterans – excuse the pun! – in carrying out their duties.

Within approximately an hour of the job finishing, I will join my friends in the local pub to become a part of the Welsh Nation’s passion and some might say, obsession, in watching our brave “Warriors” go head to head with other “warriors” from other countries.

The job I refer to of course, is the Welsh Rugby International fixtures at the Principality Stadium (formerly Millennium Stadium) and this Friday, Wales take on “Les Bleus” – France, in the latest round of the Six Nations Championships. In addition to this tournament, we also perform at the Autumn Internationals.

The Band is honoured and privileged to perform the pre-match music, accompanying the guest choirs in the old pot-boilers such as “Cwm Rhondda”, “Delilah” and “Hymns and Arias”, before leading the 72,000+ crowd in the singing of the National Anthems prior to the game kicking-off.

There is no prouder moment for a Welshman or Woman, than to sing “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” at the Stadium, but to be able to perform it on the hallowed turf (well hybrid turf now) stood just feet away from sporting legends, like Leigh Halfpenny, Alun Wyn Jones, Shane Williams, Martin Williams, Scott Gibbs and many more over the years, it is hugely special.

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Most of the locals in my pub know me (mainly because I turn into a raving lunatic, shouting at the TV for the duration of a game) and that I play in the Regimental Band, however there is never a match day that goes by, without a visitor to the pub, interrogating me to the last detail to try and prove that I “couldn’t possibly have been standing on the pitch just under an hour ago”! The security wrist-band on my ummmm……. wrist, usually clinches the deal and for the next few minutes I am quizzed with great zeal about who I saw, who I was stood near, did I get to speak to the players, what was the atmosphere like etc. etc.

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Like most members of the Band, I regard playing at the Stadium with a fairly casual “just another gig” approach, but when I see and hear other peoples’ enthusiasm for what I have just been a part of, I have to stop and take stock of how very lucky we are, to have experienced that thrill – not just once – but some half a dozen occasions each year.

We are truly blessed as musicians, to have jobs that bring opportunities, amazing experiences and memories that last for a lifetime. Just anther gig? Maybe not!

Millennium Stadium

 

The Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh performing the Welsh National Anthem – “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”/”Land of My Fathers” prior to the 6 Nations fixture versus Scotland (February 2016).

https://www.facebook.com/BBCWalesSport/videos/10153876944407114/

For further information about joining the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh, please contact (07973) 869621 or (02920) 781293

The Monday Morning Mention – Part 2

For those of you who read my Monday Morning Mention post a few weeks ago , praising the efforts of the Welsh brass bands who became National Champions, I’m going to risk sounding repetitive now, I’m going to risk sounding repetitive now – sorry! – and reiterate my sentiments, but with one slight, but significant amendment.

Whilst the focus of discussion at the photo-copier this morning, will undoubtedly be on the Welsh rugby team’s inability to see off 13-man Australia in the Rugby World Cup and the wonderful achievement of the national football team in making its first major championships in over 50 years, I will champion the cause of our wonderful brass once again and highlight the fact that Wales also starts the week with not three, but FOUR National Champions now.

Congratulations to the Cory Band who, under the baton of their conductor Philip Harper, have once again won the National title at the Royal Albert Hall, performing Thomas Doss’s fiendishly difficult work “Spiriti”.

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Having been privileged to have performed on the Contest platform as a guest player with the Band earlier this year, I have had an insight into the effort that it takes to perform at the highest level and believe me, it borders on being scary! During that intense period of rehearsals, my Wife said to me “This brass band lark is a bit obsessive, isn’t it?” Perhaps there was more than an ounce of truth in that statement, but it goes to show how much effort and commitment went in to trying to win that competition!

It would be remiss also not to acknowledge the achievements of another Welsh outfit and my former Band – Tredegar Town Band – who came 5th at the same competition. A great day for Welsh brass bands indeed.

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(Tredegar Town Band at the Royal Albert Hall, London in the 1990’s.)

So, yet another big shout out this Monday morning for the unsung heroes of Usk, Ebbw Valley, Goodwick and now Cory, who are now National Brass Champions of Great Britain, in Sections 4, 2 ,1 and Championship Sections respectively.

Rugby? What rugby match?

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(The Cory Band performing at the 2015 European Brass Band Championships in Freiburg, Germany.)

Dispelling myths and preconceptions

On Sunday 4th October, Music for You made its début as an exhibitor in the world of Wedding Fayres.

The venue was the lovely Miskin Manor Hotel, near Llantrisant (which is on my door-step as it happens), however getting to the point where I was ready to bite the bullet and “go public” as an exhibitor had taken an extremely long time. The main worry was that I didn’t have snazzy enough marketing materials, glitzy banners and corporate wear and all the things that makes a self-employed sole-trader feel small and inadequate amongst all the established “bit-hitters” in the wedding industry.

My fears thankfully were unfounded, as all my fellow exhibitors were very helpful and generous with their compliments and advice, with lots of top tips to take away for future events – yes, to paraphrase Arnie “I’ll be back!” For a first time out, I felt I managed to “keep up with the Joneses” and the feedback was extremely positive, both from the exhibitors and visitors to the Fayre.

Once I had finally set up the stand, it was then down to the serious business of engaging, pardon the pun, with future brides, grooms and extremely worried looking parents (seeing their savings being rapidly blown by their daughters!) to try to persuade them of the merits of live music for their Wedding celebrations.

My main focus, was to try to promote the brass quintet, as this has so much versatility on a number of levels, particularly the musical repertoire it can offer. The quintet comprises two Trumpets, a French Horn, a Trombone and Tuba. What struck me instantly, was that the people I spoke to instantly assumed that brass instruments were either loud, brash, “in your face” and rather uncouth for a wedding and that the “noise” would be rather unrefined to say the least.

Thankfully, I was able to persuade all of the doubters to invest 30 seconds of their time and listen to some You Tube samples, notably Pachelbel’s Kanon performed by the quintet. My reward? My reward was the look of total delight and surprise on the faces of the future brides, quickly followed by “Mum, listen to this – it’s beautiful!”

So, the as the old saying goes “Don’t knock it, until you’ve tried it” rings true and I hope that my maiden voyage at  a wedding fayre, will produce some new “converts”, who at some point in the near future will actually book us for their very special day! Even if they don’t, they will now be aware of the wide range of colours and timbres that brass instruments can produce.

For more details about Music for You and our wedding music, please visit our web-site.

The Music for You Wedding Fayre stand

The Music for You Wedding Fayre stand

The Monday morning mention

The Welsh Nation will start another working week and the hot topic around the water cooler and by the photo-copier, will be the win against Uruguay and the massive upset caused by Japan against the South Africans in the Rugby World Cup.
Whilst on a totally different “playing field” – sorry couldn’t resist that – Wales also starts the week with THREE, yes 3 National Champions , from the world of brass bands.
Big deal huh? Yes, it was a massive deal, as each band had to qualify from it’s respective Region in the UK (typically a field of 10+ competitors) and then beat around 18/19 other bands in the Finals.

The amount of personal preparation, hours of endless practice and self-sacrifice, including financial, might not be on an exact par with the rugby players -it’s certainly a lot safer, that’s for sure! – but the achievement is just as hard-earned and means the world to those involved. This is all the more remarkable, given the standards of performance achieved and the fact that brass banding is an amateur pastime.

So, a big shout out this Monday morning for the unsung heroes of Usk, Ebbw Valley and Goodwick who are now National Brass Champions of Great Britain, in Sections 4, 2 and 1 respectively. This was their Rugby World Cup and if you’re from their area, tell everyone at the water cooler and by the photo-copier, because you’ll have something extra to smile about this morning!

For those of you interested in reading more, go to 4barsrest to see what goes on in the world of banding.

The Last Week of June

This a great article by Howard Snell, discussing life after Music College and the first steps into the “real world” for a would-be musician.

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is a week when I always briefly look back. My first ‘last week of June,’ was in 1956 when my career as a musician started if only because my time as a student ceased. In truth, my career didn’t start: nothing happened. I wasn’t prepared for reality, so it seemed less than nothing, if that were possible.

Those were different days. Not the slightest advice was available or offered to the young. Only a few excerpt books were available to a would-be orchestral musician … Richard Strauss and nothing else that I can remember. ‘Excerpts’ from the orchestral repertoire did not figure in lessons except if the student took a piece in that was listed for an Academy concert, while the practice diet was a meagre ration of studies and pieces with the Haydn and one or two scraps of modern concerti thrown in. How changed things are now. I…

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The Friday Factoid – Bands and Orchestras have always had conductors, correct?

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Bands and orchestras have always had a Conductors. Correct? Sorry, not so!

Nowadays, we are used to seeing conductors, standing in front of their ensemble waving their baton enthusiastically and leading their musicians, hopefully with the common goal of delivering a first-rate performance, but historically they have been a relatively new introduction to the musical world.

In time gone by, it was commonplace for an ensemble to be led or directed by the Leader of the orchestra, who would give all the necessary cues whilst playing and the same would apply when soloists played concertos and they would also lead from the front.

The next stage in the evolution of conductors came with the use of a staff or rod, that was hit on the floor to mark time. This was particularly popular during the 17th Century, but had its drawbacks! Take for instance the case of French Composer, Jean Baptiste Lully, who died from gangrene, having struck his foot with his long conducting staff during a performance of his “Te Deum“. Who could have imagined that being a conductor was so dangerous? 

Believe it not, it wasn’t until 1820 when the use of a baton by a conductor in the British Isles was first recorded. This honour fell to the German musician Louis (Ludwig) Spohr, who in his own words stated:

“Quite alarmed at such novel procedure some of the Directors would have protested against it; but when I besought them to grant me at least one trial, they became pacified. The triumph of the baton as a time-giver was decisive, and no one was seen again seated at the pianoforte during the performance of Symphonies and Overtures”.

There are many musicians that might argue, that they play better without a conductor, however the like of Gergiev, Abbado and Karajan have inspired some of the greatest performances ever heard, so they must be doing something right!

For more information about Andrew Jones as a Conductor, please visit www.andrewjonesmusic.com 

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The unsung “Champions” on our doorstep

In an earlier blog, I wrote about exploring “new horizons” and doing something different, in order to “spice things up” in one’s career.

Since writing that, I have been very lucky to have been given yet another opportunity to push the boundaries, but this time it’s not a new experience, but one however that has challenged me (in every sense) to the very limit and given me a much deeper appreciation, of the standard of music-making that goes on around us, on a day-to-day basis, much of it unacknowledged and without suitable recognition.

My musical upbringing was in the brass band movement, learning to play the Cornet aged 7, with the Crwbin Silver Band. With just 2 pubs, 2 chapels and a church in my home village in the Gwendraeth Valley, there wasn’t much for a young person to do, so joining the local band seemed the obvious thing to do, especially as my Father, Uncle and Cousins were already playing in it.

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Where it all began – Crwbin Silver Band c.1974 (I’m the one sat in front of the bass drum)

I remember my first competition with them, was at the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea in 1976 on Edward Gregson’s “Voices of Youth”. Having performed in the 4th Section, I recall spending the rest of the day, not only sitting, gazing at the fantastic murals on the walls of this fantastic venue (some might disagree), but listening in awe to the bands in the Championship Section tackling Gilbert Vinter’s “Spectrum”. Names like Parc & Dare, Tredegar and Cory led by Ieuan Morgan, Bram Gay and John Childs.

These names were for me, the equivalent of Chelsea and Mourinho and Manchester United and Van Gaal for a young kid today. Superstars and demigods whose skills and talents were of a different planet to mine. The music too, was also of a “language” that I was totally unfamiliar with, yet there was something about “Pageantry”, “Variations for Brass Band” and “Contest Music”, that caught my ear and made me thirsty to hear more and more.

Little did I know at the time, that listening to these and future performances in that Hall over the coming years would shape and influence my dreams and ambitions for the future. I certainly never expected things to have panned out as they have now.

Fast forward approximately 40 years and I have had the great honour and pleasure of not only having played for Parc and Dare and Tredegar at the National Championships, the British Open and European Championships, but also conducted both bands in concerts and competitions, attempting in some small measure to follow in the footsteps of those icons who were my childhood heroes.

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Parc and Dare Band – 2014

The scrapbook will this weekend be somewhat more complete however, as I take to the stage of the European Brass Band Championships in Freiburg, Germany, performing as a guest player with the Cory Band, where they will compete with bands from England, Norway, Belgium to name but a few, to win the coveted title.

The circumstances for being invited to play are extremely sad but that aside, I am extremely excited (yes, even aged 40 something I can still get animated about my music-making!) to be performing at one of the premier events in the brass band calendar.

Each band performs a test-piece (this year written by Rolf Rudin entitled “The God Particle”) on the Friday evening, then the following day return to play an own-choice work. The aggregate points awarded for each performance will then decide who is the victor. Having been a former Champion and the No.1 ranked brass band in the world for the past 8 or so years, it’s safe to say that Cory are in with a shout at least! Not that they are taking that as a God-given (sorry, no pun intended!) right to win the title. It will be down to good old-fashioned hard graft, blood, sweat and a few tears perhaps.

In the last few weeks, since trying to get to grips with “The God Particle” and the other work (I can’t tell you what it is, as it’s highly classified information!) I have been reminded of the amazing standards and levels of commitment that our nation’s brass bands are capable of. Listening to them perform is one thing, however, when you’re at the coal-face and getting stuck in as a player, one instantly can appreciate the intensity of concentration and sheer effort given to every single note produced during those rehearsals. Not that the conductor doesn’t earn his corn either mind, as I well know. Philip Harper, Cory’s Musical Director, has worked tirelessly in his preparation, meticulously dissecting the scores to get the very best out of his players.

With still a few nights’ rehearsals to go, I know the band will move up another few gears in terms of their performance, which given how well they are playing already, is scary to think what levels it could potentially achieve. The purpose though of my writing, is to highlight that for all it’s successes and the incredible standards achieved, the brass band movement never really gets the plaudits and acknowledgment it so thoroughly deserves, either in the press and media or often from its local community.

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For Wales alone to have 2 bands (Cory and Tredegar), in the top 3 world rankings must count for something surely? However, a dog performing tricks on a prime time TV “talent” show will get more air time and social media publicity than any of our brass bands ever will sadly.

In the meantime, know that regardless of their status in the rankings, the brass band on your door-step may not all be world-beaters, but they work their socks off, contributing to the local community when needed for Carols at Christmas, playing at a Charity Concert when raising much-needed money for the local hospice or children’s hospital or providing music for the annual Remembrance Parade. Not to forget also giving great pleasure to many people along the way. As if that wasn’t enough, they’ll also give you and your kids the opportunity of learning to play an instrument, (usually for no more than a couple of quid a week) AND they’ll probably lend you an instrument free of charge!

Let’s hope that Chelsea win the Premier League this week and that come next Monday, there may be a few spare column inches on the front page of the paper to hopefully announce that a certain Welsh brass band has become Champions of Europe!