Open letter to Welsh brass band colleagues (No.2)

Dear colleague,

I hope that you and your families are safe and well and are surviving these strange times. Please forgive the long post so you might want to get a coffee and settle down to read!

Owing to the pandemic, brass banding has, like many other activities taken a huge hit due to lock-down and the restrictions on playing brass/wind instruments indoors. It is now coming up to 5 months (March 22) since I tried to arrange a gathering of interested parties to meet in Cardiff, to discuss the formation of a unified Welsh brass band organisation. Sadly lock-down was implemented just before we were able to meet therefore we initiated Plan B and met online through a Zoom Meeting. This was admittedly with limited success owing to technical issues and was met with some scepticism and even derision from certain quarters.

Music For You

A unified Welsh brass band organisation. Can we turn a dream into reality?

 

My reason for writing is that since then, absolutely nothing has happened in moving this proposal forward and I don’t think I’m over-egging the pudding by saying that the movement is in a significantly more precarious position, than we were 5 months ago, with the prospects of “normal” banding as we know it a distant dream as things stand. There is also the concern whether players (particularly the younger ones), conductors  and officers will return to the fold, having now discovered other activities and interests to occupy their time and attention. Concert/Contest venues may not even be in existence for us to perform anywhere decent in the future and with further public spending cuts highly likely, to cover the huge costs of the pandemic; music in education will be non-existent. We are also approaching the Autumn months, meaning our potential activities will be curtailed even further, further affecting revenue and membership retention/recruitment.

I have been “encouraged” by a few colleagues (some who were a part of that initial meeting in March, as well as some new faces) to once again ask the question whether now is the time for action and get the ball finally rolling, before it gets too late to salvage what is already a serious situation for brass banding in Wales. The meeting on March 22 was the warning call that an “iceberg” was on the horizon and action was required. Covid-19 happened and I believe we have now truly hit that “iceberg” and if we don’t act now, then with no representative body the “ship” WILL eventually sink, with almost all hands on board.

The response following the last meeting was to wait until restrictions and lock-down etc. had ended and then to have a face-to-face meeting to discuss the matter. Great, who’s going to suggest an appropriate central venue in Wales and then jump in the car for a potential minimum 2-3+ hour drive, plus the drive back, plus to agree a convenient date to wipe off their schedule, so that we can discuss things? It was a minor miracle that I got 20+ people to agree to meet initially in Cardiff. Yes Cardiff, not central I grant you and I got it in the neck for that too, but the geographical spread of respondents able to attend meant that it was the BEST place for those to attend.

So, is there anything really wrong, now that people are so much more tech-aware and receptive to Zoom or Teams, that we can’t meet once again, being older and wiser with it all and get things moving finally?

OR DO WE INDEED LOOK AT PREFERRED PLAN A?

PLAN A

Are you truly happy to invest in the future of Welsh banding? To invest your time, money and energy by jumping in the car and driving to Newtown or somewhere similar in order that we can discuss these matters face to face? I believe the Welsh Regional Council met this week (observing social distancing of course); therefore it seems people are prepared to get out and about in the name of Welsh banding! Either way, the choice is yours.

The “encouragers” who have prodded me to write to you have also added that as nobody else has initiated any progress do we need to wait for the approval or blessing of others? Frankly, no we don’t and as long as we can gather a decent sized cross-section of the banding world in Wales to get things started in a democratically and constituted manner, then why not? The detractors will continue to detract, the whingers will whinge and the cynics and critics will be ever cynical and critical. In fact the cynics probably won’t bother turning up because “what’s the point, nobody else will?”!!!! We are no longer a brass band movement as the hand-brake is well and truly up. We need action and fast!

This is a massive undertaking; however change can only be implemented by drawing a line in the sand and making that first step, followed by one more step, followed …… I hope you see where I’m going with this? But, yes it is really as simple as that!

We may well be looking at the long term goals, where a Welsh Brass Band Organisation is able to; organise the 2025 Welsh Youth Brass Band Festival, to provide online resources for member bands covering a geographical area from Ynys Môn to Chepstow to Pembroke Dock, to secure funding streams from Arts Council Wales on behalf of member bands or to send a Welsh Representative to the next European Brass Band Association AGM however, if we have no central organisation with proper governance, these will be just “dreams”.

If there is a majority agreement from you to have another go and make a fist of things, great, then let’s crack on with it. If not, that’s fine too, as I’m not claiming to have all the answers or any magic spell to make things right, however to sit back and suck our thumbs whilst watching the ship go down, in my view is a dereliction of duty to the pastime that we so love. By the way, did anyone ring the coastguard to say we’re sinking? Perhaps we should have a vote as to who rings? No, let’s wait until we can meet face-to-face!

This is not intended to be a “join me or I’ll have a hissy fit, throw my toys out of the pram” letter, but it is to encourage you to do SOMETHING. If I’m not your cup of tea to do something, fine, just find someone who is and who will take that first step in making some progress and I will be happy to pitch in and help them if asked.

Canva - White tablet and cup of coffee (1)

So let’s do something and get things started!

 

So after all that sabre-rattling, I will close by inviting you to take action and join me and other willing participants for a meaningful and productive discussion:

When: Saturday 12th of September 2020

Time: 11.00am – 4.00pm

Where: Plas Dolerw

Milford Road,

Newtown,

Powys,

SY16 2EH

Or Online where we hope to live-stream the meeting for those who can’t travel.

Yes, I bit the bullet in an effort to appease everyone and it’s provisionally booked!

The venue can safely accommodate a maximum of 12 people observing social-distancing. “But that’s limiting how many can attend!” I hear the whingers and nay-sayers immediately cry! I’ll counter that with “So what if I book the Royal Albert Hall and only 8 people turn up ….?”

I’d be delighted if we were over-subscribed, but on current track-records, people won’t be queuing round the block!

So if you’re ready, willing and able to commit, please respond ASAP to andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com or call 07973 869621 or easier still, fill in the contact form below.

The clock is ticking! Tick-tock, tick-tock ……..

Yours optimistically.

Andrew Jones

 

A new challenge. My story could be your story!

As I write this latest Blog, we are in some form of lock-down, due to the Corona virus. Our daily routines and activities have certainly changed beyond all recognition and many people have used this enforced spare time, to invest in projects and activities that they’ve often thought about doing, but never really got round to, due to lack of time or inclination. Attics, gardens and garages everywhere have never been so tidy!!! It’s also been an opportunity for people to re-evaluate what is really important to them in their lives e.g. friends and family, good health, the ability and freedom to come and go as you please, job satisfaction and career choices, as well as hobbies and pastimes. Having something that is precious taken away from you only highlights how much we value it.

Lock-down has also given people time to think and assess what they want from life post Covid-19, when we can return to some semblance of normality and this period of reflection will perhaps ignite a desire for change and the pursuit of a new challenge?

I had one of these “Saul on the road to Damascus” moments some 14 years ago, at the grand age of 39, I decided that I needed something new, something different and something that would kick-start my enthusiasm for life in general. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t doing too badly for myself. I had a nice house, a job that I really loved doing and was managing to pay the bills each and every month. So what was the problem? The answer was, that I simply needed to be doing something that I’d never experienced before, that took me away from the “same old, same old” and perhaps out of my comfort zone, to where I couldn’t put my feet on the bottom of the pool and had to swim a little harder to stay afloat.

From a somewhat pessimistic and negative viewpoint, I felt I had ticked as many boxes as was possible in terms of my music-making experiences (particularly on a professional level) and that there were no more “Everests” remaining that I was capable of climbing and that I should be happy with what I’d already achieved. “So what changed?” I hear you ask.

Following a chance encounter with a friend I was encouraged to consider joining the Army Reserve as a Musician. I’d always been interested in all things Military ever since I was young, but the concept of playing in a Military Band – no change that to a Military brass band (as at the time it was the ONLY brass band in the British Army! – and getting paid for it fried my brain somewhat. Over the years, I’d been used to the concept of attending band twice a week (increasing in the run up to a major competition) and getting zilch for doing it, other than the huge amount of pleasure of performing at a high level and at some of the top venues around Europe.

The Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Having done my research and then attending a few rehearsals at the Barracks (to get a feel of what I was potentially letting myself in for) and asking hundreds of questions such as “what if…?”, “how many…?”, “will I have to do this….. will I have to do that?”, I was reassured that this was a good move and would be a decision that I wouldn’t regret.

Fast-forward 14 years and I now can say that this was one of the best decisions that I ever made. I discovered not only a new “Everest” to climb, but my “K2”, “Kilimanjaro” and many more peaks, with new ones still emerging even now. This new challenge brought a new dimension to not only my musical world, but to my personal and life experiences too and at the same time, I got paid for doing it and it brought me new career pathways too, as all these years later, not only am I a Sergeant and a musician, I am now the Recruiter for that Band – the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh.

Corps of Army Music Short Term Training Team – Uganda 2015

Words cannot begin to describe the new horizons that I’ve encountered over these 14 years, but suffice to say that if you’re currently bored, feeling unfulfilled, craving something new or just plain curious to know “what if…..?” then go for it! Ask the question and see whether it is for you.

Whether it’s learning a new language, deciding to do a triathlon or joining a Regimental Band in the Army Reserve, then follow your dream and see where it takes you!

WW1 Commemorations, Thiepval Memorial – France 2016

For more information about the Regimental Band and Corps of Drums of The Royal Welsh, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/royalwelshband/

Last Post – Belgium 2019

Thanks for reading the Music for You blog.

Is there any point in attending networking events? Assume at your peril!

Music for You – Networking

My point then? Well, apart from an impassioned, informative and extremely enjoyable speech by Tim, who spoke of his own difficult personal journey (dealing with prejudice and bullying) and his love for the Creative Arts, here are a selection of  people who I met that evening:
Person A – I already knew and had done some business with previously, where he had provided my marketing materials
Person B – was an accountant who used to play a flute and was a prospective player for the Royal British Legion of Wales, whom I conduct
Person C – A Chartered Surveyor who previously played a brass instrument and we shared mutual friends and colleagues
Person D – was MD of a Commercial Finance Company, who had financed a fleet vehicle for a band that I have worked with and we shared a number of acquaintances
By the way, Tim, as well as being a singer and conductor also used to play a brass instrument with  brass band that I used to conduct!
So, next time you ask yourself whether attending a networking event will be worth it, or whether you will have anything in common with anyone in the room, think hard before answering! Remember the old saying “To assume, is to make an ASS of U and ME”!
Music for You provides quality live music for all types of Corporate Events. For more  details, please contact Andrew on 07973 869621 or andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com

Farewell and hwyl fawr to a National icon

He made the headlines, not only in Wales but all over the United Kingdom and beyond.

He was one of the most well-known and much-loved icons of Wales and his face was recognised by all wherever he went.

His appearances at the Millennium Stadium, (later to become the Principality Stadium) were legendary and caused England Rugby Manager Eddie Jones to name him as one of Welsh team’s added threats. His performances on the field were first class.

He was on first name terms with Royalty, politicians, celebrities and the average man and woman on the street. Children loved him and everyone wanted to have their photograph taken with him.

He was a true figurehead and represented his “Team” with great pride and was the first person you saw leading his Comrades out on public engagements.

He did have a tendency to smell at times and would give you a fair bashing (if he was feeling grumpy) and even though he was only with us for just seven and a half years, he will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.

Rest in Peace Lance Corporal, your duty is done!

Lance Corporal Shenkin III (Regimental Mascot of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Welsh)

 

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.

Millennium Stadium 2

 

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.

IMG_0607

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