Why, in the world of music, does mediocrity win over genuine talent and skill?

Its been a while since I last wrote a blog, but I’ve been inspired to put cursor to screen having witnessed music-making of the very highest order this week. Both events were polar opposites, but the levels of skill and talent on display were never in question.

First up was my brass band  “Fest” watching the live streaming of the European Brass Band Championships from Oostende, where 12 of Europe’s finest (including the Cory and Tredegar Bands from Wales and Brighouse & Rastrick Band representing England) were vying for the coveted title.

Tredegar Town Band, 2002 European Brass Band Championships, Belgium

The  24 performances – each Band performed a set-work (Kevin Houben’s “Where Angles Fly”) plus an own-choice work – over the 2 days was quite frankly astounding. I’ve been privileged to have performed at the Europeans on 8 different occasions and the standard of playing since I first appeared in 1990 has risen year on year, to a point where you’d be hard-pressed to say that these weren’t professional ensembles.

Cory Band, 2015 European Brass Band Championships, Germany

Wales once again were at the forefront come results time, with Cory (defending Champions) being placed third and Tredegar coming in fifth. The winning Band this year were Eikanger-Bjorsvik from Norway, led by their inspirational conductor Ingar Heine Bergby, who won following a near 30 year gap since the last time they lifted the trophy. Their stunning own-choice performance of “Fraternity” by Thierry  Deleruyelle will live long in the memory.

Following the Europeans, my next source of inspiration was at Cardiff’s St. David’s Hall, where the wonderful, zany, jaw-dropping, breath-taking etc. etc. “gentlemen” of Mnozil Brass wowed the audience with the mastery of their art. Musicality, power of recall – playing everything from memory, humour, timing, stamina (where do they develop that staying power?), diversity, subtlety and innuendo and so much more. A sheer joy to hear and watch, leaving the audience shell-shocked and spellbound in equal measure. Superlatives are often over-used, but each one I have used was hugely earned and justified.

So, the point of today’s blog is, why do the general public get pawned off with rubbish on television and radio and the publicity given in column inches in the press/social media, when there is so much REAL talent out there? Admittedly, the European Brass Band Championships is very much a niche market, but when Cory Band last year (2016) won the “Grand Slam” of European, National, British Open and Brass in Concert titles (an amazing achievement), they barely made a mention in the local paper. Eikanger’s win at the Euro’s last weekend earned them a massive welcome reception at the airport on their return, with TV and media crews in attendance! Says a lot for what we think of our Champions doesn’t it?

Mnozil however, is an ensemble that could easily be featured on mainstream TV, or at very least on one of the Arts-focused stations. But no, we are subjected to performing dogs or yet another 11-year-old bashing out a Celine Dion hit and being told she has “amazing talent” and will go far etc. etc.

As “defenders of the faith”, perhaps we need to be more pro-active in demanding that the TV companies and media do cater for the more discerning audience and not settle for the rubbish that is often forced down our throats.

A small ray of sunshine in this gloom of mine, was Cory’s invitation to appear on ITV’s ‘Tonight at the London Palladium’ programme hosted by entertainment star Bradley Walsh.

Their performance was recorded live in front of a packed audience of 2,200 people and subsequently broadcast to an estimated audience of over 5 million people last night (03.05.17). Perhaps this is a significant step towards redressing the balance and highlighting the TRUE talent that can and should be presented to audiences the world over.

Here endeth the Lesson!

Stomvi Piccolo Trumpet

Selecting a programme for a Concert?

The opportunities of hearing Brass Quintets in Concert are sadly rare, as most of our work nowadays is either for Weddings or for corporate events, so when Music for You were invited to perform for the Rhymney Valley Music Club, we jumped at the chance.

The Music for You Brass Quintet

The Concert (which is supported by the Night Out Scheme/Arts Council of Wales) takes place on Saturday 1st of April at Siloh Christian Community Centre, Oakfield Street, Ystrad Mynach, Caerphilly, CF82 7AF and starts at 7.15pm.

Before we go any further, I’m in danger of assuming that everyone knows what a Brass Quintet is, so just in case, a Brass Quintet comprises of 2 Trumpets, French Horn, Trombone and a Tuba and this line-up has become the most popular for chamber brass ensembles over the years, as pioneered by the late great Philip Jones. He founded the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and when they weren’t performing as a 10-piece ensemble, this was their smaller group and he was hugely influential in developing chamber music for brass instruments.

So back to the Concert. Being the sole performers, the evening gives both the Quintet and members of the audience a chance to get their musical teeth into repertoire they would otherwise be unlikely to perform or hear, outside of a Concert setting. This in itself can cause problems however, as musicians often want to get stuck into some really challenging and high-brow repertoire that leaves all but the avid quintet connoisseur underwhelmed and unimpressed. On the flip-side, “dumbing down” a programme to contain a succession of light 3-minute “toe-tappers” or light classical items, means the audience are treated with contempt and the assumption that they couldn’t handle anything more serious than a John Philip Sousa march or maybe (if we were daring enough!), Samuel Scheidt’s (Yes, that’s his real name!) “Battle Suite”.

In compiling our programme for this particular event, we’ve tried to appease both appetites and hope that the audience will discover works by composers covering a 600 year period, that will be both enjoyable, stimulating and perhaps even educational. There will even be music from a living Welsh composer!

The Art v Commerce approach of programming concerts, has and always will be a hot potato for musicians and marketing departments the world over. I’ve always been a strong advocate for introducing audiences to new repertoire and composers, by gently broadening their musical horizons and not metaphorically ramming it down their throats, with the underlying message of “here it is, YOU WILL like it …. or lump it!” or “if you haven’t heard this before, you should have!”.

I very much hope, that we have succeeded in putting together a programme which is balanced for all tastes, but also gives us as performers, a rare opportunity to get our creative “juices” going a bit too. even the Brass Quintet aficionado will discover lots of new repertoire, so don’t expect the “same old, same old” programme!

Without giving too much away, there will be works by Handel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Gordon Langford, Edvard Grieg and Koetsier to name but a few.

So why not pop along and have a listen – it would be great to see you. Remember, there’s nothing quite like live music and even if there is something you want to watch on telly, you can always record it!

In the words of our strap-line “Music for You – it’s just that!”

Here’s a taster of one of the items being performed that evening Procession of the Nobles and you can learn more about Music for You by visiting our website

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