I think that Ian's reply is a little harsh and sounds somewhat predjudiced
and one sided.. The best way to judge is to listen to the bands.
The community bands in North America are the same as brass bands in Britain--amateurs, students music teachers "failed" professionals . They are just better. They have a "system" that produces great bands.
On this side of the pond we have the North American Brass Band Association who in the last 15 years have begun to produce some half decent 2nd section bands.
As James Watson said on a recent visit to Toronto "Our amateurs are
better than your professionals."
In Britain it is not uncommon for a brass bander to begin teaching his kids to play beginning at age 6 or 7.
The principal euphonium of our band is teaching his grand kids who are that age. Keep in mind he has been the Champion Euphonium soloist of Wales and North America. Britain also has excellent music in schools and many bands run youth bands to feed the adult bands.
In schools they use parapetetic teachers instead of the "band teacher" we use here. Here a flute player will teach all instruments. There a trombone teacher will travel between schools and teach the trombones, a cornet player for the cornets etc The results are recorded and available in the brass band section at your record store.
You might try the Doug Yeo web site to see a North American professionals view of the Black Dyke Mills.
This summer a group called the Young Ambassadors Brass Band of Great Britain will be touring the US and Canada.If you have the opportunity go and see them. They are a put together group that will amaze North American players.
His assesment of the music is crap. Yes, there are bad arangements but
this exists in all genres of music.
Most bands above the basic levels just bin 'em. (ie throw them out.) Compared to the crap level of concert band music this is not a serious problem. In fact most of the "bad" arrangements are concert band transcriptions which are really not worth playing.
Brass Bands continually commission new works that are no less worthy
artistically and in fact a lot more worhy than some modern orchestral music. Currently Philip Wilby,
who writes not only for brass band has produced some wonderful works including his Paganini variations.
Many works that are now standards were commissioned for contests Holst, The Moorside Suite
Elgar, The Severn Suite Vaughn-Williams Variations.
There are works by just about every major 20th century British composer.
Can a Brass Band swing. The Brass band of Battle Creek can. This is a curious question because a BB will not have the same sound as a big band. Some mistake playing out of tune for "swing"
Brass Bands do have "attitude" which can be called "determination for
excellence" if we are being more polite.
If you listen to the recordings of competitions you will hear many fine performances. This is better to my mind than many underrehearsed orchestra concerts.
His one rehearsal - one performance as a sub is obviously not a good situation. We would not want it in our band.
In a sense the problem with bands in Britain is similar to those in
North America. Funds cut off, young people
more attached to TV and video games than participation. We are accused
of playing for ourselves. instead of the public.
Why not? Brassed Off featured music that any level of band can play. In Britain it is refered to as Entertainment Concert repetoire as opposed to Contest repetoire.
There is very little in the entire orchestal reptoire that approaches the challenge of some of the test pieces. Ask Guy Clark about "Essence of Time" or "The New Jerusalem".
I am not a thug, nor am I a woodwimp or a bow jockey.
Brass players are who they are. After the competition is over we may go to the pub.
I am content to leave the the salad bars to the oboe section.
Brass bands are just as viable an ensemble as a chamber orchestra. The
fact that they originated from the working man is to their credit.
Keep in mind that the principal trumpet of the LSO ,Maurice Murphy one of the world's great players, was once the Principal Cornet in Black Dyke Mills and you begin to get the picture.
In 1900 there were 11,000 or so bands in Britain.I believe the number is down to 4,000 now but that is still a lot of bands. Every one of them would like to get to the Albert Hall.
try this URL
Graham Young, trumpets and soprano cornet
Weston Silver band, Symphony Hamilton
Celebration Brass, McMaster Chamber Orchestra