For those of you unfamiliar with brass band and their crazy love for contesting here is a brief rundown on how the National Championships is conducted (and has been for as long as I remember).
All bands will play 4 pieces on stage and be adjudicated by either 2 (for A grade bands) or 1 (all other bands) adjudicators. The 4 pieces are:
- A hymn chosen by the band (this is a traditional thing, as hymns have been played by brass bands for well over a century)
- A test piece, chosen by the contest convenors. This is one major work, running for between 12 and 20 minutes, that all brass bands in a particular grade have to play. The purpose of this is to allow the adjudicator the ability to compare how each band plays this one piece, and mark them accordingly. The test piece is more often than not a particularly challenging piece, which is why I guess they call it a test piece - it tests the band out.
- An "own choice" major work chosen by the band. This piece would also be about 12 to 20 minutes and, whilst challenging to the competing band, the piece chosen should allow the natural strengths of their players to show through.
- A march chosen by the band (bands have a traditon of marching and playing a march on stage seeks to uphold that tradition).
Brass bands are graded from A to D, based on their playing ability. Footscray-Yarraville City Band (the band I play with) are an A grade band. The test pieces for A grade are pretty darn difficult pieces to try and master. Looking at previous test pieces in recent years we have had:
2010 - Extreme Makeover by Johan de Meij (performed here by winning band, Brisbane Excelsior)
2009 - Dove Descending by Philip Wilby (remember that name)(performed here by Kew Band in 2010)
The test piece for 2011 is another piece by Phlip Wilby titled Vienna Nights. What this piece is about is detailed in this article on brass band website 4barsrest.com. In essence though it is loosly based on this piano sonata composed originally by Mozart:
As described by the 4barsrest article the piece has some wonderful parts, interspersed with some, quite frankly, mad parts, making it a very challenging test piece for bands.
Well the day is now over and we have played 2 pieces for the Championships, Vienna Nights and a hymn, Nicaea (Holy Holy). I will leave it for others to judge how the band played, and tomorrow, when the results are announced we will now how the adjudicators scored our playing. I am, however, relieved to have played Vienna Nights, knowing that that is a very good chance that I will never need to play it again.
There was also some sightseeing that took place before our performance. Given that I am up here in Adelaide I took the opportunity of a couple of spare hours to drive out to the Adelaide Hills for some sightseeing.
First stop was a look out on a road leading to Eagle on the Hill (or so I'm lead to believe).
Here are a couple of tourist snaps (the child blocking the view is Ben):
We then drove to Mt Lofty and had a look out over Adelaide (You can get a sense of the view by visiting this page). For Melbournians this would be the equivelent of driving to the top of Mt Dandenong and looking out over the Eastern Suburbs. For non-Kinglake residents, you can get just as good a view by driving to the Frank Thomson Reserve in Kinglake (Note Google Maps has it spelt incorrectly).
From Mt Lofty we than made a quick visit to Hahndorf (we will be returning in the second half of our holidays) for a bite to eat. Who was that doyen of the brass band world that I passed in Hahndorf and why wasn't he watching the bands perform? You have been sprung.
A busy day tomorrow. A street parade in the morning (I think I will blog about the pointlessness of this in the next couple of days), then the final two pieces are to be performed, results, and then some partying. Chances are you will not see a blog from me until sometime on Sunday.