Education & Seminars

NABBC National Convention Report - 2014

The highly successful 2014 NABBC Convention, held at the Holiday Inn, Gloucester, on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th March, provided an extensive programme of events whilst also offering time to further develop the Association’s and personal networks. It was a wonderful time to renew old friendships, meet new members and share good practice.

The Art of Composition - Gavin Higgins

Gavin Higgins

The convention started at pace with composer Gavin Higgins. It was clear from the very beginning that he holds a real passion for composition and sharing his thoughts about what inspires him left many members envious of his talent. Gavin’s ability to develop a simple motif and extend it by taking the initial concept to chaos and back again was certainly impressive. It was also clear to see how his links with various national dance groups also inspires the various genres of his music with fast tempos providing a rhythmic drive and ‘simplistic’ melodic lines driving the slower tempos.

Whilst Gavin’s music often derives from an image, the numerous new colours, variety of rhythms and instrumental groupings he uses add a unique, creative interest. As with some other artists, Gavin likes to carry a musical fragment or concept from one composition to the next therefore leaving a line of musical signatures which provide a sequenced identity, familiarity and awareness. We will certainly be hearing much more from this young composer and those of us listening and enjoying his presentation will be more than happy to do so.

The Art of the Press Release - Iwan Fox

Iwan Fox Interview

Musical Directors are often asked to take on numerous roles when employed by a band and conducting becomes only a part of what is required to be a successful MD. External communication as an information provider is extremely important. It is therefore helpful, if not vital, to have a high quality personal website that clearly provides contact names, telephone numbers and addresses and to promote good PR for your band. The vast majority of us welcome such informed guidance and the NABBC could think of no one better than Director of 4barsrest, Iwan Fox, to lead a session on this issue.

As you would expect, this was another very well prepared session, wonderfully delivered in his inimitable style. Iwan began by identifying three possible audiences for whom you would wish to write; yourselves, the general public and, the sponsors. He emphasised the necessity of inviting someone who had time and the appropriate skills to write reports; someone who could identify who, what, why, where and when; write in a simplistic form; and with a particular targeted audience. Iwan endorsed the need for regular reports to keep the readers interested and never to underestimate the interest of visitors or audiences to your website or concert hall.

When writing in the third person, it is also important to obtain two quotes and a good quality, interesting image.

At the end of this report you may want to reflect upon these directives to judge whether it is written appropriately. Whatever the outcome, brass banding would not be the same without proactive enthusiasts such as Iwan Fox and the gratitude and positive responses from his contribution to this convention was clearly indicated from all members present.

City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) Brass Band

City of Cardiff Band

The City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) Brass Band, MD Gareth Ritter, was the first of our three visiting brass bands. They began the first part of their day’s contribution with an open rehearsal of the Senior Trophy Spring Bank Contest piece, ‘Les Francs Juges’ by Hector Berlioz.

The strengths of this band are very apparent. They are a band that works hard in rehearsal with an MD who is meticulous in his directives. All share the same high expectation which provides a clear trust, dedication and confidence that is necessary to be a good band. It is no surprise that they are so successful.

Russell GrayIt was then Russell Gray’s challenge to further enhance the performance and for many was the highlight of the weekend. Russell’s sense of anticipation, creation of atmosphere and, use of effects in telling the story, provided a very special interpretation that intensified the dramatic tensions and release of Berlioz’ music. At times, Russell’s use of tempo and dynamics to establish an exciting and convincing style left the audience spell bound. His attention to musical markings and dynamics were clear to all; ‘with explanation comes understanding’ and this was very evident in the band’s performance.

The band’s second session allowed repiano player, Alan Gwynant, time to reflect on the band’s history and impressive number of home grown associated bands; so necessary to continue to feed the senior band with a wealth of quality players. There are few communities that offer so much through the medium of brass banding and many of the ideas that have been successfully put into practice was an inspiration to all.

The City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) Band ended their musical contribution by performing a selection of concert items that was quite breath-taking. This was the band’s first collaboration with the NABBC, and we look forward to their next involvement. Their programme was enjoyed by all and endorsed Russell’s words that ‘the most successful performances are those where every player contributes’.

James Shepherd’s Versatile Brass

Versatile Brass

After an evening of fine wine and dining we were privileged to a musical programme by James Shepherd’s Versatile Brass. Re-formed by one of the most respected cornet players in the world, James Shepherd’s decision to regenerate Versatile Brass in 2013 excited both former players and the brass band community as a whole.

Versatile Brass

The NABBC was, therefore, one of the recent new audiences who appreciated the wonderful combination of long-serving VB members and new talent; each member demonstrating their accomplishment as a soloist in their own right. Their combined talents resulted in a vibrant virtuosity and polished professionalism which reached the highest standards of technical proficiency and artistic musicality. Led by the ‘ever entertainer’ Derek Broadbent this was a concert performance not to be missed.

The chosen programme was as their name suggests, always ‘Versatile’, selected from repertoire especially composed or arranged for this group together with a number of new arrangements. The new items were particularly enjoyable and offered an excellent balance of musical genres.

This evening event brought an opportunity to reflect upon the many combined years those present shared within the brass band movement and to celebrate past and present achievements of a former revolutionary ensemble that has inspired the playing of brass instrumentalists for more than 40 years. A unique moment, reminding us all why we are providing so much support for our Association members and the quality that can be achieved when brass musicians of excellence come together.

Annual General Meeting

For the first time in more than a decade the NABBC were able to celebrate their busiest year at their Sunday morning AGM. 2013 exceeded all expectations. So many positive outcomes were achieved including a change of constitution, business plans, funding, media interaction and website. All this and more was made possible by being physically and visually pro-active through an extensive programme of conducting events, supported through Arts Council England and brass band media. A full account of the year’s achievements and continuing aspiration may be found in the Chairman’s Report of 2013.

Psychological Considerations - Dr. Jon Hall


Dr. Jon Hall has been a ‘good friend’ of the NABBC for many years. His secure knowledge of psychology and ability to convey it to others has always been impressive and Dr Jon’s session of how to help players to overcome nervousness when performing was one many members were keen to hear.

He began by endorsing that each of us fears failure and rejection; and that this is normal, and that parents can either help to contain or enhance this fear. However, it is when these fears are not suppressed that problems arise. He continued to outline the various effects fear can have on a performance.

He also said that good conductors have a good sense of time; but whilst those with dyslexia often have a processing disorder, they don’t have rhythmic awareness; and it’s this sense of time that makes us musicians.

Finally, Dr Jon confirmed that it was natural to be nervous and to feel ‘butterflies in our stomachs’. Such nervousness should be embraced; after all, ‘it’s just a matter of getting the butterflies to fly together in the same direction!’

There is no doubt that understanding such a complex issue will take more time than was available, but this session’s message had a strong impact upon all members; especially those who work in education.

New Musical Arrangements

Clifton and Lightcliffe Band

A musical close to the 2014 convention was provided by our old friends from, The Clifton and Lightcliffe Band. Directed by John Clay, it’s clear why he and this first section band are so successful. It’s his appetite to share his wonderful experiences and the need to make good music. It is also worth noting that the wonderful achievements John and the various bands based at Clifton have experienced during the last 30 years would not have been possible without the support and contribution of his efficient and thoroughly well organised banding wife, Jane. This is quite a partnership!

John explained that when choosing a programme, he always has a responsibility to both his audience and band members. He is always looking for ‘good’ music which entertains and improves the skills of his players. As an example, the publisher for Kirklees Music, David Horsfield provided three new arrangements and David gave a very interesting insight into ways to get music published.

And so to conclude, NABBC President, Russell Gray directed the Clifton and Lightcliffe Band in a wonderful finale which celebrated good music, a great band and grand company.