PUSHING BOUNDARIES - How Les Neish is making a successful career of tuba playing

Issue 6011

ON THE BEAT - Gavin Pritchard emphasises the importance of preparation

FRANKLY SPEAKING - Frank Renton discusses the role of conductors

 

Pioneering brass bands in Poland

Thursday 6 June, 2019

Composer Liz Lane reports on Lydbrook Band’s recent tour of Katowice in Poland - a country already rich in the culture of wind bands - to help with an initiative to start a brass band movement. The trip included workshops by Tom Brevik (Guest Conductor and a founder of the Norwegian brass band movement), Jacob Dijkstra (Advisor and EBBA delegate Holland), Remigius Vilys (EBBA delegate Lithuania) and Liz, along with a series of concerts featuring a diverse range of music including a new arrangement (Tom) and composition (Liz); all part of the Kultura Deta ‘Brass Culture’ festival, Move your Brass, curated by Adam Kowalski, Marlena Hermanowicz and team from the city’s Miasto Ogrodów ‘City of Gardens’ cultural institute. Thanks go to Lydbrook Band friends ‘View from the back row’ for their contributions - Glen Carroll, Tracey Gwynne, Alice Gwynne-Duggan, Robert Morgan (Secretary), Rebecca Aston, Jo Cook and Mollie Gwynne-Duggan.

 

Lydbrook Band are no strangers to pioneering brass bands abroad, having successfully visited Lithuania in 2006. Excitingly, recent years have of course seen a significant presence from Lithuania at the European Brass Band Championships, this year with LT Brass (second in the Challenge Section) and youth Brass Band Aukštyn - and a real buzz of anticipation for Palanga next year. 

 
After an early start on Friday 24 May (most people without sleep!), the band arrived at their traditional Katowice hotel. Glen from ‘View from the back row’ summed up the first concert in the lovely Mariacki Church that evening: “Being sat on the end meant I could look out at the audience and see them enjoying the music. They always smile when I look at them and the standing ovation was pretty overwhelming. I loved the acoustic, with a four-second delay it was a lot of fun!” 

 
Saturday 25 May was the first workshop at the impressive Katowice Miasto Ogrodów venue. The morning opened with an explanation of brass band history and context by Tom Brevik, joined by Jacob Dijkstra and Remigius Vilys. With the arrival of the band, Tom demonstrated the arrangement of a four-part hymn tune; I then went on to explain instrument doubling using the popular Polish folk tune Miala Baba Kaguta and talked about my approach to writing for brass band, as well as a discussion of techniques kindly shared by Howard Snell, Paul Lovatt-Cooper and Philip Harper. The morning finished with a performance of Under the Boardwalk to the accompaniment of much photography and videoing from the appreciative audience. ‘View from the back row’ Tracey commented that it was a brilliant insight and “excellent workshop for all”.

 
Our afternoon concert took place in sunshine outside the school, Zespół Szkół i Placówek nr 2 w Katowicach Załężu. We had people popping by, children playing football (ably joined by Lydbrook Band President Peter Hands!) and an enthusiastic audience. Star of the show was seven-year-old Edward Jury from Lydbrook Training Band, son of bass trombonist Wendy, who joined the percussion section on tambourine. Gifts between band and school were exchanged and new friendships made. ‘View from the back row’ Jo commented that it “was great to play… at the school, especially to see people listening from the adjacent buildings.”

 
Robert Morgan MBE, Lydbrook Band Secretary, has spearheaded many band tours, including Lithuania. Now halfway through our trip he reflected: “I have a different view on this tour than any other I’ve been on. On all my previous tours (17) I’ve played on the front row and now I’m on the back row… you get a feeling of supporting others, whether in slower or faster music. It’s great also to open the boosters and make the front row earn their keep! Now for a beer to build up the energy levels again...” 

 
Sunday 26 May featured workshops in conducting, playing and composition. I was delighted to meet (and now stay in touch with) prospective brass band composers including Paweł Siek and Roman Hyla; grateful thanks for contributions from composers Andy Scott, Edward Gregson, Gavin Higgins, Howard Snell, Jan de Haan, Lucy Pankhurst, Paul Lovatt-Cooper, Philip Harper and Simon Dobson, and we were joined by Emily Dodsworth (cornet) and guest Steve Barnett (percussion) for an extended techniques demonstration. Tom Brevik led a workshop for participants who conducted a brass band for the first time, and practical sessions were given by principal players Joanna Ainsworth (euphonium) and Phil Storer (cornet), with guest Ben Stratford (baritone), the band later augmented by players participating in the festival. ‘View from the back row’ Alice commented that “the workshops… were extremely interesting”, and that it was “fascinating and inspiring” to hear the meaning behind the music, Mollie also appreciating the "in-depth” viewpoints. Alice added that it was a “great experience to play alongside some of Poland’s up and coming musicians”, with Mollie agreeing that this was “very special”.

 
Time for some rest and relaxation before the band's participation in the stunningly lit Move your Brass Gala Concert at the Katowice Miasto Ogrodów theatre. Starting with youth band uczniowie PSM I i II stopnia im. M. Karłowicza w Katowicach, the Lydbrook Band set was received by an enthusiastic and curious audience. The evening finished in dramatic form with a prog rock finale combining wind band and extended rock band by Orkiestra Dęta KWK 'Wujek', Lód 9, Ciśnienie. Alice reflected: “We got to experience some of the music Poland has to offer… the venue was spectacular and I felt so privileged to be conducted by a lady who came all the way from Cyprus!” 


Monday 27 May was a day off and a welcome rest in a hectic but excellent schedule. Some went to the nearby salt mines, but most had booked to go to Auschwitz, an incredibly moving and poignant experience for all. 

 
Tuesday 28 May saw a brief morning trip to Krakow. The drastic change from glorious weather prevented our final concert taking place outside at Miejski Dom Kultury - Filia Giszowiec, but the theatre was an excellent substitute. We were again joined by Edward who told us the best part of the tour was “playing in the band”. Two more standing ovations along with cheers from a hugely appreciative audience - not least for soprano cornet Glen, who just made it to the concert having been taken ill earlier - was an excellent end to the tour. Jo from ‘View from the Back Row’ commented that she “really enjoyed (the) concert, and although a large proportion of the audience probably didn't understand the verbal introductions, they seemed to appreciate the music! It just goes to show that good music has no language or nationality restraints.” Alice concluded that it was “fabulous”, with a great atmosphere, and that pieces such as Under the Boardwalk and Trumpets Wild “went down a treat”! It was then time for some final group photos with curators Adam and Marlena, followed by a last night band dinner at the hotel, also attended by our five hosts. 


Katowice city - the tenth largest in Poland - is a diverse mixture of old and new. Remigius Vilys commented: “There aren't many cities in Europe where you can talk about Penderecki, Gorecki and Lutoslavski with a taxi driver. That’s why I think it is very nice that in this city you can find symbols of culture already existing - traditional, modern and all levels - and it is very nice to feel that the Katowice city is welcoming the British brass tradition - like Lithuania has.” 

 
Jacob Dijkstra shared his thoughts: “The time in Katowice was fabulous. The most impressive was the efficiency of the young team of KMO. I am sure that they will manage to get the brass band movement going. The band people are very eager to learn and have a positive attitude.” 

 
Tom Brevik, who has previously conducted Lydbrook Band on several occasions, reflected: “I want to express my sincere thanks to the Katowice-team lead by Marlena Hermanowicz and Adam Kowalski for their great effort to pioneer a Polish brass band movement and for inviting me to be part of Move your Brass festival. It was also a great pleasure for me to conduct the Lydbrook Band at four concerts in the festival. Warm thanks to Robert Morgan and his team for inviting me to be their guest conductor. Finally thank you to Jacob Dijkstra, Remigijus Vilys and Liz Lane for a fantastic team spirit.”


I asked ‘View from the Back Row’ to sum up the tour. Becki said she “had the best time… (and) felt the band was warmly received”, with Mollie concluding: “It’ll be very exciting to hear about the progressions of the brass band movement in Poland, and hopefully, we’ll be offered the opportunity to head back over there in the near future…”, adding that she hoped it would “turn into a very successful part of Poland.” Glen added: “The tour has been phenomenal, everything has worked so well with the music festival here and I think the reason is because brass bands integrate so well with the culture in Poland. All of the concerts had a great audience and all of our programmes were well received. The Polish conductors we worked with told me that they loved the sound and versatility of the brass band and promised me that they intend to start their own band as soon as they can. There is obviously great interest in British brass bands… I have enjoyed the trip but I am more excited to see what will come from it. I can see a future in brass banding for Poland and I hope we can visit again soon.” Alice summed up: “on the back row, we get to experience a variety of things - the melody, long notes for days, off-beats, and 20-plus bars rest, but most importantly the family aspect of Lydbrook Band. With three generations of players on the back row, we really are unique!... This tour has taught us that music is international and, no matter the language, music connects people from all around the globe! I hope that Poland will succeed in starting a brass band movement thanks to ‘Move your Brass’!”

 
Robert Morgan, who worked so hard with his dedicated team, the trip evolving with usual efficiency and good humour, concluded: “It’s been a great five days with four concerts and standing ovations. As the tour organiser, this tour has been made easier by the wonderful cooperation from the contacts we had in the cultural department of Katowice. These people have now become good friends and hopefully during the next couple of years Lydbrook Band will be able to help out even more with the development of brass bands in the region. It’s been a pleasure to share the back row with Glen, Tracey, Alice, Becky, Jo and Mollie. I wonder where the next Lydbrook Band tour will be? Who knows, but it will be exciting I’m sure with a very special group of people from team Lydbrook.” 

 
The last words must surely go to Adam Kowalski, Move your Brass curator, who shared how their country’s diverse tradition of banding which, like us “started with the industry and coal mining”, has partly collapsed since the economic transition in 1989. The project ‘Brass Culture’ was set up to promote that “banding is much more than making music” and that the Move your Brass festival showcased “different aspects of banding to break a public stereotype of marches, funerals and polkas.” The team consider that “Katowice, with its Unesco City of Music title, banding tradition, powerful musical scene, good infrastructure (sic) and proud heritage to be a right place for this revival”, are “inspired with British tradition and brass bands, the way the bands work with community, organise, compete” and “love the sound, repertoire, industrial origins with many of them which is a kind of a bridge to our history.” He explained: “We have already started with three primary schools and we really hope that in the future those kids will be our avant garde (sic) in building the brass band movement here.” He went on to say that it is “very difficult to explain the difference between brass and wind band to the people without hearing the difference” and how “Lydbrook Band was a “huge support for (their) efforts”, with very “positive feedback” from workshop participants, concluding that “we really hope to continue these relationships and cooperation. It just makes us feel that we don’t walk alone.”

 
Our hosts were everything which could be hoped for on a tour - friendly, efficient, welcoming and full of passion and focus for future possibilities. They presented the workshop leaders with a welcome bag full of goodies and as I was packing on the final morning, a beautiful hardback manuscript book fell open at a page with a quote from Ros Rigby: “Forming a network is (a) relatively easy thing, actually keeping it going for 30 years is not so easy.” I have a feeling that if anyone can do it, this Katowice team can.

The following is Adam Kolawski’s unabridged text regarding the context of brass bands in Poland, and the contribution made by Lydbrook Band and associates on their tour to Poland from 24-29 May 2019:


“The tradition of banding, especially here in the historical Upper Silesia region, has a very long tradition. It all started with the industry and coal mining, however there were also steelworkers bands, firemen's bands, military bands etc. There are still many of them, also amateurs bands in small villages paying services to local communities, but since the economical transition started in 1989 the situation became very dynamic. Many of the bands founded by collieries and industry disappeared, along with collapsing industry. Those who survived the last 20 years are still trying to find some new ideas for existing within new markets, new regulations, new reality and a decreasing interest in banding, particularly amongst the younger generation. Also the social and cultural context of the band has become weaker - a huge amount of them lost their identification and the real relationship with their local communities. This social factor is also something we want to protect and rebuild - that's why we called our project 'Brass culture' - to put the stress on the fact that banding is just much more than making music. 

This is something which makes you more aware of your identity, feel happier and be a part of community. It’s very important, especially nowadays when we have some global problems with real social living. Anyway there are still many bands in the area, more than 100 only in our voivodeship. There are many managers and charismatic band leaders trying to find own way for their bands. The point is to make them work together, communicate, meet, talk about expectations, share experiences, be a team and part of the international community. This is one of the reasons we started 'Brass culture' and 'Move you Brass Festival'. We  considered Katowice with its Unesco City of Music title, banding tradition, powerful musical scene, good infrastructure and pride of its heritage to be a right place for this revival. The support from the 'City of gardens', the cultural institution we work for and the city of Katowice make it possible.

 
Thanks to the bands, musicians and conductors we meet, we also learn a lot and understand things better so that we can find better solutions. Of course, it's also a matter of the public. There is a stereotype of banding according to which bands are for seniors playing marches for official celebrations (like Saint Barbara Day) and funerals or polkas for picnics in the park. We want to show some different faces of banding to the spectators and present various traditions and styles; making musical experiments with other genres. It’s all about diversity. Diversity makes banding unique and powerful. We are inspired by the British tradition and brass bands, the way the bands work with community, organise and compete. We love the sound, repertoire, industrial origins with many of them, which is a kind of a bridge to our history. The British experiences with economical transition in industrial areas and the way the bands faced it is the field we look for knowledge and could use in Silesia. That’s why we want to develop brass bands. We have already started with three primary schools and we really hope that in the future those kids will be our avant garde in building the brass band movement here."

 

Lydbrook Band was a huge support for our efforts. There were no brass bands performing in Silesia before, so the audience really did not expect such repertoire and excellence... We really appreciate the band activities here - from great performances, through the workshops the musicians gave to local band members, to the attitude, elegance and positive emotions they sent to all of us and the audience. We especially praised the small performance in Zaleze district in one of the schools we are working in toward setting up a brass band. We hope those four performances the band gave, with different music tailored perfectly to the venues, were a foundation of the future brass band movement. I hope to be able at some point in the future - let’s say after the première Polish performance of our own kids' brass bands, to say 'well, it all started with Lydbrook's visit.' 

 


We felt they really supported us. The workshops for the conductors and composers given by Tom Brevik, Liz Lane, Remigijus Vilys and Jacob Dijkstra were also something to encourage the local band community to step into the world of brass bands. We will need our own community to join and work with us. We are not the lonely island. That’s why the workshops were a kind of test for how they will find this kind of music and if they would be ready to join us. The whole story is quite amazing as it all started less than year ago when me were introduced by our Dutch friend Jacob Dijkstra, who also supports us a lot. This little talk we had there, about our project and plans brought Lydbrook to Katowice in May 2019 and we are really impressed how quickly it went! We really hope to continue this relationship and cooperation. It just make us feel that we don’t walk alone.