The unique culture of the brass band can often feel unfamiliar for individuals who are new to the genre. To get a perspective on how to get to grips with banding as a fresh starter, London City Brass caught up with its newest member: Nicholas (aged 2 weeks).
London City Brass: You are a relative newcomer to the world of brass bands. What are your thoughts so far?
Nicholas: Yes, I suppose that’s true, although in fairness I have been quite occupied recently. It’s been hard to make time for brass bands over and above my important work feeding, sleeping, crying, and trying to sit up. That said, I have enjoyed what I have encountered so far. I admit I was initially a bit sceptical, but already there is nothing I enjoy more than relaxing of an evening with a bottle of something nice for a trawl through Cory or Black Dyke’s back catalogue of recordings.
I suppose the thing that stands out most clearly is the variety of what’s on offer, meaning that there is really something for everyone available, almost no matter how niche one’s musical tastes. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for marching up and down outside in the rain (and not only for people pushing my pram along trying to get me to fall asleep), but the repertoire offers so much more than that. Be it film music, classics, nursery rhymes, or the odd godawful piece of cheesy pop music carefully arranged by Dutch madmen, brass bands really do have it all.
LCB: Ah yes, the musical range of the brass band is one of its most notable features. It’s great that you already have such broad tastes, but if you had to choose one musical area out of the many on offer that you feel specifically works for you, what would it be?
N: I suppose I would go for the rousing pieces and ones that are great for dancing, like film scores or Sing Sing Sing. I think the benefits of something which lifts your mood and gives you your mojo back cannot be understated.
LCB: Do you think at some point you might actually want to learn to play yourself? If so, which instrument would you go for?
N: I come from what you might call a ‘mixed home’, in the sense that one of my parents is committed to the medium-sized instruments found in the middle of the band that I can never remember the names of, while the other is an enthusiastic cornet player. I suspect that I will become a ‘tug of love’ child who is encouraged by both to follow the paths that they have chosen, but speaking for myself, I can imagine wanting to branch out by inclining to the lower range. Although the lower instruments are found less outside the brass band world, their fruity and evocative sounds, combined with their need for good lung capacity, mean that I can see myself really getting into one. But who knows, maybe I’ll surprise them both and go for jazz sax. Or football - that would really give them something to think about.
LCB: Do you think football is incompatible with playing in a brass band?
N: Not in the slightest - I just have this feeling about what my parents might think. And of course that makes it all the more attractive.
LCB: If we may bring the discussion back towards brass bands, what are your words of advice for someone contemplating coming along to a concert for the first time?
N: That is a good question. I think the main thing is - let it wash over you and be honest about what you like and don’t like. There will be some pieces which really grab you and others where you think ‘What the hell was that?’. That is completely normal and part of the band tradition which started with military music, then moved into being popular music for crowds and has then progressed further into the classical world, traditional and contemporary. I am not a big fan of the contemporary classical... but then is anyone?
LCB: Quite so, quite so. I must say, you seem remarkably well-informed given your recent start in life.
N: You try being born to my parents.
LCB: Well, that’s excellent. I think that is all we have time for, so thank you very much for giving us your thoughts today.
N: You’re welcome. Yes, as you see, I am starting to rock my head from side to side and wave my arms around, which means I am about to start crying.