14th International Brass Band Summer School
Swansea University
25th - 31st July 2004

A personal reflection by John Warner

I'd been looking forward to it for several weeks, a week of "Sun, Sea, and Brass" as the advert said on the web in the Bandsman. And now that week is past. I have to say at once that it was one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life.

About 80 students turned up on the University of Swansea Campus on Sunday morning to be greeted by Phillip Morris, the course organiser who directed us to our accomodation in the University Halls. Many had been to several of these Summer Schools. For several, like myself this was the first time, and a few had been to all 13 previous years! We then found our way to the rehearsal room to meet the tutors and to decide "who sat where", the overall plan of the course being a series of rehearsals leading to a public brass band concert on the Friday evening. Our Musical Director, Bob Childs, introduced the section tutors and we then split into sections for our first rehearsal. Click here for a list of course tutors.

The routine for the week was a section rehearsal between breakfast time and the coffee break. We then had a full band rehearsal until lunchtime. Afternoons were free, and then we had another full band rehearsal after dinner. Each evening was the rounded off by a "Masterclass" or mini recital given by a different section tutor each day. Rodney Newton offered optional theory classes on three afternoons during the hour before dinner, and Bob Childs gave a very interesting optional conducting class on one afternoon. The public concert itself was presented in the University Taliesin Theatre on Friday evening. Click here to see the concert programme. Several students chose to play items in a mini "students concert" on Friday morning. The band developed really well during the week and it was very exciting and uplifting to be playing in such a large and "tight" band.

We had a comprehensive rythm section comprising four percussionists and no less than 10 bass players. We also had 10 trombones and 10 euphoniums. Eight baritones, 6 tenor horns, and 4 flugelhorns made up the horn section. The cornet section was also well matched to the rest of the band with at least 18 cornet players. Wow! what a sound - fortunately in tune and together in time. Some of the band rehearsal time was spent sight-reading extra pieces that were not part of the concert. I'm usually not very good at sight reading but with the support of my fellow players and what appeared to be personal guidance from the conductor I was surprised how well I did.

My favourite time was the section rehearsals. Nick divided our hour and a half each morning into three periods; warm ups and exercises, section rehearsal time for the concert pieces, and finally sight reading trombone quartet and quintet pieces. The latter was a wonderful novelty for me, I've never played in a trombone "choir" of ten instruments before. We learned how to bow: ("bend at the waist, look at your shoes for three seconds, then stand up straight") and picked up countless tips from tutors and musical colleagues alike. As I said at the outset, it was a wonderful week and I'm determined to join the majority who make it an annual thing. Next year I'll look forward to meeting several new friends as well as the opportunity to make fine music together.

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