purpose of this page is to give you some tips on how
to be a good host and make a success of having a brass
band make a positive contribution to your event. It
is aimed at people who are thinking about hiring a
brass band, but don't know what's expected.
EVERY band is different, Some bands
pride themselves on the highest standard of music
and allow only people who can meet their high standards
to join. Other bands are keen musicians who are there
for the music and put enjoyment of the music and each
other's company ahead of achievement. Of course there
are various shades in between. As I said, every band
In general (yes, generalisations
are dangerous), you'll get a higher class of music
from the first type of band, but you will often find
the second sort of band perfectly adequate and maybe
more amenable. Oh, just because a band places importance
on enjoyment, it doesn't necessarily mean they're
no good musically! Most bands are contesting bands
they compete against other bands to see who's
the 'best'. Other bands only do concerts and so concentrate
all their efforts on perfecting their concert repertoire.
In reality the vast majority of bands are quite capable
of putting on a concert or providing music for, say,
a garden party.
Anyway, what a band requires will
vary from band to band, so check everything! To help
you, there are some pointers here to some of the common
things you'll need to be aware of.
You are very fortunate, because you are on this site.
Go to the Contact Cards section to find your band. Alternatively,
Libraries are a good place to look. BBC Essex helpdesk
knows of a few brass bands also. But you probably won't
find them in a phone book!
best to have a clear idea of what you want the band
to do. You'll start by telling the band what the event
are some of the sort of things bands get asked
you want a full concert? Will there be
a formal audience for the band (in which
case the band may want to prepare a compère
and a programme).
you just want background music (to what?)?
it accompanying congregational singing
(in which case you'll need to go into
other groups (musical and otherwise) also
taking part in the same event? How do
you propose sharing out the time and space?
long do you want the band to play?
musical directors of bands will arrange their own
programme, but if you would like a certain piece or
type of music, please discuss it beforehand. Never
expect a band to be able to respond favourably to
"Can you play..." requests on the night because it's
impossible to carry around a full repertoire. A possible
exception is a Christmas concert where people want
favourite carols - but even then carol books don't
always have every type of Christmas song!).
provide seating (the band will tell you how many).
Chairs with arms make things difficult for brass players,
so it's best to avoid them. Brass bands usually sit
in horseshoe 'formation' (i.e. 3 sides of a square),
usually two rows deep.
The band will need a back room or
similar to congregate before playing, including somewhere
to store their instrument cases.
Bandsmen will often come by car and
will need somewhere to park. Players of some of the
larger instruments, such as tuba and percussion, will
appreciate being able to get a car close to the venue
in order to unload and load.
Light refreshments would be a good
gesture half way through. If you would like to reward
the musicians with more substantial refreshments,
please do that at the end. It's not good to play immediately
after eating and drinking well!
open-air is a good place for a brass band in the summer,
but it needs special attention. Drums particularly
are vulnerable to extreme heat and rain, so you may
be asked to find a shady spot.
From a practical point of view, the
ground needs to be flat. Not only is it important
for the physical positioning for somebody who is to
work sitting down for an hour or two, but music stands
can get a bit top heavy and blow over in the wind
if the ground is not good. Bands will, however, usually
bring their own pegs to hold the music on the stands.
If you want the band to play on grass,
please pay particular attention to the type of chairs
you provide. On more than one occasion I've played
in a band on soft grass and we've been given chairs
with thin circular legs that penetrate slowly into
the soft ground!
If your space is hard ground, make
sure you tell the band so that they can bring bits
of carpet or whatever to protect their instruments
when they put them down.
Please pay attention to what is going
on around the band. For safety, don't place them right
next to a fast road. Think also of animals; you could
end up with dogs barking throughout the engagement!
Horses, particularly can be startled by a band if
they are not used to them. So if you're having pony
rides and a brass band at a summer fete, please don't
place the two attractions next to one another.
forget that most brass bands are amateur, so it is
often difficult to get a band together during working
Some bands get booked up well over
a year in advance. Please book early. At minimum please
give a few week's notice. A band's busiest times are
during the summer season, with such things as garden
parties and concerts in the park, and in the run-up
Once at the venue, the band will
require time to set up. If the band has sole of the
space for the duration of their engagement, so much
the better, but if it's a shared arena, then a few
minutes will be required to get things straight before
the band can play.
Percussion is always a challenge
in this situation it takes quite a while to
set up properly. A reduced percussion set may be called
for if there is a lot of moving around. Even if the
band has its own place to play, percussionists usually
arrive first and will need access up to an hour before
the event in order to set up.
It's unlikely that band members
will be very enthusiastic about reorganising their
day just to play for 15 or 20 minutes. An hour or
two is usual. A suggestion for a typical engagement
is 45 minutes playing, 15 minutes break and another
45 minutes playing. Please bear in mind that heat
makes it more difficult for sustained playing without
most brass bands are amateur, you fortunately won't
have to pay 30 or more players professional rates!
However, you should be prepared to pay a reasonable
fee to the band. It costs a lot of money to run a
band. For example, a decent cornet (the smallest instrument)
can cost well over £1000. Music and rehearsal
facilities have to be paid for. The funding for this
comes from the jobs they do and from the members'
brass band can make an event really come alive, so
they're worth paying for. For public garden fetes
etc. families of the band members may also come and
boost your takings! Some bands will have a set scale
of fees, others negotiate. Some bands can command
a higher fee than others.