Wednesday, 3 October 2012

October is upon us!

We had a productive practice on Monday night, split between our two forthcoming October events; Oktoberfest at the Rose & Crown on 20th and the Manea Methodist church Harvest Festival on the 21st.

If you missed Oktoberfest last year, this year promises to be bigger and better, so if you like German beer, German oom-pah music, German dress, German sausages or just fancy a good evening at the pub, be there!

From a practice point of view, the music isn't as easy to play as it seems. A lot of the music in our "German folders" was arranged for the band by David Wilson, who reformed the band in the 1980s. Therefore, it's one of those things that everyone assumes they know because it's been around so long.

However, we've discovered on previous occasions that it's a little more intricate than we may have assumed, so we're having a proper look through the folders beforehand to find out what works and what doesn't, and we now have a fairly good selection of waltzes, polkas and marches prepared. This should also give us to practice the actions to some of them - if you want to see those, 20th October, Manea Rose & Crown!

If that's not quite your cup of tea, all is now safely gathered in at Manea, and we're playing at the annual Harvest Festival on the 21st October at the Methodist Chapel. In addition to the hymns, we're playing a little selection of pieces for the congregation.

One of them, an arrangement of Joyce Eilers Bacak's Irish Blessing is a particular favourite of mine. The band haven't played it for many years, but when we got it out of our library a few months ago, I was really impressed by how the whole band came together and made an excellent job of it first time through. The opening is a lovely quartet, which really suits our band.

We've recently started to encourage our junior band players to come along to the start of the senior band rehearsal, and this piece, being within an acceptable note range and tempo for our less experienced players, has allowed them to join in with at the start of the rehearsals with something that's both challenging, but not overly intimidating. It works really well, so I do hope you can come along and hear us play it on the 21st.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Website posted!

Well, well, well, the Manea Silver Band website is up and running! As you may have noticed, our website URL is now, so don't forget to update your bookmarks.

Coming soon: the completed photo page and proper links to our MSB Facebook group, which is gaining a bit of a following thanks to the efforts of our principal cornet player Rhiannon. Until I work out how to insert a "like" button to the website, do pop along to and if you like us feel free to join the group for all the latest MSB news.

Incidentally, it's well worth a look through the historical photographs on our Facebook page - some of them are rather interesting; the earliest dated one is 1905, but some of the undated ones may be even older. They were unearthed by several supporters of MSB who kindly lent us some of these items for our April relaunch concert. It's great to have this sort of history behind us and to have the artefacts to go with it.

As you may have spotted on our "about" page, we also have a lovely new uniform which was premiered at the Relaunch concert. Our next event is Manea Gala on the 14th July. If you want to see us try to play while riding on the top deck of a bus, be there!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Rehearsal Monday 19th March

A positive start after a rocky few weeks! Conductors blog has gone a little to the wayside since i've moved out of the village and turned my life upside down, but here we are, back on form and a solid rehearsal to show for it.

The band coped well with my insisting on stopping and starting hymn tunes for the first 20 minutes but I had taken to heart what the 2nd section adjudicator said at Sundays regional contest... "the rest of you back to the bandroom for more hymn tune practise". The balance, sound quality and dare I say tuning improved greatly in the first half an hour.

Emerald Skies was a little shaky tonight. So many interlocking quavers that need to match up... SUBDIVIDE SUBDIVIDE SUBDIVIDE! ...and Forte sounds, although improving can still sound pinched and aggressive. Lots of long notes and relaxed breathing practise required.

We did lots of work on Zambezi by Derek Broadbent which shows lots of potential but all of the band need to be careful on those little tricksty quaver rests. Still, a good Afro-Cuban feel was achieved in the end. Niki was right, Cuba IS in the Caribbean, just off of Jamaica... but it is very close to South America! ...and they do have pineapples there. I googled it.

Finally, very impressed with our run through of Harry Potter, the note bashing has obviously paid off and there were far more correct accidentals, time changes and articulations going in.

5 rehearsals left until the big relaunch concert... wow, where has the time gone.

Be good, learn lots.
The Boss

Monday, 6 February 2012

Rehearsal Monday 6th Feb

Despite the severe weather conditions not a band turn out for band tonight. Manea of course has its own micro-climate and is very difficult to get in or out of in extreme weather. Although a little short on numbers, a well balanced and overall pleasing practising.

Worked hard on a brass band arrangement of John Rutter's "Distant Land". ...a beautiful arrangement of a choral/ orchestral piece full of expressive suspensions and well orchestrated key changes. A slow delicate piece which really tests the bands soft dynamics. The band coped well and showed massive progress in a final run-through!!

Special praise this week goes to Niki for her 'trombone interjections' in Alice in Wonderland. Our euph turned reluctant trom is just going from strength-to-strength and producting a crackin' trom sound. She truly is a wind powered pitch approximator.

Brass fail of the week goes to Rhiannon for consistantly, unashsamedly, unknowingly playing in the wrong key at the start of Distant Land... Despite stopping about 4 times and me going "WHATS HAPPENING?!?" ...apparently she thought it was 'one of those unsual chords that you like' ...she knows me too well lol.

Must start thinking of a few pieces to amuse drummer Andy, he must be getting fed up with all this slow crap. He did rock Viva La Vida tonight though... (much more inspiring tonight than it was last week!)

Be Good, Learn Lots.
The Boss xx

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Rehearsal Monday 30th Jan

All in all a successful rehearsal. It was a rare occassion where the cornet section outweighed the lower band. Serious lack of basses hindered proceedings slightly but we made a fantastic start to the new music.

The Alice In Wonderland theme has some epic sections, lots of cross-rhythms through the band and difficult triplet passages which will need some practise. Harry Potter was also a big success, negotiated some difficult time changes but needs some home practise during the odd modulations, lots of accidentals (*cough cough* cornets, please). Viva La Vida was a little anti-climatic if i'm honest, the arrangement left me uninspired and wanting more from the band. Will have to have a think this week about how to instill some musicality into it.

Conductors praise this week especially goes to Rhiannon - our principal cornet who played Emerald Skies beautifully and has obviously been practising her little socks off. Another mention has to go to 3rd cornet Joseph who boldly played a couple of difficult solo sections like a true professional! Definitely an upcoming player, won't be long until he is promoted.

Brass fail of the week goes to me for getting my baton lodged firmly in the stand and then catapulting it 10 feet into the air during a particularly rousing section of music.

Be good, learn lots.
The Boss xx

Monday, 30 January 2012

A Welcome From The MD

Wow, i've been talking about starting a 'Conductors Blog' for so long that I can't believe it might actually happen!

So just a short hello from me to anybody reading. I'm Clare. A secondary music teacher, musician, conductor, arranger, cider-loving, Manea inhabiting, self-confessed brass band nut. This blog will document some of the excitement, musical mayhem and good-humour generated at Manea Silver Band! This is me :-)

So, it's Monday - BAND DAY!
Today we will be running a few new pieces so lots of sight-reading. Pieces include music from Harry Potter and the Philosphers Stone, Viva La Vida by Coldplay and the epic theme music from the new Alice In Wonderland soundtrack. MSB will also be attempting a first run through of Emerald Skies, a cornet solo composed by Paul Lovatt-Cooper which I hope the band will love as much as I do.

Thats all for now, I have included a link below to the new Alice In Wonderland piece which I hope you will all find epic!

Be Good, Learn Lots.
The Boss xx

Sunday, 29 January 2012

New MSB logo

Some of you may have spotted the new Manea Silver Band logo on our website. It replaces the old MSB logo, which has served us well for the last ten years:

As part of our rebrand this April, we have reverted from red and gold to the traditional blue and black uniform colours that were historically associated with the band. This is reflected by the blue, black and silver colour scheme of the new logo.

There are also features which hint at the band's location. Manea is a village very much in the centre of the Cambridgeshire Fens, sitting alongside the Ouse Washes, the flood area between the Old and New Bedford rivers. The two parallel rivers are perhaps the most prominant feature of the area, and these are represented by the two azure flashes on the base of the logo, with the area inbetween hinting at a musical stave.

The washes are also represented by the swan in flight, one of the iconic sights that you may see if you visit Manea, located as it is between the RSPB Ouse Washes reserve at Welches Dam and the WWT Welney reserve. The Ouse Washes boast one of the largest migratory colonies of Whooper and Bewick swans in the UK, along with large numbers of the familiar mute swan.

The similarity between the sound of brass musicians warming up and whooper swans at feeding time is purely coincidental!

Hello and welcome!

Hello and welcome to the Manea Silver Band blog, which will form one of the sections of our forthcoming new MSB website.

The intention is that this blog will be written primarily by our musical director, Clare Hall, and will talk about the band, forthcoming events, rehearsals and the music we are performing. There may also be occasional snippets from players in the band. We welcome comments, as long as they're not rude!

I'm Robert, 1st horn player in the band. I have recently been redesigning our website in time for our April relaunch concert:

Current homepage                    New design homepage

The new site uses the webstandard CSS formatting, plus a few bits of Javascript thrown in for good measure. I have been trying to go for a clean, simple, easy-to-navigate look, although I'm not entirely happy with some elements at the moment; I do welcome suggestions, as webpage design is not exactly my speciality.

What's not entirely obvious on this screenshot is that each of the big buttons links to a separate page. The colour of each button highlights when the mouse hovers over them. In the separate pages, the buttons appear in a smaller format along the base of the page and the 'river line' takes you back to the top of the page.

The website is nearly ready for posting, but just requires a few more tweaks (and some more content) before it is ready to go live. Watch this space!