That’s Entertainment! (Or is it?)


Entertainment (noun)
the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment

I’ve been pondering over this for a while. What is entertainment? As a brass-bander I can’t help but feel that perhaps we’ve lost sight – as a whole movement – of just what entertainment is.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel entertainment contests are fantastic. At their best they encourage band to ‘think outside the box’ when planning programmes that appeal to both audience and adjudicators alike, yet I can’t help but feel that the majority rely on ‘tick-box’ criteria which sees bands rewarded for complying with a set of unpublished ‘rules.’

Silly hats, people moving all over the stage, fancy band set-ups, a ‘hit you between the eyes’ opener, a soloist that relies on technical dexterity rather than musicality, a tenuously linked ‘theme’ for a programme, outrageous clothing, standing up and sitting down and a real ‘tub-thumper’ of a finale are all, seemingly, in the checklist.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve played in bands that have done those things. In fact, with the Lions Beginners I have designed programmes that do as many of those things as we can. But is it right? Is a piece of music more entertaining than another purely because players are sat in a different formation, have to grunt three times during it and stand up for the last note? Of course not. Last weekend I went to watch the world famous Halle Orchestra and I was thoroughly entertained. No silly hats, people moving, fancy formations or silly uniforms required. I didn’t criticise the concert for being ‘too still,’ a comment I know appeared on one band’s adjudication sheet. What utter rubbish.

The bottom line is this; a brass band sat on stage, playing well, is entertaining. Fact. If I listen to Cory on CD I am entertained. I can’t see them so I don’t know if they wore silly wigs, ‘mankinis’ or whatever whilst recording it. What I do know is they play well and it entertains me.

‘Entertainment,’ as the brass band world seems to see it, has it’s place. We owe it to the audiences, the people who pay to watch us, to be entertaining. That can’t be denied. Uniform ‘amendments,’ hats or singing can add to the entertainment. But surely the really important element of being an entertaining brass band – and one, sadly, that a lot of bands and adjudicators seem to miss – is playing the dots, the music, well – anything is a (nice, admittedly) bonus, surely?


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