It is Valentine’s time of the year, and everyone would want to give a special threat to there loved ones for the special occasion. Definitely, in the band club world, we know how to invent special occasions in order to show the neighbouring club or village that we are the best of the two, or even best in the Maltese Islands. So far so good, I do go for inventing new ways to show the strength of one’s society and organise well-intended activities which provide culturally, music and traditional information and entertainment.
Though one of the problems I see in our societies is when one exaggerates, especially when it comes to numbers in a band. During my last post, It Takes Two to Tango, there where various mixed feelings towards it and I really did enjoy some comments and conversations. I always say that when two people argue on something common, it is because they both want the best for that something. Back to today’s post, and I was talking numbers. This time I want to talk about different numbers, the number of musicians we use to play during a marches or concert. Many band clubs lost composure of what is really important to have a good marching band, and that is definitely not numbers. Like everything else, when you lose balance, you lose shape, lose control and discipline. Today we are trying to exchange our bands with those horrendous march arrangments which killed the beauty of the march itself. But that is something else.
Nowadays, you will be very fortunate to find a wind band having flutes, piccolos, Eb Clarinets, Alto & Tenor Sax (not to mention Soprano & Baritone), a set of at least 3 french horns, and most importantly we forgot the 1st & 2nd parts. A few days ago I was in Mascali, Sicily with Ghaqda Muzikali San Leonardo, and apart from the concert, we had a two-hour march together with two local wind bands and we were only 38 musicians. To put you in the picture our band was the one with the most musicians. We played some old traditional marches and we made sure that we played them as written, and we had very strong sound in forte and a delicate one when playing the piano, and the 2nd parts where simply outstanding to hear. What I am implying here is that we wouldn’t have had this effect if we were, let say 80 or more, or if we didn’t get all the parts being played.
Nowadays we count caps and not the value of the sound we are producing. We are happier to have 80 players which can play the usual 10 marches which we nauseatingly hear in every feast than have 50 players that can play everything and disciplined and do not throw the music sheet in your face if you give them the 2nd part as if it is an insult. Now we also have created this tradition to have 2 bands under the same flag so that when we pass in front the ‘enemy’ we blast ourselves out while we divide the band in two for the rest. For me that means 1. stupidity 2. no sense of respect towards the band but what one cares about is to show how superior we are to the detriment of quality and common sense.
We all know that musicians to play in bands are getting less or at least, it is more difficult to find. One of the reasons of this is because we forgot that 20 years ago, we would have a great sounding band having only 40/50 musicians, instead we opt to be 60 or more. This would mean that if 7 bands are playing at the same time we would be having as much as 8 bands would have had musicians 20 years ago. Not to mention that with all the blasting we play during marches, it is just keeping new students from starting music with bands as it is simply ugly to hear.
I do not want to forget musicians during concerts. Unless the composer specifically writes down 7 trombones, you only need 3, preferably, 1st 2nd and 3rd/Bass Trombone. More than that is just insane. If you are going to have 7 trombones you would need to balance it out with 25 clarinets which would also be as stupid, unless, as I said it is specifically asked by the composer of the work that is going to be played. Same goes to trumpets, why do we need 12 trumpets or 4 Tubas? Are we playing Mahler all the time? On a side note, you would still be fortunate to find 4 horns though and the reason behind this is that we are not teaching these instruments which are as important as clarinet or trumpet.
After all having mine bigger than yours doesn’t make me a better man, and the quicker we realise this the better chance we have to start seeing new blood coming towards the band clubs musical classes.