WASBE 2011 Conference Concert Reviews

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There were of course huge logistic problems in attracting bands to Taiwan to play at this year's Conference. I imagine that the Committee did not have a big choice when selecting bands from the West, and of course the essence of Conference was to present Asian music and Asian bands and conductors. Many of the programmes were neatly balanced between orient and occident, there were a number of masterpieces from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to complement the contemporary music, and the Asian bands played to a very high standard. A colleague wrote to me recently sadly commenting that for many groups good playing seems to mean fast and loud, and of course this is encouraged by the repertoire. The excellent hall had a very lively acoustic, misjudged by many conductors who perhaps came to us fresh from an open-air concert for 3,000 people, and on occasion the intensity of bands I found to be physically painful.

Need for careful artistic planning

Unfortunately, much of the Taiwanese and other Asian music was of limited or no interest, consisting of repetitious shortwinded pentatonic phrases, little melodic or harmonic development, sometimes poorly orchestrated and often naive in the extreme. There were pieces from other parts of the globe, also offering poverty stricken ideas. The WASBE Artistic Planning Committee, while preserving WASBE as an all-embracing umbrella, must avoid the trap of selecting a band or programming a piece just because it comes from an area of the world not frequently featured in WASBE conferences. I felt that here was a huge missed opportunity in helping Asian bands, conductors and composers to refine their skills and talents. The last conference for which I had the privilege of being involved artistically, in Sweden in 2003, had practical mentoring sessions for composers and conductors, and as well as masterclasses, practical rehearsals on interpretation and five sessions aimed at school band conductors.

I often sign myself Grumpy of Leyland, but not this time - there were so many works for us to take away and savour, and I am really looking forward to the recordings. There may well be other pieces which because of the programming or the performance did not make as big an impression as they should. The Conference was as so often fascinating, with dozens of excellent sessions to back up the performances. See you at the next WASBE Conference!