On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘at

Oct 21, 2018

The Marple Band were approached along with other brass bands in the North West of England to see whether they would be available to help with a Sky Arts series of programmes about Brass Bands in Britain. This is scheduled to be shown in Spring 2019.

Production Company, ‘Twofour, has been commissioned to make a new TV series about Brass bands in Britain. “Brass Bands” (working title) is a brand new docuseries that celebrates the world of brass bands. The four-part series which will be shown on Sky Arts will follow some of Britain’s championship bands as they compete in the season’s most prestigious contests – from the Whit Friday contest, to the British Open.

The aim of the series is to shine a light on the incredible skill, diversity and commitment of the musicians. As well as the growing need for bands to stay innovative on the international stage, whilst at the same time, honouring tradition’. Three of our members – Howard Groves (2nd Cornet), Matt Holt (B♭ Bass) and Julia Robinson (Repiano Cornet) were available to help out and headed to Ilkley on Saturday 20th October for a day of filming.

Julia Robinson recounts her experiences of the day.

There are some situations in life which are impossible to imagine getting into. One is standing in full stage uniform out in the open air on top of Ilkley Moor playing music, loop after loop, with a drone flying around your head – and it’s not raining. In fact, the weather is so perfect for a film shoot that it feels as if we are being blessed by Apollo himself up in the clouds with his lute.

The trio representing ‘The Marple Band’ as arranged arrive at ten am, Saturday Oct 20th 2018 and park up. In the car park, we were met by Bart Stobart one of the Sky team. He explains that we are going to be filming for a Sky Arts Program that is following brass bands through the various stages of contesting. In fact they are following some of the country’s top brass bands. We swallow, are we up to the task of representing a program for these giants of the Brass Band world? And now you come to think of it: what is it actually that we are here to do?

We’re told that we are about to film the opening of a program that will run at the start of each of the episodes for the entire length of the series and that we would be walking ‘up there’. He points to the top of a Tor. Meanwhile, he says, go have a drink and anything you want while we wait for everyone to turn up.

How heartwarming to see others all dressed in different band uniforms of different colours all from at least twelve different bands scattered over the North, all turning up for the simple love of brass banding. This time, it felt subtly different to other times when we mingle with colours of blazers different to our own: we weren’t competing, we were all cooperating.

So we chat with players from Whaley, and other local bands from the Yorkshire region. All of us were intrigued, what was going to happen?

We have a briefing by the viewing bench then we pick up our instruments from the car and beside the car park we naturally find an order. We are all used to the same set-up: this time standing room only. We look around and see happy faces, people who don’t know each other chatting naturally. We are all from the same tribe: ‘Brass banders on an exciting day out’.

There were around fifty of us – eight of which were basses! Our conductor, we were all pleased to discover, was David Thornton (Conductor of Brighouse and Rastrick). He brings up the baton and we play, “Cwm Rhondda” and “I Vow to thee, my country”. David Thornton conducts as if he were suddenly transparent. It is so easy to read him, what he wants and how.

The sound that comes from our newly formed band surprises us all: we sound great. Balanced and round. The basses really help create the sound in the open air. The director and the producer both declare themselves on the edge of tears! There was a general air of something very special happening.

The weather is perfect: sunny with hardly any gusts of wind and not yet bitterly cold. The film crew seem shocked by their own good luck. And we set off walking up the Tor.

We stretch out poetically along the public footpath making a long line of dazzling sunny instruments accompanied by the camera drone taking aerial footage. At the top, we put ourselves into a now, known and comfortable formation and the conductor brings us in, this time for real. Action!

The sun is shining, the colours of the greens and the browns are glorious, the sound in the band is miraculously balanced, consistent and the conductor clear and beautifully held. I feel as if I am dreaming. The drone, drones on.

We repeat a twenty-or-so bar section, over and over and over. How long will our lips last? We stand on that glorious top, retaking, replaying the two pieces over and over, until despite tired lips and general malaise over the repetitive nature of the beast, we are weaving in and out of each other like the birds are in the sky.

The second section of the filming is a ground camera taking close-ups of us in rows and then close-ups of six individual players. We continue to play the two pieces until we all declare that we will be hearing them in our dreams tonight.

To all our (slight) relief the director calls, ‘Wrap up!’ and ‘Well done band, you’ve been amazing!’ I look around, everyone’s face is beaming. We walk back down the hill contentedly. We’ve had an amazing day out and perhaps even the program will help brass bands to have a longer future, perhaps some people will feel inspired to come into the brass band world, and perhaps at the end of the day we’ve done a good job: keeping what matters alive.

Article by Julia Robinson