Reinventing the Brass Band
Video by Malcolm McKinnon
Filmed by Patrick Stapleton, Malcolm McKinnon and Andra Jackson
Original music by Cathy Connor, recorded by Nick Herrera
Running time: 4.04
© Malcolm McKinnon & Moreland City Band, 2016Contributors
Moreland City Band
Malcolm McKinnon & Moreland City Band
In 2008 Moreland City Band was a traditional brass band struggling to survive.
Here, President Howard Norsetter, Musical Director Scott Tinkler and band members Cathy Connor, Omid Shayan and Sigrid Rolfe tell of how the band addressed what seemed to be terminal decline in order to create new vitality and relevance.
Brass Bands have a very conservative culture that goes with them. They have a great tradition of competitions. They’re often quite rule-bound and disciplined. And it went along quite well for a while, but (then) we found that there were less and less people joining and that became quite a problem.
The band was limping really badly. It looked like it was the end, except that Howard (Norsetter) is an incredible person who won’t give up on things. He’s got great tenacity. And he believed that the band had so much potential…
My background was in classical music – it wasn’t in brass bands per se, so I didn’t have those connections. But I’d made some new connections through jazz, and I knew that Scott Tinkler lived right around the corner. I asked him: “Hey, would you be interested in taking over this band? Here’s what we’ve got – we’ve got this brass band but it’s not going to work. We need to change direction. Would you be interested in coming along and trying something different?
That was an interesting moment, ‘cause there were a couple of older brass-band type people heavily involved in the band. And I think they were wishing to hold on to the history of the band. And it’s important to acknowledge the history, but not necessarily to hold on to it if it holds you back.
I personally didn’t want to come in and be involved with a brass band. And I think what I give is more energy and interest in music, whatever it may be. And that’s why I like the idea that this band is not focussed on genre particularly - it’s just focussed on people and energy in music.
I like the way that the Moreland Brass Band isn’t what you expect. Just like (the way that) this hall isn’t what you expect. You see a lot of musicians come in here and they just think it’s so bizarre. It’s a band hall, but it’s not. It’s a community hall, but it’s… It’s just… Everything is a mish-mash, kind of like Lego with all these different colours that stick together, and you’ve got something. You don’t know what it is, but it’s great…
It’s really relaxed, and even though the skill levels are quite varied I think that everyone is able to get something out of it. Because the people who are good can lead in a lot of ways, and then the people who aren’t so good are still learning stuff.
It covers a whole environment of music in Melbourne. And it’s really good to be involved in that. That spirit - it’s great. It actually reminds me how much fun it is to play music, no matter what level you’re at. The idea and the joy is the same.