Edward Gregson made a recent appearance as the Keynote Speaker at the first annual conference of Brass Bands England, the representative body for brass bands in England, and partly funded by Arts Council England.
Gregson has been an important advocate for brass bands throughout his career, and of course is widely regarded as one of the leading composers for the medium. He regards brass bands as one of the truly great amateur music-making traditions in the world.
However, in this quite controversial speech he suggests that brass bands need to reform urgently, so as to bring them into the 21st century in a truly meaningful way. He advocated for a move away from the current contesting structure of having up to 20 bands playing one test-piece, and for better artistic planning, in order for brass banding to regain its respect in the wider musical world.
He finished his speech referring to the need for change to be relevant and modern, by quoting Arthur O’ Shaughnessy’s famous poetic Ode:
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams