A musical celebration of Wantage during lockdown

Unable to perform as normal during lockdown, Sam Wyne from Wantage Silver Band commissioned a special piece to bring all the ensembles under the organisation’s “umbrella” together to record and perform virtually. The resulting piece was performed by 60 musicians of all ages, each recording their part on their own at home.

On Tugwell Field: A Wantage Celebration was composed by Jonathan Bates, the title of the work taking its name from the location of WSB’s bandroom in which the vast majority of the musical activites normally take place.

The music is constructed upon a clear melodic theme derived from the musical note names found in ‘WANTAGE SILVER BAND’: A, A, G, Eb (S in German), S, E, B, A & D. From this series of notes and the various inversions, transcriptions and modifications, Jonathan created a series of melodies and cells which feature most prominently to the listener throughout the composition.

Celebratory in mood, On Tugwell Field was designed to showcase the variety of musical ensembles involved, so whilst much of the music is composed in a standard manner for brass band, there is also a section dedicated to the big band and a number of the soloists from within.

 
 

The planning and rehearsals took place over many Zoom meetings involving about 60 performers including saxophones, trumpets and the rhythm section (piano, guitar and bass) from Wantage Big Band.

Each performer was provided with their part and a click track and the resulting audio was edited by Alan Jones and the video by Rob Tompkins.

From an audio perspective this was a challenge due to the number of musicians, without the aid of a conductor, recording in isolation on a vast array of devices from smartphones to webcams – many of which not exactly designed with pro audio in mind. Many performers had not played along with a click track before, let alone recorded with one. Alan had the unenviable task of piecing everything together using a simple metric, each part had to be in tune, in time and with a good sound. Luckily there are a number of tools available, within the digital audio domain, to achieve all of those things.
 
“I used Logic Pro X on MacOS which comes with an array of processing ‘plugins’, so it’s easy to drop a pitch correct plugin on every track and the track count for this session was around 60” explains Alan. “It also has a ‘Flex Time’ mode that essentially lets you move notes around within a bar until they are exactly on the beat, as some players were better than others at following the click track. Finally there is an equalisation plugin for fixing any odd sounds or challenging acoustics, plus a small amount of reverb on the final mix. That covers most of it, aside from the odd dropped mute, loud breathing or tapping foot.
 
“Once that was accomplished it was just a case of getting the balance right, which is no mean feat when you’re talking about four brass bands, a big band and a shed load of percussion.”
 
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Covering: Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage,   Lambourn, Newbury, Thatcham & Theale