Young Star- Elliott Pass
Hello! I know it’s been a while since I last presented a Young Star article, but it’s back and what an article I’ve got to open up the new series of Young Stars!
From performances, to composition and even indie rock, this young euphonium player has brought some fantastic opinions and experiences to the table and has really used this opportunity well to present his feelings about the brass band movement.
So without further ado, I’m proud to present the experiences, thoughts and opinions of this month’s Young Star- Elliott Pass!
1. How did you first start playing in brass bands?
I first started at age eight when I walked up to the Horbury Victoria band room (as it is at the top of my street) and pointed at the biggest instrument that I could see and said ‘I want to play that’. That instrument was the ‘barking iron’, more commonly known as the baritone. I had played clarinet at school for a year prior, so already had an interest in music, but I decided pretty quickly that brass banding was what I wanted to do and I have never looked back
2. You’ve played with a few top musicians during your playing career. What were those playing experiences like and what did you take away from those experiences?
My first experience of meeting a top musician was around age fifteen. This was when I met Michael Dodd. I have since played beside him a few times and even had a few lessons. However, the first time I met a true master of the euphonium was last year, when I got the chance to play with the euphonium legend, Paul Robinson. I am currently Solo Euphonium with Dodworth Colliery Band and our First Baritone player, John Morahan, managed to get Paul down to a rehearsal. I have never felt under so much pressure during a rehearsal, having such a quality player sat second to me. Fortunately Paul is really nice and he gave me great advice through the rehearsal and in the pub afterwards! He even gave me a chance to play on his custom Geneva Oldroyd Cardinal euphonium, which is by far the best euphonium I have ever played and, despite popular opinion, I think it’s much better than Besson Euphoniums.
One other top musician I have had the pleasure of knowing is Simon Dobson. I have spent a lot of time arranging and composing music for a huge variety of ensembles, but mainly string quartets and orchestra (unfortunately I only have Logic on my Mac, so brass band arrangements aren’t really feasible). In 2016, whilst I still played at Horbury Victoria Band, a CD of my best music was sent off to Simon, as we had a mutual friend. Simon wrote back to me and, to my amazement, it was all compliments. I was so shocked to have such a great musician really appreciate my music.
I have also had the chance to play with some great musicians, such as Eliot Darwin (MD of Dodworth), John Morahan (First Baritone of Dodworth) and Malcolm Taylor (Principal Cornet of Dodworth). These may not be household names of banding, but it’s a privilege to play alongside these talented musicians every rehearsal. Dodworth is extremely lucky to have these quality players in the band. Quite a few players are still in the band from when they were a top championship section band, when they were beating the likes of Black Dyke, Brighouse and Grimethorpe.
Having studied at Leeds College of Music, I naturally came across a lot of great musicians. One up and coming musician in particular was Richard Jones (Bass Trombone at Grimethorpe). Richard was in the year above me and it was a pleasure to hear him play many great solos.
3. What are your future goals with your musical career?
I have to say, I’m not really sure. My place at the Royal Northern College of music is yet to be confirmed, but I’m hopeful. The only plans I have for the future are to discover what I want to do at University. It may be that the euphonium stays as a hobby for me or it may be a career. I’m quite enjoying not knowing what will happen next and it takes a lot of pressure off and allows me to really focus on the music I am playing and writing at the moment.
4. What is the best piece of musical advice you have been given?
This is a difficult question, as I have been given lots of advice by many great players, but I think the best advice I have ever been given is “you’re sat on solo euphonium, ignore the dynamics and play like it!” To give this context, I was told this when I was sixteen and playing with Horbury Victoria still. With one euphonium player wagging the stick and the other away on holiday, I had to step up to sit on the Solo Euphonium spot. At the time I was very unsure of myself and never really played to the best of my ability. However, without this advice, I don’t think I would have ever got the confidence to play my best and play with other bands as, at the time, I had only played with Horbury. Not long after this, I moved to the West Yorkshire Police Band and eight months after that I moved to Dodworth.
5. If you had to play one piece for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
This is possibly the most difficult question I have been asked. I have to say it would be ‘Elegy’from Downland Suite’.My first experience of playing this was in Selby Abbey with Dodworth Band when I first joined on solo Euphonium. The band were on form in concert and when we came to the Elegy, the band made a sound most would think had come from a band like Black Dyke. It was exquisite, although the venue helped a lot of course. The acoustics were amazing to play in and I have to say, I have never felt anything like it. It was the first chance to show what I could really do as a Euphonium player at Dodworth.
6. What has been your best musical experience so far?
Apart from the last answer, my best experience was the first solo I played with Dodworth. The band do a charity concert every year in September for the Charity- BIDS, which our president is a big part of. So in the 2017 concert to officially announce me as the Solo Euphonium player for Dodworth, I played ‘Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.’ Not the most technical of solos, but one of my favourites nonetheless and one every euphonium player plays at some point in their career. The performance went really well. The one thing I will never forget is the feeling I got as I received a standing ovation from the audience for a solid two minutes, while the audience cheered and clapped. To this day, I still receive compliments for that performance and it has been, by far, the best musical experience of my life. It may not be my favourite solo to play and I have played a few since (mainly ‘Midnight Euphonium’ and ‘Largo al Factotum’), but that performance has meant that solo will always have a place in my heart. I have never felt such an achievement in my life.
7. If you could duet with any player (dead or alive) who would it be and what would you play?
Well, I know the duet I would play is the Pearl Fishers Duet (Deep in the Sacred Temple). However, who I would play it with is a very difficult question to answer. There are many great euphonium players I have dreamed of playing with as a kid, but I have to say, given the duet, I would play it with Lyndon Baglin. I don’t think any euphonium player could play with such a beautiful sound as he does.
8. Apart from playing in your full time band, are there any other musical projects that you are involved in?
I have recently started conducting at Horbury Victoria Youth Band. Just doing a few pieces at rehearsal at the minute and spending the rest of the time helping out on Second Euphonium. I am also currently in the process of writing songs to try and get a group together with my fiancé. We both have a huge love for indie rock, so are wanting to start a group when we move to Manchester in September. Other than this, I have spent a lot of time composing music for ensembles, such as string quartets and orchestra. Whether or not these pieces will ever be played, I am not sure, but I love writing music nonetheless.
9. What do you enjoy most about playing music and being involved in the brass band movement?
I have to say there is no greater feeling than playing a solo or duet passage in a piece and everything just clicks with the ensemble. Every musician and ensemble will know what I’m talking about. When the balance is perfect and the intonation is spot on and everything just feels right. They are the moments in music I live for.
The thing I love about being part of a brass band movement is the camaraderie of the band after a concert or rehearsal. Now I know not all bands have the same feeling of a family as others, but, as I haven’t played with many bands, it’s the thing I love most about the community at this moment in time.
10. How do you feel about banding today? Is there anything that you feel needs to change?
I feel banding in Yorkshire could be run better. I can’t speak for all areas of the country, given I have only ever played in Yorkshire, however I think the championship section should be split in two. To have a championship section and an elite section, to my mind, would make more sense. We all know any band that is promoted from the first section rarely stand a chance against the top six, so there are bands that keep moving between sections. Its quite common for a band to be very successful one year, winning all the contests they enter to then lose because they had to play against Brighouse, Black Dyke, Grimethorpe and the like.
There is one major issue I feel needs to change in banding and that is how stuck in the past and competitive it is. Now, I know I said earlier that I love the camaraderie of banding, but there can be too much dishonesty or ‘back-stabbing’ in banding. Bands either treat you like family or just another person to fill the seat. I can speak from personal experience, as I have had incidents where I have been taken off a solo seat or not been consulted to then turn up to rehearsal and expected to give the euphonium I was using back. I have also had incidents of players I grew up idolising trying to stop me from achieving amazing opportunities and attempting to damage my reputation. I have known players to face discrimination based on their gender or sexuality which has resulted in them having to leave the band or not allowed to play certain instruments. I have even known people to make inappropriate comments to young people in front of a band without anything being said or done about it. I know a lot of people will say its happening a lot less now, but it shouldn’t be happening at all and this is by far the biggest change we need to make in banding and it needs to happen quickly.
Banding could have an amazing, long and prosperous future, but with old-fashioned thinking, banding runs the risk of being ruined and unlikely to have a future at all.
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