Since its modest beginnings over 30 years ago, NCBF - National Concert Band Festival has developed and grown in size and prestige until now it is recognised as the largest, most active, enterprising Festival for wind instrument musicians who play in wind bands or big bands throughout the UK.
The greatest credit is due to the musical instrument makers – Boosey and Hawkes – who over 20 years ago had the initiative and enterprise to start an annual Festival, which now has become the model and bench-mark for quality music making for wind bands and big bands.
The music they play, from annually up-dated Repertoire Lists, has been chosen to reflect the great wind music written by composers of the past, as well as the increasing large amount of music being written for wind instruments by highly skilled and successful living composers. Performances are assessed at Regional events throughout the country by experts who award Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze awards.
The highest awards also carry an invitation to take part in the National Festival – two days of non-stop music making, which in recent years has been held at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester; the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow and The Sage Gateshead
"NCBF has truly created a unique place in the world of wind bands and big bands."
It sounds like a dream story; but times change.
A few years ago, Boosey and Hawkes passed the title – and with it the responsibility of running ncbf – to the BASBWE (British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles) Education Trust, at the same time as informing that the Company could no longer continue the level of financial support and sponsorship as previously and on which the Festival had depended. In 2004, ncbf became a Registered Charity in its own right and bought the title from the BASBWE Education Trust. Since then, financial support has been forthcoming from The PRS Foundation and Yamaha.
In recent seasons, 120 bands – representing some 5,000 players – take part in the ncbf Regional Festivals – they range in age from 8 to 80. Over the two days of the National Festival, there are in excess of 2,400 participants and 900 supporters in attendance – the largest gathering of wind musicians in the UK. Yet those who are responsible for the running of ncbf know – and are facing the reality of that knowledge with realism – that without additional funding, ncbf cannot survive and thrive – and with it the carefully nurtured proposals which have been put forward for the growth and enhancement of the Festival over the next few years, namely to:
- Increase the number of Regional events from the present 7 to 10 in order to ease access for all bands wherever in the UK
- Encourage more bands to perform pieces for both wind band and big band by British composers
- Increase the opportunities for bands, in order to have post-performance workshop sessions with adjudicators/clinicians and composers
- Increase the opportunity for conductors/musical directors to participate in training sessions
“This festival is the life-blood of bands in the UK and has produced more quality performances each and ever year – it is a hobby for life that allows musicians of all ages to pace one another on the road to excellence.” International conductor Geoffrey Brand (ex chairman: NCBF)