The Dublin Metro Brass Band
The Dublin Metro Brass is the most recent addition to the Dublin Community Bands family. This ensemble was created to allow musicians the opportunity to experience the Brass Band world without the high intensity and full-year commitment of most competitive Bands.
The rehearsal season runs from September through June with the goal of competing and performing at events like the Dublin Festival of Brass, the North American Brass Band Association Championships, and the Ohio Brass Arts Festival. Merging the "community band" and "competition band" experiences, Dublin Metro Brass is open to all interested musicians (no audition necessary), but does require a season-long commitment from its members to attend all rehearsals and practice regularly at home in order to effectively prepare for concerts and competitions.
Dublin Metro Brass is a British-style Brass Band, which differs from a traditional Concert Band or Wind Symphony in both group size and instrumentation. Brass Bands are smaller (~30 players), leaving parts more exposed than in a larger band setting (there may be only 2 or 3 musicians on each part, with opportunities to solo), and the instruments are limited to Soprano and Bb Cornet, Flugelhorn, Eb Tenor Horn, Baritone, Euphonium, Trombone, Eb and Bb Tuba, and Percussion. (If you have experience with any brass instrument, you may be comfortable switching to learn a new part!) Learn more about Brass Bands and instrumentation below.
DR. KEITH M. WILKINSON, Musical Director
Keith Wilkinson has been successfully directing brass bands for more than 50 years! He commenced regularly conducting brass bands while he was a student at the University Of Manchester and following two enjoyable periods directing Salvation Army bands, he entered the highly competitive British brass band contesting scene in the Fall of 1976. In the following 20 years he enjoyed an enormous amount of success, including having the privilege of directing the first-placed band in more than 40 contests. In several of these competitions, upwards of 20 bands would have been performing. The majority of these successes were with his own band, the GUS Band, and later the William Davis Band, while some were as a guest conductor, primarily with Scotland's Newtongrange Band. While living in England, he was happy to accept invitations to conduct at various locations around Europe, and for a period he was principal guest conductor of Switzerland's Brass Band Fribourg.
Since moving with his wife Audrey and daughters Debbie and Katie to the United States in 1996, he has been delighted to receive a number of invitations to return to Britain to conduct. Following a recent appearance with Newtongrange Band, one commentator wrote "a welcome return to the UK of a conductor of proven 24 carat class" (Iwan Fox, 4barsrest.com).
Keith's first home in the US was in northern Ohio, and shortly after his arrival knowledge that he was living in the area led to the formation of Brass Band Of The Western Reserve, a band he led with distinction until the Summer of 2021. In recognition of his 24 years with BBWR, he is now their Music Director Emeritus.
Keith continues to receive frequent invitations to use his talent and experience to direct brass bands. In the Fall of 2021 he directed Central Ohio Brass Band as they progressed from the pandemic-enforced break in their regular activities. In September 2022, he led a retreat in Canada for two of their finest bands, Orillia Silver Band and Weston Silver Band. He first directed Dublin Metro Brass in a couple of successful events in June 2022 and became the band's Musical Director starting in the Fall of 2022.
While brass band competitions are less prominent in this country than in Britain, he has continued his previous success by conducting the first-placed band on 5 occasions in different sections of the North American Brass Band Championships. He is regularly in demand to adjudicate at the North American Championships where he is able to make use of his experience as a regularly-featured adjudicator around Britain and Europe.
Alongside Keith's busy musical activities, he has also been a successful university Professor of Mathematics at the University of Nottingham in England and more recently at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.
Each of the bands he has directed has established an outstanding reputation for their concert presentations and these have been enhanced by the inclusion of some of Keith's own brass band arrangements. He has more than 120 published arrangements with publishers in Britain, Switzerland, and the USA. Some of his arrangements have been used as test pieces at major championships. In order to make his arrangements available more rapidly, he has formed his own publishing company Alum Creek Music (alumcreekmusic.com).
What is a Brass Band?
A traditional British Brass Band calls for a very specific combination of brass instruments, along with a percussion section. Unlike traditional wind bands, which use trumpets and French horns, the Brass Band makes use of cornets and E-flat tenor horns for these voices. The design of all the instruments in the brass band can be simplified to say that they are all different sizes of essentially the same conical-bore instrument (with the obvious exception of the trombone).
This homogeneity allows for a rich and balanced sound that cannot be duplicated in other ensembles. Interestingly, part of the Brass Band tradition calls for all of the music parts to be written in the treble clef, from soprano cornet all the way down to tuba! The only exception to this is the bass trombone, which is still written in the bass clef.
One of the main reasons for the very specific instrumentation of a Brass Band is the very strong and popular tradition of contesting and competition. In a Brass Band contest, only the set number of players are allowed on stage. Contest types vary across not only Britain, but the world. Competition serves not only as a yardstick to measure an ensemble’s quality and progress, but also as strong motivation for the musicians to improve as individuals and stay at the top of their game. In these competitions, Brass Bands are ranked based on performances in previous contests and classified into what are called sections: Open, Third, Second, First, and Championship sections compete against other bands at their level.
In the lower sections, as bands continue to develop, the traditional March & Hymn contest holds a priority, as it allows groups to choose their own pieces and work on achieving the fundamental sound of a brass band.
The top contests often require all of the bands (anywhere from 12-25 competing groups at a time) to play the same “set piece” or “test piece” of music, in order to create a more level playing field for comparison.
The other high-profile contest format is the entertainment contest, in which bands are rewarded for fine playing, strong soloists, and innovative performances.
One of the top Youth Brass Bands in Britain has a great description of each instrument section on their website as well: Youth Brass 2000 - What is a Brass Band?
Instruments of a Brass Band
Soprano and Bb Cornets
Trumpet players can easily switch to the Cornet. The Soprano Cornet is the top voice of the brass band. The Soprano Cornet should be treated somewhat like a piccolo is treated in a wind band; The prevalent sound should be sweet and light, floating on top of the ensemble. Only occasionally, when voiced to add brilliance in unison or octave to the fortissimo solo cornet sound, should the soprano be bright and edgy. The Bb cornets are subdivided into the front row and back row. The front row, or solo cornets, often provide melodic lines or play very technical passages. The back row (repiano, 2nd, and 3rd cornets) provided harmonies and support to the front row.
Flugelhorn and E-flat Tenor Horns
Trumpet players can easily switch to the Flugelhorn. The flugelhorn is the crossroads of the band, connecting the lower band to the upper band with its range of sonorities. The flugelhorn can, and often does, provide the top voice of the tenor horn choir. It can also reinforce the cornet sound, support the back row cornets, or add body to the repiano voice.
French Horn and Trumpet players can switch to the Tenor Horn. The tenor horn can be conceptualized as an alto cornet - the downward extension of the cornet section. The tenor horn should have clearly audible overtones and character to its sound, not be a bland, and strive only for darkness.
Baritones and Euphoniums
Baritones are known as the “utility” players, much like the role the euphonium plays in a wind band. The role of this player in the band is often to be the bass voice of the horns, to add brilliance to tutti parts with the euphoniums, to add depth of sound to the trombones, or to play on their own.
Euphoniums lead the right side of the band. Their sound is the “icing on the cake” to the euphonium and baritone section. This should be a leader in terms of character of sound and volume.
The Trombone section of the brass band is an interesting section in that it should be treated like the “brass section” of the brass band. In other words, it should be treated like the orchestra treats their brass section. In loud passages, the trombones should come out of the texture and provide the edge and power to the overall sound. Most other times, the trombone section is filler texture or in the background.
E-flat and B-flat Tubas (also called Basses)
The bass sound of the band is quite different than the tuba sound in an orchestra. The tuba sound in orchestra is a more focused and cutting sound in that ensemble, whereas the bass sound in brass band should be more similar to the double bass sound in an orchestra. The listener should notice that the bass sound is there, but should not be able to notice that the basses are tubas. The sound should be less focused than the traditional “orchestral” sound; more of just a “presence”.
The percussion section plays essentially the same role as in the orchestra or wind band with one important difference. Since the highest-pitched instrument in the ensemble is the soprano cornet, some brass band composers and arrangers rely on the mallet instruments to provide the top two octaves of color and shimmer.