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You play what?


The Salvation Army has had brass bands since 1878 when Fred Fry told his three boys (Huey, Dewey and Louie, I believe) to make a joyful noise for the Lord.


My own corps has a very good brass band, which I play in, as well as a worship band, and both aid our Sunday worship beautifully.


I think I’ve realised why brass bands have declined in the Army. It’s simply because the instruments have weird names. And so I’m suggesting that we change the names and watch as people flock back to band practice and ‘A Tune A Day’ books become bestsellers again.


Let’s begin with the bass, which we all know is a tuba, but, for some reason, we call it a bass. I’m suggesting we call it (depending on copyright issues with Hungry Jacks) ‘the big whopper’.


Really, if you’re a bass player and a small child comes up to you and says, “What instrument do you play?”, would you rather say, “B flat bass”, or point at it and say, with a grin, “The big whopper”. Correct, you’d prefer the latter.


Trombones should be called ‘slidey pumpers’ and bass trombones should be called ‘extendable crackers’, based on the cracking sound they make when the player has a big set of lungs and wants to give the player in front of him a heart attack.


Flugel horns sound lovely but should really be known as ‘fat trumpets’ (as distinct from fat strumpets, but that’s an article for another day). Either that or flugelators; this would allow us to call players of the instrument flugelatorologists, which would just look great on a business card. ‘M. Davies, professional flugelatorologist for hire’.


If basses become big whoppers, then clearly euphoniums should be ‘regular whoppers’, baritones should be ‘mini-whoppers’, and tenor horns should be ‘piccolo whoppers’. That’s all self-explanatory.


Cornet players like the high notes and getting all the attention as the instrument that often carries the melody of a band piece. I think they should be called ‘silver cornetto air blasting shriekers’; it just seems more appropriate. They could be called ‘scabs’ for short.


I’ve always loved percussion and love the way they play so many different instruments in some of the longer band selections. I had an uncle who played percussion in a very good band, and I would watch as he tucked his sticks under his arm, walked to the cymbal and hit it twice with a different stick, placed that stick under the other arm and picked up a set of maracas, then picked up a metal beater and struck the triangle three times.


I think we should refer to percussion as ‘noise juggling’ instead. It sounds much more fun. “What do you do at church on Sundays?”, “I’m a noise juggler.”


That leaves the bandmaster, who is often waving his/her arms in the air and holding a baton – I think we should call them ‘musical stick insects’.


That should do it. Swing those name changes into place and watch our brass bands grow. Now, I can’t wait to play my piccolo whopper next Sunday.


– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos


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