Guidance for the operation of Brass Bands in Northern Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic – effective from 1st Jul 2020

Following the recent statement of advice from Brass Band England that has been shared widely on social media, we have felt it necessary, with the permission of BBE to adapt the advice in line with the current regulations specific to Northern Ireland.  It should be noted that we are in a very quickly changing situation and as such revisions may be required to this advice on a regular basis.

  1. Indoor meetings (not playing)

Up to six people from different households can meet indoors.

If you decide to meet indoors you should do so as safely as possible and follow public health advice by:

  • limiting the duration of visits
  • ensuring good ventilation
  • maintaining good hand hygiene
  • practicing social distancing where possible

The use of a face covering is also strongly advised.

If using toilets these should be cleaned before and after each use and the lid lowered when flushing to reduce the spread of aerosols. 

Overnight stays are not permitted and those who are medically shielding are strongly advised to continue following the advice that remains in place for that group until the shielding period is paused on 31 July.

  1. Indoor meetings (music lessons, section rehearsals, full band rehearsals, concerts)

The advice at 1 applies. In addition you should:

  • Strictly observe social distancing of 2m in all directions while playing and aim instruments away from other players where possible 
  • Individuals should each handle only their own music stand and music, and take all equipment home after each meeting
  • Bring a towel or similar to empty water keys onto. This should only be handled by the individual, removed by them and cleaned or disposed of after each use
  • Instruments should be cleaned after each use
  • Extra cleaning of mouthpieces should be observed
  • There should be no sharing of instruments or accessories i.e. mutes or valve oil
  • After rehearsals the area should be thoroughly cleaned before being used by anyone else i.e. crawling children
  • Ventilation should be increased as much as possible to remove the accumulation of aerosol particles

Rehearsals/concerts of more than 6 people indoors are not permitted.

  1. Outdoor gatherings (rehearsals and performances)

Up to 30 people from different households can meet up outdoors but should maintain social distancing by being 2m apart.

This in theory should allow outdoor rehearsals to take place, provided the following are observed:

  • Strictly observe social distancing of 2m in all directions while playing and aim instruments away from other players where possible 
  • Individuals should each handle only their own music stand and music, and take all equipment home after each meeting
  • Bring a towel or similar to empty water keys onto. This should only be handled by the individual, removed by them and cleaned or disposed of after each use
  • Instruments should be cleaned after each use
  • Extra cleaning of mouthpieces should be observed
  • There should be no sharing of instruments or accessories i.e. mutes or valve oil
  • Keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • Using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • Avoid facing each other directly
  • Stagger arrival and departure times
  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with
  • If using toilet facilities these should be cleaned before and after each use and the lid lowered when flushing to reduce the spread of aerosols. 

In addition, bands are advised to keep an accurate record of attendance, including arrival and departure times, and contact details for potential use in contact tracing. 

Seated outdoor performances such as in local parks will be difficult/impossible to undertake if it is likely that large numbers of people will converge and crowds will form.

A standalone march or parade may be permissible. The guidance is the same as for outdoor rehearsals, including a maximum of 30 people participating in the band, and compliance with any conditions of parading as set by the Parades Commission. Advice should be sought from the PSNI. A march leading a parade, where the total numbers involved exceed 30 people, is not permissible.

  1. Indoor church services

Certain church services (not baptisms, funerals or certain weddings) in places of worship resumed on 29 June. Advice has been issued to churches, and whilst not specific on the playing of brass instruments, it does indicate that activities such as singing can increase dispersal of the virus through aerosols and droplets, especially at loud volumes, and should not be encouraged. This advice may change in the near future but for now it is not advisable for bands or brass ensembles to take part in church services.

Notes on this advice

This advice does not apply directly to anyone currently being shielded. They should continue to observe the latest specific Government advice and any direct contact with other band members should carefully reflect this. Similarly, anyone currently showing known symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been in recent contact with someone who has, or those belonging to vulnerable categories, should not yet take part in any group activity but should remain at home in isolation.

Further Information

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-and-what-they-mean-you

https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/your-guide-to-covid-regs.pdf

This message has been emailed to all affiliated and unaffiliated bands that we have email addresses for. If you have not received this and are the secretary or bandmaster of your band, please contact our secretary Amber at 07593061905 or secretary@brassbandleague.org

Brass Band League NI – Contesting Year in Review 2019-2020

Brass in Concert 2019

Once again, it’s been another busy year for the BBL.  We started our banding year in the first weekend in March at the Valley Hotel, Fivemiletown.  The weekend featured seventeen bands in total doing what brass bands do best – entertaining a crowd.

The event started on the Friday night with a fantastic concert with five local bands.  Ballyreagh Silver Band, Enniskillen Royal Grammar School, Tempo Silver Band, Churchill Silver Band and Murley Silver band all provided an excellent opening to our Brass in Concert weekend. 

On the Saturday, Mike Kilroy and Alan Trimble were in the adjudicator hot seats judging the bands on their musical and entertainment performance quality respectively. Poyntzpass Silver Band, Wellington Memorial Silver Band, CWA Brass and 1st Old Boys Band all won their sections and were inaugural winners of our brand new Brass in Concert trophies.

Spring Festival and Band of the Year

Saturday 6th April saw the Brass Band League return to Strabane’s Alley Theatre with their annual Spring Festival contest as guests of the North West Music Festival.

Sheona White adjudicated the performances of all 11 bands playing their own choice of contest piece. Enniskillen Royal Grammar School (School Band), Roughan Silver Band (2nd Section) and 1st Old Boys Band (Championship Section) came away with all the silverware in their sections.  Mark Ruddock from Laganvale (Metal Technology) Band also went home with the Peter Arthurs Memorial Trophy for Best Soprano On The Day. 

Enniskillen Royal Grammar School Band with their Conductor Stephen Magee and Adjudicator Sheona White

The Band of the Year for 2018-19 prizes were also presented at the Spring Festival. The 4th/5th Section trophy went to Poyntzpass Silver, 3rd Section to Wellington Memorial Silver, 2nd Section to Roughan Silver with Laganvale (Metal Technology) Band taking the Championship Section trophy and the Haughton Cup for overall Band of the Year.

Roughan Silver Band

BBL Quiz Night

The Brass Band League doesn’t just do contests and Friday 2nd August brought the BBL to Carrick Amateur Social Club in Carrickfergus for the second BBL Quiz night.  Members were competing for the coveted March Prize alongside the overall Winners’ Prize. 

Maximum concentration from all teams!

The results were tight but the March Prize went to CWA Brass whilst a joint team of Third Carrickfergus Silver Band/Downshire Brass/CWA Brass took home the overall prize.  It was a great night that managed to raise over £300 to go towards future Brass Band League events!

Solos and Ensembles

With the Festival of Brass event taking a hiatus in 2019 our next event was the Solos and Ensembles that were held on 15th February 2020 in Malone Presbyterian Church Halls and they brought the 2019-2020 banding year to a close.

Audience listening to the lunchtime breakout session presented by Les Neish and Owen Farr

With the assistance of Tyrone Fermanagh Brass Band Summer School (FTBBSS), the BBL were delighted to welcome back Owen Farr and Les Neish to adjudicate the Youth and Senior Section respectively.

It was a great day with competitors from 12 different bands and every brass instrument in a band represented!  With 113 performances across 14 classes, there are too many prize winners to name is this brief round-up but you can find the full list of results to all our contests here: https://brassbandleague.org/results-2/

That concludes the round up for the 2019-2020 contesting banding year.  I would like to thank all our adjudicators, compères, and venue hosts. I would also like to thank all the bands and their members who have been involved in our events throughout the year.  I hope that even with everything that is going on that you, like me, are looking forward to seeing everyone again at all our future events. Stay safe!

Spring Festival 2020 Cancelled

Due to the current circumstances surrounding Coronavirus, the Brass Band League along with our partners, Together in Music, have taken the very difficult decision to cancel this year’s Spring Festival contest that was due to take place in the Strule Arts Theatre, Omagh, on the Saturday 25th April.  Sadly the concert that was due to take place on the preceding evening featuring Owen Farr with Churchill Silver and Omagh Academy Brass Bands has also been cancelled. 

This was not an easy decision to make on our part as we have recently visited the lovely facilities in Omagh and were looking forward to having our event there.  Hopefully we can return to Omagh in 2021. 

All BBL delegate meetings are also cancelled until further notice.

However, we still hope to release the results of our annual ‘Band of the Year’ competition in the coming weeks.  The actual prize giving may have to wait until later in the year but we would like to give you something to look forward to!

We currently find ourselves in extraordinary times and would like to ask you all to look out for and support one another.  The Brass Band League will also do our utmost to support all of our bands in any way that we can – please don’t hesitate to get in contact if you need to.

Finally, Brass Bands England have published some very sensible advice aimed at Brass Bands which you can access here https://www.bbe.org.uk/news/13032020-1704/bbe-statement-the-covid-19-pandemic.  They have kindly given permission for us to share this with you.

Best Wishes

The Brass Band League Executive