EDRICH SIEBERT : Man of Brass
by PHILIP SCOWCROFT
Edrich Siebert is still, twenty years after his death, a much performed figure in the brass band world. Many of his prolific arrangements and compositions are suitable for, and are eagerly lapped up by, junior bands and their members, though others have been played and recorded by major bands.
He was born Stanley Smith Master in London on 9 May 1903 and began his musical career in 1917 as a boy musician in the Cheshire Regiment in which he served until 1929. There he at first played piccolo and flute, then saxophone; but he soon became attracted to the sonorities of brass instruments and that was to be a lifelong love affair. Whilst in the army he had ample opportunity to assess the capabilities of the various instruments; generally speaking, he was self taught.
Recalled to the army during the Second World War he travelled more than ten thousand miles with the regimental band, entertaining troops in Sicily, Italy and later Austria. Each concert ended with aGood Night Song, written, composed and conducted by himself. (He composed other songs during his career, among them The Biggest Blooming Marrow in the World). In Austria during 1945-6 the band broadcast every week on the Forces network from Graz and for those engagements he was both announcer and player.
Discharged again from the army in 1946, he decided to become a full-time arranger and composer and from then on the story of his life becomes effectively a long list of publications. It was a great day for him when Harry Mortimer formed the All-Star Brass band and included in its first recording Siebert’s Polished Brass and cornet trio Three Jolly Sailormen. In addition Mortimer asked him to make arrangements for the Band; other All-Star Siebert recordings included Warriors Three and, possibly his best known piece, The Lazy Trumpeter. Recordings of Siebert compositions also came from other bands, among them Fodens, Creswell Colliery, Morris Motors, Fairey and Cory. He arranged for Chappell. His galop Over the Sticks was adopted as the signature tune of the radio programme "Mid-day Music Hall". He died in 1984.
Siebert’s publications, arrangements and originals, are legion. The great majority are for brass, for either quartet or (mostly) full band. A number were for military or wind band – he had after all been a military musician – and these include Bees a-Buzzin’, once popular as a brass band piece but also done for four saxophones and military band, Military Cha-Cha and the clarinet feature Wind in the Wood. Occasionally he wrote for orchestra and Tick Tock Serenade is an example.
His arrangements for brass were often of popular hits or traditional tunes but they also included César Franck’s The Accursed Huntsman and works by, among others, Bach, Mozart, Verdi, Delibes, Brahms, Mussorgsky, Massenet and Tchaikovsky. Compositions included many marches (The Big Parade, The Legionnaires, Follow the Band, Marching Sergeants, Vermont, Ballycastle Bay, On the Ball, The Rover’s Return, The Queen’s Guard, Portsmouth Chimes and The Queen’s Trumpeters) and solos for various instruments including some, in his day at any rate, not often accorded solo status, like The Bombastic Bombardon and Dear to my Heart for bass and The Eternal Triangle for triangle as well as, more usually, for trombone (Fiorella) and cornet (Tango Militaire).
A remarkable number of Siebert publications seem to constitute an extended "Cook’s Tour" of the United States: Boston Bounce, Carolina Cakewalk, Connecticut Capers, Delaware Waltz, Hawaiian Hoedown, Louisiana Polka, Rhode Island Rag, Salt Lake City Samba, Santa Fe Trail, Texas Tango andMarching to Michigan. These and other miniatures, like Boogie in the Bandstand, the Latin American numbers Cucarumba and Tango Taquin, Edelweiss Waltz, the pasodoble La Mancha, Brass Band Bounce, the "rondo giocoso" Irish Rondo, Gipsy Wedding, Brass Tacks, Palm Beach (a barcarolle),Little Dutch Doll, John Gilpin’s Ride, Three Jolly Airmen and the Irish, Scottish and Welsh Cameos are all short. Rather longer are the suites Brass Band Sketches and The Rising Generation, Summer Serenade and the spring fantasy The Cuckoo and the Bumblebee.
If my experience is any guide, Siebert must have claimed royalties on a huge number of performances, but unlike some writers for band – Eric Ball, Gilbert Vinter, Gordon Langford and Denis Wright among them – the virtual lack in his output of a major work has probably meant that his reputation stands lower than theirs. But for all that, he is worthy of our remembrance.
© COPYRIGHT Philip Scowcroft, 2005