2010 West of England Regional Championship - Championship Section: retrospective18-Mar-2010
A first major win for Paul Holland and Flowers as the Torquay curse strikes yet again...
Champion smiles: Flowers regain their West of England title
Although the sense of intense rivalry in the top section wasn’t as obvious at Torquay as it was in Bradford the previous weekend, there was no doubting the deep seated feeling of delight felt by Flowers when announced as 2010 West of England Regional Champion.
A group of their players sat in the middle of the hall had a fair inkling that it was going to be an evening to enjoy at the Riviera Centre when the only other realistic rivals for the title, Woodfalls, Mount Charles and Camborne were announced in the minor placings.
There was only the most temporary moment of anxiety left to worry them before Regional Secretary Brian Elliott announced them as winners.
It was the first major victory for the band under conductor Paul Holland, and his delight was obvious. “It’s been coming a while,” he told 4BR. “We are still developing as a band in the direction I feel is right, but the players have been superb and the performance today was just what I required from them.”
The development he talked about was obvious on the ear as they produced a robust, full-bodied tonality on ‘English Heritage’ from start to finish.
The metallic edge that has at times disfigured their performances at major contests through a combination of endeavour and enthusiasm was replaced by a broad, balanced tonality as the MD kept a lid on the extreme end of the dynamic range, especially towards the end of the piece (his arm must have ached after being set in horizontal ‘keep it down’ mode for the last minute or so).
That discipline allowed Flowers to capture the subtle dynamic nuances in the score – the excellence of ensemble and individual technique showcased without recourse to forcefulness.
Chris Howley and flugel horn Danny Winder had fine days, especially in their well-shaped duet cadenza, and the principal cornet was the only top man to really nail the fast paced filigree solo with a top Eb of the genuine required brilliance.
Elsewhere, Phil Green rolled back the years (and his ears) to produce the best bit of tuba work of the day and there were notable contributions especially from an understated percussion team.
It was an impressive performance from an impressive band.
Smiling Flowers: Mike James and Paul Holland with the Flowers silverware
Stamp of quality
That stamp of quality was just what adjudicators Stan Lippeatt and David Horsfield wanted to hear in the box. Stan remarked that there had been ‘…four performances clearly above the other six’ on the day, and that ‘…two of those were clearly above the other two.’ Keeping on the ocular theme he also added that there were ‘clear winners’ too.
As an example Stan highlighted that in part they had looked closely at the quality of solo and ensemble security, especially in the duet cadenza and the extended pianissimo largo.
The bands couldn’t say they didn’t know what these pair were looking for. Any clearer in the minds eye and Stan and David may well have sat in the open.
Joining them at London will be Camborne, who produced a composed, thoughtful performance of Lloyd’s wonderful work that had a sense of musical understanding about it courtesy of Ian Porthouse’s lyrical reading of the score.
Although at times they couldn’t quite match the technical clarity of Flowers, the lyrical musicality in the elongated largo section was the best of the day by a margin.
Some fine individual performances and a bass end that provided a deeply sonorous foundation saw them qualify with some ease, although they became the latest in a long line of defending champions unable to hold onto their title.
The contest had started with a great deal of anticipation (and a little unintentional faux pas from the regional secretary) as Dr Nicholas Childs and Woodfalls produced an enjoyable, if uneven account, from the number 1 draw.
Despite the cultured overall shape to the reading, the execution was marred by individual error and camouflage work that was too obvious to ignore (the use of a huge bucket mute so that the 4th solo cornet could play the opening flugel solo was a risk that didn’t come off).
Despite a rousing closing section, the MD will have known before he left the stage that he would have to wait another year to add to his single top section success here.
London bound: Camborne returns to Kensington in October
That stuttering start to the contest saw St Dennis follow with a neatly projected performance under Philip Harper that just lacked that essential depth of tonality for them to realistically push for a podium place. It had it moments, but not enough, although they would have been delighted with their eventual 5th place finish.
Helston’s performance was one not quite the sum of its parts. MD John Hitchin expertly managed his resources (with the two top cornets and sop sharing the fast filigree solo), but despite the excellence of many of the individual contributions the overall picture was scrappy and lacking in tonal depth to have come any higher than it eventually did in 8th.
Sum of parts
Two performances that were certainly the sum of their hard working parts came from Sherborne and Lydbrook.
Paul Cosh really brought a well structured shape to his reading of the score, which never asked his players to do anything they didn’t feel uncomfortable with and which resulted in extended periods of quality playing to come a solid 7th.
Meanwhile, Tom Brevic did the same with Lydbrook. His lyrically inspired interpretation, with an emphasis on well-shaped phrasing allowed the band to play to its strengths, and brought nuanced musicality to the fore as they claimed a deserved 6th place.
The two bands that did struggle were Yeovil and Poole Borough. Both found the technical problems imposed by the work difficult to overcome at times.
Phil Randell’s intelligent direction allowed Poole the chance to shine in the extended lyrical passages of the piece, whilst Kevin Robbins battled manfully to mix and match his approach to overcome some of the more treacherous technical moments.
Woodfalls just miss out in third place
Up for grabs
With just Mount Charles left to take to the stage, the contest was still up for grabs. Flowers and Camborne had produced fine accounts, but both had moments of unease and were eminently beatable, whilst Woodfalls by now knew that their prospects of a Kensington berth were waning.
Philip McCann took to the stage in his now trademark red glasses (which matched perfectly the red bow ties of his players) and a ‘self help’ laminated sign that was either a discarded advert form the window of the local newsagents for Alcoholics Anonymous (we think it said ‘teamwork’) or was a smaller version of the eye chart Philip had to read when he got his trendy goggles from Specsavers.
As with his reading with Carlton Main in Bradford seven days earlier, the sense of lyrical musicality was persuasively set out (with a wonderful bit of flugel horn playing from Tim Whitehead that was worth the admission to the contest on its own) and it seemed the performance was building into something very special.
However, a small, but increasing litany of unforced errors, some inexperience and tiredness in the final section just took the gloss off and meant that it was unable to force itself into the qualification places.
For Flowers though, a win that meant a great deal – and not just for the immediate bragging rights in the Riviera Centre bar.
For the MD though, the victory that had the hallmarks of his growing musical influence on his band. This was very much a victory for Paul Holland’s Flowers, and not the other way around – and that could well be the balance required for future major success.
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