4BarsRest's retrospective look on the All England Masters,
There just had to be a sting in the tail didn’t there? On a pretty
amazing day of contesting, the Masters gave us the equivalent of
the Liverpool/Alaves UEFA cup final – lots of skill, talent, brilliant
players and drama by the bucketful. Well done Mr Biggs and Mr Franklin
– Barnum’s Circus couldn’t have done it any better.
We set out early and came back late, but we managed to fit in as
much as we could to try and give you a feel and sense of what was
going on at the Corn Exchange. Sorry about the spelling mistakes
(the keys on the palmtop are a bit small) but we hope you enjoyed
our efforts. And so to the contest…
The predraw that was made give the bands an accurate idea of when
they were to play during the day gave us the first bit of drama.
The first five bands on were Travelsphere, Fairey’s, Leyland, Sellers
and Fodens. Phew!! The three judges – Newsome, Scott and Whitham
were certainly going to earn their money early on. And as we had
backed four of the five to come in the prizes, our reputation as
tipsters was on the line too.
Travelsphere were a huge disappointment and Fairey’s also seemed
resigned to their fate somewhat, whilst Leyland gave us a whistle-stop
romp through. Sellers were steady but it was Fodens who set their
stall out with a cracking performance that owed a lot to Richard
Evans and to the musicianship of his players. A few clips yes, but
very musically shaped.
In the event, Travelsphere dropped quicker down the charts than
the new Spice Girls single and came 18th, whilst Fairey had a mixed
response from the judges that ranged from 3rd and 7th from Mr Whitham
and Mr Scott to 15th from Roy Newsome. 9th place was the result,
but for us it should have been a bit higher. Leyland also suffered
for possibly taking it a bit fast and found themselves in 13th place
at the end - Unlucky. Sellers found that steadiness was rewarded
only by a midfield placing a bit below what we predicted, but Fodens
we thought were more than a little unfortunate to end up 4th overall
(same points as Carlton Main, but Mr Scott placed them 6th to Carlton’s
4th and so they lost a place and £500 to boot).
After the initial surge, Aveley and Rolls Royce showed why “Pageantry”
still has the ability to punish bands severely. Aveley were well
off form and 19th was a fair result (so much for us saying they
could be in the top ten) and Rolls Royce found it very tough going
and confirmed our prediction of a bottom three placing and came
last of the bunch.
A third of the contest gone then and it was fairly clear that Fodens
were the band to beat. Not only was that good for us (we had predicted
a 3rd place), but it was good to see the band back on top form.
Rothwell up next and a performance that could have been up in the
prizes if it wasn’t for some OTT overblowing. They are going in
the right direction though and 11th was about right and a bit better
than we thought before hand.
And so to Brighouse. They took the stage like little Ceasers in
the purple and gold and proceeded to play like emperors. Big, bold,
brilliant is what we said after a performance that had nearly everything.
We say nearly, because all three judges thought it good but not
the best and awarded them 3rd, 3rd and 2nd, but you can’t take it
away from them. Players of the quality of Phillip McCann (who played
quite beautifully in the solos in the 2nd movement), Simon Gresswell
(who won his third Masters title in a row on bass) and Steve Stuart
who was wicked on sop gave them a real stamp of class and authority,
which was harnessed quite brilliantly by Alan Withington. It was
them or Fodens now.
10, 11 and 12 were Todmorden Old, Mount Charles and Woodfalls and
the contest entered a bit of a lull. Tod were possibly undone at
the start due to a mobile phone going off in a woman’s handbag (a
great stare from Dennis Hadfield put her in her place though!) and
never quite recovered and fell away to come 16th, whilst Mount Charles
put up a brave showing to come in 17th and put a few bands more
than we thought beforehand, below them. Woodfalls found life tough
though and 20th was a fair reflection for us.
Ransome and Russell Gray up next and a performance that could have
very nearly been right up there if it wasn’t for the niggling minor
slips that in the end detracted from a very good reading. 4th, 8th
and 12th from the judges seemed to reflect that it was a “nearly”
show that could have had greater reward than 8th place. They confirmed
our “Dark Horse” prediction though. Well-done.
Bodmin also put a well deserved two fingers up at us with a very
competent show that made a monkey of us by saying they had used
up a lot of luck at the Grand Shield. We thought beforehand they
would come in 17th but they really showed us up and took a well-deserved
12th. Good on ’em.
Ever Ready also performed above our expectation and came in 7th
after a solid showing that had some very good moments and some less
good moments in it. Qualification for the Open and now a good Masters
– things are looking good for the band from the northeast – and
not before time. And the same goes for First City Brass. Coming
14th may not be a cause for celebration for some bands, but the
last two contests have been a bit of a disaster and Jeremy Wise
has worked a bit of a minor miracle. Well done to them and Richard
Marshall of Grimethorpe who helped out due to illness on solo cornet
and was superb. It helped, but so did a good reading and solid performance
around the stand.
Carlton Main also upset our predictions in a big way with a performance
of real merit – positive, strong and committed. 2nd, 4th and 10th
from the judges to give 3rd place and push out Fodens, seemed a
bit generous for us, but you couldn’t fault the preparation and
motivation that went into the performance. A return to happy days?
Yorkshire Imps also gave a very fine showing on the day and it was
no surprise to us and the audience that they came a very well deserved
6th place. We said they could make a mark and they certainly did
with Roy Newsome who thought they deserved the top prize, which
raised a few eyebrows afterwards, especially as the other two had
them 9th and 10th. All in all though it was a very good showing.
Besses o’ th’ Barn and Flowers followed and both made good impressions.
Besses also confirmed that they are continuing to improve under
the baton of Gareth Pritchard and 10th spot was good reward for
a quality reading and some detailed playing. In the end they came
one place below what we thought – things are looking up. Flowers
really made you listen. Philip Harper is a very tall bloke with
a very distinctive style to his conducting and interpretation, and
the detail that he brought to his reading was evident as Flowers
produced three movements of real quality. It was a little bit fragmented
for us, but it was classy stuff and 5th place was just reward.
Last band on and the contest was still up for grabs. Not after
Yorkshire Building Society. For us, the majority of the audience
and two of the adjudicators they were on a different planet. Style,
tempo, detail – the performance had it all and apart from the obvious
use of the euphonium to play the lower baritone part at the beginning
of the second movement it was nigh on perfect. We couldn’t see it
being beaten – but then we weren’t in the box were we?
Mr Newsome thought differently and placed them 7th. A bit harsh
in anyone’s book really and one place too many for them to make
it a hat trick of wins. Right at the death the contest had sprung
another surprise and for the second time since 1998 YBS were undone
by one judge placing them way below the others. In 1998 they came
1st, 1st and 13th, whilst this time it was 1st, 1st and 7th. Who
said contesting was predictable.
Our Overall View
Great day, great test piece – wrong result. Brighouse were very
good indeed, but to win the title by not getting one 1st place from
the judges shows how hard done by YBS were. (By the way, when Brighouse
won in 1998 they were placed 3rd, 2nd and 2nd by the judges, whilst
YBS were awarded 1st, 1st and 13th).
Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the system of three judges. Why
not increase the number to five and do as they do in ice skating
and drop the top and bottom mark to leave the three middle marks.
Three is neither too many nor not enough and so suffers when one
judge goes a bit wonky. If Mr Newsome was in the box on his own,
then YBS wouldn’t even have got a mention off the stage, Brighouse
would have been second and the title would have been won by Yorkshire
Imps. We are not criticising Mr Newsome, as he has his own opinions
and we fully respect them, but the system as it is, is open to wild
fluctuations. Perhaps the bands should pay a bit more to get the
extra judges or we could revert back to one man in the box?
Whatever, this was the only thing we could take issue with on a
day that Biggs and Franklin have made very special indeed. They
should be congratulated for the organisation and the way in which
everything runs so smoothly. If they could only get the European
Brass Band Association to give the winners the invite to the Europeans
it would very nearly be perfect. Roll on next year.