National Finals - 2nd Section: Contest details, runners and
riders, our dodgy predictions and test piece review..
Test piece: Diversions Variations on a Swiss Folk Song
Adjudicators: Derek Broadbent and Philip McCann
Preston Guild Hall, Sunday, September 23rd, 10.00am
Ammanford Town (T. Jenkins) Wales
Bendix Kingswood (K. White) West
City of Bristol Brass (B. James) West
Dobcross Youth (T. Griffiths) N. West
Hade Edge (J&E) (S. Wood) Yorkshire
Harborough (C. Groom) Midlands
Knottingley Silver (K. Belcher) Yorkshire
Livingstone Brass (A. Samson) Scotland
Poulton-le-Fylde (G. Clough) N. West
Royal Oakeley (J. Jones) Wales
Stonesfield Silver (T. Brotherhood) London
Tayport Instrumental (R. McDonald) Scotland
Tilbury (R. Nunnery) London
Tintwistle (D. Shutter) Midlands
Towcester Studio (A. Sellers) Midlands
Westoe STHCT (S. Malcolm) North
York Railway Institute (D. Warley) North
If you thought picking a winner from the First Section was hard,
then the Second will give you nightmares. As there are no real form
guides to go on, its something of a lottery to try and pick
the winners, but some bands again stand out, and our spies have
given us some form book indications.
Knottingly Silver and Hade Edge for Yorkshire performed well at
the Areas, with the former having a clear three point victory to
their name and so should be one to look out for. Hade shouldnt
Westcoe and York Railway will also present a strong challenge from
the Northern Area and have two good conductors at the helm to steer
the course through a very tricky test piece. Westoe have improved
enourmously since coming 13th in the Third Section National Finals
last year. Wales sends Ammanford from the south of the Principality
and Royal Oakeley from the north and who came 14th in the Third
Section last year and it should be the northerners who should possibly
impress the most, as they did in winning the Area title in Swansea.
The Midlands sends champions Towcester Studio, who have a good
record of late and Tintwistle who pushed them close at the Area.
Both are young bands with Adele Sellars a young woman who studied
under Howard Snell will be hoping to repeat her triumph at Burton
on Trent. As the Midlands had a large entry a third band, Harborough
under Chris Groom will be hoping to make an impression.
The West of England title was won by the Bendix Kingswood band
and they will travel under Kevin White with high hopes of success.
Joining them on the long trip north will be City of Bristol Brass
under Bryn James, who pushed Bendix closely at the Area.
The North West title holders Dobcross Youth are a band that has
achieved tremendous success under the care and attention of Ted
Griffiths, the father of YBS superstars Morgan and Geraint. They,
and fellow qualifiers Poulton-le-Fylde were a class ahead of the
field in Yorkshire in the Areas and both should present a strong
challenge for the National title.
The Scots have two very strong outfits trying to take the title
back north of the border, with champions Livingston Brass under
Alan Samson showing the form that has at their peak seen them come
5th in the championship Section in Scotland within the last ten
years. They will travel with confidence, as should Tayport Instrumental
under Robert McDonald who pushed them close in March.
London has two good bands on offer as well, with Robert Nunnery
and his Tilbury band giving the area the best chance of success
and Stonesfield Silver hoping also to do well. They may find it
hard though against some very good bands from further north, but
Stonesfield have improved quite a bit from last year when they came
5th in the Third Section Finals.
And the winners will be? Heaven help us. Well go with the
form book of previous years and the bands that have continued to
improve at the Area Championships. So we think the winners could
Dark Horse: Royal Oakeley
Test piece review:
Diversions Variations on a Swiss Folk Song
Composer: Philip Sparke
Studio Music Company
This is going to be a fine test for the bands and one that gives
the judges plenty of sign posts to look out for as reference
points for comparisons between the competitors.
Diversions was commissioned as a 1st Section test piece for a competition
held in the Cantons of Switzerland in June 1999, and it takes the
form of a set of variations on a folk song called Der Heimetvogel
which dates from the 19th Century. There are four main variations
to the work Vivo e scherzando; Subito meno mosso; Lento espressivo
and Vivace and all take their form from whole or part of the first
three notes of the folk song itself. The theme is played also in
two separate guises at different times, so the interest and connection
to it are never lost.
As with all of Philip Sparkes works it is rhythmic and musical
throughout and will require bands and conductors to be on top form
if they are to make the piece come off successfully.
A vivo e ritmico introduction is marked forte and will need sharp
tongues from the solo cornets, which hopefully wont drown
the sop and euph who lead the solo line. The music ebbs away towards
the introduction of the theme before rehearsal marking 34 with the
percussion needing to give clean and clear semi quavers that wont
completely submerge the last few bars marked piano from the band.
The Theme is taken up first by the horn and then passes to flugel,
baritone and solo cornet, so that linking it together is the key
as is the marking, which is piano. Things build (with some
delicate back row cornet work) to the themes end at rehearsal marking
75. Balance and clarity will be required as the score is quite thickly
marked. The last chord marked piano with a pause seems easy enough,
but if the balance and tuning are suspect, it could spell disaster.
Variation 1 is marked crotchet = 168 as its moving along, and sharp
tongues and neatness should score well. This movement has Sparkes
fingerprints of rhythmic neatness all over it and there will be
a need to ensure bands can show the difference in dynamics for it
all to work . It looks deceptively easy on the page of the score,
but with the adrenaline running high, the speed could induce scrappiness
as it builds towards a fortissimo finish two bars before the Second
This is marked dotted crotchet = 120 and there should be a marked
difference in tempo from what has gone before. Its also in
12/8, so rhythmic differences should be noticable. Clarity and cleanliness
are the key again, as will trying not to drown the solo lines from
flugel and baritone at rehearsal 153 where temple blocks are introduced
to compliment muted cornets and trombones. The sop has a nasty little
bit of work around 157 with the solo horn and the movement carries
along needing balanced entries from everyone for it to work comfortably.
Towards the end there is a superb two bar crescendo for all the
band from piano to fortissimo that will really show the class of
the best bands before the movement ends with the possibility of
a few splashes on a fortzando. Sops should go for the top Bb and
sod the consequences!
Variation 3 is the tester though. A quiet seven bar introduction
leads to a lovely cornet solo that will test the nerves. 226 sees
the introduction of some difficult bars that will need work to sound
clean and together and the music flows gently and softly towards
a rall at 244 and a testing little solo for the horn. If this movement
goes well for you, then you may well be in with a shout.
Variation 4 is marked crotchet = 152 and so is a touch down on
the first variation. Its time again for neat and tidy playing,
and although its not technically that hard, (the horns have
a nasty bit at 258 though) the better bands should sail through
this with no problems. Dynamics are important through here as its
not loud and its not until 289 that it becomes forte. Now
it starts to build and the scoring becomes thicker, but clearly
requires the bands to maintain balance between sections.
Theres a neat trick two bars before 323 that will catch many
lesser bands on the hop before 323 makes way for loud, big rounded
sounds before the Maestoso at 327.
Bands shouldnt fall into the trap of playing this too slow
as theres still a way to go to the finish, and the percussion
will have to stop themselves from drowning the rest of the band
in their joy of playing something of interest at last. Balance again
is the key before the close after 351 and an allargando and molto
rall tests the tired lips one more time.
359 sees a vivo marked crotchet = 168 and it will be all hands
to the pumps in the race to the finish. Just a note though. It doesnt
get quicker and there is still lots of detail that should be heard
(trom glissandos after 367) before a last chance to show that youve
been in complete control with a fortepiano crescendo in the last
but one bar and two spiked notes to finish from the band as the
percussion rap out six well timed semi quavers.
If things have gone well, then you could be in line foe a prize,
but this is a test piece that will certainly find out the faults
of both bands and conductors if they havent given things much
thought. If you just try and blast your way through this you wont
Many thanks to Studio Music for the loan of the score to the test
piece. For further details, please contact Studio Music direct.