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National Finals - 3rd Section: Contest details, runners and riders, our dodgy predictions and test piece review..

Third Section:
Test Piece: An English Suite for Brass Band
(Michael Ball)
Adjudicators: Richard Evans and Geoffrey Whitham

Preston Guild Hall, September 22nd
Commences following Fourth Section

Armthorpe Elmfield (H. Griffiths) Yorkshire
Beaumaris “B” (F. Evans) Wales
Becontree Brass (W. Rumford) London
Bream Silver (N. Howard) West
Cantium Brass (J. Goold) London
Clydebank Burgh (D. Laughland) Scotland
Cwmbran (J. Burns) Wales
Ferryhill Town (S. Robson) North
Foresters Brass 2000 (D. Blakeson) Midlands
Helston Town (E. Ashton) West
Horbury Victoria (I. Shires) Yorkshire
Lancashire Life Morecombe (A. Warriner) N. West
Langbaurgh Brass (T. Oldroyd) North
Manx Concert Brass (I. Clague) N. West
Raunds Temperance (J. Fletcher) Midlands
Tullis Russell Mills (S. Barker) Scotland

This is going to be hard.

Nearly all of the bands taking part in the Third Section are capable of winning the top prize, although some may be more capable than others given the difficulty of Michael Ball’s test piece. There are enough moments in it for the judges to make accurate comparisons between the bands rather than just counting the slips and so a lot could depend on the way in which the conductors approach the music.

Beaumaris “B” from Wales will surely be a contender, as they won the National Fourth Section title last year and were comfortable winners of the Area title in Swansea, ahead of the other Welsh representatives, Cwmbran. Both are good little bands, but don’t be surprised to see the North Walians very much up there in the prize list.

The Midlands also send a band that did well at the Fourth Section Finals last year, in the shape of Raunds Temperance who came third and who have continued to improve since. They came runners up to Foresters Brass 2000 at the Area, and they too are a and that has come on in leaps and bounds since taking 10th place in the National Fourth Section finals last year. Both should travel with high hopes of doing well.

The North West has a good record of achievement at the Finals and Manx Concert Brass, who won the Area title ahead of fellow qualifiers Lancashire Life Morecambe could well be a band in with a good shout. They are another band that has made steady progress over the past few years since coming fourth at the Area championships in the Fourth Section in 1995. Morecambe are also on a bit of an up and have a good conductor in Andrew Warriner to lead them. Both bands could do well.

Yorkshire send Armthorpe Elmfield and Horbury Victoria, who came first and second quite comfortably at the Area in Bradford. Armthorpe in particular under Hayden Griffiths made the most of “Sinfonietta” that day and were well commended by adjudicator Roy Sparkes. Horbury will be conducted by Ian Shires who plays flugel for Grimethorpe and who will still be on a high after the Open and are determined to improve on last years 6th place at the same contest. This could bode well for his band.

The Scots making the long journey south are Clydebank Burgh and Tullis Russell Mills, both of whom also qualified in some comfort from the Area. Both will have to work hard to repeat the first and second places of their fellow Scottish bands at the Finals last year, but both have shown they are well capable of mounting a strong challenge. Clydebank have made startling progress since coming 7th in the Fourth Section finals last year and Tullis are not too far behind either and have a good man with the stick in Scott Baker to lead them on stage.

Londons representatives are Area title winners, Cantium Brass conducted by John Goold and Becontree Brass under the baton of William Rumford. Both may find it hard against more experienced opposition at the Finals, as the standard at the Area was not as high as elsewhere, but both showed enough to suggest they won’t be disgraced and could very well put up strong challenges with a little bit of luck. Cantium came 11th last year and will be hoping to improve on that.

The North of England sends two strong contenders in the shape of champions Ferryhill Town and Langbaurgh Brass. Ferryhill in particular have made striking progress as they came 20th and last in the Fourth Section National Finals less than a year ago! Steve Robson has been working wonders, whilst there are quiet rumours going around that Langbaurgh have had a influx of players from higher section bands that could see them really being able to mount a significant challenge as well. Both will have high expectations.

Finally, the West Country hopefuls will be Bream Silver under Nigel Howard who won the Area title by a clear two point margin and Helston Town who were comfortable runners up. Bream are a good hard working outfit that has benefited from sensible direction under Nigel Howard that has started to reap reward, whilst Helston make the very long trip up from Cornwall in good heart and will be looking to make a mark.

And the winners will be? Another one to get you scratching your head and closing your eyes are sticking a pin in the programme, but we think there will be a few performances from the more experienced outfits that could just see them through.

Langbaurgh Brass
Manx Concert Brass
Beaumaris “B”
Armthorpe Elmfield
Horbury Victoria
Raunds Temperance
Dark Horse: Clydebank Burgh

Third Section Test Piece Review:
An English Suite, Michael Ball
Novello, distributed by Studio Music

This is a great little piece. Michael Ball has written for the best bands in the land, with his “Ceremony” and “Whitsun Wakes” both being used for the British Open Championships, so he has a very good pedigree for writing very musical and enjoyable brass band pieces.

“An English Suite” was a joint commission from Fodens Band and English Heritage as part of the bands centenary celebrations in 2000. It’s really a three movement work that is played without a break and the music gives homage to Gustav Holst’s “A Moorside Suite” in that two of the movements are entitled “Nocturne” and “Scherzo” . The last movement is in the form of a “Hoe Down” called “Plymouth Town” and gives the test piece a jolly and up tempo finale that everyone should enjoy playing and hearing.

The bands will find it a bit of a fair old test as well and things could go peetong for many within the first thirty or so bars, where it starts with two basses marked piano playing a light dancing 6/8 rhythm that builds through baritones, horns and euph, - never more than mezzo piano up to rehearsal mark 3. The build up continues apace (it’s marked crotchet = 126) before the whole band takes up the tune just before 5. Again it’s about balance and neatness from the players and at figure 8 there’s a tricky section that will require more than a bit of work for it to come off.

Things go a bit more melodic at 9, but the same tempo remains and it will need cool heads to finish things off. 12 onwards sees the tempo remain the same but it will need clarity in the main lines to ensure things end well.

The Nocturne is marked crotchet = 72 and is in ¾. The main lines are marked mezzo forte before the euph takes up the solo line with pianissimo accompaniment. For it to work well, the quiet playing will need to be both balanced and in tune. The Sop takes the line at 17 and it passes to the baritone and troms, before the euph again finishes things off with libero solo that will test nerves as well as musicality.

19 onwards seems easy enough on the page, but it’s marked at low dynamics throughout and will need control and a sense of style from the conductor. The ones that take the risks here will surely get the benefit from the judges. 22 is again very quietly marked so that the solo cornet can ride effortlessly on top with their solo which is marked espressivo. It’s thickly scored along here so balance will be a factor before it tapers away to feature small snippets of solo lines from flugel and euph before a very bum twitching final chord marked pianissimo.

Plymouth Town marks the run for home, but don’t be too eager to try and make it a sprint! It’s marked crotchet = 116, so it’s more of a quick stroll than a dash and will again test the bands abilities to play with balance and without slips. There will also be a need to make a difference in the accented markings, which will require a heavy attack, but ones that doesn’t degenerate into tuneless whacks.

Basses again have to display quick fingers and clean tongues before the trombones take up the cudgels at 25. This could quickly become “split city” from here on in and there will be a need for the conductor to ensure his charges don’t become too enthusiastic in their approach as it builds to 30.

Here’s the chance to show off good band sounds and it’s marked “cantabile” – so sing your hearts out! Most bands will be getting more than a bit tired now, and there’s a last chance to show neat, clean and tidy playing at 32 as first the solo cornet and then the euph take up the playful tune one last time.

A neat trick of a 5/4 bar before a final largamente and carefully planned rit. This must be planned out by the conductor so that it sounds in context and not just a drag and there should be only the tiniest of breaks before the last three bars are played in tempo to end. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to make something of nothing at the end – the composer has been very deliberate in what he wants, so don’t try anything that isn’t marked!

A real nice bit of writing this by Michael Ball – 10 minutes of good quality stuff that will prove a real test and should have more than enough traps in it to ensure the winners will have deserved their prize.

© 4BarsRest

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