National Finals - 3rd Section: Contest details, runners and
riders, our dodgy predictions and test piece review..
Test Piece: An English Suite for Brass Band
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 Balls 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
dont 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
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 wont 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
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.
Manx Concert Brass
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. Its really a three movement work that is played without
a break and the music gives homage to Gustav Holsts 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 (its marked crotchet = 126) before the whole band takes
up the tune just before 5. Again its about balance and neatness
from the players and at figure 8 theres 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
19 onwards seems easy enough on the page, but its 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. Its 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 dont be too eager
to try and make it a sprint! Its marked crotchet = 116, so
its 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 doesnt 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 dont become too enthusiastic
in their approach as it builds to 30.
Heres the chance to show off good band sounds and its
marked cantabile so sing your hearts out! Most
bands will be getting more than a bit tired now, and theres
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
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. Dont 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 dont try anything that isnt 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