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National Finals - 4thSection: Contest details, runners and riders, our dodgy predictions and test piece review..

Fourth Section:
Test Piece: Attleborough Suite (Malcolm Arnold)
Adjudicators: Derek Broadbent and Philip McCann

Preston Guild Hall, Saturday, September 22nd, 10.00am

Arbroath Instrumental (M. Robertson) Scotland
Bearpark & Esh Colliery (I. Robinson) North
Briton Ferry Silver (M. Faro) Wales
Carlton Brass (T. Wilson) Midlands
Clifton and Lightcliffe (R. Collinson) Yorkshire
Dundee Instrumental (J. Tonner) Scotland
Fulbourn and Teversham (P. Mott) London
Llanelli and District (R. Owen) Wales
Maltby Miners Welfare (T. Clifford) Yorkshire
Nelson Brass (K. Ritchmond) N. West
Pemberton Old Wigan (P. Ashley) N. West
Pendennis Brass (Falmouth) (G. Thomas) West
Saltash Town (D. Dobson) West
Sandhurst Silver (R. Burke) London
Shirland Welfare Training (M. Smith) Midlands
St. Dennis (B. Minear) West
Swinton and District Exc (R. Rutter) North
Ware Brass (K. Durbin) London
West Mercia Constabulary (H. Gibbs) Midlands

And finally to the men, women and youngsters of all ages that make the Fourth Section such a joy to listen to, and such hard work to try and predict.

Some good little bands from al around the country will be hoping to take over the top spot from last year’s winners, Beaumaris “B” who have gone onto even better things. This in fact could give us the clue to who should do well, as it usually the bands that have made quick and startling progress in a short time that usually gets the nod.

The Midlands send three bands to try and win the title in the shape of Area winners, Carlton Brass, who should start as one of the favourites, Shirland Training, who pushed them very close at the Area and West Mercia Constabulary, who qualified in third place. All should travel with expectations of coming possibly in the prizes.

The North West have Pemberton Old Wigan, who were comfortable two point winners of their Area and Nelson Brass who also qualified with something to spare in Blackpool in March. Both are strong contenders.

Yorkshire hopes will be on the shoulders of champions Clifton and Lightcliffe and Maltby Miners, both of whom sailed through the Area championships to book their place at Preston, whilst the Scottish contingent will be Arbroath Instrumental and Dundee Instrumental. All four bands will be hoping for a good result on Saturday.

London provides three bands, due to Sandhurst Silver, Fulbourn and Teversham and Ware Brass qualifying from a field of 27 bands earlier in the year at Stevenage. All are something of an unknown quantity outside their Area, but one of them could spring a bit of a surprise. The North East sends Swinton and District Excelsior and Bearpark & Esh. Both qualified well at the Area, and our spy tells us that both are playing very well indeed at the moment and travel to Preston with high hopes of doing well.

The Welsh bands hoping to emulate the win of Beaumaris “B” last year are champions Llanelli and District and Briton Ferry. Both are tasting National Finals for the first time in many years and both will be hoping to do well as they are the dominant bands in Wales at the moment in the Fourth Section.

The West of England also sends three bands in the form of champions Saltash Town, runners up St. Dennis and Pendennis Brass. All qualified in some comfort from a field of 23 bands at Bristol and should have hopes of doing well in Preston. St. Dennis in particular are a famous old name that in the 1970’s came in the top six at the National Finals in the Championship Section. This could the first step on the long road back.

It could be any number of these bands that take the title on Saturday, and to be perfectly honest, we don’t have a clue to say with any great conviction who will win. As this has never stopped us in the past, we’ll put our necks on the line and say…..

Carlton Brass
Pemberton Old Wigan
Bearpark & Esh Colliery
Clifton and Lightcliffe
Arbroath Instrumental
Swinton and District
Dark Horse: Nelson Brass.

Test piece review:
Attleborough Suite for Brass Band
Composer: Malcolm Arnold
Novello Limited, distributed by Studio Music

The Fourth Section gets the second of the Malcolm Arnold works to be featured at the Lower Section National Finals this year, and his “Attleborough Suite” should provide the players and audience alike with a very enjoyable 8 minutes and 30 seconds of entertainment.

It may only be a short test piece in terms of time, but the three movements of the work written in 1961 will test even the better bands on the day to the full. The three movements are clearly marked and delineated in style with an opening “Overture” leading to a beautiful “Ballad” and delightful final “Dance”.

Everyone has something to do, especially the percussion, where there is a need for four players!

The “Overture” is straight forward in style and gives the bands the chance to get their lips in with a fortissimo start. If you are cold and under prepared however, this could be the start of a performance that sees you lose your chance of taking the title. The timpani has plenty to do and must balance the big chords that are being whacked out by the brass players at figure A. The sop will have the chance to make a name for themselves before B – and in our opinion they should go hell for leather at honking out a top B and top A without fear.

Things move along nicely and the tune is spread amongst the band from flugel, horns and baritones before the top end gets the chance to flex its muscles after F. The trick for success will be control of both dynamics and balance and maintaining a nice rounded sound. There’s some busy scoring for the lower end and the sop once again earns their money before H. Go for it!! The movement ends with some tricky parts for solo cornet and a steely nerve. Basses will have to produce a last note the consistency and shape of a rounded sheep dropping for things to end well.

The “Ballad” is typical Arnold. Simple lines and basic scoring hide the terrors that can befall the unprepared. The flugel line before A starts on a C# for instance and could sound awful if care isn’t taken and there’s a bass line that could be enhanced by a brave player taking it down an octave at the start. There’s some lovely neat bass playing along here that must be heard but never overpower.

The sop again picks up the thread at H and again there is the chance of untunefulness as he passes the line onto the flugel before it should end with a sense of calm.

The “Dance” is marked crotchet = 152 and that’s fast enough for any band, let alone those battling it out in the Fourth Section! The percussion set the tone, and there will be a need to give some thought to the effect needed with the cymbal quaver rhythm. Bongos and timp are also featured, but beware the opportunity of playing too loudly too soon – there’s a long way to go.

Figure A sees the Sop again earning their money and a fugue develops from sop to cornet to horn to eup and bass before it should all end with a full band tutti two bars before B. Nows the chance to show off a good band sound and neat playing as running quavers are passed from section to section.

Figure D sees the sop lead off again, before passing it on to the flugel, solo and euph. This section is clearly marked piano, so don’t get too carried away and remember things have to link with the percussion who are still keeping themselves busy with bongos, timp and cymbal.

Things build from here on in to two bars before H where there is a real chance for the full band to show a big rounded sound and clean tongues in two bars of straight and loud quavers. H onwards could see tuning problems in the top cornets and sop (both of whom should be now be feeling the strain) and the music builds to I where the percussion really set things up for an exciting ending which features a few shock notes that will need time and though to make clean and balanced before a nice ending when everyone comes together.

We liked this a lot, and so should the bands and the audience. It looks quite easy on the score, but as with all of Malcolm Arnolds works there are hidden dangers throughout. The winners will be the band that has given this piece a great deal of hard work and more than a little thought.

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