National Finals: Return to Preston. Post match analysis of sections
1, 2, 3 & 4
What a knackering weekend! From Saltash Town at 10.00am on Saturday
morning to Mossley on Sunday night, we listened to all 68 bands
on show (as did Alan Jenkins of Brass Band World who was great company
all weekend) and to be truthful we just about enjoyed every performance.
Our backsides had taken on the same shape as the seats and at times
the will to live had been put under more than a bit of pressure,
but it was still a good two days of banding. Preston Guild Hall
for one is a pretty good venue for a brass band contest.
The Fourth Section:
The Fourth Section was a delight, even though our pre contest predictions
were as far out as some of the tuning problems a few of the bands
encountered. We went for a top six of Carlton Brass, Pemberton Old,
Bearpark and Esh, Clifton and Lightcliffe, Arbroath Instrumental
and Swinton, with Nelson Brass our dark horses. At the end of the
day, they managed to come, 6th, 14th, 8th, 10th, 16th, 15th and
9th respectively, so it showed how much we knew. It didnt
matter though, for the 4th Section was a great advertisement for
all thats good in the banding world.
A great test piece that challenged the bands and was great to listen
to was a bonus and the overall standard of playing was very good
indeed. The tuning was a bit suspect in many bands and far too many
flugel horns were as flat as a pancake but these were small quibbles.
The winners were superb a very young band so well directed.
It was balanced, in tune and not overblown (many bands in the higher
sections should have come and listened and learnt) and the other
prize winners all had much to commend. There were some real star
players in just about every band, and even though some struggled,
all of the bands should take credit. As for the volume of the support
at the results it was deafening and quite brilliant.
Derek Broadbent and Phillip McCann in particular gave thoughtful
and detailed remarks and did a sterling job. Shirland Welfare Training
and their fine MD were declared winners off a number 3 draw and
deserved all the plaudits but then, so did all the bands.
The Third Section:
Section 3 started just about as soon as the top prize in the 4th
Section was announced and this was another section that had much
to commend. The techniques of the bands were stretched by a good
testpiece, but far too many bands and MDs for that matter
decided to try and blow their way to the title.
The bands at this level have generally mastered the basics, but
far too many fell foul of overblowing, rushed tempos and bad tuning.
Our pre contest predictions were a top six of Langbaurgh Brass,
Manx Concert, Beaumaris B, Armthorpe Elmfield, Horbury
Victoria, Raunds Temperance and dark horses Clydebank Burgh. We
didnt do too bad and they came 4th, 10th, 14th, 9th, 2nd,
3rd and 12th respectively.
Geoff Whitham and Richard Evans were very clear at the contests
end of what they had looked for in the performances and although
they joked about some of the problems that they heard, they certainly
werent laughing at the bands, but with them.
The winners were good value for the title, as were top six who
just about picked themselves. The test piece had stretched everyone
and each of the three sections that made it up tested different
players and more importantly, their abilities to play in tune and
with balance and style. The top six also had MDs who stuck
quite closely to what the composer wanted in terms of speed, but
the bands that suffered did so mainly because their conductors appeared
to think they could do all the basics and more besides with their
foot on the accelerator pedal.
Lancashire Life Morecombe had a very fine young team of soloists
who played out of their skins, and although they overblew a bit
it was enough to tip them the title from a very good performance
from Horbury Victoria and Raunds Temperance. It was a good end to
a very long first day for us.
The Second Section:
Sunday started off with the Second Section and started off with
the winning band playing off the number 1 spot. Ammanford Town were
conducted by Jim Davies, who knows a thing or two about winning
National titles, and he took the unusual risk of asking his solo
cornet player to stand and face the audience and play his tricky
cornet solo without music. It didnt quite come off and we
certainly made the mistake of writing off their chances as we thought
we saw a bit of a disaster. Well done Jim and band.
We had plumbed for a top six and a dark horse of Westoe, Dobcross,
Bendix Kingswood, Hade Edge, Poulton-le-Fylde, Livingstone Brass
and Royal Oakeley and we really put the mockers on them all, with
them coming 11th, 7th, 12th, 5th, 13th, 8th and 16th. Sorry!
The overall standard wasnt as high as we expected and far
too many bands just blew for the sake of it. Dynamics and tuning
were also a major problem and for bands of this calibre it was a
real disappointment to hear time and time again. Weve got
to blame the MDs for this and not the players these
are two of the basics of good band playing, but many of the conductors
concentrated on effect and volume and not on style and music and
they came a cropper.
The other prize winners were also pretty good value and the top
three were a level above the rest. Both City of Bristol and Towcester
Studio benefited from intelligent direction from the middle.
Mr Broadbent and Mr McCann again emphasised what they had looked
out for and the Scotsman in particular impressed again with his
obvious good knowledge of the score and its salient points
a man to watch out for in the box at higher things we think.
So well done Ammanford, but back to drawing board for far too many
of the bands on show.
The First Section:
And so to the First Section the section of the Premiership
hopefuls and wannabees. This really was a curates egg
of a contest with the good being very good and the bad being very
Another fine choice of test piece had many MD's deciding that all
that it needed was heavy foot on the accelerator pedal and a deaf
ear to the dynamics. Some also felt that tuning was an optional
extra we know tuning is a relative thing, but some performances
were as far away in relative tuning terms as a long lost aunty living
Our pre contest prediction was pretty good (for us anyway) with
our top six made up of Stocksbridge, Pennine, Mossley, Kibworth,
Harrogate, Beaumaris and dark horses Boness. In the end they
came 1st, 4th, 7th, 5th, 16th, 3rd and 9th so we were pretty pleased
It wasnt until Pennine played that we really heard a performance
that wouldnt have disgraced the Championship Section and for
us they were the band to beat, but Stocksbridge were very good and
had lots of quality in their performance that signalled that they
wont struggle higher up.
Alliance Brass also benefited form a very intelligent reading of
the score and a safety first approach that scored well. Although
we didnt quite have them as high as second, they certainly
won first place in the phoar! stakes for the lads in the audience.
Seindorf Beaumaris had the biggest sound of the day and were muscular
and direct in their approach a bit too much for us, but it
really did make you sit up and take notice and they too sounded
a well drilled band. They will continue to improve as well.
We thought Pennine Brass were the best on the day and they can
count themselves more than a tad unfortunate to come fourth, as
can Kibworth under John Berryman who came fifth. This was the most
musical performance of the day and the one that benefited most from
their MD. It had so much good sense and musical shape to it, and
only fell down for us on the number of clips.
Johnstone Silver and Mossley just had too many clips and slips
to really have come any higher, but both were performances of merit
and they should take considerable heart from their outing.
As for the rest? Well. From places 8 to 12 the bands just suffered
too much from overblowing and tempo problems that led to untidiness
and a struggle to maintain clear detail, whilst the bottom four
(and we are being generous here) had a bad day at the office. Some
MDs should consider the purchase of a metronome as an essential
rather than optional tool for their musical advancement.
So the weekend ended with the prizes being fairly well spread out
with winners from Yorkshire, Wales, North West and Midlands. The
whole weekend was very well run and thanks from us to the organisers
who gave us the results without the usual interrogation, and who
gave the bands a venue that was worthy of the occasion.
Thanks also to the supporters who made the thing come alive and
the barman at the hotel who kept us in beer well into the following
morning. We look forward to seeing and hearing you in Torquay next