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Pontins championships 2001: Our retrospective review of the championship section and full results

Oh for the annual delights of North Wales in October and the Pontins Finals. Any of you out there who have come to the Prestatyn Holiday camp will know, that the weekend is one of cold weather, warm beer, bizarre entertainment and a pretty good brass band contest.

This year the weather was fine (even warm by Welsh standards), the beer was still warm; the Saturday night entertainment consisted of a pop band whose idea of communal signing consisted of a repeated chorus of “Who’s that Fat Bastard?” and the band contest was great value.

We’ll cover the other sections elsewhere, but the Championship contest on the Sunday proved to be a great affair, and produced worthy winners in the JAG Mount Charles band from Cornwall, who beat a fair old decent field of bands from around the country to take home the 2,500 first prize, a replica cheque the size of a dinner table cloth, a trophy which looked like a mini replica of the European Cup and the soloist prize. It was a good weekends work for the band and their conductor Bryan Hurdley.

We managed to get a few comments from Bryan and the judges on a performance of “Diadem of Gold” that they described as “slightly head and shoulders above the rest” – so read on……

The pre contest favourites, and our prediction for glory were Aveley and Newham, Wingates, Besses, Point of Ayr, Woodfalls and Mount Charles with Fishburn and Kibworth as our dark horses, and in the event we did OK with our crystal ball as they came 4th, 10th,15th, 2nd, 5th, 1st with the dark horses coming 12th and 19th. 4 out of the top 6 ain’t bad is it?

It was also a contest of United Nations proportions in the “dep” stakes as just about every band on the day had some sort of help in different departments. Bands such as Fodens, Tredegar, Flowers, YBS and even Black Dyke sent out their players to bolster the chances of their new paymasters and it interesting to see some very familiar faces in unfamiliar (and badly fitting) new uniforms. Still, it’s a good idea (if a touch unfair on those bands who can’t afford to pay the wages of sin, or who wish to rely on their own players to do the job).

The contest got off to a fairly low key start with Staffordshire and David Maplestone leading off with a performance that could only gain 16th spot, but was notable for staring the trend for conductors putting the foot down on the accelerator when it came to the Allegro Moderato (marked 126 beats). This was the first of many shows that were just too fast in this section to have any clarity and detail and so many bands paid the price.

The BTM followed on and gave a worthy performance that featured some good stuff from the sop and bass trombone and a very strange sounding cymbal. Still it was a signal that the band has continued to recover form and 9th place was about right in the placing stakes for us.

Band number 3 was the favourites Aveley and Newham and they’ll be travelling back to London very disappointed, because once again they faltered when the pressure of expectation was upon them. They had plenty of excellent sections of playing (especially the sop, who’s a class act) but some individual weaknesses lost them the chance to win a contest that was so easily in their grasp. It could become a worrying trend and one they will have to stamp out if they are hoping to make that final push into the Open come the next Grand Shield.

Wooley Pritchard Sovereign under Steve Bastable put up a decent show, which we thought, may have merited higher than 20th, but that’s contesting for you. Still, it was a musical interpretation, but they did have a soprano player with the worst fitting jacket in the world. Longridge up next under the baton of Darrol Barry and another show bedevilled by too many splits and blips to make headway against the opposition. We liked the sensible tempo at the Allegro, but it was a nervous performance from around the stand and they came home in 22nd place – bloodied but unbowed.

Aston Under Lyne put up a pretty robust effort, which featured some great work from the solo cornet player throughout and a sensible reading from John Maines that was balanced and well set out. Just a few too many accidents may have cost them and we felt something went wrong in the last few bars, but it was a good return to form and they got a well-deserved 6th place.

Kibworth and John Berryman were one of our dark horses, but right from the word go it wasn’t perhaps the best day they’ve had on the contest stage for a while, with blobs and splits all over the place. It recovered in places but the damage was done and 12th place was about right. Still, they showed they are no way out of their depth in this standard of banding. They were followed on by our other dark horses, Fishburn under Ian Robinson but it sounded if they had been “nobbled” in the starting stalls. Perhaps it was the lack of time after the Nationals, for this sounded under rehearsed and the playing lacked confidence. They are a much better band than this and this was perhaps a contest they could have done without. 19th at Pontins shouldn’t disguise the fact that they’ve had a very good 2001.

Yorkshire Co-operatives and John Roberts put up a brave showing that owed a lot to some fine solo work off the sop and solo cornet and a helping hand or three on the cornet section from Fodens. It’s not often you see Mark Wilkinson playing 4th man down, but he appeared to enjoy himself no end and the band surely benefited from the Fodens trio. 14th place was about right for us.

Besses were our tip for a top three spot, but they never quite capitalised on a fine start and the quicker stuff was far too scrappy and untidy – another band who paid the price for the speed. Still, they had a mesmerizing flugel player, who was worth the entry fee alone – the blokes around us were enthralled! It had its moments as a performance, but the ensemble work was far too untidy in too many places to pose a real threat. 15th was a little low for us, but there’s a good band here none the less.

B.T. under Mike Fowles were good value for their 3rd place and gave a performance of real merit. Brett Baker from Black Dyke appeared in the trom section, but it was the work of the solo cornet and sop that really impressed. It was up tempo in places, but nearly everything came off in a performance that was well shaped and directed by the MD and we had no quibbles with the result.

Cottingham have just been promoted this year to the top section and on this outing they will stay there with some comfort. OK, it was a bit nervous in the exposed places, but not as bad as many more fancied bands on the day and they produced a big beefy sound in the loud bits. The sop had a pretty good day and if they had slowed the tempo down a bit more in the quicker sections they surely would have come a bit higher than 13th.

JAG Mount Charles and Bryan Hurdley gave notice of their intent right from the word go – with 4 percussionists and the use of Phil Green from Fodens on Bb bass. Judging by the amount of blowing he had to do by the end of the piece, he will be relieved to get back on Eb pretty sharply. This was a finely shaped reading from Bryan Hurdley and he brought out the detail in the music without ever sacrificing the momentum. All the dynamic and tempo markings were in proportion and his players were on fine form, with the sop in particular having a very fine outing and deservedly winning the solo prize. The solo cornet was excellent and the quality of the overall band sound was superb. This was a thoroughly good show for us and one that merited the top prize. 2002 could be a year of real achievement if they can build on this, because the man in the middle is more than capable of taking the band to a higher level.

Point of Ayr followed close behind – not just as the next band on but also in terms of the quality of the overall performance, which for us was the most musically satisfying of the day. Thomas Wyss put his marker out right from the start and the sound of the band was top class. The soloists all had very decent days and the only problem was a bit of intonation that went astray here and there. There was some great lower end sounds towards the end and the overall performance showed why both band and conductor can mix it with the big boys. Real good stuff and a well deserved 2nd place.

Hepworth seemed to struggle in comparison to what went on before, but Mark Bentham literally dragged a good show from his charges after they made a very uncertain start. Pretty good in places, but it lacked the overall shape and clarity of the two bands before and they came home in 8th place, which was par for the course for us.

Parc and Dare have had a rough old time of it over the past few years, but Craig Roberts and his players put up a decent show that was undone by the choice of tempo in the quick section and a few too many frailties from the solo lines in the slow stuff. Still it’s nice to see them back, even though there’s still a lot of work to do for them to become contenders again at this level. 21st was about right.

Rhos Silver have also had a more than difficult year or so, but they too put up a decent showing under their current name for the last time. Next year they will called the Wrexham band and even though they struggled for most of the piece, there were plenty of signs that the foundations are in place for a recovery and better times ahead. The solo cornet player in particular was on good form and we wish them well for 2002. 17th under the circumstances was a fine return.

Glossop Old were the only band on show on the day that had performed at the British Open in 2001 (and apologies to everyone for not acknowledging the fact in our pre contest write up). The great Mark Frost appeared on bass trombone and added hid usual timbre to proceedings to a band performance that was more disappointing from a band that has performed so much better. The sop and solo cornet played very well, but the ensemble work was so scrappy in places and the intonation in the middle of the band was astray on more than a couple of occasions. Perhaps just a band day at the office for Gareth Pritchard and his band and 18th was their result.

Our friends Soham Comrades made their annual appearance and again put up a very decent show of things to come 7th. Some excellent sop work throughout was the highlight for us of a well rounded show that had some moments of real quality about it. The tempo killed any real chances to come higher, but we would like to hear more of this band. Congratulations Mister Ager.

SWT Woodfalls appeared on stage with Peter Parkes at the helm and right from the word go they sounded real contenders. The sop player was excellent and Ian Porthouse on solo cornet oozing class. It was going so very well, but the horns were for the most part of the piece way out of tune and this may have cost them. An excellent middle movement should have been the prelude to victorious ride for home, but the wheels fell off somewhat with a real dodgy moment before the end section and it was a rather tame ending to what could have been a winner. 5th place was the reward.

Yeovil Town put a decent fist of it as well with a good quality opening. The band sound was a bit harsh in the louder sections but the sop and solo cornet had very good days and there was some lovely flugel playing. We thought the overblowing may have cost them in places, as it started to get a bit OTT but we could see why their 4th place at the Regionals was well deserved. A good showing from Phil Bailey and the band for 11th place.

Finally Wingates with Brian Grant at the helm for what we thought could well be a performance of quality. It was for the most part as they had the big beefy sound that you expect from a top class outfit, but it was very big in places and the intonation was more than a little suspect when it was a quieter dynamic. The poor old sop fought a losing battle with a sticky third valve, but also had a few moments of self induced failure as well, but the euph was excellent and the solo cornet had a lovely sweet tone. Too many slips (both mechanical and human) cost them any chance of coming any higher than 10th and they will see this as an opportunity lost.

A bit of a wait for the results, but no real surprises when they came. Most people had the top 4 or 5 and Mount Charles were good value for the win. Bryan Hurdley was very pleased at the way the band played and commented to us that he felt the piece was one of the most underestimated of the repertoire and that it was a great test. He also commented that 19 of the players on the stage with the band had come up through their excellent Youth band and that he thoroughly enjoyed working with them as they gave 100% commitment to the cause. He felt sure that their performances would be up and about the top at the end of the day, but was delighted for the band that they had repeated their triumph of 1999. With that he was off to join the celebrations.

The two adjudicators were also impressed and they commented to us after the results that they felt that the winning performance just stood above the rest in terms of the technical as well as the musical aspects. Both David Read and Derek Broadbent felt it was a worthy test for the bands at this level and that it had found out many conductors as well as players.

So, 4BarsRest had survived a weekend in Pontins and had to endure a 5 hour journey back home, whilst others got ready for a wild night of celebration and commiseration in the bar. The serious stuff was over and the partying was just about to begin. Lucky sods.

Test Piece:
Diadem of Gold (G. Bailey arr. F. Wright)

The results:

David Read and Derek Broadbent

The results for the Championship are as follows:

1 JAG Mount Charles: (B. Hurdley)
2 Point of Ayr: (T. Wyss)
3 B.T. (M. Fowles)
4 Aveley and Newham: (N. Taken)
5 SWT Woodfalls: (P. Parkes)
6 Ashton Under Lyne: (J. Maines)
7 Soham Comrades: (M. Ager)
8 Hepworth: (M. Bentham)
9 BTM: (D. Stowell)
10 Wingates: (B. Grant)
11 Yeovil Town: (P. Bailey)
12 Kibworth: (J. Berryman)
13 Cottingham: (R. Grantham)
14 Yorkshire Cooperatives: (J. Roberts)
15 Besses O' th' Barn: (G. Pritchard)
16 Staffordshire: (D. Maplestone)
17 Rhos: (W. Ruston)
18 Glossop Old: (G. Pritchard)
19 Fishburn: (I. Robinson)
20 Wooley Pritchard Sovereign: (S. Bastable)
21 Parc and Dare: (C. Roberts)
22 Longridge: (D. Barry)

Best soloist:
Soprano: JAG Mount Charles

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