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Pontins championships 2001: Our retrospective review of sections 1, 2, 3 & 4.

First Section Review

Given that the First Section is perhaps the hardest of them all to win, it came as no real surprise that the adjudicators had a pretty tough time finding the winners in a close run contest on the Saturday.

The overall standard was pretty good, with the top 6 or so a class above the rest and showed they were bands that could easily have made an impression in top section contest the next day. The test piece, "Purcell Variations" wasn’t the hardest these bands will ever perform, but it was a good test of the basics, and in far too many cases that was more than enough to see off the vast majority of the contenders.

We had plumbed for the tried and tested in our predictions and went for a top 6 of Asda Stocksbridge, Pennine, United Co-op (Crewe), Blackburn and Darwen, Pemberton Old and Peter Hawke Garages Lindley with Chapletwon as our dark horses. In the event we did OK as they came 4th, 2nd, 11th, 5th, 9th, 1st and 15th - so 4 of top 6 wasn’t a bad bit of pre match judging.

Peter Hawke Garages, Lindley deserved the win off the 13 draw as they were one of the very few bands that made sense of the set of variations as a whole and didn’t just play them as separate entities. The music had a flow and they had a good set of soloists backed up by a nice rounded overall ensemble sound. Mr Jowett deserves the congratulations on a fine performance and one that confirmed that the Senior Cup win was no one off. They should do well at the Grand Shield next year on this form.

Pennine were also good value for second place, and for us they had the edge for us in terms of band sound and soloists. They also gave a very musical reading of the piece and showed again that they will more than hold their own in the top section next year. This is a fine band in the making.

Haydock Ogden Travel were the surprise package for us, but thoroughly deserved the third place they achieved. Ian Brownbill coaxed a very mature performance from the band, which was helped by excellent cornet work and a fine trombone section. Big and perhaps a little brassy in places they waited a long time to play off a 23 draw and finished the contest off in fine style. A real good effort.

Asda Stocksbridge were hoping for a Pontins/Nationals double, but right from the start they sounded uneasy and the piece took a while to get into its stride for us. They also sounded very light in the bass end and whether this was deliberate or not, it seemed that they produced a much smaller sound than the other top bands and this may have cost them. Still, it was a pretty good effort and they couldn’t really complain about coming 4th this time.

We liked Blackburn and Darwen and they really went for it in a big way right from the word go. Big sounds and plenty of effort in the loud stuff masked a few too many blips and blobs and the quieter dynamics found them out a bit, but the music was certainly there and the players responded well to a the MD. We thought something went astray in the percussion at one point but it was hard to tell without a full score so we gave them the benefit of the doubt. Good show though.

Finally, the sixth place went to Jackfield (Elcock Reison) with a performance that for us was a bit of a curates egg. When it was good (notably in the loud bits) they sounded fine, but when things quietened down they sounded more than a little uncomfortable. They were for us no better or worse than the couple of bands that came behind them, but they certainly caught the ears of Goff Richards and Geoffrey Whitham and they came home 6th. Well done.

As for the rest? We liked Pemberton Old Wigan and Richard Evans who came 9th but who had plenty of splits and blobs and also Tongwynlais under Colin Hogg who put in a fair old effort to come 8th. After that we found it very difficult to place the bands in any order as nearly all the performances were of the same calibre. We also liked what Sherborne Town tried to do with the piece, but it never quite came off and although they came 19th we thought it was an intelligent musical effort from conductor and players alike. Shows how much we know eh?

Nearly all the bands could play the piece, but nearly all of them sacrificed clarity and detail for speed and volume. Why so many conductors can’t just take a bit of a chill in places is beyond us. The tuning was awful in many bands (especially in the horns) and we despair to why so many bass trombone players just sit there and blow their nuts off.

The First Section remains the Nationwide Football League in banding terms - full of once great names, up and coming teams, some with money, some with talented youngsters and a few with old hands. It remains a bugger of a section to get out of, but on the evidence of this contest the top three or four won’t be coming back down next year.

Test Piece:
Purcell Variations (Kenneth Downie)

The draw / results:

Geoff Whitham and Goff Richards

The results for the first section are as follows:

1 Peter Hawke Garages Lindley: (M. Jowett), 13
2 Pennine Brass: (I. Porthouse), 6
3 Haydock Ogden Travel: (I. Brownbill), 23
4 ASDA Stocksbridge: (D. Renshaw), 8
5 Blackburn and Darwen: (E. Landon), 12
6 Jackfield (Elcock Reisen): (C. Lewis), 11
7 Welwyn Garden City: (D. Stokes), 19
8 Tongwynlais Temperance: (C. Hogg), 21
9 Pemberton Old: (R. Evans), 2
10 Vernon Building Society Poynton: (M. Obermuller), 1
11 United Co-op Crewe: (J. Sparkes), 16
12 Ibstock Brick: (P. Northey), 9
13 Poole Borough: (P. Randall), 20
14 Wakefield Metropolitan Brass: (B. Dyson), 5
15 Chapletown Silver: (A. Dennis), 14
16 Nottingham City Transport: (M. Heathfield), 7
17 Lydmet Lydney: (W. Ruston), 18
18 Bolden Colliery: (R. Wallace), 3
19 Sherbourne Town: (A. McRae), 4
20 Bedworth Brass: (M. West), 22
21 Unity Brass (MUFS): (D. Blakeson), 10
22 Totnes: (T. Treharne), 17

As far as we know, no points were awarded.

Second Section:

Well done to Stannington Brass who put in a fine performance to win the top prize and beat some pretty good bands into the bargain. We have to admit we didn’t have them as the winners, as we thought both Towcester Studio and City of Bristol were just ahead of the field, but we did have them in our top 6 and it was very well played show.

Prior to the contest we edged our bets and went for a top 6 of Towcester Studio, City of Bristol, Knottingly, Tintwistle, United Norwest Co-op Milnrow and Elland Silver with Wantage as our dark horses. When the judges gave their verdict we came home with 3rd, 2nd, 10th, 4th, 5th, 8th and 6th respectively, which we thought was a good as we could have ever done.

Overall however, we were surprised at the standard in the Second Section, but as we didn’t hear every band we may have cherry picked the performances and left out a few that struggled. Sorry to those we didn’t get to hear, but we were a bit thin on resources at times.

We did hear the winners and the top 6, plus 9 others so we had a fair idea of what was going on. Stannington sounded a good ensemble and clearly enjoyed the piece and had a fine percussion outfit doing the business that certainly helped. Towcester and City of Bristol for us were slightly a class above the rest in terms of their ability to produce a fine rounded sound and to meet all the technical challenges of the test piece and both benefited from good sensible readings from the MD’s. They both showed why they did so well in the Nationals at Preston and both won’t be out of their depth up a section next year. For us, Stannington didn’t quite reach those levels but they were still very good and well done to them for beating much more fancied rivals.

The rest of the top 6 confirmed that they are good bands in the making by displaying good ensemble sounds and benefiting from steady soloists and lead players. All had their untidy moments and the tuning again was suspect far too often, but overall they deserved their prizes.

Below the top six, we liked the effort made by Markham and District and Elland, but both had too many slips to really make it higher up the points table, whilst we felt Chalford out up a good strong showing and could count themselves a little unlucky they didn’t come higher than 11th. The rest (the ones we heard that is) put up some decent enough shows but many fell into the trap of thinking blowing loud will make an impression on the judges. It does - and usually means you aren’t going to come anywhere. Why can’t the MD’s realise this? Stannington did and look how they did?

Still a pretty good contest and one that had a bit of an unfortunate end as there was a technical mix up in the production of the results that meant the poor compere misread the number of the winning band. Not her fault (as we stated earlier), but you would have thought someone would have double-checked before the announcement was made. It meant the conspiracy theorists had a bit of a field day for half an hour after the results, but as usual it just came down to human error and it was sorted out. It wouldn’t be a good contest if it didn’t have a little of the X Files about it would it?

Test Piece:
Aeronauts (G. Richards)

The results:

Goff Richards and Geoff Whitham

The results for the second section are as follows:

1. Stannington Brass: J. Hopkinson, 186
2. City of Bristol: B. James, 185
3. Towcester Studio: A. Sellers, 184
4. Tintwistle: E. Landon, 183
5. United Norwest Co-op Milnrow: D. Hebb, 182
6. Wantage Silver: M Pegram, 181
7. Markham and District:
8. Elland Silver:
9. Hopkins Solicitors Blidworth Welfare:
10 Knottingly Silver:
11 Chalford:
12 Walkden:
13 Weaver Group:
14 BMP Europe Goodshaw:
15 Rhyl Silver:
16 Jersey Premier:
17 Hoover Band (Bolton):
18 Moston and Beswick (Manchester):
19 Delph:
20 Chapel-on-le-Frith
21 Meltham and Meltham Mills:
22 Greenhall's:

Barrow Concert
Royal Buckley Town
Skelmersdale Prize

Third Section:

What a good contest this was. Langbaurgh Brass and Tim Oldroyd took the honours with a super show of the Wilby test piece ahead of Boarshurst and Jonathan Webster, but it really could have been anyone of six for us that could have won it.

We plumbed for a top six of Lancashire Life Morecombe, Cantium Brass, Rainford Silver, Foresters Brass 2000, Lanbaurgh Brass and Lympstone South West Telecom with Timperley as our dark horses. In the event they came home 6th, withdrew, 3rd, 4th, 1st, 9th and 8th respectively so we were pretty pleased with our efforts and so should they.

Tim Oldroyd conducted with due care and attention to detail and with an economy of movement that many others on show could do well to copy. No histrionics and clear beats meant that his charges were clear of what was wanted and expected of them, and they didn’t let him down. A fine effort from all concerned and a well deserved victory.

Close on their heels however were Boarshurst and Jonathan Webster who gave a cracking account of themselves and the piece. A fine bit of stick work from the man from Fred Rhodes - clear and concise with plenty of eye contact to his young band that encouraged them to perform. It was a very sensible reading from a man who has played at the very highest level and ho brought his experience to bear on a super show. Another band with a fine future on this form.

Third came Rainford Silver and yet another lovely bit of conducting this time from Lynda Nicholson, who once more was clear and precise in her instructions and directions. There should have been a few conductors from the higher sections in the audience to take note of the standard of the top three MD’s and their bands. All were balanced and controlled and had all benefited from good musicians in front of them. Rainford benefited from it and out in a show that was as close to victory as was possible.

Fourth were Foresters Brass 2000 and another cracking show from them that again benefited from good direction and some super playing off the soloists. Although not quite as good as the top three bands, it nevertheless was good value for 4th place. Fifth came Stourport on Severn conducted by David Maplestone - another who has played and conducted at the highest level and he coaxed and cajoled a pretty good account from his band. A completely different style of conducting from those above him but one that was effective enough and looked exciting.

Sixth place on the rostrum went to our pre match favourites Lancashire Life and although they played well enough they never quite reached the levels that saw them triumph in Preston. The young set of solo players seemed a bit too nervous this time around and there were perhaps too many slips and blips around the stand. Still a pretty good effort and a band that has had a great year.

As for the rest - none disgraced themselves and there were plenty of good moments from just about every performance. Most let themselves down by trying to play too loud too often and the tuning and intonation at times went a bit wonky. Some conductors felt the need to try and whisk their way through, which led inevitably to disaster, but most realised that at this level it’s all about getting the basics right.

Congratulations to the top 6 bands and the top 3 in particular for a set of super shows that were a joy to listen too. Three good MD’s as well. We’ll be seeing more of them in the future we think.

Test Piece:
Partita (P. Wilby)

The results:

Alan Lawton and Stan Lippeatt

The results for the third section are as follows:

1 Langbaurgh Brass:
2 Boarshurst:
3 Rainford Silver:
4 Forresters Brass 2000:
5 Stourport on Severn:
6 Lancashire Life Morecombe:
7 United Norwest 2000 Brass:
8 Timperley:
9 Lympstone:
10 Eatons Farnsworth:
11 Ebbw Vale:
12 Bream Silver:
13 Pilling Jubilee:
14 Malvern Hills:
15 Audley Brass:
16 Whaley Bridge:
17 St. Breward Silver:
18 Wardle and District Anderson Brass:
19 Friendly Band Sowerby Bridge:

Cantium Brass: Withdrawn

Fourth Section:

What an inspired choice of test piece for the Fourth Section. We are sure nearly all the bands and conductors would have thought "Oh No! - Not another oldie!", but in the event this was a great little test for the band and their MD’s.

So many found the beginning a minefield with conductor after conductor waiting it seemed for inspiration rather than just beating the opening bars to help their bands in their efforts. 'Sirius' may be old, but it still examined the bands to the full.

We had plumbed for a top 6 of Pemberton Old Wigan 'B', Blackley, Maltby Miners Welfare, Carlton Brass, Syston and Rivington and Adlington with Standish as our dark horses. Just as you may have thought - we didn’t really have a clue. Our choices came home 10th, 2nd (hooray!), 11th, 7th, 12th, 15th and 13th respectively. We are sorry we put the kiss of death onto them. Still one 2nd place won’t too bad was it?

With the exception of Blackley who put up a very nice show, all our other choices either didn’t perform to expectation or didn’t perform full stop. It was the basics that did for them and a few more besides and there was band after band that was terribly out of tune. We know this is relative and that in the Fourth Section there are other things to worry about, but the MD’s and not the payers should take the blame for some pretty awful intonation. Everyone loves to play loudly, but it’s the quiet stuff that wins the prizes and being in tune helps a great deal.

Still, the winners, Conway Town were very neat and tidy, and in tune and they didn’t overblow either so they came top of the pile - and well deserved it was too, whilst Blackley did us proud and put in a fine show that featured a very nice bit of solo cornet playing throughout the performance. Third place went to Uppermill who played with a degree of control and tunefulness that was a pleasure to listen to, whilst Abertillery from Wales put in a robust little show that featured some lovely rounded sounds from the bass end. Fifth spot went to Hayle Town who were good value, but had one or two tuning problems in the bottom end that may have cost them a few points, whilst Leiscester Co-op Snibston Charnwood Brass came a well deserved sixth.

After that the test piece culled a few bands from the word go and overall the standard fell away somewhat, but overall it was a pretty good effort from all concerned and there were plenty of good young players on show. We only hope that the MD’s don’t try and get them to blow too loud too soon to try and emulate bigger and better bands, as bad habits ingrained early are difficult to get rid of in later life.

Still, a highly enjoyable contest and worthy winners in the form of Conway, with Blackley and Uppermill not too far behind. A great choice of test piece really stretched the bands and showed that by getting the basics right, you will always be in with a shout. Congratulations to the winners.

Test Piece:
Sirius (F. Wright)

The results:

David Read and Derek Broadbent

The results for the fourth section are as follows:

1 Conway Town:
2 Blackley:
3 Uppermill:
4 Abertillery and District:
5 Hayle Brass:
6 Leicester Co-op Snibston Charnwood Brass:
7 Carlton Brass:
8 Shewton Silver:
9 Llandudno Town:
10 Pemberton Old Wigan 'B':
11 Maltby Miners Welfare:
12 Syston:
13 Standish:
14 Whitwell Brass:
15 Rivington and Adlington:
16 Ripponden Carriers:
17 Wellington (Telford) Brass:

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