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Post Match Analysis:
Midlands Regional Championships 2002

The Championship Section:
Sunday 3rd March, Town Hall.
Adjudicator: Goff Richards
Commences: After 3rd Section


1. Desford Colliery, P. Parkes, 196, 7
2. Travelsphere Holidays, B. Grant, 194, 8
3. Thoresby RJB, S. Lippeatt, 193, 6
4. Newstead Welfare, D. Beckley, 192, 5
5. The Ransome Band, R. Gray, 191, 2
6. Glossop Old, J. Cant, 190, 11
7. Rolls-Royce (Coventry), D. Lea, 189, 10
8. Thorntons Brass, S. Shimwell, 187, 3
9. Ratby Co-operative, K. J. Steward, 185, 9
10. Woolley Pritchard Brass, 184, 1
11. Nottingham City Transport, M. Heartfield, 183, 4

Top 2 bands qualify for the National Finals.

After a long day of contesting a packed hall waited with baited expectancy as the post-contest formalities were conducted. A speech from the Mayor, who sat through most of the section (not from choice - more that he had arrived at the invited time, was therefore early and learned first hand what a brass band contest is all about.) filled a bit more time and we didn’t think he was going to impress anyone by telling them he’d been present for most of the bands and stated "isn’t it interesting how interpretation changes the piece" (Doh!), but he seemed genuine in his new found awakening to the sounds of brass.

Robert Simmons from Boosey & Hawkes delivered the general thanks and was at pains to say how much brass bands meant to the company. (What with them being up to their necks in debt, he would wouldn’t he?) What impressed us though was the fact that he could deliver the same speech word for word two days running without the use of cue cards. Mighty impressive - he should be an actor learning lines that well!

The nicest aspect of the proceedings though was Stan Kitchen, representing the Worshipful Company of Musicians, presented a Diploma of Honour to an established local bandsman Hayden Cooper in recognition for his work with youth players. Well done Hayden and congratulations from 4BR. Following two long service awards and despite the cheeky calls to get on with it, Goff Richards who adjudicated the contest quickly gave his summation.

He remarked that he had a splendid day and was totally happy with his choice of winning band, so that said, what did he have to say about the piece? Apart from the fact that he felt, quote, " it sorted the bands out" he noted a few parts that he had been watching in particular. First was the musicality during the extensive, romantic solo cornet and euphonium duet, whilst second he watched for the chord sounds beneath the trombone solo. Thirdly, the observation of the tenuto marking on the flugel cadenza Top C and the quality of the other cadenzas, (He mentioned that few bands escaped these without mishap) as well as convincing playing and tempo at the opening. He also looked for a controlled well-balanced sound at fff. What did he praise? Well he liked the effective and dynamic percussion of the bands, the uniformly good bass trombone playing and lastly the standard of conducting. Strange that – as he couldn’t actually see what was going on – or could he?

And so to the contest itself.

A short interlude between the 3rd section and the start of the Championship section produced a select moment of drama as the stand holding the draw numbers was knocked over. So much for a deportment prize! – and to cap that, the two bells used to indicate that bands were ready sounded like something from a Les Dawson sketch. The sniggers from the audience and the faces on most conductors when flat notes were struck were priceless. However these did not win or lose prizes and the competition opened with Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass under B. Hurdley not Steve Bastable as listed.

This work presents real difficulties in staging an evocative performance not to mention the number of solos, but most of Sovereign’s soloists were first rate with the flugel playing very well in the extended solo. In a performance, which certainly had style and electricity, it just crackled in the cornets in the technical solos and although the cornet and euphonium had a lovely understanding in their duet the individual errors were evident. The band continued its trend of playing well as a unit but just not getting that extra little needed to qualify. 10th seemed a bit harsh to say the least.

The Ransome Band (Russell Gray) produced a performance for the greater part of point and style and again they drew a very enthusiastic response from the audience. A fine contribution from the percussion section and in particular a hymn which was balanced and helped by free playing, was not supported by the playing just before it, when they seemed to fall off the preceding phase. Add a few tweeks in the cornet/euph figure and slight harshness in the alternating chords and it was enough to keep them out of the prizes. They will be very disappointed to have come 5th.

Third up and Thorntons Brass conducted by Stephen Shimwell didn’t produce the level of performance of which they are capable. With sounds that were clear and refreshing the band were in control, playing with a good dynamic range until cracks appeared after the loud/quiet chords. The timp played well but then this wasn’t matched by the cornets . Split notes in the flugel cadenza may have been penalised, as could the introduction to the cornet/euph duet. The march didn’t come off as it might but they rounded off their performance well. 8th on this showing was a decent return.

In fairness Nottingham City Transport found the demands of the piece a little too much. Martin Heartfield brought out some nice moments; in particular the march really did invoke those Whit Friday echoes, but unfortunately there were too many individual mistakes to be in contention. They came bottom of the pack, but the experience should hold them in good stead.

Duncan Beckley gave Newstead Welfare a few encouraging words before he brought out a solid sound from the band. In a spaciously atmospheric opening section they declared their intentions to the other bands. The quick sections had plenty of attack and rhythmic vitality and they unquestionably managed to bond the sections together well. The march was particularly effective and although it wasn’t note perfect the performance had many good points, which caught the ear. 4th place was an excellent result, and although a little unexpected in that they topped Ransomes, it was very well deserved.

Stan Lippeatt conducted Thoresby RJB in a performance of wonderful playing. Given the murmur that went round the hall when the results were announced we weren’t the only ones who really favoured their performance. They will be disappointed that they are not playing in the finals. The flugel cadenza was well played with confidence and this typified the entire soloist playing. Their sound was superb and they gave a warm detailed performance. These listeners were well impressed and they will be mightily disappointed to miss out on a repeat trip to the finals. Unlucky.

Well you know the usual Peter Parkes pose; stood in front of Desford Colliery arms outstretched, wrists down turned (We are sure if he brought his right knee upward to his chest he would do a cracking impression of an ageing karate kid) and as expected he took the band in a fine broad landscaped performance in the grand manner one has come to expect from the conductor. Their playing was deliberate and they made the dynamics tell. One of best moments was undoubtedly the sheer wonderful build and climax to the alternating chords in the middle section of the work. Whilst we personally felt the previous performance from Thoresby just had the edge there was no denying the quality of this performance. Goff Richards obviously thought so and gave them 196 points and the title back once more.

Following two outstanding performances Travelsphere Holidays took the stage to a great reception. Brian Grant took the band in a performance with directness and rhythmic style, which had a full and vivid quality. They didn’t get away without the odd mistake and did the flugel player just rob the top C in the crescendo given that Goff Richards singled out the tenuto aspect on the score? They gave the march a very stately feel and the expression through the various figures obviously impressed the adjudicator. The quality of the band shone through, but for us it just wasn’t their very best playing and they just about did enough to squeeze into the qualification spots.

Ratby Cooperative under the direction of Kevin Steward gave the performance with the most wide-ranging dynamics, and at times they did blow very loud indeed. We got the feeling that the conductor was trying to bring out a performance which gave each different figure a very individual deliberate feel with shifting moods and colours and it would be interesting to know if the adjudicator mentioned this in his remarks, as it was a very different interpretation. Interesting though, and it could have come off on another day. Not this time though and 9th spot.

Rolls Royce (Coventry) conducted by David Lea, (who gave the best facial expression of the day to the bells chorus) set the mood for their performance with glowing vivid coloration, and the band had a particularly attractive timbre. This was a good performance played with a good deal of warmth and assurance but it just wasn’t a winner. They have had a bit of a lean time of late, but on this form 2002 should bode well. 7th place was about right, but things are looking up.

Drawn last were James Cant with Glossop Old, and their performance at the outset was excellent. Absolutely solid, the band opened with a very musical account, which just confirmed that they were really up for this contest. Fresh and athletic in the vigorous parts the band were combining subtlety with the spectacle in the music until after the flugel solo when disaster unfortunately struck. The band did a sterling job to try and recreate the atmosphere but it just wasn’t to be, which was a real shame, and there seemed to be a collective loss of confidence for the remainder of the piece. A real pity, and 6th place was the return for a performance that could have really been challenging for a top spot.

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