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Post Match Analysis:
North West Regional Championships 2002

Championship Section:
The Winter Gardens, Opera House
Sunday March 10th
Adjudicator: Dr Roy Newsome
Commences: Approx 3.15 pm


1. Fodens (R. Gray): 197 4
2. Williams Fairey (H. Snell): 196 10
3. Leyland (G. Cutt): 194 7
4. Besses O' th' Barn (S. Sykes): 193 1
5. Wingates (B. Hurdley): 191 6
6. Haydock Ogden Travel (I. Brownbill): 190 8
7. Marple (J. Cant): 189 11
8. Freckleton (P. Dalton): 188 3
9. BT (M. Fowles): 1852
10. Longridge (S. Booth): 182 5
11. Mossley (J. Davies): 180 9

Top four bands qualify

Hands up if you would like to be an adjudicator? Dr Roy Newsome had the difficult task on Sunday of selecting the bands to go to London in October - a task that was made even harder by four outstanding performances. In the end, Roy Newsome said that Fodens pipped their Cheshire rivals, Williams Fairey Band, by a whisker, simply because for him, 'their soloists made the music sound easier'. It was that close – and when the level of soloist playing was as high as we had on show in Blackpool, it was perhaps the only thing that could part the top two bands.

The contest commenced with Besses asserting themselves with a comfortable and confident performance. Steve Sykes is an accomplished conductor and he drew on every ounce of this band to produce a performance that right from the off was a marker. They let the dynamics work to their advantage, which was highlighted in the light and airy feel in the softer chord work, then later at its best in the march which was quite pointed but very effective. As it turned out, they gained a well-deserved fourth place and qualification for the Royal Albert Hall, which of a number 1 spot was an excellent achievement.

BT were next up on stage, and although the performance was driven with plenty of energy by Michael Fowles, it just didn't come off for them, as a few too many slips meant that they finished in ninth place. At times the sharp edged attack and vigorous style worked, but it lacked excitement and as such became anonymous and bland. Not bad, but not great.

Freckleton and Paul Dalton once again gave a very confident and solid performance that on another day could have had them finish higher than 8th place. It says a lot for the standard produced from the other bands that this sharply defined and articulate reading didn’t finish any higher.

Fodens came next, making their contesting debut under Russell Gray. Russell's cornet playing was always articulate and his conducting has gone the same way. The band responded to his leadership and each player was on top of their game. A mobile phone ringing in the opening section didn't seem to distract them as Messrs Wycherley, Wilkinson, Williams and Barber produced some purely magical movements - this music was flowing and the audience were being treated to something special as the players were helped by some beautiful ensemble playing right the way through the band.

Whitsun Wakes has provided flugel players up and down the land with many a sleepless night on the run up to the contest performance, with the immensely difficult cadenza. Helen Fox's decision to transfer from cornet to flugel has paid off, and she showed why she is without doubt one of the leading flugel players in the country. Her playing throughout was superb. It was a highlight of a quite stunning performance from the band and confirmed that even with the recent changes of personnel they are an immensely talented band. There was little doubt that it was the performance to beat.

Longridge, under Baritone virtuoso, Steven Booth had the unfortunate task of following Fodens on to the stage and they discovered that the step up from First section to Championship is a big one. It was a listenable and competent performance but lacked the clarity and style to really make a mark. They will take heart from it though.

Wingates were drawn at six and with Bryan Hurdley in charge the band were hoping to take one of the four positions for London later in the year. It was a solid performance which was extremely well directed and it was no real surprise to see a touch of disappointment on the faces of Wingates' players having heard that they had been placed fifth and missing out on a crack at Masquerade by two points. It contained a moody opening statement, which led to some rapid rhythmic playing in the technical sections, which at times just robbed them of the clarity that Dr Newsome must have been looking for. Fifth place will give them heart though and they will approach other contests this year knowing they can really perorm at the top level.

4BarsRest has mentioned in recent times that Leyland are certainly finding their feet again after an uncomfortable time with the loss of sponsorship from JJB Sports. However, this band has a lot of self-belief and determination about it and under Garry Cutt, produced a wonderful performance. Mr Cutt's conducting style is such that every note is musically visible and he keeps everybody on their toes. The band responded with all sections producing some beautiful moments throughout the performance that was full of energy and the flugel cadenza was another highlight of the day. This was backed up by fine playing from Rob Westacott on cornet, Brian Heyes on Soprano and Neil Samuel on Principal trombone. On another day, Leyland could have finished higher than third place, but it was one of those days where they had two bands in front of them that were simply magnificent.

Malcolm Brownbill had been picking the bones out of the fourth section all afternoon as adjudicator, and had finished in time to come into the Opera House and listen to Haydock Ogden Travel, conducted by his son Ian. The band played exceptionally well and got to grips with the music and produced a sound and solid performance, which they have to be pleased about. Being placed in sixth position was very creditable and richly deserved. The balance wasn’t quite on the mark at times and there were a number blips and blobs that detracted, but the overall shape of the music was excellently realised and 6th place was more than justified.

Mossley Band came back into the Championship section after a long absence, resplendent in new uniforms, and like Longridge discovered that moving up a section is a very tough ask. They produced a performance that had more than a few slips in it, and at times you could see more than a few red faces as they tackled this demanding work. However the thing for Mossley is that the performance is part of a learning curve and the band and can build on this performance and the experience of playing in the top section again.

And so to Williams Fairey. They came onto stage in determined mood to retain their north west area title and of course, Howard Snell was conducting his final UK contesting performance and the band had the likes of Ian Porthouse and Morgan and Geraint Griffiths making their contesting debuts. Every player was on their metal, and it was an assertive and confident beginning with delightful touches all the way through the band. This was gripping stuff and some of the dynamics in this performance made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Messrs Crockford, Porthouse, Morgan Griffiths and Nick Hudson were in sparkling form, backed up by solid bass and ensemble playing. Neil Hewson was his usual self with his very strong flugel sound and the band produced a truly outstanding performance.

When the performance concluded, the audience reacted assuming that they had won, but, as we all know interpretation is a very funny thing and Dr Newsome found something else from Fodens to give them title. We cannot let it pass without mentioning that audience and members of the band gave Howard Snell a tremendous reception at the end of the performance. He will be sorely missed.

Marple rounded the competition off and for a band that has struggled in recent months, they produced a very fine performance under Jim Cant, and were justly awarded 7th position. Much of the ensemble work was of a high standard and reminiscent of the Marple of just four or five years ago, but the complex technicalities of the music found them wanting a little and a few too many slips cost them a chance of a higher place. Still, it’s great to see them back.

And so to the results and the usual round of platitudes and formalities, with the representative from Boosey and Hawkes managing to make the same speech for the fourth consecutive time in the day. Some feat that. Dr Newsome gave a quite model speech himself and indicated that he in fact felt that there were four outstanding performances and that he had to read over his notes and recall the performances several times before he finally made up his mind. When he did, there was little to question and so the winners were Fodens and a delighted Russell Gray. This could well be a team to beat in 2002.

© 4BarsRest


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