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Post Match Analysis:
North of England Regional Championships 2002

Championship Section:
The Dolphin Centre
Sunday 17th March
Adjudicator: Malcolm Brownbill
Commences: 5.00pm approx

Competing Bands:

1. Ever Ready (N. Childs): 7 193
2. EYMS (G. Pritchard): 6 192
3. Fishburn (G. O'Connor): 1 189
4. Broughton's Brass (Brian Grant): 5 187
5. Cottingham (R. Grantham): 4 186
6. Newcastle Brown Ale (R. Evans): 8 185
7. Gregg's Bakery (G. Cutt): 2 182
8. Nestle Rowntree (W. Rushworth): 3 180

Top two bands qualify

Championship Section:

Given the great amount of press coverage that has been given to what happened after the results were announced for the Championship Section, this would be the right time to try and cover what actually took place during the contest itself.

The unwarranted and totally disgraceful behaviour of two players should not stain the overall impression that the North East continues to be dominated by the Ever Ready band, and whatever they may have thought, the result was as clear cut as you could ever wish for and Malcolm Brownbill for us at least, got things spot on.

The win for Ever Ready was their 25th Regional title since they took the name of the famous battery company after being called Craghead for the last time on 1968. It is a record that any band should be proud of, and even though they have never gone on to win the National title, they have put up many a fine performance at the Albert Hall, and in 2001 showed that they were back on the road to the best of those days when they won back the coveted place at the British Open.

This perhaps wasn't their greatest performance in winning the Regional title, and their 40th qualification place, but there was enough class around the stand, and in front of them in the shape of Nichols Childs to secure a hard fought victory.

Many in the audience had them there or thereabouts, after their performance was highlighted by some fine ensemble playing and solid solo work. There may have been a few eyebrows raised at the sop cadenza (was it a cornet player really doing it?), but the overall impression left was of a fine solid band going about its business in a very workmanlike fashion. Not inspired perhaps, but plenty good enough to do what they had to do. We had them as winners, before and after, so we ain't complaining.

The runners up spot, and gaining their second consecutive appearance at the Albert Hall went to EYMS, who for the second time here gave a very powerful and well thought out performance, that just lacked for us that little bit of class that could have taken the title for the first time since 1998.

Gareth Pritchard has an easy and languid style in front of a band that sometimes reminds you of Ray Farr, but he is very meticulous in ensuring a clear and clean beat pattern and directive touches. He brought this to the performance and the players responded very well with the soloists in particular on good form. The sound was a little heavy at times, but it was a full band sound and balanced to boot. Just the odd occasions when the detail was a bit swamped, but overall a good quality show and a deserved return to London.

Fishburn came third, and although they performed well, especially off the number one draw, it was a performance that never quite did enough to suggest it was going to trouble the two above them, and the three point margin between them and EYMS was right on the button. Graham O'Connor is a fine band trainer and it was obvious that the band had taken on board his very clear and straightforward approach to the music, but it was "light" in the bass end at times. The soloists were on good form though and Mal Usher again showed why he is so highly regarded as a top rate sop player, by winning the soloist prize for the instrument, whilst both John and Malcolm Gill on solo cornet and solo trombone sounded classy and articulate. Third place was right for us, but then it all went a bit pear shaped. A real, real pity for all concerned.

Broughton's Brass were 4th, and the newly promoted band must have been delighted to show the audience (and us at 4BR) who didn't rate their chances very high before play, that they could really handle themselves and the music in a solid unpretentious showing. The young lad on sop (sorry, but couldn't get the name) and the lady and gent on solo cornet and euph were very good indeed, and you could sense that the band knew they had given as good as they could as soon as the last note was played. Brian Grant may have had a bit to do with it as he chose sensible tempos and gave the music a chance to flow, but the players were excellent and it was a well deserved result.

Cottingham and Richard Grantham took 5th spot for the second consecutive year with a performance that was solid and workmanlike and showed that they had been hard at it for many a week. Everthing was in it's right place and the solo lines well generally neatly handled, but it never quite "took off" and it lacked that little bit of edge of your pants excitement that characterised the top bands on the day. Still, they have show that in the past two years that they have certainly come to terms with what the top section has got to throw at them and they haven't been found wanting.

Newcastle Brown Ale took the final top six placing with a performance under the ebullient Richard Evans that was far too much of a curates egg to come any higher. When they were good, they sounded very good indeed, but there were far too many moments when it all went a bit wonky and they got themselves into trouble. They were also out of tune in the lower end in the quieter passages for us and although Tony Thompson on solo cornet and the very impressive Christopher Gomersall on trombone shone, they couldn't do enough to really make more of an impression. Terry Oldroyd on sop, who earlier had won the day conducting Lanbaurgh also performed well on sop, although he did tend to go a delightful shade of purple on the high stuff.

The two bands that came outside the prize list couldn't really complain, as both made far too many basic errors to challenge for anything higher. They did however give competent performances of the set work that suggested they could have done better, and that they may be more than a little disappointed on the bus home.

Greggs Bakery had opted for the mercurial talents of Garry Cutt to head their challenge this year and try and improve on last year's 7th place, but even though he was his usual excellent self, the band just couldn't perform to the level of the man at the helm. There was some good work from Richard Martin of the Northern Symphonia on sop and Kevin Holdgate on trombone, but the ensemble work was far to lacking in any detail and the music never sparkled. It was never bad, but it was never good enough to come any higher either.

The final place went to Nestle Rowntree under William Rushworth, and even though for the most part they sounded a little out of their depth, they benefited from a sensible and well thought out approach by their conductor. There were of course far too many individual errors and the overall band sound lacked the depth of many of those above them, but they sounded well drilled and there were plenty of moments when they really shone. It may have been a bit beyond this year but the experience will be incalculable and 2003 should see them pose a stronger threat.

With all the playing over, the results ceremony started well enough only to descend into unfortunate chaos and farce. It seems some people cannot accept a decision when they hear one, and the least said about their actions the better. Lets hope all concerned take the appropriate action.

Ever Ready took the title for the 25th time then and qualified for the Finals for the 40th occasion, whilst EYMS conformed that they are getting back to the days when they too went to London not merely to just make up the numbers. The vast majority of the audience agreed with the decision, and even though 2002 will unfortunately be remembered for other things, both qualifying bands come from the Dolphin Centre with credit. Well done to just about one and all.

© 4BarsRest

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