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Contest Season - 2001/2002
North West and Midlands
Retrospective Report:

It has been my pleasure to regularly contribute to 4BR during the 2001/2002 contest season covering competitions held, in the main, in the North West and Midlands. It might be of interest, therefore, to note some of the moments that I felt made 2001/2002 particularly interesting and enjoyable to report across all the sections in these two regions of England.

There were some lovely performances and notable in this regard were the number of bands displaying the artistic qualities which communicated a freshness and lightness in playing which currently seems to be gaining more favour from our adjudicators.
The conductors who figured with the most frequently rewarded performances often displayed a supple sense of line bringing out from their bands both sensitive and imaginative playing.

Championship Section

In the Championship Section, 'Fodens' and 'Faireys' were in dominant form and to emphasise this I would highlight their spine tingling performances of 'Whitsun Wakes' at the North West Regional Championships. These were both quite stunning with each player on his or her metal and the impact of Russell Gray on 'Fodens' absolutely made him the conductor of note in this Championship arena.

The North West contesting scene was witness to two outstanding performances from a band who reside outside the Region - 'The Hepworth Band'. Travelling from the Pennine foothills in Yorkshire they left their mark by taking the Wilkinson Northern Open Championship and soon after were to secure 192 points for their performance of "Harmony Music" by Philip Sparke at the Guild Hall, Preston. They set their memorable season on track with a simply impeccable performance of "Variations On A Ninth" in St. Helens in November 2001.

The progress of 'Haydock Ogden Travel' under Ian Brownbill cannot be overlooked or understated and their performance at the North West Regionals where they produced a sound and solid performance, being placed sixth, was testament to this.

The Midlands Regional Championship bands didn't quite match the same level as the North West this year but 'Desford Colliery', under Peter Parkes, came good and gave a broad landscaped performance of 'Whitsun Wakes.

'Thoresby RJB' and Stan Lippeat may be disappointed with results this year, especially in missing out on a trip to the finals, as they have played well this season and we favoured their performance at the Regionals in March.

First Section

The First Section witnessed the 'Pemberton Old (Wigan) Band' deliver a couple of really top notch performances which naturally conveyed the give and take of quality ensemble playing which likewise showed off their soloists. In winning the North West Regional Championships and then taking the Senior Trophy at Blackpool they unquestionably set the standard in this section.

Adele Sellers brought out performances at the Midlands Regionals and Buxton Festival which gave 'Towcester Studio Brass' real individuality. This band, on its day, had a very different feel about it with a lightness of balance and tone that were quite refreshing. Ms Sellers becomes the first of my two ladies at the helm who deserve special mention during this contest year.

The 'Staffordshire Band' under the direction of David Maplestone performed throughout this season with a deliberate pronounced style. On the contest stage you could hear the class in their performances that brought them thoroughly deserved successes at the Midland Regionals and the Senior Trophy at Blackpool.

Second Section

In reviewing this section, across both Regions, attention turns to one band 'Moston & Beswick Manchester' conducted by Rob Taylor. They completely held sway over the second section all season. After a shaky start at the Pontins Championships they then went on to produce some admirable performances from "A Salford Sinfonnietta" at St. Helens to the deeply musically satisfying playing of their own choice for the season "The Land of the Long White Cloud (Aotearoa)" by Philip Sparke. It was the freshness and pleasure in music making which made their performances memorable and as such they thoroughly deserved to become North West Champion Band. They surely get nominated as the Band of the Year in this retrospective.

Third Section

Without question this was the most competitive division throughout this contest season. From the outset the standard of playing in this section was notable for some masterly contributions and playing all through of considerable talent. One could list any number of bands all worthy of mention for excellence this season - 'Boarshurst', Carlton Brass (Nottingham)', 'Foresters 2000', 'Greenhalls', 'Rainford Silver', Raunds Temperance', Shirland Welfare Training, Silk Brass and 'Wire Brass' - but in fairness the whole division deserves credit.

'Boarshurst' with Jonathan Webster were consistent all year and produced some excellent performances for their fine conductor.
'Carlton Brass (Nottingham)' brought out some very good sounds under the deliberate style of Tony Wilson.
'Foresters 2000', benefited from good direction with some super playing off the soloists and were always a band to watch.
'Greenhalls Brewery', under Howard Bousfield consistently produced most enjoyable performances.
'Rainford Silver', one of the most consistent bands all season, truly benefited from the expertise of Lynda Nicholson who becomes the second lady at the helm who deserves special mention during this contest year. One can already note the impact she is having with 'Besses o'th' Band'.
'Raunds Temperance', conducted by John Fletcher won the Midlands Regional Contest with a belting performance.
Shirland Welfare Training, with Marie Smith, have given a good account of themselves all through this season.
'Silk Brass', who qualified for the National Finals, have benefited from the moods and colour in the music created by their conductor.
'Wire Brass', "the new kids on the block" became North West Champion Band and they are a very neat ensemble with fine solo players who have impressed throughout the season.

For the neutral this section was perfect being consistently the closest contested division throughout. Contest of the year prize would have to go to that of the Tameside Open 3rd Section held on the 7th April as, in particular, this section epitomised the high standard of playing, choice of music, keen competition and organisation that are the hallmarks of the very best contests.

Fourth Section

The fourth section, during this season, was probably the most unpredictable as performances varied markedly with bands playing well at one contest to suffer at the next. 'Douglas Town Band' and 'Wem Jubilee' qualified for the National Finals with a win at the respective Regionals.
'Besses Boys Band' were probably the most consistent band through the season and featured in the prizes on a regular basis throughout the contest calendar. Their trombone section was noted for their consistent good playing and Carl Whiteoak brought out the best of the band as the season progressed.

In conclusion one can but look forward to the contest season 2002/2003 if the standard and vying for trophies comes anywhere close to that witnessed during this season.

John James© 4BarsRest

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