The Lower Section National Finals 2002
Post match analysis: Fourth section
Wide-eyed and bushy tailed – well the 4BR team were when
we got to the hall at 8.00am on Saturday morning. Not to sure we
were come 1.00am the next day when we trudged away from the Riviera
Centre - but looking back, we certainly enjoyed all the performances
from the bands in the Fourth Section.
This was a joy last year in Preston and Torquay once more didn’t
disappoint with the bands thoroughly enjoying the test piece and
the audience enjoying the music – great tunes and plenty of
technical difficulties to sort the men from the boys. Saying that
though, most bands had at least a quarter of their players of school
age, with some youngsters no higher than an Eb bass in height!!
The standard of playing was excellent – with many of the
MD’s making sure they took sensible approaches to both the
dynamics and tempo. However, we must say that nearly all the MD’s
didn’t take the opportunity of listening to a Welsh Male Voice
Choir actually singing the songs that were highlighted – especially
in Suo Gan – the quiet lullaby movement.
Many misread the rhythm so that the lullaby became jerky in character,
whilst some couldn’t tell with the obvious phrase markings
were. That was disappointing and led to some fine technical playing,
which had little or no musical content. One or two bands also thought
the music had to be sung ala Tom Jones – loud! Welsh lullabies
are more Charlotte Church you know.
The winners however were a class apart. St. Dennis are a famous
band with a famous past, and last year they came close to victory
here at the Finals. This time they were not to be denied and played
out of their skins. The direction from Brain Minear was first rate
and his players performed with poise and no little class. They were
clear winners and deservedly took home the top prize back to Cornwall.
On this showing they will be strong contenders in the Third Section
next year, and for a band with such heritage, the future looks very
rosy indeed – the late Eddie Williams would be a very proud
Second place went to Wardle and District Anderson Brass, conducted
in fine style by Phil Shaw – another man who has played and
won at the very highest levels, and who brought a very well thought
out, sensible no nonsense reading of the test piece. It just had
the odd moments of unease and the dynamic level was a touch on the
loud side, but they ran the winners very close and in Phil Shaw
they have a conductor of skill and talent. Some old granny started
clapping at the end of the second movement – so they had plenty
of support, but on this occasion they should be well pleased with
becoming runners up, especially after they took the stage after
the winners had played immediately before them. The comparison between
the two was obvious and they didn’t fall short by much.
Third place was taken by Hayle Town, who were directed by Derek
Johnson. This was a fine performance as well, with solid direction
from the MD and clean and detailed playing from his charges. It
had plenty to commend it – perhaps just a bit light in depth
of sound in comparison to the two above them, but still fine stuff.
Well done to one and all.
Timperley came fourth with and clean and confident performance
that was musically controlled throughout and at times very stylish.
It was quality playing and much credit should go to the MD, Graham
Hetherington who kept a cool hand on the tiller and let the music
flow. Again, it was a bit light in tonal depth but nowadays that
isn’t too bad a thing and the band got just reward.
Fifth place went to the Welsh band Conway Town under the direction
of Keith Jones, who set the early marker off the number 2 draw with
a well directed show that was perhaps the most musically accurate
of the day. The tunes had a sense of style born out of understanding
of the words – something that is inbred in the Welsh it seems
and it paid dividends.
The final placing announced off the stage went to Wem Jubilee,
who came to the contest as one of the favourites, played with lots
of confidence and plenty of brio, but didn’t quite catch the
ears of the judges. It was good stuff – a little on the loud
side maybe, but good stuff nevertheless.
Below this came some pretty good shows from just about everyone,
with Porthaethy Menai Bridge taking 7th place with a solid performance
and the unlucky (for us) Lochgelly from Scotland coming home 8th.
Theirs was one of the most musically controlled performances of
the whole weekend for us, and one of the best directed, but they
didn’t quite do anything for the judges – a real pity.
Below this was a whole group of bands that all performed with merit
and plenty of style and verve – it was just that they made
too many individual errors for their performances to come any higher
up the league tables. Plenty of good young talented players on show
though and even though they made the odd blip or blob, so many of
them played without the merest hint of nerves! Lets hope they keep
their enthusiasm for banding as they grow older – there are
far too many distractions elsewhere to tempt them!
It would be hard to criticise the bands that filled the lower places
on the day – they had all come through the hard qualification
process and many put in performances of note, but the brass band
contest can be a cruel mistress and most fell to problems of intonation,
balance and quality of overall tone. Still – plenty to work
on for many of the MD’s.
St. Dennis were therefore deserved winners and will wear the banner
and title with pride. This hopefully is the start of the long road
back – a road that less than 25 years ago saw them take a
top six place at the National Finals in the Championship Section
at the Royal Albert Hall – now wouldn’t that be nice
to look forward to?