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Pontins Championships 2002:

The 4BR Retrospective Review:
We give our opinion on the performances, plus we have the official remarks for the top three in the prize list.

The Pontins Holiday camp in Prestatyn is not a venue that readily brings to mind the beauty and grace of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, but on Sunday it was a worthy host to the bands that tackled Joseph Horovitz’s “Ballet for Band”, and in particular, Tredegar Band, who gave a winning performance that was worthy of any that could be heard at the London venue. Forget the slightly iffy smells of stale beer and fags, you could have almost been there with the black tuxedos and sloane ranger accents – Tredegar won the Harry and Margaret Mortimer Championships for 2002 with a lot of style indeed. Others performed well, but it was also fair to say that some gave renditions that were possibly closer to the Royston Vasey, “Legs Akimbo” theatre company than that of Horovitz’s beautifully constructed ballet music.

A jubilant tredegar band

Tredegar's performance though was top drawer material. What started with an anticipated bass entry grew into a mightily impressive show piece from band, conductor and soloists. The slow sections in particular reeked of class and the clarity and execution of the detail was of the highest order. Garry Cutt gave so much time and space to the music that allowed all soloists to shine - especially flugel player Andrea Lewis who simply sparkled throughout.

In second place came the newly sponsored Jaguar Coventry Band under David Lea. Their performance started well and there was some highly commendable playing in the exposed flourishes. We did think their soloists had rather thin sounds but their playing in the quiet sections was close to the best heard all day. Second was an excellent result for the band. We placed them third, but they certainly were in there on merit.

Flowers and Philip Harper will have left North Wales knowing they had the ability to gain a better result and a better band performance. Their best playing for us came in the slower sections where all soloists did well - especially the flugel. Unfortunately the band didn't sound relaxed and there were troubles with the ensemble work throughout the performance. Third place from the adjudicators but we had them fifth whilst some of their players will not wish to go through the anguish of the journey to the contest. They were close to not making the contest itself due to the problems on the wind swept roads, so to come third in those circumstances is some achievement.

Ashton-under-Lyne produced a little cracker of a performance with John Maines. There was much to admire throughout with all soloists playing with style. Again it was the flugel that really caught our ears, but band and conductor should take credit for a fine overall show. Fourth from the adjudicators - fourth from 4BR.

We were also impressed with reigning champions JAG Mount Charles and Russell Gray. They opened with style and there was some fine tutti cornet work throughout the first section. Their Achilles heel was possibly some insecurity and nerves in the slower stuff but their performance really ignited the competition for us. We had them second so they will be disappointed with fifth from the adjudicators. Perhaps they took the final section too fast and with an aggression that wasn’t really needed, but it was a fine showing none the less.

Pennine Brass and Ian Porthouse continue to make good strides in the championship section. A more than commendable performance here saw them come away with a well-deserved sixth place. The odd moments of intonation and the tendency to over cook things at times were perhaps their weakest element, but well done to one and all and a place in the final frame was spot on.

Derek Renshaw and ASDA Stocksbridge came next and were disappointed we understand to be drawn between the fancied bands of Tredegar and Mount Charles. As soon as they started though they showed restraint and there was a sense of purpose in their playing. Close attention to dynamics earned them plenty of points and they were worthy of their 7th place. Commendable stuff, and they do have some talented players to continue to make a mark at this level – as long as they forget about the reputations of the opposition.

In eighth place came Haydock Odgon Travel. With Nationals adjudicator Malcolm conducting and son Ian playing, the Brownbills proceeded to give a performance of real merit. Fine committed playing and some excellent soprano and lyrical flugel work - this made for a pleasing overall effort and a creditable top ten place. Too many little weak individual moments cost, but this was a solid showing.

The standard from here on down was not what we expected from championship standard outfits and some of the more fancied bands we felt failed to respect how difficult “Ballet for Band” was. On paper it appeards not to hold many technical problems for bands at this level, but the style of the music is something brass bands find very difficult to cope with. Basics of tuning and balance in passages of extended quiet playing caught band after band out – many to a degree that bordered on the naïve.

The first of these and last band on stage was Averley and Newham who once again failed to produce the goods at this level of competition. Perhaps it was too much too soon after their creditable Nationals performance last weekend but we thought a band of this calibre would put in a performance better than that which they gave. Some nice playing in the louder moments was small comfort for a performance that lacked conviction overall. Sorry guys but you left us shell shocked and ninth place and perhaps a little fortunate!

Mossley were placed tenth. Some nice solo cornet work but too many tuning problems and ragged playing made for a disjointed overall performance and they fell away towards the end as volume replaced the balanced rounded sounds that they produced at the beginning of their show. Eleventh came PHG Lindley who will perhaps be disappointed with their result. They were the pick of the lower half for us with some fine euph and sop work and we thought they tried to make a real effort to play the dynamics in the slower sections. Weaknesses elsewhere though once more caught them out and they were penalised heavily.

Hepworth were a great disappointment for us and 12th place was as good as they could have hoped for. One of our fancied bands prior to the contest, they failed to impress with some cornet and bass playing that really didn't cut the mustard – it was overblown and ragged too often. Well done euph though who shone throughout.

Thornbury and Nigel Seaman were awarded thirteenth place and can thank their flugel player for some fine individual playing that certainly kept them around the half way mark. After an encouraging start things began to
sound a little strained. This coupled with some nervy solo work and untogetherness made for a performance that never really got off the ground and they never felt in total control of the piece. The MD tried in vain to ensure the style was correct, but the playing wasn’t up to scratch.

Nottingham City Transport started loud and got louder. A slightly bizarre approach to the music in the opening section didn't really come off and coupled with some harsh sounds meant fourteenth place. It may sound harsh, but didn’t the MD look at the dynamics. They could certainly play the piece, but at this volume it destroyed all the syle the music so demands. Fifthteenth place went to Colin Hardy and Drighlington. A light sounding band - they started quite well but found the technical difficulties a little too much deal with. Well done flugel though who may have sounded nervous but played so well, whilst the band left its best playing to the final section – which was too late to make anything more of a token impression.

Before the contest, Staffordshire and David Maplestone were another band we tipped to do well. Lacking in excitement, their performance was littered with intonation problems and frequently sounded out of control. Well done basses though - you impressed us. Sixteenth place was your reward and a lesson for us both. The standard between the First Section and the Championship is still big, and things that can be possibly overlooked at the lower level, are required basics higher up. The talent is there, but determination isn’t enough.

Philip Bailey and City of Coventry came next and although they started with conviction the writing was on the wall once the basses were left exposed. The flugel was the star of the show though and if only they had another dozen players like this they would have found themselves a good ten places higher. Seventeenth place though was all they could manage.

BTM and David Stowell started so well off a number one draw. Some excellent trombone playing throughout was the highlight for us but the soloists didn't quite do their best on the day. Together with a rather frenetic close meant a disappointing eighteenth place. Meanwhile, Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass with Bryan Hurdley came nineteenth and although we heard plenty of detail in the opening sections, much of the good work was spoiled by some brisk tempi. Harsh sounds to end and nervy playing in the quiet section meant nineteenth was as good as it was going to get.

Thoresby Colliery UK Coal with Stan Lippeatt at the helm were a combination we thought would push for high honours. However, what we got was a performance that was pulled around more than a three-legged dog on a lead. What was all that about eh? It was ballet music alright, but why so much rubato? The look on the face of a very prominent man in the movement close to us said it all. The soloists performed well under trying conditions, but 20th place was what the overall performance deserved. Not a great day for the band.

Longridge and Brett Baker came twenty-first and their performance looked promising after a sensible opening. Then things turned for the worst with some cornet playing that really went astray. Although iy did pick up in places, there were some moments that were very uncomfortable indeed and it was a performance that very nearly stopped in a few places. They will hope for better things in 2003 for sure.

Kidlington and Catherine Underwood were the unfortunate band to be placed twenty-second and last. It wasn't pretty stuff in the main but we really thought it unlucky to be propping up the field. Some nice flugel and bass work was spoiled by some serious over-blowing at times and this surely was their undoing. Catherine Underwood has a lot to offer though and it would be interesting to see her perform with a stronger outfit. Sorry Kidlington.

So there we have it. We sat. We listened. And we've said it how it was..….. for us.

Many bands had a bit of help from “guest players” – including the winners, who had Robert Westacott from Yorkshire Imperial Rothwell performing with class on the end chair. Others also took the opportunity to utilize the generous rules to allow up to four players in the ranks from other bands, and there were sightings of Alan Wycherley, Glyn Williams and John Barber from Fodens Richardson as well as sprinkling from Black Dyke and others from the top bands in the country.

It may seem unfair, but the rule is there to assist bands rather than just “sign up” star players, and it should be reminded that nowadays the rules for National contests mean that players can be signed to perform anything up to four days prior to the contest – so what Pontins does isn’t out of touch with what goes on elsewhere. It also didn’t make an ounce of difference to the result either, so there. Tredegar were worthy champions for a fourth time and there weren’t many in the Hall on Sunday who would have disagreed with that.

Adjudicators Remarks:

1. Tredegar

Not the perfect first bar, but then you play with a great purpose and sound. Excellent duet from basses. Very neat playing all round. Fine cornet at 7. I like the way you give room for the music to be heard in space. Breadth. So well shaped to 10. Loveley flugel playing and accomp just right. Sop super. 12 has the right balance and style – it floats aong. I’m frightened to write ion case I make a sound around 13!! Well done. Euph steers the band well into a tempo. All is going along fine. The detail of accents before 21 is welcomed. Fine euph before 23 and percussion play a great part in the fine show.

This was a super show. So well directed and well played.

Richard Evans.

Not quite together on opening note but you settle into an impressive opening section. Fine basses at 5 then all parts are clear. Lovely feel for the music at 7. Not all secure at 8 but the music flows so well. Good attention to dynamics. Good move into Lento. Very expressive flugel, super sop and balance from 11. At 12 the playing is restrained but flowing. 13 has good balance and shape. Good tempo at the Moderato and you play with spirit. At 17 the music is enjoyable. Allegro is very rhythmic and musical. Good drive to a great close.

A very good musical performance, by band, soloists and conductor.

Alan Lawton

2. Jaguar (Coventry)

Rather fast tempo makes the triplets appear rushed. Good sound and balance in band. Good bass duet, well balanced. 6 – not all together. 7 – Good cornet, then untidy in band before 8. Controlled well before and then 9. Well shaped to 10. Flugel slightly flat. Fine soprano. Cornet good too. 12 - Well done with dynamics here, and it still flows. 13 – Excellent. This performance is being well directed. Most of this moves along so well. There was very litlle wrong with this performance, especially from 15 onwards.

A very fine performance. Well directed.

Richard Evans.

A rather quick tempo to open, but you play with a good style and dynamics. Bsses play well again with good style from 5. Good cornet at 7 then some rather loose playing. Good control at accel with good balance. Flugel slightly flat and rather tentative. Good sop and vbalance from 11. 12 flows well – some good sounds in this section. This has been a good movement. Moderato. Correct tempo, again all parts are clear. Neat playing sat the Allegro.

A fine close to a very good musical performance. Well directed.

Alan Lawton.

3. Flowers

Impressive! Be careful – triplets around 3 were lazy. But apart from that it was most commendable! Duet really good, just the right style. Cornets well balanced. In fact the balance from the band is excellent. Fine shape to the section through to Lento. Flugel bottom Bb not right – but the music is free. Sop great. I felt the rhythm in first bar at 12 was not quite as it should be. Then fine control. Well done 13 onwards but it didn’t maintain its quality. Great tempo at Moderato – it is the key to all that follows. Nice use of dynamics. But timp too much at 19. Fine detail in 4/4 before 21 and from there you are in control to the end.

Thanks. Not the perfect performance, but a very fine one. Well directed!

Richard Evans.

Fine opening and the dynamics are well played. Good efforts after 3. Fine basses at 5. Lovely cornet at 7 – all parts are clear. Good accelinto the Piu Moto. Nice balance at 10. Flugel plays with feeling (but a shade flat). Sop rather heavy for mf at 11. Good control from 12. I lose the balance at 13 (too much sop). Final notes before Moderato are not together. Moderato. Good tempo again and all parts are clear. You have a good feel for the music. Per rather heavy 3rd of 15. Good rhythm through 21.

A fine ending. A very good performance The overall musical picture came through. Well directed.

Alan Lawton.

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Andrea lewis - Tredegar
Andrea Lewis - Flugel: Tredegar

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The Heaton Collection -  Available with 4BR shopping