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2003 Midlands Regional Qualifying Championships - Retrospective

Championship Section
Town Hall,
Burton Upon Trent,
Sunday 2nd March 2003-03-03

Steven Sykes seemed to strike a favourable chord with the audience as he delivered his summation at the end of the Championship Section on Sunday evening. Of the piece itself he stressed he did not want to appear controversial but whilst he felt ‘Prague’ was a most creditable choice for a Festival of Contemporary Music he was not quite so sure of its place as a Test Piece. Finding difficulty in getting real appeal from the music he thought it was a ‘leveller’. Describing it as a challenging piece for the listener he brought a big smile when he congratulated the audience for staying in!

He continued to discuss the technical aspects of the piece and gave an interesting view on the music as he waggishly described the movements of the music as 1) Violence, 2) Hammer House of Horrors, 3) Ethereal and 4) Sheer Chaos. With regard to the technicalities of the music he said he had expected all the bands to master the notes and that’s exactly what he got with only little flicks and bumps here and there. He told the audience then that more than at any other time he could remember his adjudication of this most programmatic music had been judged almost squarely on the sound picture painted by the conductor.

He didn’t finish without poking a bit of fun at the errata sheet issues recently thrown up when he said he had been in receipt of an new change that very morning. It read “The title is wrong and that the letter R should be replaced with the letter L”

With that the prizes were announced and as with the Yorkshire Regionals they threw up a set of most interesting end results. So having listened to all the performances the conclusion to be drawn was that Stephen Sykes was absolutely right and this was for the greater part a very level contest indeed.

1st Desford Colliery Band
Conductor: Peter Parkes - Draw 3

From the outset we have to agree Desford Colliery certainly won this contest as Peter Parkes brought out a vigorous and finely conceived account of ‘Prague’. Opening with very broad sounds the first movement was bold in character and concentrated in feeling with much detail. A stylish and quite lyrical interpretation followed during which the trombone solo was played with great feeling and authority. A powerfully atmospheric and curiously hypnotic 3rd section preceded a direct and confident 4th section that built to a masterful climax. This was a performance that fulfilled the high expectations of the band and audience as well. Player of the day – Trombone

2nd The Ransome Band
Conductor: Brian Grant – Draw 10

What a performance and fully deserving a place on the podium. Brain Grant succeeding in communicating the atmosphere of this music most effectively. Taking a quite lively tempo from the outset this was a well-defined performance. Biting trombones and superb percussion built to a very effective crescendo. With good solo lines all through again and with great percussion in the second theme this was nicely contrasted music. The music continued and the conductor proved a powerful advocate for this piece before a final movement of exiting and most convincing playing. This was certainly a strong performance that neatly contrasted the attack and dynamics within the piece. Players of the day – Percussion

3rd Newstead Welfare
Conductor: Duncan Beckley – Draw 4

The conductor called for a hard attack and the music was noted for its pointed rhythms from the bass trombone and lower band as the piece opened. The movement continued with very clean lines and alert playing that led to a stunning crescendo. The next section opened with one of those little flicks, as Stephen Sykes called them, not being quite together but this didn’t last too long. Very effective balance of band and xylophone epitomised this section which had very smooth lines rather than warm sounds. The third section was notable for some excellent back line playing under a most well delivered soprano cornet solo before plenty of drive and dynamic contrast hall-marked the final movement. Player of the day – Soprano Cornet

4th Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass
Conductor: Steve Cooper – Draw 6

The impression of this performance was that the conductor was looking for tough and passionate playing which had pronounced urgency and attack. Very good solo cornet playing featured before the band sound shifted to become very broad and urgent in crescendo. The odd tweak and blip at the outset preceded a quite effective second movement as it moved forward through the third section with its safe euphonium solo. The music concluded with a committed and clear ending. Player of the day – Principal Cornet

5th Thoresby Colliery UK Coal
Conductor: Stan Lippeatt – Draw 7

A performance that could so easily have taken a podium place. Stan Lippeatt set the band to bring out strong solo lines and this was noted at the outset as the percussionist stood forward on the stage to emphasise the Guiro sounds. With the rep and flugel opposite the top cornets to bring out their lines as well this approach nearly worked. The whole performance had a clarity and presence. This was a nicely judged performance that came very close to fully capturing the spirit and phraseology of the work and was so near to taking a prize to boot. Player of the day – Flugel

6th Staffordshire Band
Conductor: David Maplestone – Draw 5

As we noted before the contest that if Staffordshire played to form they could pose a real threat to the established bands and with this result they held their own in the company. David Maplestone tried hard in his interpretation to capture the imagination with a finely balanced reading. With some smooth broad and warm sounds in ensemble work to the creation of driving sounds with rhythmic alertness in the opening and final section this was quite a solid outing. Players of the day – Basses

7th Glossop Old
Conductor: James Cant – Draw 11

Glossop Old produced probably the best final section of the day. Good bass line and snare support complimented excellent flugel and cornet work as the music built to a vividly atmospheric final crescendo and finish. The other sections were clean in interpretation where the band emphasised the pulse of the music quite strongly. In a movement of generally quite smooth playing it was in the third section were a couple of slips were noted that was probably their weakest moment. Player of the day – Flugel

8th Ratby Cooperative
Conductor: Kevin J. Steward – Draw 12

Ratby gave a solid performance in which the conductor searched for the melodic lines throughout the piece. The opening movement showed deliberate playing which was really quite exiting. Again in this performance it was the third section in which the conductor asked for a quite gentle style that a couple of ‘nervy’ moments were observed but overall a rewarding performance. Players of the day – Horns

9th Jaguar (Coventry)
Conductor: Dave Lea – Draw 8

A strong and well-played performance in which the conductor’s reading had a very serious purpose about it. Very bold in the opening movement to the quasi cadenza style of the euphonium solo this was a very deliberate interpretation. The second musical section featured some interesting playing with strong solo lines. The cornets and trombones were nicely balanced to open the third and this movement in particular emphasised that sense of purpose the musical director took in his interpretation. Player of the day – Euphonium

10th City of Coventry
Conductor: Philp Bailey – Draw 9

Philip Bailey was eminently straightforward in his interpretation and the playing of the City of Coventry Band contributed to this. The opening made an impact and the music’s central section was quite coolly played before the emphasis on deep bass sounds injected a powerful element of menace in the finale. The inner parts of this performance were very well played all through in what was a generally direct and confident performance. Players of the day – Basses

11th Travelsphere Holidays
Conductor: Russell Gray – Draw 1

Travelsphere copped the number 1 draw and really set the standard from the off. Russell Gray delivered maturity to the composer’s essay in brass band and it really was a quite distinguished performance. The euphonium stood to take the solo and to this point, after a very clean opening, there were very few noticeable errors. Throughout this performance there was plenty of character and spirit but again the third section of the music just caught a few tweaks where the cornet section and soprano were just a bit edgy at times. Being first up this may have proved costly but in our opinion the wrap across the knuckles from the adjudicator was perhaps a bit harsh. Player of the day – Euphonium

12th Jackfield Elcock Reisen
Conductor: Chris Lewis – Draw 2

A few blips and blops crept into the overall delivery of the Jackfield playing. A solid opening and safe playing with a good climax just crackled in the cornet solo of the first movement. The second section was well shaped with good basses before the third section saw both the soprano cornet and the euphonium just slip in their solos. That apart this was another in the full list of very good performances which were rightly separated by only a point each. Players of the day – Horns

With the results announced and just out of interest it’s time to put our necks on the line and own up where we would have placed the runners and riders (had the contest been held at the nearby Uttoxeter Races) [actual placing in brackets].

1. Desford Colliery, [1]
2. Ransome Band, [2]
3. Thoresby Colliery (UK Coal), [5]
4. Travelsphere Holidays, [11]
5. Glossop Old, [7]
6. Ratby Co-operative, [8]
7. Newstead Welfare, [3]
8. City of Coventry Brass, [10]
9. Woolley Pritchard Brass, [4]
10. Staffordshire Band, [6]
11. Jaguar (Coventry), [9]
12. Jackfield Elcock Reisen, [12]

We were in accord with Steven Sykes with Desford and Ransome but it is the obvious difference in our placing of Travelsphere Holidays (mind you nothing to do with the fact that they were our tip for the big race) that makes the rest of the places that bit different than those of the official results. The odd place or two for most bands but we’re staying well clear of Duncan Beckley, Newstead Welfare and the Woolley Pritchard players for the forceable future or it’s us that will end up knobbled!!

As for the predictions
1. Travelsphere Holidays
2. Desford Colliery
3. Ransome
4. Staffordshire
5. Thoresby Colliery UK Coal
6. Glossop Old
Dark Horse: Jaguar (Coventry)

Of our 6 fancied runners, four finished in the top 6 with Glossop finishing just outside in 7th so a good return for our tenner on the Tote but Travelsphere Holidays, in the adjudicators binoculars, must have lost a shoe before they finished and the stable boy is now mucking out the stalls for his sorrows!

Jaguar (Coventry) our dark horses didn’t excite the adjudicator and their game plan to come up on the outside rails just didn’t come off.

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