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2003 North West Regional Qualifying Championships - Retrospective

Third Section
9th March 2003
Spanish Hall

I know you either love it or hate it but up front let me say that the Spanish Hall does not appeal to my sense of design in fact I think its manic. I wonder if the fashioner of the room settled out of court because all it needs is a plaster cast of a windmill and it would be a Don Quixote theme room. The acoustic does nothing to help the music and when relatively empty only comes second to the cavernous sound in the Empress Ballroom and for me the best thing I can think of saying about it is that at least all stairs lead to the bar!

Less of my architectural foibles and on with the proper subject of the music. Twenty one bands and basically four categories a) Top notch (1-3) b) Pretty good (4-8) c) Safe (9-14) d) Didn’t quite get to grips with it (15-21)

The three bands that will be representing the North West in Dundee, it has to be said, were head and shoulders above anything I heard in the Midlands last week. In fact I would go as far to say that any of the bands finishing next (4-8) could have ended up in the frame as well. The next group (9-14) certainly didn’t damage the musical sensitivities in that category of playing you would probably expect from the third section. As for the bands 15 to 21 they sadly had moments, especially in the 3rd and 4th movements, that stuttered along like runaway sowing machines.

One thing that I found absolutely frustrating though was the inordinate number of percussion players who didn’t seem to know how to use the ‘snare off’ control – that even goes for some of the winning bands . All the way through but in particular at letter D in the 3rd movement the music is marked ‘High Tom-Tom’ not ‘High Tom-Tom with accompanying snare reverberation’. It annoyingly kept coming through time and time again and with the acoustic of the Spanish Hall was about as atmospheric as a funfair at a funeral.

On the percussion side a number of bands opted to give the 4th movement a latin feel when ad-lib percussion was marked at the ‘cantabile’ with an assortment of bongoes, maracas, claves and cymbal work introduced between marks E to G.

1st Diggle [14] were a good sounding band. They opened well and played very controlled music in the 1st movement notebly the Eb Bass synchopated part. Norman Law stepped in to take the last few practices in the build up to this contest and like last week in Yorkshire guided another band towards the highlands. Most worthy winners playing with marvellous style and direction. Player of the Day – Eb Bass

2nd Boarshurst (Silver) [16] took the stage with an air of confidence of a band on a roll. They completed a trio of performances good enough to grace any contest stage in the world. Jonathan Webster set out the band with the cornets to the left and right front row to bring out the strong cornet lines and it worked. All round a first-class and most effective performance. Player of the Day – Euphonium

3rd Hoover (Bolton) [15] a point behind were part of the gang of three that should, if they play up to this standard, maintain the level of expectation at the National Finals we have come to expect from this Region. Chris Wormald gave his band lots of encouragement and gave it bold dynamic but with the band in control. Choosing to feature the talented percussion section he called for drum kit throughout the last movement (D = snare drum) and they added to a most effective movement. Players of the Day – Percussion

4th Timperley [4] were very bright and alert and delivered a most effective opening movement whilst the 3rd movement cracked along. The percussion got a touch of nerves in the glock part and were just out in the final movement but the band under Graham Hetherington held things together really well. Players of the Day – Basses

5th Eccles Borough [13] gave a warm and effective performance. A few nerves as the 2nd movement opened but delivering one of the best ‘Flights’ (4th movement} of the day. Kevin Donaldson took the band from last in 2002 to the podium this year. As different sounding band in 12 months as you could get. Player of the Day – Kit Player (esp. 4th movement)

6th Blackpool Brass [6] produced a rich sound and really good ensemble work. This was overall admirable performance that Steve Simpson in conducting had good moments all through the piece. Players of the Day - Horns

7th Greenhall’s Brewery [17] made a very big sound and this was emphasised as the bass drum was brought forward to drive home the end of ‘Earth Dance’. This figured in the set of performances which were in that second group of pretty good overall performances. If there was a criticism of performance it came after conductor Howard Bousfield having taken real time between the 1st and 2nd movement until absolute stillness sat in the hall the band put paid to it when they splattered the opening notes all over the hall like Homer’s makeup gun. Players of the Day – Trombones

8th Shane Foster brought out a very good sound from the Pilling Band [7]. Some very busy and capable playing all through perhaps just the odd nervous moment in the ‘Seascapes’ to comment on but overall a most edifying performance. Players of the Day – Trombones

9th Whitworth Vale & Healey [21] with Richard Milton in control gave a quite steady performance. The soloists could have added a touch more expression but nerves just got in the way but they were well balanced and got across detail especially in the ensemble work. Players of the Day – Basses

10th If anything upset the Hazel Grove [18] performance under Andrew Hirst it was probably in the rhythmic feel in the opening movement which just wobbled before the carillon effect (K). The band was certainly at ease with the music in the 4th movement that saw their strongest playing. Players of the Day – Basses

11th United Norwest 2000 Brass [20] played a 2nd movement of real character and indulged in a bit if that Latin percussion mentioned at the outset of this retrospective. Andre Heuller brought out another safe performance with some nice detail. Player of the Day – Principal Cornet

12th Middleton Band didn’t quite pull off the same quality as last year and produced their best playing in the 3rd and 4th movement. By that time the Graham Smith, in charge of the stick, probably knew that the damage had been done as they rushed a little as the piece opened and were edgy into the 2nd. Player of the Day – Flugel

13th Golborne [9] with experienced Geoff Williams in the middle played a really convincing 4th movement and the quality of their ensemble playing was the hall-mark of their performance. It was a shame that some nerves in the solo lines just robbed the overall effective playing. Player of the Day – Soprano Cornet

14th Rainford [1] with Brain Harper at the helm, (the 1st of his two bands in this section) didn’t quite get away to the start they would have wanted being drawn first as the cornets were just at little insecure at the opening. Apart from the odd blemish this was another safe performance in which the basses played strongly in that group of 6 bands in the middle of the pack. Player of the Day – Flugel

15th place and the performance of Lostock Memorial [10] unfortunately, like lots of the performances that now followed, it was rather untidy. This was a shame as it undid some good playing in the 2nd movement which was perhaps their best on the day. Player of the Day – Principal Cornet

16th Eccleston Brass [6] with Brian Harper in control approached the 1st movement with quite a confident approach but then too many untidy moments followed when each movement caught a crab or two along the way. Player of the Day – Principal Cornet

17th Eaton’s Farnworth [19] under Peter Ashley were steady and clean in a fair opening movement and played steadily through the third movement but they didn’t get to grips with the 2nd movement and the final movement did feel a bit like a one legged jog when it stuttered badly in the middle (C-E). Player of the Day – Soprano Cornet

18th City of Chester Band [11]didn’t help Derek Mitchell their conductor despite the strong beat he tried to give the band. They didn’t play regularly and follow his line and as such they just kept gaining pace through the 1st movement. In those circumstances any MD would find themselves helpless. It could have been nerves but it took till the final movement for the band to settle but then it was too late. Player of the Day – Flugel

19th Thornton Cleveleys [2] caught the nervous bug and Lana Clough the MD would be disappointed. The band were uneasy in both the opening and ‘Seascapes’ but just didn’t find their confidence until the middle of the 3rd movement . Players of the Day – Horns

20th Blackley [12] and Alan Swain gave early indications that this piece would suit them as they opened cleanly and the euph playing really nicely but then it just went wrong. Another band who injected a Latin feel into the final movement but by then they had too many problems to undo the damage. Player of the Day – Euphonium

21st Barton Silver waited until the 4th movement before getting close to playing the piece. Stephen Yates gave the band lots of clear direction but some of the solo lines had a nervy edge and not all the detail came through in the ensemble work. Player of the Day – Euphonium

We found ourselves agreeing with Denis Wilby from first to last with this contest. With a 1,2,3 and 4 in our predictions it made for a satisfying day at the office this morning. Unfortunately Middleton and Rainford couldn’t make it a clean sweep but we don’t think we’ve come much closer in the third section predictions so far.

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