2003 North of England Regional Qualifying
Championship Section - Retrospective
The Dolphin Centre was ready. The swimming pool had been emptied
of section one sop players and everyone was looking forward to the
As in Yorkshire and Lancashire there were plenty of people prepared
to run down Prague, but having heard dozens of interpretations there
is no doubt that it has been a hugely successful test piece. The
music has intensity, warmth, lyricism, tenderness, passion and power.
It’s also exciting and compelling to listen to, whilst those
who consider it to be modern may wish to note that bitonality and
atonality have been around for 150 years. This is not avant-garde,
this is the music of today.
We are pleased to say that the results were a fair reflection of
the days play, with maybe two exceptions. We’re also pleased
to congratulate all the bands as for us there wasn’t a bad
show all day. Well done.
In first place came Ever Ready and worthy winners they were too.
Their sheer power was evident from the off and despite some wild
basses and unheard percussion the opening was excellent. Apart from
a handful of splits the only drawback for us was the slow section
which was too fast and lost the sense of intensity and atmosphere
- but that was a small detail. Well directed by Russell Gray and
well played they make the trip to the Finals for we think the 26th
time. They go this time a stronger band than ever they have in the
past ten years or more.
EYMS were hot on there heels and pushed them all the way. Second
place was right on the mark and thoroughly deserved. The opening
was super, if a little light in the cornets, but the music flowed
really nicely and the direction from Gareth Pritchard had a flow
and consistency that was missed by others. The Solo cornet did a
super job and for us was best of the day. There were one or two
blobs but the main drawback was the ending which was too fast and
the intensity which had been growing from the other movements was
lost. A great show though, well done – they to seem to be
in a stronger position now than they have been for quite a few years.
In third came Fishburn under the secure baton of Graham O’Connor
and there were lots of great shapes here and very clear playing.
It was very enjoyable but it had too many loose moments to keep
it from the top two. The bass trombone entry didn’t quite
work and the ending wasn’t as secure as most, but it had some
lovely music throughout. Errors, even small ones cost at this level
and that seemed to be the case here.
Cottingham played really well and they pushed Fishburn hard for
third. This was a really clean and controlled show. We felt it lacked
some warmth in the lyrical sections and they had some intonation
problems may have cost them, but the slow movement was one of the
nicest and most atmospheric of the day. Richard Grantham gave the
music the space it deserved and it certainly had the atmosphere
that the music demanded. The soloists played well and the band never
got out of control yet the music was exciting throughout. This is
a band on the up and will challenge strongly again here we feel.
Fifth and sixth came Rowntrees and Harrogate. We felt that both
these performances were a little too highly placed, but as they
were both similar in style we could see why they were placed together
by the adjudicator Steve Sykes.
Rowntrees made a good start and had some lovely moments, and the
slow section was especially well handled, but too many errors were
present in the louder sections. Some balance and intonation problems
were evident and the music did lack some warmth in the louder passages.
The final section got very aggressive and it lost some quality because
of this we felt. William Rushworth though has pulled the band up
to a level of performance that can now be built on to challenge
further, so disappointment should be tinged with realism of how
far they have come under him.
Harrogate stood their cornets at either side of the band (very
much like Yorkshire Imps at Bradford) and it was obvious from the
outset this was going to be a full on performance. The opening was
very loud and though there was some good playing the layout didn’t
help the balance. The cornets became strident and with them facing
right out as well, it was too much we thought. There were some great
attempts to make the music really exciting but generally it became
overblown. The shock notes suffered from being too percussive and
hard before the end build up it got too loud too soon. David Lancaster’s
enthusiasm for the piece was evident and this led to a very exciting
performance, but for us it was too much.
Broughton came in seventh under Kevin Bolton and though the playing
was generally good the music lacked some colour and warmth throughout
and lots of little errors all added up. Well directed though, the
technical aspects defeated the band in too many places.
In eighth place were Gateshead. Again the playing was generally
good but it rushed and had some balance problems especially in the
outer movements. We felt the tempos were too fast throughout but
the playing was technically good. The ending did slow slightly but
the effects had already gone and the drama was missing. Overall
though we liked the picture that was created and we had then a few
places higher up the placing table than the judge.
Chester le Street came in ninth and we felt this was a little too
low. They played well off number one and set a good standard under
David Hirst. After a convincing start there were a few splits and
splashes but nothing major, whilst there was a fine trombone (the
best of the day) and the piece had shape and warmth. A touch harsh
from Mr Sykes for us.
Greggs Bakery came in last under David Marshall. The opening was
untidy and never really recovered the poise it needed or the detail
that was required. In amongst some good playing were too many scrappy
moments We didn’t think it deserved last but had too many
mistakes to lift it into the top six. Hard luck.
Overall then we thought every performance offered something positive
and although the piece may seem angular we feel it needs treating
with warmth and respect. The top two especially did that for us
and both MD’s should be congratulated for not going down the
easy road of just blowing their way to victory. Both were well capable
of handling the loud stuff, but their pulled the reins in where
it mattered and that gave their performances a clarity and precision
that was a pleasure to listen to. Over the last few years the bands
have travelled from here and have not done well at London, but on
this form and with fine direction there will be cause for optimism.
It made for a good day out.
Our top six before the day were: Fishburn, Ever Ready, EYMS, Nestle
Rowntree, Cottingham, Broughton’s with Chester le Street our
dark horses. On the day were plumbed for:
1. Ever Ready
6. Chester le Street
Not bad then – we had the top five but in the wrong order
pre match and after we heard the bands we had the top four. We’ll
have to come more often.
With thanks to Simon Wood