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2003 North of England Regional Qualifying Championships

First Section - Retrospective

Adjudicator: Colin Hardy

Test Piece: Passacaglia on a Theme of Brahms - Arthur Butterworth

Arthur Butterworth’s “Passacaglia” has been a superb test for Section One bands. Some will have really enjoyed it, whilst many will have felt battered by the intensity of it. Those who have qualified will also be mystified by the choice of their finals piece which is also in ¾ throughout. Incredible! Anyway, back at the qualification stage here we have to report straight away that it was a fair result from the pen and ears of Colin Hardy. Here’s how it finished for us.

In first place was BHK (UK) Ltd Horden, who off number 1 put up a fine show and laid the marker down for the day. The opening suffered from poor intonation and there was some rushing in the detached crotchets but the cornets did very well, whilst the timp played the low note in the trombone section!! We felt the tempos were on the fast side and the second slow section was musically very weak – it lacked flow. A good mention to the sop though who played well throughout and was a real bonus on a day when others really struggled. We had them in second.

In second place from Colin Hardy came Barrow Shipyard and on a less serious note had the soloist of the day in the second euph player whose buttons and slides featured on any number of occasions!! Nevertheless a good solid sound was evident from the off and though the music was a little hard it was generally good. The sop played well but was a little too loud in places and hence the balance suffered. No band managed a clean show and Barrow had plenty of splits and blobs, but it also had some lovely lyrical moments. The final section got way too fast and the cornets were messy but it has an excitement that others missed or couldn’t find. Having said all that, we had them first, so well done to John Durrant and his team.

Third were Flookburgh under John Iveson. After a shocking first note the playing improved and some nice moments were heard all round. The sop played well and there were some lovely musical shapes, but as with the other bands the second slow section was poor and lacked direction – it just meandered along. Lots of little problems did detract throughout and we had them a bit lower than third. The band deserves a special commendation for playing in the dark though.

Aunt Bessies came in fourth under Tim Oldroyd and as in all the performances there were lots of mistakes but generally pretty solid ensemble work. The ending was way too fast and spoiled some good playing. We had them a little higher than Colin Hardy as we liked what the MD was trying to bring out of the score – it sounded like Brahms but with a few too many errors.

Westoe (STHCT) under J. Smith came in fifth with a very heavy and dogmatic performance. The tempos were a bit mystifying and were exactly same for the entire first half of the piece! It need a touch more rubato to get away from the rather mechanical feel it did have and there were simply too many technical mistakes for it to feature whilst musically the piece couldn’t work within these strict tempos. It could have been so much more musically satisfying if the MD had just let the reins go a few times.

Kirkbymoorside under J. Woodward came in sixth and their performance obviously had been given a lot of thought by the MD and lots of good moments, but too much poor playing let it down. Every time something sounded good along came another series of slips that just lost them crucial points.

Pride Valley under B. Morton came in seventh and for us it was the strangest of musical performances. It had little shape or warmth and technically we felt the piece could never work within these tempos. It was as if it was in a straight jacket – no lateral movement was evident and the ¾ beat pattern remained strictly in place from start to end. Perhaps the MD felt that it would give precision, yet for us all it did was rob the music of the warmth and character it cried out for.

Finally Easington came in eighth under D. Dye. The playing from the band was generally hard and poor throughout though the performance was saved by a good ending, which benefited from a sensible tempo. They seemed to struggle from the word go and even though there were some nice touches and moments the music had little vitality and style and they couldn’t complain we think with their final position.

It proved a difficult day for most of the bands and we were a little disappointed with the overall standard, which we felt was a good mark below what we have heard elsewhere. Whoever gets the promotion nod will also find it hard to survive we think in the highest section as on this evidence the bands here had too many ingrained technical faults and a preponderance to overblow. How they will get on at the Finals we will have to wait and see as well, as hopefully Eric Ball and his “Kensington Concerto” won’t be such a severe test as this one year. However it is written in much the same style and requires the same restraint that was not always shown here. This was a tester for sure.

Our pre match top six consisted of Westoe, Barrow, Easington, Aunt Bessies, BHK Horden and Pride Valley on the day we plumbed for a top six of:

1. Barrow
2. BHK Horden
3. Aunt Bessies
4. Flookburgh
5. Westoe
6. Kirbymoorsdie

Of our pre match selections then we had four of the top five bu tin the wrong order, with our 5th choice selection winning the day, but Barrow playing true to form to take second. Not bad – it just about summed up everything about the North East First Section for 2003.

Thanks to Simon Wood

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