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Wilkinson Northern Open 2003

Our man John James and his helpers were there at the contest, and gives his retrospective of the day.

A total of 19 different test pieces were selected by the 39 bands taking part in the Wilkinson Northern Open for 2003 that paid homage to Eric Ball - an unusual ‘own choice’ contest reserving selection to music either composed or arranged by the great man himself.

The front entrance and the fascia of the Theatre Royal St.Helens may have been undergoing an upgrade but the music was complete and totally without the need for any facelift. Credit where it’s due, so congratulations to Malcolm Brownbill Musical Advisor to the contest for his inspired thinking in recommending this ‘own choice’ style contest ‘with a difference’ - An absolute gem of an idea that was without question a resounding success.

Excuse the vernacular but this was bloody belting, well organised contest that proved to be a most fitting tribute to Eric Ball and his music yet gave all the bands the opportunity to shine with repertoire that both tested their musicinaship and gave the audience music to enjoy.

Section A

David Read was quite upbeat in his summation and was certainly glowing in his overall comments to the bands - particularly praising the soloists and overall standard of playing in this section.

Glossop Old playing ‘Festival Music’ set out their stall with a very good opening and this continued with a well delivered performance with sparkling solo lines. Pennine Brass were so close to retaining their title. This was great playing, and their performance of ‘Festival Music’ benefited from flowing style with lovely dynamic contrast. Haydock meanwhile revisited ‘Enigma’ the Nationals test-piece and certainly took their playing up a notch on this occasion giving Ian Brownbill a nice parting present with 3rd place. His work with the band has been exemplary and he leaves them in fine shape for the future.

Skelmanthorpe was the name on many lips but the blemishes in solo lines perhaps proved costly just overshadowing the sonorous full band sound and most confident approach. Dalmellington’s ‘Tournament for Brass’ was most musical and was really superbly shaped by Richard Evans but not enough to overcome the splits and splats that littered the performance. The problem for the adjudicator was that, as he said, on this day it really came down to small variances separating the bands.

Tyldesley with Rob Taylor in the middle overcame a disappointing result on ‘Resurgam’ at Pontins this time producing a flowing and dynamically varied performance to take 6th place. Barrow Shipyard also chose ‘Resurgam’ producing a very convincing full band sound which was just let down by untidy exposed entries. ‘Tournament for Brass’ was steady rather than inspired for Northop who came 8th, whilst the overall picture painted by Blackburn & Darwen captured some lovely moments but gained 9th place in the face of some very stiff opposition.

‘Exodus’ the choice of the Harrogate Band took time to settle and probably just cost the points to finish higher. The trombone statement though on each occasion was well delivered throughout the piece. Derwent Brass could have finished a touch higher for us as the opening really captured the mechanical drive so importantly. It was perhaps a touch less secure in the slower section and it must have proved so to finish 11th. Finally, Chapeltown Silver chose ‘Checkmate’ and although playing with lots of spirit found too many moments on the day a real challenge.

Section B

Old Silkstone took this section proving convincingly that ‘Sunset Rhapsody’ is a piece that suits the band down to the ground. Their soprano has had better days but in particular the carillon [6] and following animando were very special.

Wire Brass had their share of plips and plops in ‘Tournament for Brass’ but the overall shape compensated to take the runners-up place. Silk Brass produced a bright clean sound was rewarded for a performance of ‘Resurgam’ that did take its risks with interpretation. Hoover (Bolton) played at their very best in the ‘Tragedy’ in the ‘Four Preludes’ - the dominant ‘vib’ was unfortunately a little distracting but overall this was a very clean detailed working.

Greenalls played ‘Resurgam’ with real confidence. The tenuto bars lost a little style and the piece sounded a touch unfocused before the euph. cadenza but it did deserved its place at 5th. South Yorkshire Police chose ‘The Undaunted’ and could have sneaked a place or two higher with a performance characterised with lots of clean playing and detail.

'Resurgam' was for the greater part delivered in a safe and steady style by GT Group Peterlee whilst behind them came Flixton Band. At times they achieved a dreamlike quality in the playing of the 2nd movement of ‘Tournament for Brass’ but a bit of musical chairs between movements could not compensate for other uncertain aspects of the playing in the other sections.

‘Main Street’ was convincingly delivered in the final statement coupled with a flowing opening but intonation problems were quite noticeable in the middle and hymn theme by Golborne.

Oakley Silver too concluded ‘Kingdom Triumphant’ in majestic style but the middle section was less secure before the cornet restatement.

Section C

Boarshurst Silver are a quality band in the North West 3rd Section and they produced both joy and atmosphere in ‘Four Preludes’ to win in some style and comfort. 2nd came Timperley who overcame some ‘nervy’ moments but delivered "Main Street" in fine fashion. Parr Band made the linking parts work to their advantage in ‘Rhapsody on Negro Spirituals’ and they well deserved their spot on this occasion.

The sop for Middleton had a good day in a controlled performance of ‘Sunset Rhapsody’ that had a few ‘edgy’ entries that also affected the Eccleston Band. The trombone section though was in good form as they claimed 5th place with their interpretation of ‘Sunset Rhapsody’.

Whitworth Vale & Healey played ‘Petite Suite de Ballet’ with a lilt. The euph had a fine day in a decent show in the main.

Lostock Hall played ‘Four Preludes’ but were undone perhaps with a few too many ‘cracked’ notes, whilst the tuning problems in the Leicester Co-op Snibston Charnwood’ performance of Morning Rhapsody’ must have cost. Chris Wormald particularly highlighted this element of performance in his assessment of both Sections C & D in his final summation.

Section D

Harlech Silver produced a most pleasing performance of ‘Call of the Sea’ to take this section whilst Port Sunlight produced their best playing in the middle section of ‘Impromptu’ to capture the runners-up prize, whilst Friendly Band settled after some cracks in the opening of ‘Petite Suite de Ballet’.

The trombone section of Dobcross Youth 2003 had a good day also playing ‘Petite Suite de Ballet’ that, band wise, unfortunately had a few unsteady moments at times.

Standish could have been a little higher up the order we felt with their performance of ‘Sunset Rhapsody’ that opened and closed quite effectively. Lydgate, Pemberton ‘B’, Lofthouse 2000 Brass and Kirkby Lonsdale took the remaining four places all of whom came unstuck with intonation and tuning issues. Each of these bands did have their more comfortable moments in a section that was perhaps just a little down on the strength of the playing in this section of the last couple of years.

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