2004 Yorkshire Regional Championships
Saturday 6th March
Test Piece: Coventry Variations – Bramwell Tovey
Adjudicator: Philip Sparke
Ten bands did battle in the First Section and to quote judge Roy
Sparkes on Saturday, ‘We had some good playing today, and
everyone had a good stab at it’
Coventry Variations is a cracker of a test piece and it
really did test all the bands on show. The bands that did very well
conquered the opening trio between cornet, flugel and bass trombone,
and pulled off the difficult variations seven and eight without
too many problems.
Yorkshire’s contributors to the finals in Harrogate in September
will be Hatfield Coal Power and Drighlington - both of whom put
in performances of real merit. Hatfield and Graham O’Connor
drew number two and they set the benchmark. Above anything else,
the playing was clean, tight, and pretty secure. The most important
thing though was that Graham O’Connor allowed the music time
to breathe, and afterwards he commented to 4BR ‘Once I knew
Roy Sparkes was in the box, I told the band that we would give the
music space and that is what we have done, ‘This is an unbelievable
result after Dundee’
Prior to Hatfield taking the stage, it was Hade Edge who got the
contest up and running. Simon Wood’s band was awarded fifth
place overall, which they will be a touch disappointed with, as
they played very well. The opening was nice and subtle and the MD
was happy for the music to speak, but Hade Edge were not the only
band that would suffer in Variation VI where the overriding
theme has various time signature changes. All bands suffered here
and it was a shame for Hade because they could (and perhaps should)
have finished higher, but more often than not, drawing number one
practically rules you out of the contest, even though it does give
you the chance to set the standard.
Kippax and Ian Colley followed Hatfield onto stage and for the
second year running at the areas, just had a day they will want
to forget. The band never looked like they were enjoying the piece,
which was a real shame. Plenty of uncertainty around the stand and
they did find Variations six, seven and eight, difficult.
It was not a bad performance, as no band put a bad one in, it just
needed that bite to give it the impact needed. The band will just
want to forget the day and move on to the next contest.
A real plus for all bands at Yorkshire is that they received a
copy of a CD of there own performance, and regardless of what section
they were in, this is a useful exercise that the bands will benefit
from. For those that did struggle, it is an opportunity to listen
In our pre-contest build up, we had Marsden Silver as a good bet
for fourth place, and in fact, they were drawn number four. It never
really had the sparkle of Hade Edge and Hatfield, but it was confident
and precise without going over the top. The solo playing was good,
and the performance had that feel of a good First Section band without
the cutting edge that Hatfield (and later Drighlington) brought
to their performances.
Bram Tovey’s music requires a lot of stamina from within
the band, and a number of bands did find it tough going, particularly
at the end of the piece - and we had plenty of red cheeks on display.
Once such band was Stannington, who never really got to grips with
music and the acoustic of the hall. St George’s is a fine
hall, but when a band plays loud, it can sound very loud, and not
many bands took this into consideration. The hall was only about
half full during the First Section, so the sound reverberated more
than on the Sunday night. Stannington’s performance started
off OK, but it never really materialised into anything that would
make its mark on the day. Some loose playing, and they suffered
with the dynamics, and the final variation suffered from over blowing.
United Co-operatives Yorkshire was 4BR’s favourites to win,
and six was a belting draw for them. A chance to put give Roy Sparkes
something to think about in the box, and yes, indeed, the performance
had moments of real quality, with some good lyrical playing, and
an MD that was getting what was required from within the band. United
Co-op did the tough variations really well, but again, they suffered
from slips, and with a little more care, could have qualified. Finishing
fourth will be a disappointment to them, but they will take the
positives away and aim to make an impact at the next contest.
In the past four years, Holme Silver has been placed with two sixth
positions and two eighths. For 2004, they ended up with seventh
place. As with other bands, too many variations cost them dear,
and they were another band that didn’t tune into to the acoustic
of the hall. It might sound OK in the rehearsal room, but the contest
stage is always a different kettle of fish. At times some of the
playing was too forceful, and too loud, and sadly it lost them points.
The good parts of the performance were overshadowed by the bad ones
and seventh is a place that the band can’t really grumble
2002 area winners, Wakefield Metropolitan was another band who
had a bad day at the office and will want to forget Bradford as
quickly as possible. The MD was looking to bring an awful lot of
music out of the band, but the players sounded uncomfortable on
the piece. Some bands enjoy music such as Coventry Variations,
but not Wakefield, they just never sounded at ease at all, and at
times some of the variations were like pulling the spoon through
treacle. They finished ninth overall.
Norman Law is an experienced campaigner and knows how to get that
winning performance. Conducting Old Silkstone, the band was having
a crack in the First Section after being promoted last year. This
was a quality performance that would push Hatfield, and it did.
The early trio was beautifully controlled and the MD did what 4BR
had been waiting for, someone to take account of the dynamics in
the score in relation to the hall acoustic and this worked for them.
The sound was controlled and although they did not duck out of the
fortissimo’s they just used common sense. They coped with
the tricky variations, seven and eight and although they didn’t
come out unscathed - but it was a good all round show, and a pleasure
to listen too. The band can consider themselves a touch unfortunate
to miss out on Harrogate, but third is a great result having just
come up a section.
With the withdrawal of Horbury Victoria, it was left to Drighlington
and Philip Shaw to bring the contest to a close, and they grabbed
the chance of a spot at the finals with both hands.
Philip Shaw knows how to get a good performance out of a band,
and he got it from Drighlington. As with Norman Law, the MD was
switched on and used common sense, making sure the fortissimos were
not overdone at all. The start was subtle with a good
sound and the performance was nicely shaped and Phil Shaw brought
the best out from the band. It wasn’t without its slips, but
it was composed enough, and extremely musical. The variations didn’t
upset the band at all, and they saw the difficult ones as a real
challenge, and they rose to it.
Come results time, you expected the band to be in the frame and
they were. Second is a terrific result and they deserve praise,
and this result with them confidence for the remainder of the year.
This was a really good competition and if the other regions are
just as good, some tight competition will be had, but the music
will be the real winner. The day belonged to Hatfield Coal and Graham
O’Connor, and its anyone’s guess what the band might
do in Harrogate come September, but if they play like they did in
Bradford, they will certainly be in with a shout.
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