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2004 Yorkshire Regional Championships - Retrospective

Second Section:
7th March

Test Piece: Kaleidoscope – Philip Sparke
Adjudicator: Sidney Swancott

Although they wouldn’t know it at the time, Yorkshire Building Society Concert produced a performance of Philip Sparke’s Kaleidoscope that was the first half of a YBS ‘double’ at the areas. Drawn seventh out of twelve, and under the direction of Michael Hannan, the band qualified for Harrogate in September, by two clear points.

Meltham & Meltham Mills had the honour of commencing a weekend’s contesting on Saturday morning, and they could have been cursing us here at 4BR as we predicted them to win prior to the contest. The performance wasn’t a bad one, but on reflection, the band will know they didn’t do themselves justice. Philip Sparke’s piece is tuneful and jolly, but Meltham were not the only band to struggle in some of the five variations as they did find it a little tough going in places.

Wetherby drew number two, and having come up from the Third Section, found out that the standard is certainly different. They had a nervous start and opening flourishes within the score were a touch uncertain. It took the band a little bit of time to settle, which was a real shame. The band were not the only one over the full weekend to cope with the acoustic of the hall, and whilst they will be disappointed in coming last, will benefit from the experience, and build on it for the future.

Hebden Bridge was another band that 4BR thought might make an impact come results time. Under the direction of the experienced Ian Craddock, the music started off with a nice feel to it, but lost its way a little in the second variation, and unfortunately for the band, they never really recovered enough to make a bid into the top six and had to be content with eighth place.

Strata Brass with Brighouse resident MD, David Hirst was another band fancied to do well. Bands were struggling to put five good variations together, which would make their mark with adjudicator, Sydney Swancott. Strata had the best start out of all the bands that had tackled the piece so far, and David Hirst was the first conductor to give the performance some space and let the music breathe. The melodic lines were tuneful, but some of the supportive ensemble work was not as tight and as sharp as it could have been. For us, the band missed a higher placing in the last variation or two with the clarity not being what the judge was looking for.

Elland Silver took to the stage after Strata and although finishing just one point (and one place) above David Hirst’s band, this was the first real marker for us. Fairey’s euphonium star, Morgan Griffiths did a great job with the band. The young man looked relaxed as he came on stage, and he has obviously learned a great deal from the MD's he has played under. Morgan had control of the band from the first note to the last, and the band knew who was boss. The playing came across as relaxed and as though the band were enjoying it, and they did have times where it didn’t always click together, but it had enough in it to make its mark. Sixth overall is something Mr Griffiths and the band should be happy with. It wasn’t a winning performance, but it was a good interpretation and having a player of Morgan’s calibre in front of them, rubbed off on the band.

Armthorpe certainly didn’t have a good day at all and will be disappointed after last year’s performance, that they couldn’t make more of an impression. Going up a section has been a tough call for the band, and they will look to do much better, next time round.

Yorkshire Building Society Concert were next, and what a crackerjack of a performance this was. For the first time in the whole of the contest, parts of the score were coming through that had not been heard all day. It was confident, lyrical, and for anyone in the hall unsure of who was on stage, they knew it was a good band. Michael Hannan didn’t ask anything that his band couldn’t give back in return, and although at times the performance had momentary lapses, it was always going to take some removing from qualifying. For the first time, we heard five variations where the standard was constant throughout. Awarded 188 points, the band certainly deserves a crack at the title in September - they were worthy winners.

Frickley/South Elmsall will be disappointed with their showing having made a real impression in 2003. It wasn’t a bad performance, but they were one of the few bands who didn’t look comfortable with the test piece. They never really got going enough to make a bid for qualification, but will hope for better luck elsewhere in 2004.

West Yorkshire with the experienced campaigner, Barry Thompson was the first of two bands to set themselves up on stage in a different format. The band opted for the back row cornets to sit where the euphoniums would be, and they had three rows in the middle of the band. The horns had euphoniums and baritones behind, with the basses in there normal position. Certainly a different sound and one that the adjudicator liked as he awarded them fourth place overall. One thing for definite, the playing was tight and compact, and with this in mind, it worked. The formation raised a few eyebrows in the hall, but it didn’t matter, Barry Thompson’s thinking paid off, and fourth is a great result for them.

Rockingham made a welcome return to the areas and immediately made their mark on the contest. This is a very capable set of musicians and Frank Hoyland did a sterling job. It was not a winning performance, but a comfortable one, and having been placed seventh at the Mineworkers will use this performance as another stepping stone to making its mark at contests.

The door was very much still open for another band to grab the qualification spot for Harrogate and that’s exactly what Barnsley Building Society did. Relegated last year, they looked full of confidence as they came onto stage, and they pulled a performance out of the bag. The playing was tight, and yet the music was given time to breathe and in addition, the band coped with the different variations very well. The band’s tempos and dynamics were well balanced with the acoustic of the hall, and in the final variations; had clarity that some bands didn’t match. Sydney Swancott had his two bands for Harrogate unless South Yorkshire Police could remove one of them.

The band certainly gave it a crack with a good opening, and again sensible tempos with good solo and ensemble playing. It certainly had potential, but lacked that extra punch needed to qualify. The band should be pleased to have come in the top three after finishing eighth in 2002.

Mention must be given to Rockingham’s soprano player, Max Townsend. Max received recognition from the Yorkshire Regional Committee for fifty years of playing with bands at the areas, a terrific achievement, and congratulations from 4BR.

The first contest though belonged to Yorkshire Building Society Concert and Michael Hannan, and its fellow Building Society friends from Barnsley. Both bands deserve a crack at the title come September, in their own county. They should do well.

© 4BarsRest

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