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2004 North West Regional Championships - Retrospective

The Championship Section:
Sunday 14th March

Adjudicator: Dr. Roy Newsome
Test Piece: Tristan Encounters - Martin Ellerby


Audio Garry Cutt's thoughts [WAV 1.33mb]
Audio Adjudicator - Roy Newsome [WAV 2.46mb]

Tristan Encounters, a piece described as a Prelude and 14 Transfigurations was sure to sort out the men from the boys, and after hearing 10 good performances at the Yorkshire Regional Championships the week before it was going to be interesting to hear how the North West bands fared on this very difficult piece of music.

Dr Roy Newsome created quite a stir with his results at this year's contest. His decision of Leyland 1st, Fairey FP [Music] 2nd, Wingates 3rd , and the reigning North West Champions Fodens Richardson 4th , had many in the bars afterwards in deep conversation over the placings. In our opinion though, it was a very, very fair result. This means that along with Fairey and Leyland, Wingates will be in London in October for the first time since 1995, with Foden’s missing out - but more about that later.

The adjudicator remarked at the draw, that it was a superb piece of music and a great venue to play it in, and for the bands to go out and enjoy it.

Playing off the No1 draw were Besses o' th' Barn conducted by Steve Sykes and after an insecure opening the music flowed quite well with plenty of detail, but they suffered with some loose playing in the cadenzas and seemed to lose a little confidence towards the end. 8th place was fair enough.

Following them on were Haydock under Linda Nicholson, and they put in a performance of great merit - the music was well shaped and plenty of contrast was evident and 6th place was well deserved. Two years in a row this band has shown that it has ore than enough about them to challenge at the top level. As they mature, they will challenge more strongly.

Dobcross Silver conducted by Denis Hadfield are a band on the up but after a good opening some of the detail got lost, although the sound of the band was solid and with decent cadenzas they recovered to take 7th place. Again – a band moving in the right direction, although we hope they do not over reach themselves. 7th place is a fine result when compared to the standard around the rest of the country.

Wingates playing off number 4 had a very confident start and the performance was full of commitment, and all in all they gave a very good band performance of the test piece. Roy Curran had them really fired up for this one and a fine ending to the piece clinched them 3rd place and a trip to the finals - well done and no real complaints. The return of Wingates to the big time has long been overdue, and if they continue to perform with this kind of spirit we'll hear a lot more about them in the coming months .

Freckleton followed with a performance, which at times promised much. The band have a nice clear sound but the playing lacked conviction at times and 9th was about right for us.

This was followed by Longridge Band and again like some before them they faded after a decent opening and generally found the music too much for them despite some sensible tempo’s. Tenth place was all they could have expected.

After 6 bands we were still waiting for a band to really take the piece by the scruff of the neck and in Leyland we got just that. Conducted by Garry Cutt, the band gave what turned out to be the winning performance – a superb winning performance it was.

Some fine flugel horn playing followed an excellent opening and the band was in complete control of the music all through the piece, with the shape and style of the playing first class. Dave King was playing third man down and along with the other soloists, was outstanding. The playing of the cornet cadenza and the opening of the last transfiguration XIV was stunning, with Garry Cutt letting the music just build and build with some super sounds all through to a tremendous ending. Even with a couple of big names still to come this was going to take some beating. As it turned out it was the winning performance – and it was very well deserved.

Having to follow a performance like that is not easy and United Co-op Crewe gave it their best shot, but the tempos were too quick so the performance was lacking in clarity, but they recovered towards the end but not enough to make any impact. Eleventh place was right for us.

Fairey FP (Music) Band who had already booked a place in the Final, as National Champions were next on and they too gave a very polished show. They were very well directed by Alan Withington and although some intonation problems arose in the horn section this was very fine playing indeed. The cadenzas were well played and well shaped, and all through the piece the detail was allowed to show in what was a first class show. At the end of the day, 2nd place was the decision – no complaints from anyone.

British Telecom under MD Michael Fowles followed, and they too gave a very musical reading, but too many clipped notes spoiled what could have been even higher than the 5th place they were awarded. They will have been pleased by their showing though and there is a very good band here in the making.

So to the last band on, and the current North West Champions the Fodens Richardson Band. This performance was at times to us lacking in imagination, and although the band sound was top class we felt not enough was made of the music despite some super flugel horn playing from Helen Fox and some excellent bass sounds. We know many will disagree with us, but this was not the most musical showing of the day and 4th place was the right decision. With all their obvious strengths, this was a terrifically disappointing result for them, but their performance was one that had a safety first aspect to it and on the day was not good enough to impress the judge against a high-class field.

In his summing up of the performances Dr Newsome said he had to think long and hard about 1st and 2nd place, but felt the winner just produced the cleaner show. No band had come out of it unscathed he said, but the soloists had on the whole had done very well.

On reflection this had been a good contest and Garry Cutt told 4BR that he was delighted with the band and that it was a good start for him in his new role. The general playing was good but the overall standard was not as high as we expected from what was on paper was a high class field. Too many bands fell foul of the technical demands, both with the solo and ensemble lines, but it was pleasing to see so many people in the audience all through the contest.

Leyland though were tremendous winners – the great days of Richard Evans may have seemed to be an eon ago, but with Garry Cutt at the helm this is a band that is as good as any on this form. 2004 is a very important year for this band, but with an MD with obvious class, Leyland will be a band to watch out for. This could be the start of something very special indeed.

Dave Tinker

© 4BarsRest

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