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2004 North West Regional Championships - Retrospective

Second Section:
14th March

Test Piece: Kaleidoscope – Philip Sparke
Adjudicator: Alan Hope

This Second Section of thirteen bands was a joy to listen to and although it meant missing out on hearing the Championship Section for this reviewer, this contest was no less rewarding. This was such enjoyable music, the contest passed in ultra quick time.

The results were a delayed a little before they were announced. It was a bit of a neat coincidence that the end of the top section and this section coincided.

Alan Hope, the adjudicator, was full of praise for the music and it was an interesting outcome when the final order was announced. We had better own up now - we didn’t quite concur absolutely with the adjudicator and the telltale signs of rippling whispers echoed around the hall when one or two surprises were thrown up on Sunday.

We favoured the performances (and a 1-2-3) of Wire
Brass, Diggle & Old Hall Brass, but that is as maybe (and we weren’t the in the box were we), and it will be Old Hall and Wire representing the North West in Harrogate. We anticipate that they will mount a strong challenge for the National title.

The Section began with Haslingden and Helmshore (David Holland) and from a simple detailed opening the music flowed pretty well. It seemed to unsettle somewhat from Var.4 before rounding out with a bright alert finale. Taken as a whole it obviously pleased the adjudicator gaining 180 points and 3rd place.

Skelmersdale Prize Band continuing their partnership with Nick Sheppard delivering the music with some rich sounds. Perhaps a little ‘nervy’ to open, nonetheless the band had a decent tonal quality. Given a bold attack, it had a greater dramatic fire than most, but this did not court favour with the adjudicator, collecting 170 points and the 13th final place.

Third band up, the Eagley Band guided by S. Rogers chose safe tempi and whilst not producing the biggest sound of the day did generate some well stated episodes that were well controlled. A few uncertain and insecure links didn’t prove too costly and they were awarded 177 points and 6th position.

Old Hall Brass now set the standard that the rest had to follow. Clean to open they presented, with Neil Parkinson, a musically interesting account giving the music contrast and lots of colour and drew the whole to an exiting conclusion. With a generous two-point gap at the top of the results it was a very clear winner in the adjudicators view.

The contest was tripping along nicely as Manx Concert Brass opened with ‘ghostly’ sonorous brass giving the opening an almost ‘misterioso’ quality. The sharp contrasts in the writing were highlighted dramatically therefore when a very bright and lively tempo followed. Although only gaining 12th in the finishing order Ian Clague shaped quite a wide range of contrasting melodramatic music with the strongest example being in the 4th Variation where the music is built on the opening bars.

Blackpool Brass in 8th place have played better as the musical mood felt a little ‘flat’ and it took time to sparkle. It was an overall a decent if not ‘edge of the seat’ performance but it returned them a pretty good result nevertheless. During their playing the ‘rubbish-emptying’ porter moving around the outer walls of the ballroom fortunately didn’t seem to cause too much interference as he performed his allotted duties.

Diggle, half way in the draw at 7th, can count themselves very unlucky. This performance could easily have taken a place for the National Finals for us. The adrenalin flowed as this gripping and detailed performance unfolded with natural brass bloom. Norman Law (MD) brought to the band a concentrated attention to detail. Having declared our thoughts, 178 points seemed a little harsh and by the audience reaction too it seemed that there was some surprise when they were placed 5th.

Delph produced a performance of marked contrasts, bold and warm at the opening yet uncharacteristically untidy in the next. The whole didn’t quite remain consistent enough to take a prize and as such gained 7th place.

Wire Brass, with resident conductor Paul Andrews on euphonium and John Hinckley directing the band produced playing ranging from gentle lyricism to extrovert strength and energy. Ample evidence that they have the capacity to progress even further. 2nd in the prize list and a well-deserved trip to Harrogate.

Anticipation also ran around the hall as Silk Brass took the stage having drawn number ten. Broad sounds and dynamic contrast were the hallmarks of this performance directed by Ken Mackintosh. A brisk tempo in Variation 2 was in contrast to their nicely weighted and directed playing in Variation 4. It was certainly strong enough to take a top six position and a trophy and they were placed 4th in the final analysis by the adjudicator.

Hawk Green (Marple) produced a test piece with some excellent moments. Variation 3 in particular had a nice lilt whilst the Variation 4 cornet solo was singularly good. We felt that they were a little unfortunate to be awarded 11th as the better moments compensated for the blemishes which sometimes crept in.

Ninth was a fair return for Flixton who opened their account well but didn’t convince in Variation 2 as well as others. Likewise, plenty of rhythmic shape in Variation 3 was offset by the playing in Variation 5 that was a little less focused.

Greenhalls drew the section to a close and they too were perhaps a touch unlucky to pick up a lower third result. A safe and steady opening with lots of detail attracted attention and it became clear that the MD John Ludden was looking to stress the rhythmic elements to the piece. This was reinforced as the band swayed ‘a la’ Schneerwalzer’ in Variation 3 (obviously lost on the adjudicator) in an exaggerated attempt by the conductor to get the players to impart the Swiss Waltz feel of the music.

Having already indicated our personal preferences in the introduction how did our predictions actually fair. Four bands, Wire Diggle, Haslingden & Helmshore and Silk Brass all took prizes whilst Blackpool, Delph and Manx Concert all had mixed fortunes.

It will be interesting to see how the next head to head between Wire, Diggle, Blackpool and Greenhalls unfolds when they next meet in a couple of weeks time at Tameside Contest when Malcolm Brownbill will be in the box. That’s another contest at this level to really look forward to.

© 4BarsRest

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