2004 North West Regional Championships
Fourth Section - Retrospective
Sunday 14th March
Test Piece: Partita – Edward
Adjudicator: Maurice Priestley
Nineteen bands did battle over Partita in a contest that
had three performances worthy of representing the North West in
September at the National Finals. The first three bands on stage
in Standish, Pemberton Old Wigan ‘B’ and Valley Brass
(Haydock) set the standard for everyone else to follow. In the end
though, the contest was as wide open as Manchester United’s
defence has been in recent weeks, and it was only as the last band
came off stage (Uppermill) that you had a good feeling who should
be in the frame.
The standard of playing wasn’t the best overall as Edward
Gregson’s music proved a hard test for many of the challengers.
Only a handful of bands actually started the piece together in the
two minute Intrada; Principal Cornet players had a tough
time in their solo passages in the opening of the Chorale,
and when it came to the Variations, this was where those that did
well, scored heavily. The final ‘March’ caused
problems as well, but adjudicator Maurice Priesley, gave the nod
for qualifying to Pemberton, Uppermill and Standish for the three
places up for grabs.
Standish got the worst draw possible, but really grabbed the opportunity
to set the standard that would certainly take some removing out
of the frame. The conventional piece had a good strong start with
the bass section together and in tune. From here, the MD built a
nice performance where the players were allowed the freedom to play
without fear, and the end of the first movement finished firmly.
The Chorale was nicely controlled and the cornet player
took the solo part in a steady manner that was nice and clear. The
variations started off well and continued throughout. Not every
band on the day came out of the section unscathed, but with the
final ‘March’ section here was excellent and
gave the contest a very interesting start.
Pemberton took to the floor and were not bothered at all what they
had heard off stage. The band played in an assertive confident manner,
and produced a performance that had just a few flaws within it.
The opening had quality throughout with good basses a lovely euphonium
and a sense of security about it. Peter Ashley looked relaxed, happy,
and was in control. The Chorale section was once again
tight and together with a calm, relaxed feel to it. The principal
cornet tackled the solo passage without too much fuss, and as with
Standish, it was evident that it would be another performance hard
to remove from the comfort zone of a top four finish. The variations
were good with tempos taken sensibly, and the band expressed itself
through the music. Once again, the march was together and the band
produced a tight sound. It was certainly more secure than Standish
was, but whether it would remain at number one, only time would
Valley Brass (Haydock) can consider themselves unlucky to have
finished eighth overall. A young band with the bulk of its players
aged around 12-14, ex Wingates soprano player David Chadwick crafted
a real good show out of his young troops. In a smaller field, this
was certainly a top four show, but with another sixteen bands to
perform, scope for movement. The first movement was firm and tight,
but it was the Chorale and variations that probably cost
them. The Chorale was nice, but the in the variations,
a few uncertain moments were costly. In the final march section
the band seemed more at ease with the music. Haydock is a young
band, and experience in a competition such as the areas is good.
Ones to keep an eye on for the future.
After the first three bands, the standard certainly dropped for
a while. Rivington (drawn four), Tarleton (five) and Tottington
(six) struggled with the music. Rivington did the best out of the
three, finishing tenth, whereas Tarleton & Tottington, had many
uncomfortable moments. Some intonation problems coupled with rhythmic
slackness proved too much, and they were probably glad to get off
stage, get in the bar, and forget the experience.
St John’s (Mossley) had ex CWS Manchester man, Stephen Corbett
directing them and it started with promise. The Intrada
wasn’t as solid as others earlier, but the band didn’t
seem phased by any mistakes. The Chorale/Variations section
though was the downfall. The Principal Cornet solo was a real test
for many players and some wanted to get it over and done with. Mossley’s
player was OK and steady, but the variations never happened for
them. Variation one wasn’t as smooth as it could have been
and the tempos in later variations never came to fruition. It was
a real shame as the performance had started off with potential.
By the time the March movement was done and dusted, you
knew it would figure outside the top six, and in the end, eleventh
was Maurice Priestley’s decision.
When Douglas Town and Gordon Higginbottom took to the stage, they
gave the judge plenty of food for thought. Mr Higginbottom was relaxed
but assertive in his interpretation of the piece and the band responded
to having such a knowledgeable banding figure in front of them.
The opening was bright, with some nice basses, and nothing with
rushed, the sound being clear. Douglas lost out (for us) on qualifying
in the middle movement. The Chorale was nice and smooth,
but the Variations were not as together as they could have been.
The MD wanted more than perhaps the band could give him and it was
a real shame. Everybody seemed happier with the final movement,
and seventh is probably a placing they went home disappointed with.
If the middle section had been better, they would have challenged
the top three - but it just wasn’t to be.
Barnton came down a section and really struggled to get to grips
with the piece. The Northwich-based band suffered with too many
intonation and tempo problems to really make an impact on the day.
Add to that, Carrbrook Brass, under Jim Hunter, who sounded really
uncomfortable with the whole test piece. Tuning, rhythms, and the
solo playing were causing many bands problems, but the Stalybridge-based
band suffered more than most. The band hasn’t competed at
the area for a couple of years, and the result wouldn’t have
been what they’d hoped for. Better luck next time.
The half waypoint then and Pemberton Old still in front with Standish,
Valley Brass and Douglas the only serious contenders so far for
second, third and fourth, respectively.
Besses Boys’ will be really disappointed to have finished
ninth. Drawn eleventh and first band on after a comfort break for
the judge; they sounded initially as though they were going to stake
their case for qualifying. Once again though, they were another
band to become undone in the middle movement. The tempos weren’t
as precise as needed, and add a bit of untunefulness around the
stand over movements two and three, and it spoilt a potentially
prize winning show.
Parr (Richardson Ltd) St Helens had the MC of The British Open,
Robert Kerwick fronting their challenge for Harrogate. The band
never really got to grips with the music to be fair and too much
uncertainty within the ensemble was their downfall, and having come
tenth in 2003, they will be really disappointed to have gone as
low as seventeenth.
Dobcross Band is renowned for its strength in depth and the senior
band now challenges strongly in the Championship Section. Underneath
them some fine musicians have emerged, and as with all youth bands,
the personnel changes with players going to different bands, as
well as leaving for challenges such as University. Ted Griffiths
has done a great job and the Dobcross Youth Band 2003 put a terrific
performance in to secure sixth place. In reality, they will be annoyed
they didn’t come higher, but this is such a young band with
plenty of potential. The young girl on Principal Cornet has a lovely
tone and she led the band very well. This band was careful and kept
it as simple as it could be. 4BR had them as dark horses, and but
it had a few more slips than Pemberton, Standish and Valley Brass,
and if they had been more secure in parts, they could have been
going to Harrogate. The overall standard of playing was good and
the band coped with the tempos, but it was those tiny slips though
that proved costly.
Hesketh, Farndon and Greenfield were the next three bands on, and
for us, that qualification door was still open, but they all missed
that opening by quite a margin. Hesketh have been on the up, and
having come eighth last year, will have been annoyed to have gone
back to twelfth where they finished in 2002. You sensed after the
performance that the band thought they had played better than they
had. Too many slips, intonation problems were costly, and they never
sounded comfortable with the music. Farndon picked up the wooden
spoon, and having only competed once in the past four years (2002)
it showed to be honest. As with bands such as Carrbrook, they have
to take the small positives and use them for the future.
Greenfield under Dave Chapman will be disappointed not to have
built on 2003. Relegated in 2002, the band never really got going
and at times, it sounded hard going for them. But for the performance
of other bands, they certainly could have come lower down than thirteenth.
Friezland missed out on Harrogate by a whisker. The band has been
devastated by the loss of its player, Dr Richard Stevens, but put
on one heck of a show. Without a doubt, it was an emotional performance
for everybody involved, and they really did play well. Lana understood
the music, and the band was at ease. If they carried on as they
did early on, then it would take something decent to move them from
out of the qualification prizes. It was tight, effective, tuneful,
and the rhythms in the variations movement were as precise as anyone
had heard for a while. Any slips were minimal, and didn’t
detract too much. For us, this pipped Standish in the overall frame,
but Maurice Priestley decided otherwise, and had them in fourth.
Eaton, Farnworth & Walkden got themselves into the top five,
but just didn’t have the impact of Pemberton and Standish,
and Friezland to get the nod for Harrogate.
It was a really good all round show with some good playing, minimal
slips and nice work from the MD.
Eighteen gone, and it would have to take something special for
Uppermill to remove Pemberton, Standish and Friezland from qualifying.
Uppermill’s challenge was led by one of the finest young conductor’s
around in Simon Wood, and between them they grabbed qualification
with both hands.
It was an absolute cracker. The opening Intrada was sound and secure
with some nice basses and good ensemble work. Simon’s control
and direction was crisp and clean, and it was bringing the best
out of the band. The Chorale and Variations was another
well-constructed and performed movement. Slips were minimal and
didn’t detract. The tempos were sensible, and the band was
confident. In the march section, they secured a trip to the finals,
and were purposeful, and took it in their stride. It was a good
show, and for us had sneaked into the top three with ease.
Those that didn’t hear Pemberton thought Uppermill had got
first prize, and after five hours of contesting, the usual thank
you speeches, and presentations, the results were announced.
A cursory look at our pre-contest predictions had Pemberton as
winners with Rivington and Uppermill in second and third respectively.
We were quite happy to stick with Pemberton, and had Uppermill and
Friezland joining them at the finals.
Dobcross came out sixth, with Eaton a point ahead (175) in fifth.
Friezland got fourth spot missing out on Harrogate by a point to
Standish (who many didn’t hear at 11.30am). It was either
going to be Uppermill or Pemberton for the top two. Simon Wood was
happy with the performance when he came off stage, and will be thrilled
to have got a qualification spot; the band certainly deserved it.
It was Pemberton’s day though and they made it a Pemberton
Old ‘double’ with the Senior band qualifying earlier
in the day in the First Section.
All three bands will do the North West proud come Saturday 11th
September, and if it’s their day, anyone of them could be
crowned Fourth Section National Champions
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