2004 North of Eengland Regional Championships
The Championship Section:
Sunday 21st March
Adjudicator: David Read
Test Piece: Tristan Encounters - Martin Ellerby
Nine bands were to eventually do battle following the withdrawals
of Westoe STCHT, and Gateshead Brass for the North East Championship
Section title. David Read was the very experienced man in the box,
and he was making his first return trip to the Dolphin centre since
1994. That year, the victory went to Ever Ready, and ten years later,
but under a slightly different name, Ever Ready once again showed
themselves to be the premier band in the North East.
The first band on stage was to be Cottingham and
they got away to a good start with some neat semiquaver passages
in the Euphonium, Cornet and Bass sections. However, they never
really built on this good start and although there were some nice
individual touches from the soloists, particularly the soprano,
the overall effect was marred by some loose and scrappy playing.
It meant that they couldn’t quite maintain the form of the
past couple of years and they had to be content with 8th place.
Next up were Nestle Rowntree who started off very
confidently and set a good tempo. The early variations were reasonably
well played, but there was not enough made of the dynamic contrasts.
Transfiguarion VII demonstrated some good solo lines and
the horn section shone through at times, but overall the remainder
of the performance was marred by general looseness, suspect triplet
rhythms and not enough attention to the quieter dynamics. 7th place
was their reward, and it was about right for us as well.
Fishburn under the direction of Graham O‘Connor
were next on stage. This was the first real marker of the day, and
they got off to a cracking start. The running semiquaver passages
in Cornets, Euphs and Basses were all heard clearly. Some excellent
horn sounds in Transfiguration V made a good link into
VI which set off at a good pace, but not too quick that
it spoilt the detail. One or two moments of loose rhythm in Transfiguration
VIII, but the ppp in Transfiguration IX was well mastered.
Throughout the quasi cadenza Transfiguration XII, all
the soloists shone through, but there were odd moments when the
accompaniments were not always 100% together. Transfiguration
XIV started too loud for our liking but gradually built up
to a nice ending that was possibly pulled back just a touch too
much. Overall though a good quality performance, and one that certainly
deserved 3rd place. David Read also awarded them the Colin Fraser
Memorial Trophy for best soprano and the Tim Holmes Memorial Trophy
for best principal cornet.
The next band to take the stage was BHK (UK) Horden
under the vastly experienced Major Peter Parkes and the 2003 First
Section Champions certainly proved they were not out of their depth.
Their rendition of the Theme and 14 Transfigurations was
generally well controlled and there were some good effects and dynamic
contrasts. For us though there were just a few too many splits and
unforced errors and there was a suspicion of some tiredness creeping
in towards the ending, which affected the intonation. Overall a
solid 4th position and a good platform to build from – Horden
are a band to look out for in the next few years here.
Chester-le-Street took the stage as Band Number
5 but after a confident opening and good prelude, their performance
faltered. There were a number of occasions where one could hear
the quality of the band, and the soloists in particular, but this
was outweighed by too much untidiness and not enough control over
the quieter dynamics.
Harrogate, under the direction of David Lancaster,
were the next band on and they made a good impression in the prelude
and opening variations. The solos were all nicely shaped and played
well, although there was a risk of them being overpowered by some
over-enthusiastic accompaniments – particularly on the back
row cornet bench. This we thought, was one of the steadiest readings
of the day in terms of tempo, but it did allow the detail of the
quick stuff to come through. For us though, there wasn’t enough
made of the quieter dynamics and this may have cost them a point
On stage next were the Reg Vardy (Ever Ready) Band who
were aiming to take their 27th title and make a hat-trick of victories
here. Under the direction of Ray Farr (fresh from his adjudicating
duties in the Second Section earlier) they immediately seized everybody’s
attention with a prelude that was full of fire and commitment. Some
very neat duet work between Brian Tait and Jo Winspear in Transfiguration
II before the band sped off again into Transfiguration
The band really showed their quality of sound in these next variations
and the horn section in particular featured well in Transfiguration
V. Through Transfiguration VII and VIII there was
a sense of motion and the soloists were all on top form. There was
just the slightest of intonation problems in the ppp passage at
IX but all the parts were balanced.
Transfigurations X & XI were excellent with just the
right amount of ‘Wildness & Exaggeration’! All the
soloists again made light work of XII and this set the band up for
the final transfigurations. These were completed in style, with
excellent dynamic contrasts. There was a small pull back on the
last bar – but it was not overdone. A fine performance, with
some excellent percussion work throughout, earning them 1st place,
193 points and the Doug Cairns Trophy for best Bass Section. (Alongside
the obvious invite to the Royal Albert Hall !). Ever Ready seemed
to be nigh on impregnable at this contest once more.
The penultimate band onto the stage was Broughtons’
Brass and they had the unenviable task of playing between
the ultimate winners and runners up of this contest. They gave a
good account of the prelude and opening transfiguration, but after
this it was fairly loose. The euphonium and horn sections showed
off some nice sounds, but at the end of the day there were too many
slip ups and too much loose playing to gain any more points than
their eventual total.
So, the last band took to the stage - EYMS under
the direction of Gareth Pritchard. Could they do enough to knock
Ever Ready off their current top spot? The opening was very good.
Strong to the point of forceful, but the music flowed. In Transfiguration
I there was some excellent semiquaver work by the front row
and the Bass Section. Transfiguration III set off at a
steadier tempo, but this allowed all the detail through clearly.
By now we and the audience knew that we were witnessing a very musical
interpretation of “Tristan Encounters”, although
there were sections that had a few too many clips and splits. EYMS
must surely take the award for the quietest ppp passage in Transfiguration
IX. It was barely audible in places !! My only criticism of
this is that we struggled to pick out some of the back row lines
at this volume.
The soloists all put on a good show through XII, there
were just the odd few bars where the glock wasn’t clearly
audible. Some excellent trombone work in the final transfiguration
led the band to a good finish, although for use the last bar was
pulled back a bit too much – the composer wouldn’t have
liked it! A fine overall performance though, and certainly deserving
of their 2nd place, the invitation to the finals and the inaugural
Dolphin Centre Trophy for best percussion.
Then it was over too David Read now for his summing up of the contest.
He advised the large audience that this was his third Regional
adjudication of 2004, and it was the most difficult of the three.
It was an excellent test piece with solo lines for most players
and plenty of scope for conductors to add their own interpretation.
The piece is built around severe mood swings, and David advised
that not all bands were able to cope with the more aggressive music.
Although the cadenza style Transfiguration XII was only
added to the piece to test the soloists to the full, the most important
task was to get the overall shape of the music right and not be
concerned over the few small slips.
David described three performances that stood out from the rest.
The winning band had loads of drive and more than sufficient technique
to cope with the demands of the piece. His difficulty came in separating
the 2nd and 3rd placed bands. But in the end, EYMS gave a very musical
performance, which although it did contain a few splits gave them
the edge over Fishburn who lacked some of the energy of Ever Ready
and some of the nuances of EYMS.
Our pre-match predictions were :-
1 Reg Vardy (Ever Ready)
4 BHK (UK) Horden
So we are very pleased to have picked all 4 bands, if not necessarily
in the same order. Meanwhile, Ever Ready and EYMS will travel South
to the Albert Hall for the second year in a row, and whilst they
will both possibly
have to up their form to challenge for the top prizes there, they
are not too far off the pace. Ever Ready may be near omnipotent
here, but their 27th win was certainly no stroll in the park –
both EYMS and Fishburn pushed them very close. Banding here is alive
and well and kicking the backsides it seems of the best bands in