4BarsRest logo



news desk

articles & features


results archive


classified ads

your comments

go shopping




2004 West of England Regional Championships - Retrospective

First Section
Saturday 27th March

Test Piece: Coventry Variations – Bramwell Tovey
William Relton

The First Section contest here was perhaps the one big disappointment of the whole West of England weekend.

When William Relton gave his remarks from the stage he was quite prescient – “Rhythm, tuning, intonation, style and expression”, he said. What he didn’t say was that for the most part, all of these attributes were sorely missing from the vast majority of the performances he had to adjudicate upon. This was not a good quality contest.

As with the Championship Section though, Bill was in a very generous mood (something certainly tickled his fancy in Torquay) and he complimented the bands on the way in which they tackled the difficult middle section of the work (Var 7). He said he rewarded the MD’s for their good work and most he felt came through with flying colours. However, his most telling point was made in a deadpan fashion that perhaps many in the audience missed. “It was,” he said, “the quiet and sustained playing that was the most difficult for the bands to overcome.” The climax at letter P was the most difficult section, and bands stood or fell by this.”

Given that Bill awarded the top six bands 190 points or more, he must have felt most were standing on the shoulders of giants – for us though, most never recovered their legs after making starts that at times asphyxiated through lack of air and nerves.

Bournemouth Concert were clear winners – and deserved winners too. However, they didn’t have to play to the top of their form to secure the title and a place at Harrogate later in the year. They were the only band on the day that sounded like a championship section band in waiting – broad, full balanced sounds, some fine individual performers and a MD who knew how to bring the best out of his charges. They were one of only three bands on the day who actually started the piece in a confident manner.

The opening for cornet, flugel and bass trombone was an Achilles heel for just about everyone. Nerves will always affect players at any level, but the simple trio that proclaimed the theme of the famous hymn tune took more casualties than even the Luftwaffe could manage. MD’s tried just about every trick in the book to make sure their bands made a confident start, but whether it was three standing in a group or players turning their backs on the audience, the basic problem was that far too many players simply didn’t put enough air through their instruments to make them speak. Better to play at a comfortable dynamic than to try in vain to play too quietly was a lesson learnt by many on the day. Being brave on a contest stage is to be admired, but so too is common sense.

Bournemouth made a confident start and all the loud dynamic playing was excellent – some super soprano cornet playing and a lovely middle of the band sound being the highlights. Nigel Taken brought breadth to his reading and they were coasting along in fine fashion. Come the quiet stuff though and the wheels – although not quite coming off, certainly wobbled a fair bit. All of a sudden there was uncertainty and lack of clarity, tone and balance. They recovered to make a splendid finish, but it was a performance that confirmed that although they will be strong contenders at Harrogate, they still have a little way to go to make the step up as contenders at Championship level.

The contest started off in pretty low-key fashion with a disappointing performance from Torbay Brass under David Johnson, who found the set work a very difficult challenge indeed. Nothing quiet gelled from the word go, and once more it was the quiet dynamics that was their undoing. Even though they came 14th, they wouldn’t have been out of place if they came 8th or 9th – there was little to separate so many of the bands on the day.

Then came the curious case of Bendix Kingswood – not an Agatha Christie novel, but a performance that lasted some 32 minutes in duration because a fire alarm and evacuation procedure had to be put in place half way through their performance. It is a little unclear to what the actual rules concerning such an incident are, but in the event they returned 20 minutes after they started to complete their performance from the beginning of Variation 7.

Up until they were stopped on stage (neatly done by the official it must be said) they were not playing too well, and on their return they played even worse. They cannot though be faulted for this, and perhaps they should have been allowed to start again after the last band in the official draw had performed. The break destroyed the performance as a whole, and that they came 13th becomes irrelevant. Lets hope they are not further penalised by the relegation committee – they deserve another chance.

The odd thing to report though is that throughout the whole episode the bar in the Riviera Centre was full to bursting point – not one soul left their beer. In these times of heightened security, it seems some people would still rather take the risk of being burnt alive rather than miss a mouthful of ale.

Lanner and District and Poole Borough were the next two bands on and they produced the performances that were to bring them second and third place from Bill Relton. Lanner had an excellent start – the best by far of the day, and their flugel player (a menacing looking chap with a boxers physique, tiny ponytail and a beautiful sound) was outstanding. It never had the depth of sound of Bournemouth, but it did have control and balance from start to finish. Second place was well deserved, although we had them down for third. (Hope the flugel player doesn’t mind though!)

Poole too had some real quality moments, but it was a performance that had too many slips for us and sounded fragile in the quieter moments. Where other blasted away in the louder sections trying to create excitement through volume, MD Phil Randell capped the volume and it paid off. We had them fourth, but Bill had them third.

After that came a whole series of bland performances that either never got going, or if they did, never caught the emotion of the music – especially that Variation 7. Chalford put in a decent effort under Steve Tubb to come 7th, but the performances of Cinderford, Swindon Pegasus Brass and Ocean Brass were at times not up to the technical challenges of the work.

Sherborne Town were the next to catch the ear of Bill Relton – although we must admit they didn’t catch our ear. It was for us another performance that was musically too fragile and technically too error prone, but given that all around them was much the same then fifth place was a good return.

After Bournemouth at draw number 10 came a real curates egg of a show from St. Keverne – exciting and musical but full to the brim with slips, blips and blobs and a decent showing from Lydbrook that gained them 6th place.

Solent and Aldbourne then gave two performances that varied in quality, but really caught the ear musically. Solent under Wesley Garner were resplendent in their amazing yellow uniforms, but theirs was a performance that for us captured the essence of the subject matter. It certainly wasn’t flawless, but it had a fine feel for the music and the middle section was really beautifully shaped. They could count themselves a little unlucky to come 8th. Aldbourne on the other hand could count themselves very unlucky to have come 4th. We had them 2nd.

Without being disrespectful, Melvin White is a crafty old so and so when it comes to contesting – at whatever level. His record over the years in getting bands of varying quality to the Finals of National Championships is second to none and once more here he produced a fine show from his employers on the day. His was the only performance that really captured that Variation 7 to a tee – a lovely Siciliano lilt in 2 (nearly everyone else wafted around in varying patterns) and even though there was a nasty moments with the troms that teetered on the edge of disaster, it was still a finely crafted show. Unlucky.

With that to end, the First Section came to a close and after the pleasantries (including a female master of ceremonies who would have given Anne Robinson a run for her money) Bournemouth were declared winners of a contest that never really came to life. Both they and Lanner will have to up their games to a higher level if they are to feature in Harrogate.

Iwan Fox
© 4BarsRest

back to top


print a bandroom copy

Banner - Essential Dyke Vol IV

Essential Dyke IV
Now in stock

Picture of t-shirts

4BR T-Shirts

  copyright & disclaimer

Fax: 01495 791085 E-Mail: