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2004 West of England Regional Championships - Retrospective

Second Section:
Saturday 27th March

Test Piece: Kaleidoscope – Philip Sparke
Adjudicator: David Read

Whereas the First Section here was a disappointment, the Second Section was a bit of a treat. All the bands brought out the best of Philip Sparke’s neat set work – some better than others, but none failed to meet either musical or technical challenges of the set work.

Adjudicator David Read was spot on once more when he described “Kaleidoscope” as, “…not a great technical challenge, but a very subtle piece, with the aspects of tuning and balance of prime importance.” David is perhaps the one adjudicator who now a days takes time to explain in detail to the waiting audience, the structure of the set works he judges upon, and what he was therefore looking for from the bands. It is a most welcome approach and the consistency in his approach is clear in his final placings. He is not our leading judge for nothing.

He quite simply outlined each of the variations. Variation 1 had to be played in simple not compound time; Variation 2 had one or two tricky technical aspects to overcome; Variation 3 was marked graceful and required the correct tempo; Variation 4 needed a change of tempo and expression, flow and sounds; Finally, Variation 5 needed neat tonguing, consistent tempo with the key being held by the constant rhythm of the side drum. He made it sound so easy – a pity some of the MD’s couldn’t see the picture it seemed.

He was also spot on when he said that the top three bands were a little way ahead of the rest and that the band placed third were perhaps a little unlucky to miss out on the trip to Harrogate. This was a clear cut result from a very clear cut judge – and that is what bands and players like.

The winners were Otterbourne Brass conducted by an excellent Lt Col Chris Davis, who it must be said moved around the stand in a lively manner – not very regimental at all in fact. It was a super performance and a super bit of baton(less) work and he gave the set work a really sense of style and panache. They were clear winners for us and will be strong contenders come Harrogate of they maintain this type of form.

Runners up were Forest of Dean under the very neat and precise baton work of Jackie Gwynn, who we totally under estimated before the contest, but who put in a lovely show – full of character and style and some well balanced ensemble work. Both bands will head for Harrogate full of confidence.

Third place went to Helston Town, who we tipped for a podium place, and who of course, didn’t let us down. This was another well-structured performance, again full of good sounds and neat ensemble playing, and just like David Read said, they could count themselves a little unlucky not to have gained a qualification place.

The top six was made up of Woodfalls Concert in fourth place, Filton Concert Brass in fifth and Phoenix Brass (Crewkerne) in sixth.

Woodfalls we had down as just outside the top six, whilst Filton were very good and fourth for us. Woodfalls just lacked clarity in the ensemble for us, but were excellently led by Steve Dunster, whilst Filton also had a top notch baton man in front of them in the shape of Bryn James. His was perhaps the most musical reading of the set work, but little errors from prominent lines from start to finish just robbed them of a higher place. Phoenix did the biz for us (we tipped the for a top six place) and resplendent in their very natty waistcoats they gave the test piece a very mature outing, with rounded sounds and compact ensemble.

After the top six, the standard didn’t fall away too much either, and there were a number of performances that caught the ear for us. Nothing outstanding, and at times a touch bland and unimaginative, but as good as any we have heard around the country.

Corsham came in 7th off an early number 4 draw, whilst Soundhouse Brass could count themselves a little unlucky after giving a very musical performance under the baton of the veteran Denzil Stephens. They also benefited from the best soprano player of the day and throughout there was a real understanding of the score from the MD. Each movement had a different character and dynamic contrast, so we were a little surprised they came 8th. Perhaps some tuning problems cost them, but we had them 5th.

Weston held their own under Peter Nutt to come 9th, whilst the bottom six places went to Bath Spa, Lympstone South West Telecoms, Michelmersh Silver, Totnes, Launceston and Bugle.

Bath Spa were tidy enough but had a surfeit of errors, whilst Lympstone (our pre match favourites) never got to grips with the style required to make the music come to life – it was all a bit too hard and scrappy to impress David Read. Michelmersh (we tipped them to come fourth) were another who fell foul of trying to hard to make excitement through volume, whilst Totnes (our dark horse) didn’t make the most of a decent start and fell away badly. Launceston and Bugle can’t have too much to complain about for us as neither quite met the demands both musically and technically that the work demanded. Neither were poor performances, but both just lacked that sense of control just about everyone else on the day displayed.

David Read got it bang on. Two very good bands will make the trip north to Harrogate and should on this form do very well. Who said adjudicating was difficult eh?

Iwan Fox
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