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2004 West of England Regional Championships - Retrospective

Third Section
Sunday 28th March

Test Piece: Vizcaya – Gilbert Vinter
Adjudicator: David Read

It may sound as if we are founding fathers of the “David Read Appreciation Society”, but once more here at the Third Section, our premier adjudicator got things spot on – and we weren’t the only ones to agree with him.

With his remarks at the end of the contest, he made the very telling point that Gilbert Vinter’s “Vizcaya” was indeed a very difficult test piece for bands in the Third Section. “Not all,” he said, “…were able to cope with the balance, tuning and pitching,” whilst the “middle section quartet needed space and time with rubato to work properly”.

The bands needn’t have worried that the judge wasn’t on a casual acquaintance with the score either. David Read explained that he had performed the work with GUS over 40 times in the past, with Gilbert Vinter himself at the rostrum, whilst the quartet section possibly came to light as a result of his involvement with the famous GUS quartet that featured himself on cornet. Vinter was unaware that brass bands broke themselves down into such small compact numbers, and as a result he inserted the quartet section into the work. All in all it made for a difficult test 35 years ago, and all in all, it made for a very difficult test here.

So difficult in fact that the adjudicator made it clear that only one band managed to play the work from top to bottom, whilst the band that came second very nearly did, but performed the finale “Fete Basque” with the correct style he was looking for. The first two bands he stated, would do very well come the finals – although he was unaware that the third placed band would also be making the trip. All three for us at 4BR will be strong contenders.

The problem with “Vizcaya” as a test piece (but not as a piece of enjoyable music) is that there are technical as well as musical hurdles to be overcome right from the start. The trombone entry in particular sorted out the contenders from the rest within 10 seconds of the start – and only the better bands managed to get this in tune and with balance. After that comes the rhythmic problems of the Scherzando, the third melodic line marked Dolce (that really needed a sweetness of tone) to work and the variation on the third melody which highlighted the need for the bands to have a strong and tuneful soprano and competent solo cornet (the leaps from top F to top Bb caught so many out).

The “Fete Basque” should have captured the real spirit of the region – light and vibrant, before the final section that had echoes of the final movement of the composer’s “Symphony of Marches”. It is a difficult work. The winners though were good value indeed.

St. Dennis under the direction of Brian Minear was very good – plenty of fine detail, balance and tunefulness, whilst the “Fete Basque” section was bang on the button. They had their cameraman with them once more, but who can blame the media for following this excellent young band? There is real talent on show – the solo lines were excellently played and Brian Minear should get the Cornish equivalent of a Knighthood. This is a super band, well drilled in the basics and with players who all produce true sounds from their instruments – warm and clear. No problems at all with their victory and they more than repaid our pre match faith in them.

Second place was picked up by Hayle Town under the direction of Derek Johnston, who also gave a wonderfully committed performance that really picked up on the vibrancy of the work. Not quite in the same class as St. Dennis, but nonetheless pretty damn good. They fully deserved their trip to Harrogate.

Third place went to Shrewton Town who benefited from a fine reading of the score from MD, Michael Dunford that allowed his team of impressive soloists the time to shine. They also capped the volume and as a result there was a sense of control about all they did. They too deserved their trip to the Finals.

St. Stythians picked up fourth place (we had them down for second place in our pre match preview) and fifth place went to Bristol East, who on this occasion were conducted by Bryan Hurdley. It may seem a little unfair on his band here, but Bryan Hurdley is a conducting talent that should been seen at a higher level than this for sure – there are plenty of top section bands who could have benefited from his workmanship this year. The final top six place went to Portishead Town under the expressive conductorship of Rhodri Griffiths.

The rest of the bands here all struggled a little with the test piece, although we would make a mention of South Molton who came 8th and Camborne B who had perhaps the youngest band on view and did themselves proud in coming 14th. Next year they will be a force to be reckoned with.

All in all then a pretty good contest – a difficult set work sorted out the wheat from the chaff for David Read and sorted it out for the rest of us as well. Three decent bands will make the trip North, with the winners here in particular a good each way bet for a top six place at least at the Finals.

Iwan Fox
© 4BarsRest

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