2005 Regionals: Midlands - Retrospective: First Section


4BR looks back at a bit of a controversial contest on Comedy where a pre match favourite was certainly not laughing come the announcement of the results.

Raunds Temperance
Raunds Temperance

Audio interview

Audio Interview with winning MD John Fletcher [WAV]

John Ireland's Comedy Overture proved to be a fair test of the ability for the bands playing in the opening section of this Regional Contest, whilst the fifteen strong field also saw the late inclusion of Ibstock Brick Brass following the recent speculation as to which section they would officially compete.

In accord with Geoffrey Whitham at Darlington last week the adjudicator, Roy Roe, commented on the difficulties of the piece and whilst praising the bands in general, he made reference to the fact that the piece ‘"Comedy" is still a fine test for any band today'.  Extolling its high musical content that tested ever player, section and every MD in addition he highlighted its demands for good tonal quality, tuning and dynamic detail.

Raunds Temperance
Raunds Temperance: MD John Fletcher

These were the key ingredients in the performance that saw Raunds Temperance, our dark horses, book another trip to Harrogate.

At times they were remarkably good with bright sounds, confident soloists (including ex-YBS player Ben Godfrey on principal cornet) and a notably good horn section. This supported MD John Fletcher who had bags of energy and his contribution cannot be under-stated. His self-belief and charismatic approach did much to inspire the players.

Raunds Temperance
Raunds Temperance

Speaking to 4BR minutes after this winning performance he was magnanimous in his praise for Geoffrey Whitham who had taken the band in the build up to this performance. Further he was emphatic in his commitment to the band and their ability to challenge at this level. He praised them highly for raising their game and playing with great control and assurance feeling that they were certainly at their best on the day.

And that's when it matters!

In their history, ‘Comedy' has been kind to the Northamptonshire based band and they make the return trip to Harrogate in September full of confidence and on this evidence fearful of nobody.

Bedworth Brass
Bedworth Brass: Treasurer David Lilly

Whilst we felt that Bedworth Brass (Colin Randle) produced a few inconsistencies they delivered a rounded sound that clearly appealed to the adjudicator. Their 1st baritone player gave a performance of high merit but for us they perhaps gained their points in the better middle section than in the outer musical statements where we were a little less convinced.

We together with, it must be noted, the vast majority of the audience took it as read that Kibworth Band and John Berryman would be booking a hotel in Yorkshire come September. Roy Roe on the other hand had a different ides and whilst awarding them the NEMBBA Shield for third place this did not include the reward of a Finals berth.

A very disappointed John Berryman, who conducted without a score, was inspirational bringing out the best in his principal cornet, soprano and horn section and for us this was the class act on the day. Their strongly argued reading was full of life and zest drawn from their MD but at the end of the day our pre-contest favourite fell just short of that qualification. Perhaps the early draw, at number three, didn't go in their favour but this is pure speculation on our part, for we had them as clear winners.

The performances in the second half of the draw, after the short comfort break, certainly gained more favour with Roy Roe and Jackfield Elcock Reison (Ian Viney) from draw number 14 were a case in point.

In a performance that moved with freedom, that benefited tremendously from a talented principal cornet player ably supported from the soprano chair they captured the music particularly well in the Tranquillo e sostenuto section at 26.

We were less enthusiastic about the final musical picture but had them figured in the top half of the results and as such their fourth place came as little surprise.

Taking the section as whole Roy Roe praised the overall standard of performance and the bands that figured in the top four certainly matched if not bettered the standard that we heard in Darlington a week ago.

One thing for sure though is that all the bands in the Midlands 1st Section acquitted themselves well and the challenge of this test piece was not beyond their means.

A case in point was the Langley Band who could easily have figured. They produced a clean and controlled performance that had a discipline emanating from the baton of their conductor Cliff Parker. Their warm sound and good solo work obviously found favour with the adjudicator as well and a fifth place was deserved. The dynamic range and control that was sought by Roy Roe were there to be heard.  Having missed out on a trip back to National finals though, it looks like Langley will move upwards into the Championship Section, which they will be very happy about.

Brackley and District Band under Jason Glynn came off a strong beginning but perhaps went into a bit of a shell as the music unfolded. The horn section sparkled as did the principal soloists and these strengths did much to gain their 6th place.  Brackley also left 4BR with one of the unanswered questions of the whole weekend, ‘just what on earth was in all those handbags ladies?'

Ibstock Brick Brass
Ibstock Brick Brass

We cannot praise Ibstock Brick Brass enough for their performance. Conducted by David Jones the band was drawn to play 7th and as such drew the first half of the draw to a conclusion.

They showed no sign of the distractions that led up to the contest and their performance was certainly not under rehearsed. This was a confident and well-driven performance led by a solid cornet rank and an equally committed lower band. They were given a warm round of applause at the conclusion of the performance that was also heard by a most interested observer in the guise of Robert Morgan, Chairman of the British Federation Brass Bands.

Shirley Band and Dave Lea were handed the dreaded number one draw.  On another day, it could have been so different.  It took them a while to settle down and when they did, they produced a nice sound.  If the beginning had mirrored the ending, it could have been a higher placing for them and eighth on the day was about right.

Outside of the top seven bands the standard was quite respectable and in 9th place came Foss Dyke (Walter Ritchie) who was first after the comfort break. The performance whilst have some phases of good playing did lack perhaps a little impact in the Allegro moderato brilliante.  One couldn't accuse the band of being one dynamic but perhaps the tolerance in the dynamic range was a little narrow.

Enderby Band gave an account of this work that was not dissimilar to that of Foss Dyke. Again somewhat narrow in its dynamic scope Mark Vouse did give his full commitment and brought out of the band some interesting moments.

Meanwhile, Hathern Band under the directorship of Dave Newman can perhaps feel a little hard done by in our estimation. From a number 2 draw they set a good marker and perhaps this was the one that, in our opinion, got away. A well-controlled bit of playing was the general order of the day and a good understanding of the score from the MD, for us was a little under valued. As with Kibworth a later draw may have told a different story.

Tintwistle went into this contest on the back of a 4BR prediction but as sometimes – not that often it has to be said – finished well outside the frame. Despite some colourful moments and really a generally secure, safety first approach the band tried to respond to Dave Shutter positively with the soprano cornet in particular matching talent to energy.

An opening statement that really didn't convince coloured the whole mood but the closing musical picture in the Gresley Old Hall (David Hutchinson) was quite decently delivered. If the opening section had matched the standard at its conclusion then in our opinion a higher placing would surely have come their way.

Bilton Silver (Rugby) under the direction of Brian Clark really captured the dynamic contrasts well but the music lacked flow. If the band could have matched shape with the same precision that it tackled the breadth of dynamic response this would have certainly have reaped rewards.

City of Coventry Band under the direction of ex- Grimethorpe stalwart Stan Lippeat were another band that would come away knowing that a better opening musical picture would have reflected in their final position. Like Gresley Old Hall this performance grew in confidence and style. The tranquillo was a particular fine moment but not enough to redeem the whole piece.

A ‘Little Britain's Vicky Pollard' moment with John Slater and a misbehaving microphone brought some light relief to the proceedings before the announcement of the results.

The subdued response to the Kibworth result was soon overtaken with the joy and boisterous response from both Raunds Temperance and the Bedworth Brass contingents as they secured their Harrogate qualification placing.

John James & Malcolm Wood


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