2005 Tameside Open - Contest retrospective


4BR looks back at the recent Tameside Open, which saw a top section victory go to a band having a great 2005 after a poor 2004.

Tameside Hippodrome, Ashton-Under-Lyne
Sunday 3rd April, 2005

Twenty-three bands did battle across four sections in the ninth Tameside Open and those who won their respective sections were worthy winners indeed.  A number of bands played pieces that they had played at the areas, but thankfully for the adjudicators and much of the audience, a good number opted for something different.

It resulted overall in a rising of the standard of performances, as many of the new choices were better suited to the bands talents than the ones they had to endure in some cases at the Regional Championships.  For some it paid dividends, others not, but at least for those who did, they got them out of their systems.

Once again, the contest wouldn't have been possible without the financial support of Tameside Council. The authority continues to support banding through Whit Friday, the British Open Solo & Quartet Championships and the Youth Contest and without its help, banding in the North West would be very much the poorer. Lots of people have lots of moans and groans about local authorities all over the country, but not too many bandsmen could have a bad word to say about paying their Council Tax here.

Numbers this year were on a par from twelve months ago, but coming a week after Easter and just seven days before the National Youth Championships, Section Three suffered badly with just three bands entering.    The organisers, led by Frank Hodges and Derek Atkinson gave bands from the Fourth Section the chance to compete in the Third and although they didn't pick up any prizes, they at least had the opportunity to do so.

The winners of each section collected £600, which is a terrific amount and whilst the contest ran from 10.30-7.00pm, it would have still benefited from a few more bands.

Championship Section:

It has been quite a year so far for Ashton-under-Lyne Band.  They had to withdraw from the 2004 Regionals due to losing a number of players from within their ranks, but Philip Chalk has brought players in and in a short space of time transformed the bands fortunes and they performed here with real authority and confidence.

A second place at the Regionals and qualification for Harrogate was followed by a well deserved victory here on the same test piece, ‘Comedy' by John Ireland.

It was some fine solo playing particularly from top man, Mark Rogers, soprano cornet Phil Ramsden and Nigel Lawless on euphonium, along with some robust ensemble playing that were the hallmarks of this performance.  In addition, the Tranquillo e sostenuto had a delightful sensitive feel to it that paid dividends on the day.

This result, as well as boosting the bands coffers will put them in good heart for the Grand Shield in a few weeks time, and they could well be a band to look out for at Blackpool.

Runners up were Wire Brass under Paul Andrews.  Whenever this band competes, you now expect them to make a mark and once again they did here, although as a Second Section band, this was perhaps a result ahead of expectations.  Last year, they took the Second Section with a commanding performance of Martin Ellerby's ‘Chivalry', and this year's interpretation was just as impressive.

It's one of those pieces that clearly suites the band.  Ian Twiss added some lovely touches on soprano, and perhaps what denied them victory was the odd transitional passage that wasn't as tight and secure as it could have been. It was impressive playing though and once more showed what an intelligent MD can do with a piece he knows will suit his bands strengths without exposing too many of their weaknesses.

Besses o' th' Barn took third place and after being in need of a morale boosting performance after the areas, this possibly was just what they needed, as Jim Cant and the band tackled ‘Dances and Arias' by Edward Gregson.  The sound though to us was a touch hard and a little too aggressive in parts as the players tried with all their might to impose themselves on the exciting score and some of the dance sequences didn't really come off for us to well. 

It was very nearly a cracker, but perhaps on the day they just tried too hard to get themselves back on the rails after the downer of the Regionals in Blackpool – but it showed a great deal of character.

Marsden under Glyn Williams played number two, and as with Ashton chose the area test piece, ‘Comedy' for its challenge here.  They just missed out on the short journey to Harrogate in Bradford then, but you only have to listen to the band for a few minutes at present to realise that it is well and truly heading in the right direction.

Glyn Williams has clearly learned a lot from some of the finest MDs in the business and his approach and technique leaves nothing to chance and makes life easy for the players to follow.  Alan Hobbins added some fine touches in the cornet ranks and whilst it was a fine performance from number two, you knew they had left the door ajar a little for bands to go in front of them, with just a few too many little unforced errors.

Fifth were placed Vernon Building Society Poynton and Alan Lawton and they opted for ‘Trittico' by James Curnow.  You know with Alan Lawton at the helm, that you'll get a well-prepared and disciplined performance nine times out of ten.  For once however they seemed to take a bit of time to get going, and occasionally you felt they weren't totally comfortable with the music.  It wasn't the best performance of the day, and it wasn't the worst either, but it wasn't going to trouble Gareth Pritchard and they got possibly what they deserved.

Glossop Old drew number one and can for us consider themselves a little bit unlucky to have come as far down as sixth.  Jon Davies chose ‘Pageantry' and enlisted the help of a few colleagues from Fodens including Mark Wilkinson who sat in on top man.  The opening and finale movements were nicely controlled and had a good feeling to them with some nice soprano touches throughout, whilst the middle movement, if anything, was the Achilles heel in the performance for us and stopped them being placed higher.

Finally, Mossley and Martyn Evans drew number seven and sadly came seventh.  Last years winners never got to grips with ‘Rienzi' at the areas and struggled again here, and we wondered why they made the choice as it was not a piece that suited them at all. They tried hard, but lacked the overall quality of sound that this piece cries out for and they cannot have had too many complaints about their fate.

Ashton under Lyne will certainly not be complaining though, and it looks like through sheer hard work and a great deal of determination and application, that the good times are coming back. Congratulations to them, and Blackpool cannot come soon enough.   

Second Section:

Five bands did battle in the Second Section with Diggle and Norman Law taking the honours.

The Saddleworth based band did as they had at Blackpool where they qualified for Harrogate and put on a solid show, that was by no means perfect, but had plenty of quality within it to win with a little bit of comfort.  The music had a nice sense of flow to it, and the band seemed comfortable with both the style and especially the fine direction from the middle.

Runners up were Greenall's, directed by John Ludden who narrowly missed out at the Regionals just a few weeks ago.  This was a decent show though on ‘Variations for Brass Band' and as with Diggle they acquitted themselves well.  It had moments where it wasn't 100% (but who didn't in the Second Section anywhere in the country this year) but it certainly had that real sense of purpose about it that made you sit up and listen.

Third came Maxilead Metals Tyldesley under some excellent direction of Robert Taylor who gave another good account of ‘Comedy' which benefited from some nicely understated cornet and soprano work and some fine sympathetic direction.  They came fifth at the Regionals, and although this wasn't a winning performance it was a solid and secure one without too many risks in changes of tempo.

Boarshurst and Jonathan Webster chose ‘Diamond Heritage'.  Perhaps the unluckiest band of the section not to have finished higher than they did, Boarshurst gave a good account of themselves on a piece that possibly deserves to aired a bit more. There was plenty of quality individual and ensemble playing on show, and a real sense of darkness where required, so we were a little surprised to see them come out of the prizes.

The performance had some nice ensemble playing and some lovely sweet cornet sounds, but Diggle and Greenalls were stronger on the day.

Pillling Jubilee directed by B. Harper played last and came last, but amongst these performances it was just about right.  They went with ‘Tam O'Shanter', but it lacked the warmth and discipline in many areas, and it was a real struggle for them in places.  The overall balance and quality of sound wasn't there. (4BRs John James did a sterling job deputising as the sole percussion player – although he sometimes tried to ride the horse home on his own!).

Third Section:

Three bands were scheduled for this section so five took the opportunity from Section Four to play, but none of them from the lower section really shone, although the winners were a classy act indeed on the day.

Middleton chose ‘Tam O'Shanter' and Stan Lippeatt had no problems choosing the winner.  Carl Whiteoak's interpretation had plenty of warmth about it and was well shaped with plenty of dynamic contrast, whilst there was plenty of individual excellence from the trombones and cornets, and some neat touches from the bass end especially in the linking sections to the 8/8 in particular. Well done to them, as it was a clear winner for us and fully deserved to take the top prize home with them.

Wardle and District Anderson Brass, directed by S. Conway also chose ‘Tam O'Shanter' and whilst it had plenty of good moments in a well shaped show, Middleton had that touch more warmth about it (for us anyway) overall and we think the runners up place was just right.  Pemberton Old Wigan JJB ‘B' really impressed us.  Third was richly deserved (and possibly should have come second) with a fine interpretation of Leslie Condon's ‘Call of the Righteous', that contained some great cornet playing from the young principal cornet.  He played like his life depended on it and allied to some good soprano work and solid ensemble playing it was a performance of great merit that also benefited from some excellent direction of P. Ashley.

The other five contenders with the exception of Uppermill found this section much tougher than the Fourth.  Alan Widdop even changed the test piece from earlier in the day, playing Sparke's ‘Tryptch' instead of 'Divertimento'.  Ambitious? Maybe it was, but they had plenty of fine moments throughout and on another day could have finished higher.

Port Sunlight played ‘Divertimento' and struggled badly particularly with tuning, whilst Besses Boys and J. Holt never really got to grips with Bryan Kelly's piece.  Stan Lippeatt made the point that the tempo markings in the score were deliberately placed and having heard a number of performances of this recently, knew what was required.

Carrbrook and Denton Brass had absolute shockers not putting too fine a point on it.  Carrbrook are really struggling at the moment and ‘Divertimento' was a struggle for them at the Regionals and it was here in both in the Third and Fourth Sections.

Denton Brass and C. Fox on the other hand chose ‘Variations on Laudate Dominum' and it was just too much for them.  The demands of the piece, the quality of sound, it just was never going to happen for them and even Stan Lippeatt commented from the stage that one or two bands chose music that wasn't suitable for them.

Fourth Section:

Philip Sparke's ‘A Malvern Suite' found favour with Stan Lippeatt on Sunday morning and gave the local band, St John's of Mossley victory in this section.  The performance had a real nice feel and sense of purpose about it and you never once felt that the band was struggling with the work. 

The MD, S. Corbett crafted some nice sounds from within middle of the band and it was always going to be a tough one to move out of the frame come the results.

Runners up were Eaton's Farnworth and Walkden directed by P. Ashley, who despite having three basses went with ‘Variations on Laudate Dominum' by Edward Gregson.  Unlike Denton though, it did have a nice shape and feel to it with a warm sound projected from the band.  They were worthy of inclusion in the prizes.

Port Sunlight Lyceum Brass under C. Dare came third mainly due to a good opening and some fine cornet work during ‘Divertimento'.  The third movement (Intermezzo) was perhaps their most uncomfortable bit, but it was a good show overall and deserved to come in the prizes, and was a much better performance than they gave later in the day.

Brindle under K. Richmond played Peter Graham's ‘Dimensions' and produced a nice sound that on another day could have finished higher than fourth. It really did have some nice moments, but a possible lack of depth to the ensemble sound in comparison to the prizewinners may have cost them.

Uppermill's ‘Divertimento' started off with plenty of purpose and authoritative direction from Alan Widdop, but they were another band on the day who didn't quite master the ‘Intermezzo' where there were too many individual problems and intonation difficulties, but it wasn't a bad one though. .

Besses Boys, Carrbrook and Denton all produced similar performances to what they did later in the Third Section and the overall result was still the same.  Besses under J. Holt maintained sixth spot with a performance than had little moments of quality but far too many of untidiness, whilst Denton under C. Fox came in seventh with a variable account that never quite maintained control throughout. Finally, Carrbrook and J. Hunter finished last this time around, but possibly couldn't have any complaints.

Malcolm Wood


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