2006 Midlands Regional Championships - Fourth Section retrospective


It was a bit of a marathon for Alan Hope and Geoffrey Whitham here in theFourth Section, but in the end theypicked out three good bands to head for Harrogate, amid the friendly atmosphere and clinking beer glasses.

You have to be a good quality band to be able to win in a field of 24 bands. It doesn't matter what level you are talking about either from Championship down to Fourth Section, you have to show that extra bit of class, that extra smidgeon of musicality to stick in the minds of the adjudicators.

It is of course harder to do if you play very early in the draw, but the same criteria applies even when you play as the penultimate band on stage.

That is what happened here in the Fourth Section, where a marathon contest of 24 bands saw Wellington (Telford) Brass take the honours off the number 23 draw. Bearing in mind the judges had at the time placed the bad who played number 15 in second place and the band that played number 9 in first, they had heard a wide spectrum of differing performances at different times of the day.

Alan Hope and Geoffrey Whitham though were in no doubt to the winners when they eventually herd them though and Wellington (Telford) Brass conducted by Steve Curtis made their task quite easy in a way as after they had played there was just the one band who could have stopped them taking the title.

Theirs was a quality performance too and Alan Hope told 4BR that on the day there were a number good quality performances from a number of bands, but the winners and the two other qualifiers really did get to grips with Alan Fernie's test piece and brought it to life.

"Both Geoffrey and I thoroughly enjoyed the contest," he told us. "It was a bit of a long day, but we had breaks and kept fresh and when we heard the winning performance there was no doubt in our minds."

It was refreshing indeed to hear Alan speak in such a way and he was very honest about the overall standard of playing that they had to judge upon here. "Overall it was a very good contest. There were of course some bands who did struggle with the piece, but that is to be expected at this level, but then again, there were a number who made a real good go of it and brought the music out of what is a great piece."

Wellington (Telford) certainly did that and Steve Curtis brought control and musicality in equal measures, whist his players did themselves proud with their individual and ensemble contributions throughout the five movements of the work.

The atmosphere at the Belvedere Club was it usual mix of good humour, chatter, errant mobile phones and clinking beer glasses, but even though it can be a bit dank and musty, it serves it purpose well enough.

The winners won't seem to mind though and they brought a real vibrant feel to the test piece that had in many performances been missing. The lovely fourth movement in particular was very good and earmarked them out from a number of rivals.

Consistency was the name of the game it always is at this level and Wellington showed that admirably in their performance, one which held the attention of the supportive audience from the word go. They made the most of their resources here and it will be interesting to see how they get on against the best bands from around the country.

Joining them at Harrogate will be the Amington Band who produced perhaps a bit of a shock by claiming the runners up place. We say that because they were making their comeback to the contest this year after missing last year, but playing off the number 9 draw they produced a very neat and tidy account that benefited from intelligent direction from the podium and a group of very solid and confident soloists.

The final Harrogate qualification place meanwhile went to Newstead Youth who really did show a remarkable degree of maturity with a cracking little performance off the number 15 draw that many in the audience felt could have been the ultimate winner that is until Wellington took to the stage.

All three bands will head to Harrogate full of confidence and if any of them can produce this time of form once more then they will certainly challenge for honours.

Behind the top three came Dronfield in fourth place who produced a neat and tidy account following on from Newstead that caught the ear, whilst fifth place wen to Shipston Town from draw number 21 who also provided the judges with a bit of a problem as they too made the most of their chance to impress with a well managed account.

The final top six place eventually went to Burbage (Buxton) who were perhaps the first band on the day to really make an impression on the judges as they played off the number 5 draw.

After these six bands the standard didn't fall away until you got to the lower reaches of the prize list, and  Alan Hope told 4BR that there were a number of performances that came outside the prizes that had a great deal of merit to them, but just perhaps lacked that level of consistency throughout the full five movements to have come any higher.

That was certainly true of the likes of Cubbington, Creswell, Coleshill, Ratby Co-op Mid, Rushden, Trentham and Hathern who eventually filed the places from 7 13. It would be impossible to disagree with the judges in their assessment of these bands as where some had good outer movements others made the most of the inner ones. All though it must be said did try and play the dynamics marked , especially in the difficult fourth section where the sparse scoring calls for real control and balance.

Tuning did raise its head (as did the continual chink of glasses from the next door bar in many performances) but it is difficult to criticise many of these bands as they were first and foremost trying to play the music first and worry about the rest after.  Having said that, some MDs did miss a chance to nail the basics in place, and if they had done so mire successfully in some of these performances then perhaps a couple of them may well have featured further up the prize list.

It was a question of basics in the performances that did fill the lower reaches of the prize list however. The bands who did fill the places from 14th down were hampered by many factors it seemed. Nervousness, poor tuning and lack of numbers in many bands played its part, but more than most it was a question of consistency in execution. Getting two or three of the movements to be played at the same level of tuning and concentration proved very difficult for many of the bands here, but again, that can be expected at this level, when there are a number of younger players performing or there are players who are not just used to playing on the contest stage.

Still, it is difficult to criticise too much as all certainly put in 100% to the cause and if they get the opportunity to perform a piece as good as this again we are sure this experience would have doe them a great deal of good.

Finally the bands who filled the bottom sector of the prize list. Here many really encountered difficulties but Alan Hope had word of encouragement for them all, from Ilkeston Brass down to Swineshead Silver who propped up the table. Each of the performances did bring something to the table so to speak, and that is not trying to be patronising in any way shape or form. 

Given the nature of the piece in fact each of the movement s can be used on its own as a concert item, and that may well be a good way to encourage many of the players in their efforts to improve.

There were very basic errors in the performances here at this level, although it was a surprise to see the likes of Thoresby Youth who were so good at Butlins come so low. It wasn't their day for certain, but we did feel that they would have fancied their chances of coming much higher.

Finally, we apologise that we couldn't bring you an analysis of every band here firstly it would have taken up about five pages of A4 and secondly we were unable to listen to all the bands as we wished we could. We have therefore asked one of the adjudicators for his general impressions overall and used those in conjunction to the bands we heard. Apologies if you feel a bit short changed on this one, but certain circumstances notably the weather were a bit beyond our control.

Congratulations to the winners and the qualifiers, and well done to all the bands here. The judges have told 4BR that they were very impressed at the standard of what they had heard, and given as we have said that there were 24 bands playing here that says something. Good luck to Wellington (Telford) and Amington and Newstead at the Finals where if they play anything like they did here, will all be in with a good chance of glory.



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