2006 West of England Regional Championships - Third Section retrospective


Entertainments proved itself to be a very stern test here in Torquay - a town well known for its ability to show itself a good time. Only a couple of bands managed to do the same though it seems.

Saturday's opening contest in Torquay was one of those events that must infuriate the bands and the adjudicators.  The strength in depth of the lower sections is terrific down in the West, but even here, Entertainments proved to be out of the reach for a number of the bands.

St Pinnock
Ladies in waiting: St. Pinnocks rep receives their reward for their victory

As a result, the bands weren't able to give of their best, and Geoffrey Whitham and Denis Wilby will have identified this very early on in the contest.  Frustrating really because whilst bands want to be tested and improve overall, but by the looks on some of their faces afterwards, you just wonder how much confidence some of the players will take away with them?  Time will tell though.

Geoffrey Whitham was completely honest and encouraging in his summary before the results were announced, admitting that ‘Entertainments' was too difficult for the Third Section. He thanked the bands for coping so well with the obvious daunting challenge and applauded the soloists for their efforts, appealing to them not to let the experience ‘knock your confidence'.

If a man of Mr Whitham's standing suggests the piece was too hard for the section then who is really going to disagree? Not 4BR on this evidence.

What really separated the winners and other prize winners from the rest of the field was who on the day made the least mistakes.  That said, the bands in the frame gave performances that had much to commend about them, but in the end, the mistake count will have made a difference.

That is exactly what St Pinnock and Gillingham did on the day, but if other bands had performed to the level of Camborne ‘B' off number one, this contest would have been an absolute belter.

As with Helston in the first section, St Pinnock turned their fortunes around this year after a lowly finish twelve months ago.  Playing straight after a comfort break, the band was one of the few on the day to produce a full rounded sound throughout all three movements.  Peter Minnear and the band had clearly done an awful lot of work on the piece and after a good opening ‘Caprice', the ‘Elegy' had much to admire about it with some nice cornet work and a steady ‘March' Section.  Nothing was really overdone and the MD can take credit for this. The piece was a challenge, and they some uncertain moments, but the MD kept it going with real enthusiasm and his players responded in kind.

Gillingham was another band to play late on the day (11) and they also gave a performance that had that real assurance about it.  When some uncomfortable moments occurred they didn't appear to let it get to them and they got on with it and dug in.  Eric Haines' band had a really nice sound to it as well, especially in the quieter sections of the piece.  The bands cornet team though were the stars for us, coping admirably with the opening Caprice. Then the Assistant Principal tackled the solo lines in the Elegy producing a lovely warm sound.  The whole movement had a nice feel to it and the projection of sound from within the band was first class. It was a thoroughly good performance.

Third placed Launceston Town actually played in between St Pinnock and Gillingham and from the number ten draw it was a performance that got better as it went along.  The opening wasn't the best, the euphonium, solo cornet and soprano got through just, but it was the second and third movements where they had more than enough about them to impress the men in the box.  The Elegy featured what was some of the best cornet playing of the day and the March was taken at a decent but capable tempo and retained that sense of wit that so many missed.

South Molton didn't really start off too well, but the ‘Elegy' was beautifully controlled and this for us was where they would have impressed.  From here, they progressed to a steady close that was never without a few uncertain moments. After not the best start, they hopefully will have been pleased with their placing.

Alan Pope's ‘Camborne B' opened the proceedings with a cracking show that was unlucky to come as low as fifth place.  Once again they were a band with plenty of young talented players in the ranks and it was the younger players who really excelled.  Well done to Peter Harvey (16) on euphonium, Samuel Eddy (13) on soprano, Ben King on baritone and Chloe Adams in the cornet section.  These four stars were absolutely terrific and made a big impression on us.  Camborne certainly had a few wobbles but it benefited from the playing of the aforementioned quartet and if they'd played a little later to the same standard, then they could well have seriously challenged for a trip to Harrogate. The draw didn't help.

Bugle were the last band to play and but for what seemed some tired playing towards the end, they could have finished higher than sixth place.  This was a band who didn't start to well, improved as it went along but ran out of steam towards the end – a real pity, but they were not the only band to have that problem on the day.

One of the challenges the adjudicators had was the order they'd rank the bands in, particularly in the middle. The bands at the top and at the lower end were easier to assess, but for those who finished in the middle it wasn't as clear-cut and it would be little things such as those little unforced errors that affected their placings on the day.

For instance, Denmead, Totnes, Pillowell Silver and Corsham will no doubt have been debated long and hard as to where exactly they should of have finished. It was difficult to enough to place them in just about any order such were their strengths and weaknesses on the day.

Denmead just lacked consistency with the first movement only settling down towards the end, and this was followed by an Elegy that wasn't without its good moments and the March which was taken at a fine tempo; it just needed a good firm opening section to improve its placing.

Totnes for us had a better opening Caprice and Elegy but they didn't quite master the March that suffered from some tired lips.  The soprano and euphonium rode their look at times and battled on as did the principal cornet and a nod in the direction of the MD who kept things going throughout.

Jason Glynn's Pillowell Silver were tipped by us to do well here (oops! sorry) and it was one of those performances where a smile at something really nice and effective was quickly followed by a groan of despair – we do salute the principal cornet though for a sterling job.

Corsham meanwhile had come down from the Second Section and they looked and sounded nervous, taking a while to settle. When they did though it wasn't bad at all with a nice steady march catching our eyes and ears.

You can see therefore how hard it was to separate these bands. Each had their moments and each had their troubles – though not in the same places. It is fair to say that they could have come in any order.

That left Bratton, Downton, Wooton & Calne Silver.

All four of them struggled if the truth be told which as we said at the beginning, was a shame because the talent was evident. The demands of the piece overall caused the difficulties though.

Bratton opted to have the trombones on the left and cornets on the right and innovative as it was to create the desired effect, it didn't quite work.  The bands soprano player had a lovely tone and survived more than a few rocky moments, but overall the level of performance wasn't what the judges were looking for.

The familiar 4BR line, ‘…it got better as the performance went on' is perhaps the best way to describe Downton's performance. It didn't really begin to well with a lot of uncertainties around the stand and it was only towards the end of the Elegy that the qualities within the band began to shine through and a spirited March gave it a rousing finish. 

Wooton and Calne both had a day they will just want to forget though.  Wooton never really recovered from not the best of starts, but they had a cornet player who battled as though their life depended upon it in the Elegy. The final March though exposed their weaknesses, rather cruelly.

Calne have just been promoted from the Fourth Section and it's fair to say that the step up from Kelly's Divertimento last year to Entertainments this was just asking to much of them on the day.  That said, they should be commended for their efforts, and hopefully they will take a great deal from the experience here this time around, but it just wasn't meant to be on the day.

St Pinnock and Gillingham Imperial Silver go forward to Harrogate in September.  Whilst they have the honour of representing the region at the finals, all the bands deserve praise for giving it a go.  They all knew it wouldn't be easy, but every single person who went on stage gave their all – and that's all you can ask for.

Malcolm Wood


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