*
banner

2022 Cheltenham National Finals
Sections 1-4 preview

Her Majesty never won a 'National' herself, but Cheltenham will come up some winners from bands that will pay their musical tribute to her out of the starting gates this weekend.


Her Majesty The Queen certainly enjoyed horse racing

With the nation still in a period of official mourning, Cheltenham Racecourse will host the Section 1 – 4 National Finals in rather more circumspect competitive circumstances this weekend.

As was shown at the recent British Open in Birmingham, the decision to hold the event has been taken by organisers Kapitol Promotions Ltd with a great deal of consideration.  And as was seen there, the wider context will also be marked with a show of heartfelt respect, led by compere David Hayward, for the late monarch, who was Patron the Championships from 1955. 

No National

The Queen certainly enjoyed ‘the sport of kings’, although she never won a ‘National’ – the closest coming when her horse Devon Loch was infamously spooked with the finishing line in sight in 1956.

There has also been a great deal of reflection in recent days over the changes that have been seen over the period of her 70-year reign.

Her last winner at Cheltenham was in 2019 when Sunshade came home as a 14-1 outsider.  

There has also been a great deal of reflection in recent days over the changes that have been seen over the period of her 70-year reign.

And that certainly applies to the brass band world.


The start of the Elizabethan era

Different age

A glance at the programme for these National Championships in 1952, the year of her accession, tells you as much. 

Interestingly, they took place in the September at Belle Vue in Manchester - home to the British Open Championship. Secondly, there were only 45 bands taking part (although there were only three sections of course). 

Whatever happened to Chopwell Colliery and Albion Dockyard Silver Prize, Ebor Excelsior and Barnet Band, Bowaters Lloyd Silver and Arley Welfare? 

And whilst the test-pieces certainly sounded as if they came from a different age; ‘Springtime’  by Hayden Morris, ‘Rufford Abbey’  by Drake Rimmer and ‘Wayside Scenes’  by J.A. Greenwood, so did the value of the prize money. The winner picked up £100 (about £3,200 today).

Masters

As for the bands?

Whatever happened to Chopwell Colliery and Albion Dockyard Silver Prize, Ebor Excelsior and Barnet Band, Bowaters Lloyd Silver and Arley Welfare? 

There were also some great conducting names making a name for themselves in the first year of the new Elizabethan age – such Stanley Boddington with Bideford Town in the Fourth Section, George Thompson with Odhams Press Band, and the great Dennis Masters with Langley – still going strong today aged 99.


Another four winners will be announced this weekend

Challenging test pieces

Some things haven’t changed though and the bookies odds will fluctuate in each of the sections as bands make the trip to perform on the wide expanses of the stage at The Centaur auditorium backed by varying form.

They will also be faced with four challenging test-pieces. 

Saturday’s action starts with Joseph Horovitz’s ‘Sinfonietta’  in Section 3 (9.30am), followed by James Curnow’s ‘Trittico’  in the First Section. Sunday will feature ‘New Beginnings’  by Fredrick Schjelderup in Section 4 (9.30am), followed by ‘Ghosts, Goblins, Witches & Wizards’  by Darrol Barry in the Second Section.

All this and the stewards in the adjudication box will be as tough to impress as any in the marbled halls of the Jockey Club, with plenty of experience to back up the opinions 

All this and the stewards in the adjudication box will be as tough to impress as any in the marbled halls of the Jockey Club, with plenty of experience to back up the opinions of David Ashworth, Brett Baker, Gary Davies, Chris King, John Maines, Ian Porthouse, Brian Rostron, Sandy Smith and Roger Webster.

Paul Holland who was to have adjudicated in the First and Fourth Sections has had to withdraw due to contracting Covid-19.

Each of the performances is to be recorded by World of Brass to be enjoyed on the http://www.wobplay.com recording media platform, whilst 4BR will be there with other members of the press corps to bring you our own flavour of the action as it unfolds.

Iwan Fox



2021 Champion: Kingdom Brass

First Section:
Saturday 17th September
Start time: 3.45pm
Adjudicators: Gary Davies, Ian Porthouse, Roger Webster
Set work: Trittico (James Curnow)

Accler8
Ashton under Lyne
Bodmin
Bo'ness & Carriden
Dalkeith & Monktonhall
East of England Co-op
Ebbw Valley
Gresley Colliery
Houghton Brass
Hyde
Kirkbymoorside Town
Marsden Silver
Pontardulais Town
Sandhurst Silver
Staffordshire
Stannington

16 well matched bands will look to claim the First Section honours on Saturday afternoon by mastering a somewhat deceptively demanding work from the pen of James Curnow.

Commissioned for the 1988 Swiss National Championships, 'Trittico'  it was used as the set-work for the 1989 European Championships in Norway and has remained a popular contest work ever since — utilised at the Grand Shield, Pontins, World Music Contest, North American and Swedish National Championships.

The composition is presented as a set of three extended variations on the American hymn 'Consolation'  using mood and motif as different avenues of exploration — including an aleatoric section before the final energetic close.

The composition is presented as a set of three extended variations on the American hymn 'Consolation'  using mood and motif as different avenues of exploration — including an aleatoric section before the final energetic close.

In his overview of the work for Brass Band World magazine, Dr Roger Webster (who will be one of the judges alongside Ian Porthouse and Gary Davies) gave a typically precise and direct analysis of what that triptych of contest winning experience will be looking for.

Muscially satisfying

In essence (and given that these are bands with Championship Section aspirations), they should be able to perform it “in a musically satisfying way”, able to “interpret the composer’s wishes” and “perform accurately (not just note count, but pay attention to note lengths, articulation, dynamic contrasts, stylistic accuracy etc)”. 

As with the approach that governed the judges at the recent British Open, he also pointedly backed his viewpoint with that of the composer’s stated intentions in respect to meter change, stylistic direction and ‘anticipation’ – the latter a warning signal to those conductors who may want to ‘over indulge’ in misplaced effect in pace and dynamic.

And as with Edward Gregson (whose ‘Connotations’ last year caused huge problems for those who failed to appreciate what it said on the tin), Curnow is a wonderful composer for the medium – his works open and transparent, melodic and refined. 

In the best hands the scores come to life without the aid of artifice. The 16 contenders will not be able to say that they haven’t been told.



2021 Champion: Christopher Binns led Hebden Bridge to victory

Second Section:
Sunday 18th September
Start time: Approx 3.15pm
Adjudicators: Brett Baker, Gary Davies, Chris King
Set work: Ghosts, Goblins, Witches & Wizards (Darrol Barry)

BD1 Brass
Bearpark & Esh Colliery
Beaumaris
Campbeltown Brass
City of Norwich
Harborough
Helston Town
Gosport Solent Brass
Meltham & Meltham Mills
Mid Rhondda
Pemberton Old Wigan DW B
Poulton le Fylde
Stamford Brass
Tewit Silver
Tilbury
Tullis Russell Mills
Tyldesley
Wantage Concert Brass

The late Darrol Barry’s 2011 concert work 'Ghosts, Goblins, Witches & Wizards'  will provide an engaging challenge for the 18 bands in the Second Section.

As with James Curnow, he gained a respected reputation for compositions that held a strong thread of melodic interest and richly colour texture.  

This four-movement, 11-minute work is a storybook of musical charcterisation – although more to accompany a Harry Potteresque world of pastiche rather than the truly bum clenchingly disturbing horrors of the malevolent ghosts of M.R. James, South Korean dokkaebi, the Witches of Macbeth or Stephen King’s Randell Flagg.

It's fun stuff – interesting to play if a little musically insubstantial. 

Spook

The opening section pictures a somewhat sad wraith – a spirit of minor keyed inflections who comes and goes back to the same spot in a haunted house with the occasional ability to spook an unwary visitor.

So too a somewhat repetitive goblin, all clip clopping hooves and cowbell (which can sound as if he’s been hitting a half empty bottle whisky in more ways than one), whilst the witches have seemingly flown straight out of the score pages of a John Williams homage to ‘Danse Macabre’ meets Evil Edna from the old BBC children’s series ‘Willo The Wisp’.

The dramatic dislocations of the Wizardly finale also have touches of Dukas and Disney as it casts its exciting spell.

 the witches have seemingly flown straight out of the score pages of a John Williams homage to ‘Danse Macabre’ meets Evil Edna from the old BBC children’s series ‘Willo The Wisp’.

Satanic scherzo

In his analysis of the work for Brass Band World magazine, Chris King (who will be joined by Brett Baker and Gary Davies in the box), pinpointed the melancholic lyrical requirement of the opening ‘Ghosts’, as well as the need to maintain a consistent tempo for the ‘Goblins’. 

And whilst you do wonder if any band will really be able to quite summon up a ‘satanic scherzo’ of dark forces for the flying ‘Witches’, they should be able to draw out the drama drama of the finale, although still with an eye as Chris says, to maintain “good manners”.

The magical requirements to win this particular contest are very much of the earthly kind of serious preparation, controlled dynamics (as he pointed out) and ensemble balance.

Any MD hoping to conjure up any the dark forces of flash bang wallop smoke and mirrors to win over the judges will surely come a cropper then.



2021 Champion: Martin Hall led Tewit Silver to victory

Third Section:
Saturday 17th September
Start time: 9.30am
Adjudicators: John Maines, Brian Rostron, Sandy Smith
Set work: Sinfonietta for Brass Band (Joseph Horovitz)

Arbroath
Bradwell Silver
Chichester City
City of Birmingham
Crwbin
Cwmtawe
Ellington Colliery
Formby
Huddersfield & Ripponden
Jayess Newbiggin
Kilmarnock Concert
Lofthouse 2000
Ocean Brass
Olney Brass
Ratby Co-operative Mid
Redruth Town
Skelmersdale

Arguably the finest work to be performed on the weekend comes in the Third Section, where 17 bands are faced with Joseph Horovitz’s wonderful ‘Sinfonietta for Brass Band’,  skillfully scored to maintain its stylistic elegance and informed eloquence by Bram Gay.

Written in 1970, it was the composer's first major work for the medium, later rescored for orchestra. In three movements, the first is an 'Allegro' in sonata form, the second a variant based on an unknown hymn tune the composer later said he "heard in a dream", whilst the finale is an uplifting rondo.

And whilst it doesn’t in any way tell you what you must do to find favour in the box he certainly provides enough pointers to ensure conductors don’t blindly thrash their way through to end up on their musical backsides.

It has been used since at the Regional Championships at Second and Third Section level as well as at various national championship contests. Wonderfully accessible, intelligent, witty and thoughtful in every bar, it should be an obligatory test for any conductor to undergo – its spaciousness hiding its traps in plain sight, yet all the time also camouflaging them with deceptive, sophisticated genius.

Craftsmanship

Sandy Smith’s analysis in Brass Band World magazine should be essential reading for all the MDs. And whilst it doesn’t in any way tell you what you must do to find favour in the box (he’s joined by John Maines and Brian Rostron) he certainly provides enough pointers to ensure conductors don’t blindly thrash their way through to end up on their musical backsides.

This is all about considering craftsmanship – the composers, the conductors and the performers alike. Nothing heavy or leaden, no need to try and find a hidden cipher of yet unknown understanding to unlock its mysteries. There are none.

Stick closely to the script and all is revealed – and what is revealed is quite wonderful music.



2021 Champion: Anri Adachi led Nailsworth Silver to victory

Fourth Section:
Sunday 18th September
Start time: 9.30am
Adjudicators: David Ashworth, John Maines, Roger Webster
Set work: New Beginnings (Fredrick Schjelderup)

Amington
Barnsley Metropolitan
Bideford Town
Brass Sounds Inverclyde
Crosskeys Silver
Dobcross Silver
Flookburgh Silver
Hangleton
Hemel Hempstead
Morecambe
North Lakes Brass
Oughtibridge
Rhyl Silver
Stranraer Brass
Tewkesbury
Trentham Brass

Norwegian composer Frederik Schjelderup is an exciting compositional talent with a knack of capturing melody and colour. 

'New Beginnings'  is a case in point - commissioned by the National Children's Brass Band of Great Britain in 2021, and which in the composer’s own words, “describes, in sonic terms the effect that energy can create, both musically and emotionally".

The score does have an odd cover though - looking as if Simba the lion will appear on the cliff top at any moment.

Clearly defined

The continuous three section work is clearly defined; an energetic, joyful first movement followed by a slower, romantic middle section and a vibrant finale which encapsulates a fugato which passes the melodies around the band before reuniting for a rousing close.

There is much to enjoy in the vibrant writing which cleverly embraces each section of the band – from the driving woodblock led percussion (which he writes very well for) of the opening marked Allegro brillante  at a very sprightly 168. It builds in dynamic steps, the pulse maintained even as the scoring thickens and thins.    

It all ends with make where we started – at an Allegro brillante crotchet = 168  and pulsating drive to the triumphant climax and recapitulation.

A rather compact central section (just over 60 bars) is made up of fragmentary melodic motifs and lines – again with a metered, stylistic flow (Andante crotchet = 72). Ther is s cope for lyrical expression though – sweetly and without unnecessary emphasis.

All where we started

It all ends with make where we started – at an Allegro brillante crotchet = 168  and pulsating drive to the triumphant climax and recapitulation. And just like the recent British Open test-piece, there is no slowing down before the final chord.

Paul Holland (who unfortunately is ill and won’t be now judging) wrote an excellent overview analysis in Brass Band World magazine – although he was keen to point out that his article was “not a blueprint for success, but a guide to what adjudicators may be looking for…”

It was detailed and full of good common sense (much like his own approach to contest performance), so it would have been well worth a gander.

Support us for less than a cup of coffee...

4BR wants to ensure that the brass band movement remains vibrant and relevant. We also want to be able to question, challenge and critically examine those who run and play in it, producing high quality journalism that informs as well as entertains our readers.

So if like us you value a strong, independent perspective on the brass band world - then why not consider becoming a supporter and help make our future and that of a burgeoning brass band movement more secure.

So one less cappuccino then?

Support us    



Grimethorpe Colliery Band - Octagon Theatre Yeovil

Saturday 1 October • The Octagon Theatre. Hendford. Yeovil. Somerset BA20 1UX


Grimethorpe Colliery Band - Albany Theatre Coventry

Sunday 2 October • Albany Road, Coventry CV5 6JQ


Contest: Bolsover Festival of Brass

Sunday 2 October • Heritage High School, Clowne, Chesterfield S43 4QG


Boarshurst Silver Band - Phoenix Brass

Sunday 2 October • Boarshurst Band Club. Greenbridge Lane. Greenfield. Saddleworth OL3 7EW


Regent Hall Concerts - The Countess of Wessex's String Orchestra

Friday 7 October • Regent Hall (The Salvation Army). 275 Oxford Street. London WC1 2 DJ


East London Brass

September 28 • East London Brass is looking for a new principal cornet. We're a friendly and ambitious band and would love to welcome a great player who knows how to lead, inspire and enjoy themselves!


Cheltenham Silver Band

September 28 • Cheltenham Silver Band are looking for a kit player/percussionist. We are a 3rd section contesting band with an exciting programme of performances and contests. We are a friendly and supportive band with a strong academy and regular social events.


Stape Silver Band

September 28 • We are looking for a new Musical Director for our friendly, family oriented band based in Pickering, North Yorkshire. We are looking for an inspiring MD who will help grow, improve and develop the band.


Alex McGee

MA BMus PGCE
Conductor & Composer


               

 © 2022 4barsrest.com Ltd