Comments ~ 2003: March (Regionals)

31-Mar-2003

Comments from March 2003 - Regionals


Here are some comments from around and about the Regional contest of the last few weeks


Yorkshire

Well Done Peggy!

This year the Yorkshire area committee decided to record all performances at the Yorkshire regionals and present each band with a CD of their performance, free!

Fantastic idea, comparing the adjudicators comments against the CD makes the whole process transparent and you hear more splits than the man in the box wrote down.Well done Peggy Tomlinson and team. We just need to sort of this silliness of all turning up early for a draw. Do the draw the week before and offer people the opporrtubity to take part. I bet nobody turns up!

Simon Davies
South Yorkshire Police Band


Not a sour grape

Before I make these comments can I make it clear that this is by no means a case of "sour grapes", after all, we still won the Yorkshire Regional contest third section and are very proud to be the third section Yorkshire Champions for the second year running!

There was a lot made of the fact that the winning band in the third section played the second movement of Northern Landscapes "very fast" and indeed we did seem to play it quicker than the other bands on the day. However, with the benefit of the recording made on the day we can confirm that we did play the tempo stipulated on the score. This brings the question of whether all the bands or indeed the adjudicator were aware of the errata released by the publishers of Northern Landscapes on their website. The errata did note that the tempo of the second movement should be circa 72 and not circa 63 as it was printed on some copies.

I feel that this shows the importance of distributing errata sheets to all competing bands well in advance of such important contests - but who's responsibility is it to do this? How many bands are aware of the existence of this errata?

Steve Gardner
Hebden Bridge Band


Another dodgy result

Once again we see yet another dodgy contest result, this time in the Yorkshire Area Championship Section. I am not a musician but have an interest in banding. When is the brass band movement going to realise that the whole contesting set up is a farce.

Why, in the Nationals and the British Open during the last 20 years has only one band managed to win from draws 1 - 5? - Because adjudicators follow the same basic system. Number 1 is the benchmark, as soon as they think they have heard something better, that becomes the benchmark and so on. By the time the later bands play, most of the earlier performances have probably been forgotten or cast aside. If you are drawn early the adjudicator will do his utmost to find a better performance. This is why bands drawn in the last quarter of the contest always seem to have the upper hand. All the performances in the Championship section in Yorkshire were recorded. Mix the order up and let Goff Richards listen to the recordings and re-adjudicate them. I'll wager the result is far different to the one he produced last Sunday.

The whole contesting set up needs re-thinking. There were far too many bands playing in the Championship section in Yorkshire. Nationally there are far too many bands deemed to be championship section, when in reality they are nowhere near that standard. How about something radical - the championship section nationally should consist of ten bands. Other bands would form sections 1 - 4, as at present. Each year, the Section one champions of each area would play against each other, the winner gaining automatic promotion to the Championship Section, The band finishing last in the Championship section national final would be relegated to Section 1. Not a perfect system but with a smaller championship section it would be much fairer on adjudicators and bands and results might even start to reflect performances.

Terry Moore


The Midlands

Corned Beef "Plague"

I hate eating corned beef. Yes, I'm proud of saying if I'm given the choice I'd rather go hungry. Well, unless someone paid me to eat it. But they'd be a fool to pay me to taste several brands and ask for my opinion on which was best.

This is why I think that neither Steve Sykes or any other adjudicator at the Regionals this year should have accepted the job if they hate the music as much as Mr Sykes says he does. When Steve openly said that "Plague" (sic) "is a leveller among bands", it strikes me as like saying that corned beef all tastes equally disgusting. You don't have to look far to find appreciators of corned beef (or Prague).

And now I feel very sorry for those that have to make an impression on Mr Sykes in the North West in a couple of weeks. And can he save himself from further embarrassment I wonder?

David Read (not the adjudicator)
Travelsphere Band

What about having three grading contests?

With two Area Championships already out of the way I am sure that the majority of your readers will agree that Prague has done nothing to help the brass band movement at all.

We have seen Travelsphere in the Midlands and Black Dyke in Yorkshire both receiving results commensurate to bands that are usually fighting for survival. Unless both bands gave a performance equal to a newly promoted 1st section band (I think not) then there must be an element that has failed to allow the quality bands to shine and allow the ambitious ones to blend in. The element that has caused this phenomenon in my mind is the piece itself, Prague.

Perhaps there is therefore an argument to support three regional grading contests per year with each band invited to submit their two best results for annual grading. This would help prevent situations like this from occurring again and would help curtail the 'cheque book' bands that seem to just pull the players in for one day a year.

Not only with two notable upsets already on record, I expect the regional treasurers will be hoping for a better choice of test piece next year to compensate for the low audience attendance's this year.

Simon D. Oates

Never mind the quality?

Interesting where you would have placed the bands at the Midlands Area on Sunday? I presume you had not got a score and were just an interested spectator!
Obviously you are forgiven because it's not the sort of piece one would listen to out of choice. However as a competitor I had to know the piece. Your results advocate playing a piece wrong with wrong rhythms is inconsequential. Is this also true of wrong entries? Fortunately Mr Sykes does listen and furthermore with a score, this may have had a lot to do with the result!

Travelsphere are a very fine band full of very good players. Having heard their performance which was to say the least very different (more romantic Paris than darkest Prague) there were rhythmic errors. The Bass rhythm at 13 was simply wrong, the entry is on the 5th semi-quaver not the sixth as played. What would you have an adjudicator do so early in the piece? One has to question whether the name of the band rather than the performance influenced you.

I was also interested to see you mark out a band whose players of the day were Basses? Interesting stuff? Fabulous sound I agree but the line was responsible for some audible wrong entries. These facts I mention not to embarrass them but to highlight to you an important point. If you are going to edit such an excellent web page (as you do and we love it) please ensure you do so informed.

The trend though is alarming. It seems quality sound counts more than playing a piece right. I was in the audience last year when the conductor of a named band had to shout out a letter because the band were lost! You would imagine a catastrophe - not at all, fourth place! Doesn't say much for the bands placed behind who managed to play the piece-still I suppose its ok because they got all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order?!

Your results merely underpin a very strong opinion I hold. Open adjudication would be the death knell for the less fashionable bands. As for me 4th place was fantastic-we played the right rhythms in the right place and tried to paint the very picture Mr Sykes talked about. I am delighted - its about time we had a bit of good fortune, as the lead up to this contest was to say the least, interesting!

Oh by the way! Our conductor was Wayne Rushton not Steve Cooper. Wayne conducted the band on two rehearsals (the second being on Sunday morning), a fantastic achievement Wayne! Well done Mate! A special mention to Steve Parsons who got a band on the stage, without him Sovereign Brass would not exist now! He epitomised the whole performance and interestingly the description of the piece -Out Of Adversity! Just three basses and three front row cornet players - thanks Mr Sykes, at least you listened to what was being played.

Craig Williams
Dudley

No, No! Mr Sykes

Having joined my local Village band in 1962 and played over the years at the highest level in Brass Bands, I have NEVER EVER witnessed such amazing and disrespectful comments by an adjudicator in summing up at a contest.

When Mr. Sykes suggested another Errata had been found in that the Title of Prague showed a spelling mistake and should read to be "PLAGUE" .... and, him thanking the audience for staying in, this is just not acceptable. Attitudes such as this we do not want, especially from someone who has been 'employed' to adjudicate.

Obviously, he didn't want to be there and what more he shouldn't be made to. What is most concerning particularly for the competing bands and conductors, is that I understand Mr Sykes has to re-do this 'painful task' in the North East !!!

Views of the music are always personal and I attended the Midlands Area yesterday in Burton-on-Trent not having heard Prague and listened with an open mind. Actually, I very much enjoyed it and listened to 10 out of the 12 bands hearing many different things each time in this Symphonic Brass work.

Having sat on the stage at Granada Band of the Year with Jones & Crossland and programming the Festal Brass & Blues by Sir Michael Tippett, many years ago, I feel strongly about this. Then too the audience showed their none appreciation and understanding of the music, in so much as when it was broadcast the Granada TV dubbed great applause and the end, actually there was just silence. This just emphasises the ignorance and naivety. However, that day positioned bands in the correct light by the winning band throwing peanuts in the crowd !!! Ironically, the next NYBB course carried the
Tippett.

We have to accept new boundaries of music for Brass Band otherwise we will again be pigeon-holed and laughed at in the "Brassed Off" image, playing William Tell in the National Finals. I am sick of the "Where's the Tune Brigade" How would Mr Sykes et al view these now... Spectrum, Fireworks, Images, Cloudcatcher Fells, Volcano?

My concern is that any pseudo 'new' composer will not be encouraged to write for Bands and then it's back to arrangements of old classical pieces.

Rob Stew

But Well Done Mr Thompson!

Throughout the whole of this years Area's competitions, it is fair to say that we have been marked with more than our fair share of controversy. Poor selection of test pieces, "dodgy" adjudication and incomplete errata have been but a few of the issues clouding one of our most important meetings of the year. Well maybe it is about time that we congratulated ourselves on a job well done.

The 4th section, often unjustly the most ignored section of the contest had probably the finest and most exciting piece to play out of the whole Area this year. A new composition by a new composer, what could be finer than our movement promoting new talent. I was fortunate to be at the Midlands Area 4th section this year, and I saw the fairest and most applicable result I have seen in a number of years. Phoenix West Midands were the clear winners, and if a straw poll could have been done, the audience would have agreed. Second place went to my favourites, the Long Eaton Silver Prize Band, Third place went to Bakewell Silver and their place could easily have been second given another day.

But the most overwhelming factor was the precise and exact adjudication given by Barry Thompson, and his summing up of a great new composition was brilliant. The movement needs more of Simon Dobson's work, it is fresh, exciting and bloody good to listen to. As a result the adjudication was honest and unquestionable No gasps of incredulity, no "Oh No's" at all. Simple, honest judging at its best. Hats off to the Midlands region for their choice of adjudicators this year.

We knock ourselves when we don't like the result. But why can't we appreciate it when we do it right.

Rich Walker
Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band


Spoke too soon?

As a supporter of a band competing in the Midlands area (4th section) and an avid reader of 4BR I have noticed a strange occurrence!!

Matlock Band and Long Eaton Silver band both qualified for the finals, adjudicated in the Midlands by Barry Thompson. Strangely enough they were both in the prizes at the NEMBBA February contest playing the same piece (Lydian Pictures - 4th section test-piece) and adjudicated by none other than Barry Thompson!!

At worst, this scenario is open to being CALLED cheating and at best it is giving an unfair advantage to bands who have had the opportunity of giving a regional test-piece a 'dry run' before giving the final performance to the SAME adjudicator (after taking note of the 1st performance's remarks).

There is nothing wrong with having a contest using the regional test-pieces but surely NOT using the same adjudicator. The Midlands area and/or NEMBBA have made, in my opinion, a serious error of judgement this year.

I realise that any response to my comments will be met with a strong denial, but, as they say, there is no smoke without fire.

J. Luton


Octogenarian Baritone Player

Long Eaton Silver Prize band who qualified for the finals by gaining 2nd place in the 4th section at the Midland Area Championships are wondering if they fielded the oldest player in the contest. Their 2nd Baritone player Fred Pear turns 80 on 16/03/03! Is this a record for contests? In 2000 the bands oldest Player on the contest stage was 89 year old Ernie Dring who sadly passed away last year. So Fred has a long way to go before he can hang up his baritone!

Sharon Stansfield


North West

You don't know your "Sea"scale

I know that you do get things wrong at times, but when did the Isle of Man move to the North Sea. You have Manx Concert travelling over the North Sea in your predictions for the North West would it not be faster for them and cheaper to travel direct to Blackpool.

George Fairhrust
Pemberton Band


Dodgy marks?

I'd just like to comment on the recent 4th section results and would like to know if Rivington & Adlington band have the right to feel aggrieved. During the adjudicators speech it was quite obvious the officials sorting the results needed to speak to him. After hurriedly finishing and consulting the officials the results were given. Rivington were 6th on 177, 4th and 5th tied on 178, third place qualified for Dundee on 179. On collecting the remarks the officials apologised to us as we were the band involved in the confusion.

On the remarks the score was 179 with the 9 crossed out and replaced by a 7, this was done on the stage when the adjudicator was called over. Some lame excuse was given but as we played last band at 18, this wasn't understood. As only 3 bands qualify this year when four qualified last year was this right? Are we expected to accept this? Or are we just annoyed that at being drawn 18 kept us out of the bar all day.

Mike Carter
Rivington and Adlington


A very dodgy Result??

I am a member of the Rivington and Adlington Band who played last band on, 18th, in the 4th section at Blackpool in the North West Area contest last Sunday, and we were placed 6th, with 177 points. It was interesting to note that in your pre-contest prediction you Placed us 5th but it was particularly interesting to note that in your pre-result prediction you placed us 3rd.

When I saw the adjudicator's comments for the first time yesterday I noticed that he initially awarded us 179 points, which would have placed us joint 3rd with another band, Nelson. However since Nelson had pre-qualified, this would also presumably have given us a place in the finals in Dundee later in the year.

What is particularly interesting though is that although the adjudicator initially awarded us 179 points, this was changed, whether by the officials or the adjudicator, at some point between the end of playing and the announcement of results, to 177 points and we were finally awarded 6th place. Maybe I have a suspicious mind but I do wonder whether some jiggery-pokery had gone on. As I said, we were last band on so the initial points allocation could not have been changed in response to hearing another, possibly better, performance.

Did we in fact deserve 179 points but was this changed because it might have embarrassed the officials to have to invite an extra band to Dundee? Or did the adjudicator mess things up in his final placings and find too many bands with points in the 178 to 180 region and did he then spot he had a spare slot at 177 and say to himself "Ah, there's a spare slot, I'll change the original points award and give them 6th place"? The response that it is not realistic to have two bands on the same points and therefore in joint same place would not wash because that is exactly what happened on the day with 4th place.

Do you agree, in view of your own pre-contest and pre-result predictions, that something untoward might have gone on here, and does it seem we have been unfairly denied a place at Dundee? If we had been awarded such a place, which we appear to have initially earned, this would not have affected, or been at the expense of, any other band, so I cannot be accused of sour grapes. However it is very significant for us because we have never been to the national finals, and our first chance to do so appears to have been snatched away, possibly for dodgy reasons. Could the adjudicator and/or the officials be asked to comment? If they were I know they wouldn't admit any manipulation of the results but would self-righteously, and probably patronisingly, justify the change in some way, but at least they would know that someone has spotted something they might have hoped would be covered up!

Richard Smith

A nice "Kiss of Death"

When I read your prediction for the 1st section at the North West Areas I was worried! You had us to win. Famed for your dodgy predictions throughout the brass band world I felt this was definitely 'the kiss of death'. We'd been practising hard and felt the piece was going to be just right for Blackpool and then you put 'the curse' on us. But NO! Your prediction was right. Thank you so much for picking us. Please do it again for Dundee.

Heather Smyth
United Co-op (Crewe) Band



Thanks to Band Supplies

Can I express our thanks through your comments page to Band Supplies, and especially Chris who was on their stand at The North West Areas?

Due to last minute transport problems my band, Ashton Under Lyne, arrived in Blackpool minus one of our Baritones. I contacted Chris at Band Supplies trade stand to see if he could help and without hesitation he offered to loan us an instrument. Without this kind gesture we would have had to play Prague with a part missing, imagine the massive impact to the tonal structure and melodic flow.

But seriously folks, at a time when there are many complaints about what is happening to our Brass Band movement it's worth pointing out the good things that happen, and to remember that most of the people involved are good guys.

Thanks Chris, and thanks Band Supplies.

Nigel Lawless
Ashton Under Lyne.


Blackpool Bottleneck

I attended the North West Area contest on the 9th March and had another great day of entertainment. There is something that worries me though. There seemed to be a 'bottleneck' in the third section, which at the contest, meant that 21 bands were competing. There was a split draw, and a comfort break half way through for the adjudicator. There are I think a number of issues here. Surely by taking a break, the adjudicator's concentration must be affected to an extent that there are effectively 2 sections playing.

One group knowing that they have to arrive very early, and another group enjoying the benefits of a later draw. With only three promotion places available, there will be a number of good, ambitious bands who are forced to remain trapped in the section, when they would hold their own in the second section. This, I am sure causes frustration and possibly instability in bands.

There were thirteen bands listed in the 2nd section. Surely the contest organisers could increase the size of the 2nd section, to ease the obvious bottleneck, and congestion of bands in the third section. Why not ask the bands what they want for a change?

Ted Rishton
Southport


A Hardy Soul

Congratulations to John Holden, President of Dobcross Silver Band, for sitting through all 11 performances of Prague at Blackpool. He asked people to sponsor him per performance and in doing the lot he raised in the region of 250 for DXSB.

Incidentally now it's all over I can report that the snooker team and social members have returned to the Band Club.

K.P. Greenhalgh
Dobcross Silver Band



Thanks 4BR!!!!!

Hi, my name is Sandeep Patel and I'm the principal percussionist for Hoover Brass Band Bolton. I would like to thank you for your comments about Hoover Brass Band and especially our section in the North West Regional Qualifying Champiojnships at Blackpool.
Your comments were really inspiring to us as I myself am only 17 years old and the Timpinist, David Smith, is only 15, and the tuned percussionist, Danny Govan, is only 14 years old. We greatly appreciate your comments as they are not only inspiring but are extremely encouraging, as the younger members are astounded by what they can achieve. Thank You very much.

Sandeep Patel



Weird Result?

I am writing to ask about the Results of the area- Does any one else think it was a bit weird? - One band with drew in the first half- nothing odd there...but when you receive your results in the envelopes afterwards- it has the little number in the left hand corner- the position you played- Why were the numbers altered?

We received our envelope to see one number crossed out- and the number being moved up one [to the position we did actually play- from the number before us] Did anyone else have this? Don't you think its odd- because really we got someone else's results!!

The comments did not match our performance- things said on the sheet did not happen on stage- If they are actually supposed to be our results I think they should really re-think who adjudicates- because some people might think the adjudicator was deaf to miss out some really noticeable things that went wrong/well that were not picked up on.

Michelle Lane



Fair Promotion and Relegation needed

Sorry to beleaguer the point but just when are we going to get a fairer system of deciding promotion/relegation?

Firstly let bit be known that my band came last in our regionals and unfortunately it was a decision deserved as we did play rubbish on the day, but in our case there were mitigating circumstances which we are unlikely to rectify until next year. I tell non-banding folk that brass bands are like football teams who are placed in divisions or sections, but in reality we are not because the football team has a whole season to "buck-up" and "knuckle down" before promotion/relegation.

In our area (N/west) we could use Pontins, Buxton, Rochdale, St. Helens etc. to name but 4 in order to achieve average points, and yet we still cling to this antique system controlled by Boosey & Hawkes (sorry, Besson) which they believe will force bands to attend their contests, but what is that doing to the local contests? Right, they are dwindling each and every year because the controllers cannot get attendance's high without financial incentive! we only need to spread the results over the years contests which should have the annual regionals as compulsory this should placate the likes of Besson and also the hard working local contest controllers. Lets stop the rot now and quickly infuse some sensibility into our movement before we lose more bands to apathy.

Jim Owen
BMP Europe Goodshaw Band


The North

No Flook

After returning from the Northern Area Championships at Darlington today -I had to make some comment to 4 bars rest -what an inspiration you have been per your comments to Flookburgh -really classing us as no hopers.

I really need not say any more with the result !! we also played through the piece and the lights going out on 2 occasions. May I also make known that Flookburgh are a band made up of 80 percent of the people that play in the band local to the village -a band that are loyal and committed to this band. Without giving anything away to a band that is 20 miles from Flookburgh and imported players I know come next year that we will have the same players on seats -I suppose that 3 players on key seats within this band who qualified will fly the nest -or have they got the commitment to stick with this band and go to the nationals?? Any way once again thank you for the comments that you stated on your site certainly giving me the drive to turn your comments around.

Ian (Flookburgh)


Where are our Youth?

Having just returned home from the North of England Championships and winning on Prague I thought it interesting to add a comment about the music. Personally I liked the piece a lot more by the end of a hard week rehearsing than I did at the start. But I thought it very relevant overhearing my nephew at the end of the performance of the first band he heard..."If that's what you have to play in a top band I don't want to be in one when I grow up."

You can count on one hand the players who are lucky enough to join a Championship band without going through the sections to achieve such. Being the case, how can we expect anyone to understand the like of Prague without 'learning the trade' first? Even some seasoned players don't understand it or at least don't like it!! If the people we are trying to attract to our movement don't understand the music until they have learned to, is there any wonder we're finding less and less young players coming through?

Paul Robinson
Solo Euph-Ever Ready

25 times and still going strong - a record?

After being a part of the magnificent winning team of Ever Ready band from the North East Area today I wonder if anyone can tell me whether a record has been set, that is whether Mr Jim Thompson our 1st Baritone has achieved the most Championship Title 'Area' wins with the same band, 25 in all??

L. Eccleston


Very, very, very disappointed!

I am a player from Swinton and District Excelsior Band, and I was very annoyed to say the least when I read your article on our sections results.

Primarily, I think that I should point out that our band, as a whole, were completely satisfied with how we played and as an individual player I was astounded with how I had played as it was my first year competing as principal euphonium for the band.

On the day of the results, I was personally disappointed with the results (we came 6th by the way as you do not seem to know!) but also upset with the adjudicators comments about me. However I am willing to accept the constructive criticism, even if I do not completely agree with what he said.

I was willing to put that day in the past, but having read your website (which I regularly do) I was upset yet again. In your entire article on the section, you completely failed to mention us at all. As a player, it makes me angry that our performance deserved no comment at all on a review of the contest. I know I played the best I possibly could but your failure to acknowledge our band is completely out of order in my opinion.

I hope you rectify the article, the result was dis-heartening enough

Lizzie Stallybrass
Principal Euphonium
Swinton and District Excelsior Band


London and Southern Counties

Thank You - whoever you are?

I would like to say a huge thank you to the lady who found my purse in the Stevenage Leisure Centre toilets on 15th March and handed it in to reception. If anyone reading this knows who she is please relay my most heartfelt thanks.

Catherine Durbin


Rules - what rules?

What are the rules at the areas for 26 brass players in a band and being coached by the test piece composer?

Jeremy Cope

How on earth did they do it?

I was at the area in Stevenage this weekend, and decided to listen to the last band and the results of the first section. How odd that a band with so few players could be placed 6th. All credit to them for getting through the piece, turning up at the contest and playing well. But with so few players the band lacked, in my opinion, any kind of full, rich sound. What does
this tell us about what the adjudicator was looking for?

Kevin Jones

Well done Mr Morrison!

Thank you Alan Morrison for providing some of the clearest and most useful comments from an adjudicator at the close of a contest I've heard for many years, at the London & SC regional contest. It was both refreshing and reassuring to hear exactly what criteria were used in reaching your conclusions. Refreshing because so few adjudicators do tell us what is going on in the "box" to sort out the performances, and reassuring because it gave contestants confidence that the assessment was consistent for all the bands, and that the basis for your decision was firmly rooted in the composer's score.

Please don't be put off repeating the process by the comment made on the day that your remarks took almost as long as the test piece. I'm sure that for all those concerned with improving band performances, by drawing conductor's and player's attention to the often simple instructions in a score, it was a few minutes very well spent. I, for one, hope you have started a trend among adjudictors for setting clear assessment criteria and telling bands clearly how they may improve. Judging by the attention with which your comments were received I'm sure I was not the only person in the hall to value your observations.

Dave Johnston
Broseley Brass

And Again!!

Having recently taken part in the L&SC regionals playing in the second section, I wanted to share a view as to the standard of adjudication.

Alan Morrison was selected by the powers that be to sort out the rankings in the second section. I'm sure we'd all acknowledge Alan's status as a very fine musician, one of the finest in our movement. But speaking personally I was not so sure about his background as an adjudicator. Great musicians don't always make effective adjudicators.

If I had any misgivings, these were quickly lost as Alan delivered his pre-result views on the overall standard of playing during the day. Alan gave us the usual "everyone had something to offer" speech but then proceeded to take the audience through the score setting out what he was looking for in every section of this wonderful piece of music. This did take some time, and of course we were all itching to hear the actual result. But what a refreshing approach and it certainly demonstrated to me that Alan had a real grasp of the nuances of the piece and a considered and fair approach to the way that he would evaluate each performance.

A fine example (in my opinion) not only to the diminishing number of emerging adjudicators at this level, but also to those who have been in the game for a number of years!! Delighted to hear that Alan will be adjudicating at the finals in Dundee.

As for the contest itself, all seemed to go reasonably smoothly with one exception. Guys, if you're going to stick with the same venue next year, I'm sure many of my colleagues in other bands would join me in asking you to sort out a warm-up room that's further away from the stage. It wasn't easy to warm up properly when you know a band is out there on stage only a matter of yards away.

Dave Scott
Broseley Brass


Not impressed by the Alliance!

I'd like to thank and congratulate everybody who was involved with the organisation of the London and Southern Counties Area Contest held last weekend at Stevenage. Participating as both a conductor and a player I was impressed at how the organisers managed to run such a successful event with so many bands in a less than ideal venue. However, I was not impressed with the behaviour of some of my fellow competitors, namely a number of players from Alliance Brass.

Alliance Brass is a new band, striving to build a reputation for high quality music making at the top end of brass banding. Their contest success so far shows that they are capable of achieving this aim, and my congratulations go to them on their second placing this year. Indeed I look forward to playing against them at the Albert Hall in October. Sadly their behaviour off-stage is giving them a reputation of a very different kind. At Stevenage last year they heckled the adjudicator as he was giving his pre-results speech. This year they were generally loud and disruptive, both in the bar and in the auditorium. Stewards of the Stevenage Leisure Centre had to confiscate pint glasses from a number of players during the results, and I understand that other stewards were sworn at.

Of course we all like to go to the bar after we've played and relax, but drunken rowdiness is not the sort of behaviour that should be associated with brass banding. It can only take one incident for a venue to refuse future events, and then an important contest could be in difficulty. Let's hope that some of these players learn some self-control and responsibility before October.

Steve Earley
Redbridge Brass

Last - but who cares!

Okay so we came last again (!) but I for one enjoyed listening to like-minded individuals really putting their all into the test piece. It gives you a real buzz to realise that you are taking part in a very special part of British life - both past and present - in playing in a brass band. Long may the music continued and well done first place - you deserved to win!

Lizzy
New Buckenham Silver Band.


Why Dundee eh?

I would like to invite someone from the National Contesting Council to make representations as to why they picked Dundee as the location for this years finals?

Whilst I think most bands readily accept the need to move the event around the UK and give everyone a fair crack at getting a local venue, why not Edinburgh or Glasgow, which is far better served by airport routes and quantity of hotels?

Anyone who has tried last weekend from L & SC to get a band, plus hangers on booked into a hotel will know Dundee is a bit like Bethlehem, i.e. there is no room at the inn!

With around 6o bands qualifying for the finals and the average party being say 35-40 people, there just isn't enough accommodation in Dundee itself. It is only serviced by a small airport with routes from London City and Manchester, at the top end price of 150 return. All budget airline options to Glasgow and Edinburgh are negated by the cost of a coach at the other end.

No doubt there is some rational explanation- Sandhurst Band would love to hear it. PS Just waiting now for the barrage of abuse on Torquay from the Scots!

Maria Grant



Staine on the 4BR character

Another year, another test piece, another gathering at Stevenage. An fairly enjoyable day for me (I didn't have to play Prague, only listen to it.) What I didn't enjoy however was the long awaited retrospectives for the London Southern Counties on 4BarsRest. As in all of the areas, there are leaders and there are followers, there are class performances and there are those who don't cut it on the day. Yes, they don't cut it on THAT DAY!

To insinuate that a conductor is too good for the band in front of him, in my opinion makes the players feel a little less than worthless and makes the assumption that the conductor should feel embarrassed to be there. I refer mainly to the comments made about Staines Brass Band and their MD Major Ian McElligot.

It is of course well understood that Ian is a hugely talented musician, and in my opinion is as dedicated to the to each band that he conducts equally, whether they be Championship down to 4th section. Anyone bothering to attend the concerts at which Staines perform would see that it's players are equally as dedicated and talented.

No two people will ever agree wholly on a bands interpretation of a piece. With the test piece selected being less than audience friendly it made the task harder. It was accepted on the day by the players and the conductor, that Staines hadn't given a prize-winning performance, however, 11th place was totally unjust.

On reading the adjudicators notes on Staines, there were positive points, one being that the band had given a committed performance. Committed and dedicated on the day - in my opinion not out of their depth.

In essence others, and I feel it totally unfair to slate the players of what is after all a very hard working and talented band on one performance. They didn't play their best, that is understood so why couldn't the comments be kept at that?

Emma


Brighton also made it!

Please note that in your 'pre and post match' analysis/roundup you give credit to only two qualifiers to Dundee - Third placed Brighton also make the finals! As you say "Brighton especially played very well off the number 1 draw and set a marker down for all the rest of the bands to follow"

Mike Pickin


Wales

A bit cross - Cross Keys

As the conductor of Cross Keys Silver Band, I was quite interested to read your comments regarding the 3rd section performances at Swansea on Saturday. To my surprise a grey mist must have appeared and obliterated my bands performance, which even though I was a little bit disappointed with, wasn't so bad that you had to completely discount it. I and the band put in a lot of hard work to reach the regional finals, and we would value your comments as much as those of David Read, whose comments by the way were very positive. Always enjoy your website, but honestly Cross Keys hasn't disappeared off the face of the earth.

Kerry Bowden


Scotland

Unfounded Allegations

Following the publication of the Scottish Championship report, I wish to advise you that the contents will be studied by the Co-op legal department concerning the reference to a 4 figure sum being made to a certain player. These allegations are totally unfounded.

I have never read about payments to any other players in sponsored bands on this site and do not know why payment to any player has relevance to the contest report.

The Co-op legal department will contact you with their findings in due course.

Paul Kiernan
Band Manager Scottish Co-op Band

A possible explaination?

Any chance that the following could be an explanation for the 4 point winning margin of the Scottish Co-Op over Kirky. Kirky played 2 and were awarded 189 points. Co-op play No.3. Adjudicators think 'better than No.2' but still 7 bands to go so leave some daylight between them in case they have to slot other bands in.

OR..

Maybe they just thought it was 4 points better than Kirky?! (Hard to believe, but there you go) Anyway, great to see the Co-op back on the winning track and hope they can use this as a springboard to get themselves out of the Grand Shield and back to the Open.

Colin (Kirky, Flugel)


Great stuff from the Organisers

Congratulations to the Scottish Area Committee for their fair minded approach to the adjudication system in their area. Two (2) adjudicators for Six (6) bands in the 4th section!! How can this happen in one area and not in another? We in the Midland Area have the largest entry and have to accept one (1) adjudicator in all sections. Same standards for all areas please.

Sarah Vernon


But what about this "farce" then?

Did you hear about the 'farce' surrounding the draw for the Scottish Second section regional championships?

Twelve bands competing but only eleven numbers went into the bag. Number '10' was absently left out! The error was only discovered when the last band came to draw. What happened? The contest controller, Alan McLaren, in his first year as president of SBBA
suggested that the last band to draw was 'allocated the missing number'. He then asked for the bands present to vote. Now I ask you and the end of a draw who apart from those bands who had drawn '1' , '2' or '3' would vote for a re-draw? Bad mistake Alan. The whole draw should have been declared 'void' and a new draw made. Can anyone recall this happening before?

Michael Warner


It's Newmilns NOT Newmills

Could I make a small correction to your pages. The winning band in the second section of the Scottish Championships is spelled as such: Newmilns and Galston Band, not Newmills.

Euan Kerr

Get it right boys!

Just to let you know that the winners of the 2nd section in Scotland were actually Newmilns & Galston Band. Newmills is a different place about 100 miles from us. Not your fault right enough as we were misspelled in the official programme as well! Well done on the speedy results service though I'm not too sure about the predictions!

Alan Cameron
Newmilns & Galston Band

Are the Scots spending their money!!!

I've been following your coverage of the latest regional contests and wondered if you (or anyone else) could throw some light on something. How come the recent Scottish area had 2 adjudicators for each section? Is it just cost?

These contests are the most important of the year for most bands, so surely all other regions should now follow and lay to rest some of the controversies surrounding the poor adjudicators decisions and put a lot of peoples minds at rest.

John Smith



Well done the Scots!

As someone who has only contested a few times, and at that a number of years ago, may I pass on my feelings as to the great time I had at the Scottish Championship last weekend. True, the band I was playing with, Livingston, did not do as well as had been hoped (thanks in no small way to the kiss of death from your good selves in tipping us to win!) but despite this I felt a real warmth as I met up with people I knew, some that I had not seen for a number of years, and was able to share in some good old fashioned band talk.

It helps when the piece you are rehearsing is a good one, and we had that this year in the First Section. It also helps when you are part of a band that is welcoming and enjoys its playing. I was lucky that I also experienced this.

I'm sorry that this e-mail is not more controversial; it's just that there is so much good with our movement and sometimes it is easier to dwell on the negative issues.

Paul Drury

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