The Flowers Band delivered an emphatic message of contesting ambition at the West of England Championships in Torquay on the weekend, as they claimed both a hat trick of Area titles and a ‘Triple Crown’ of contest successes in 2014.
A performance of outstanding quality on ‘St Magnus’, with the composer Kenneth Downie in the hall to enjoy it, saw the players celebrate with ‘triples’ in the Riviera Centre Bar after the announcement of the results.
Paul Holland led his band to the type of commanding victory that will now see them head to the Grand Shield in Blackpool as one of the short priced favourites add yet more silverware to their burgeoning collection — which this season includes the Butlins and Yeovil trophies.
Adjudicators Frank Renton and Derek Broadbent were certainly impressed; Frank later telling 4BR that it was a ‘clear and commanding’ victory, that ‘fully made sense and understanding of the score’, whilst Derek added, that it had been a ‘wonderful’ performance.
Few people in the Forum auditorium would have disagreed, as Flowers hold on the Regional Trophy was never in danger from the opening duet stanza, and simply tightened into a welded grip by its close.
That was the factor that certainly pleased MD Paul Holland when he spoke to 4BR on Monday morning.
"We have a real sense of collective purpose that means we judge ourselves on our own increasingly high standards," he said.
"Any victory comes from that — and this one especially. We want to perform at a level that means we can make a mark at the major contests."
Paul added: "I couldn’t have asked for more on stage, but I know all the players want to keep improving especially with the Grand Shield to come. It’s that commitment and ambition to get to the British Open and the Albert Hall that drives us on."
Woodfalls will also make the return trip back to London, after Dr Robert Childs lead them into a clear second place with purposeful rendition full of hallmark detail.
Although the qualification places were clear cut, there was a closer battle for the final podium award.
That was eventually claimed by Aldbourne, who were left to rue a missed Kensington trip after a high minor error count tarnished a very musical interpretation from MD David Johnson.
John Ward led Mount Charles in a lyrically controlled reading to eventually end fourth, with the remaining top six places claimed by a solid account from Lydbrook and a bold rendition from Camborne which couldn’t recover lost ground after a poor start.
In a contest that varied greatly in quality, Flowers had to wait almost 15 minutes before being able to take to the stage as medical assistance was required in the audience, whilst earlier, conductor Paul Cosh was thankfully unhurt after being involved in a car accident prior to him conducting Sherborne Band off the number 1 draw.
There was an equally clear cut winner in the First Section, where Filton Concert Brass claimed a commanding victory with an outstanding rendition of ‘Cry of the Mountain’.
Joining them at Cheltenham will be St Austell directed by Steve Sykes, who was the only other band to marry the musical elements of drama, colour and texture with a comprehensive degree of technical security.
Fair to excellent
Adjudicators Steve Pritchard Jones and Frank Renton were direct with their analysis of the standard of playing they had heard; Steve stating from the stage that it was, ‘fair to excellent’, although both later confirmed that the majority were very much of the former description, with only two very much of the latter.
An evocative interpretation from Dave Hayward saw him lead a delighted Yeovil into third, with the remaining top six places going to rather inconsistent accounts from Verwood Concert Brass, Brunel Brass and Chalford.
When asked later about the result, Steve added that the winners ‘stood out’ and that in itself ‘told a story’.
Few in the audience on Saturday afternoon would have disagreed with the duo: Alarming tuning issues, especially at the opening (described by Steve as ‘painful at times’) saw many bands start uncomfortably, whilst the judges also noted that many MDs found difficulty in maintaining musical flow in the slower sections.
As a delighted Filton celebrated on stage, MD Tom Davoren took the opportunity to thank his players and the man who continues to inspire the band to success — James Scott.
"We are very clear about what we all want to achieve at Filton. It is a project band that comes together to plan our aims in advance.
It means we are all committed to making the model work — and now we have Cheltenham to look forward to."
He added: "I would like to dedicate this victory to James Scott, who has done so much for the band and who despite ill health remains a great inspiration to us all."
A highly enjoyable Second Section contest provided a tasty aperitif before the main course Championship battle on Sunday evening.
Michael Ball’s elegant, ‘Chaucer’s Tunes’ inspired both MDs and players to produce a host of well executed performances, with judges Mike Kilroy and Steve Pritchard-Jones left with a difficult decision to make on who to send to Cheltenham.
In the end they plumbed for an excellent performance from Forest of Dean conducted by Chris Howley, full of colour and character to pip St Keverne’s boldly detailed account under Gareth Churcher.
Just missing out on this occasion was a spiritid rendition from Ocean Brass, with the remaining top six places taken by well structured efforts from Poole Borough, Wotton under Edge and AW Parker (Drybrook).
Mike Kilroy told the audience that one of the reasons why they had a difficult decision to make was that ‘a perfect choice’ test piece had brought a ‘mixed bag’ of performances in terms of delivery, although he added that, ‘each band brought something interesting out of the music.’
For a delighted winning MD, the result was all down to hard graft and a desire to bring out the character in each of the four movements.
"The commitment shown by the players has been first class," Chris said.
"It’s such a brilliant test piece to work on with a band that we all enjoyed the music. I couldn’t have asked for anything more on stage.
After listening to some excellent performances from other bands it’s a great achievement by the players to have won the Area title."
It was later announced that Denmead Brass was disqualified from the contest after an infringement of Rule 17d concerning registration.
According to adjudicators Frank Renton and Steve Pritchard-Jones, the competitors found greater difficulty finding the character of the music in Philip Wilby’s ‘Partita’ (Postcards from Home) in the Third Section.
As a result, there were a few eyebrows raised at the announcement of the results, although Frank Renton certainly made sure that the audience knew just why they plumbed for Bratton Silver under the baton of Simon Carr, with New Forest Brass joining them at Cheltenham.
A bold account from St Stythians eventually finished third, with the remaining top six places going to Gillingham Silver, Andover Town and South Molton Town.
In contrast, audience favourites from the likes Heyl Town and Midsomer Norton & Radstock Silver eventually ended eighth and eleventh respectively.
Lack of respect
For the judges, ‘a lack of respect’, for the composer’s intentions from many MDs had undermined their band’s chances of success.
‘I implore you’ he added. ‘...to look at the score and respect what the composer writes.’ Those who didn’t he added, ‘...didn’t encapsulate what he had very specifically written in his instructions’.
Although Frank said that there was, ‘lots of good playing on show’, it was the way in which the music was approached left both judges, ‘puzzled and disappointed’.
It was more a matter of bewildered joy from Bratton’s MD, as a clearly emotional Simon Carr took time to enjoy the first major success of his three year conducting career.
"I’m amazed," he told 4BR. "I’ve always wanted to win this title again after playing with Mere Brass in 1993. I used to play Eb tuba with Yeovil and enjoyed a few successes here in Torquay, but to actually conduct a winning band is something else."
Simon also paid tribute to Tom Davoren who helped him with his preparation. "Tom really opened my eyes on how to work on a contest score, so I owe him a few pints!"
He added: "We are a growing band which is going from strength to strength, so we are going to celebrate this victory and then start planning to make a mark at Cheltenham."
As has become something of a tradition at Torquay, visiting judges were bowled over by both the standard and atmosphere they enjoyed in the Fourth Section in the Arena auditorium on Saturday.
‘It was wonderful’ Derek Broadbent later told 4BR, before praising the ‘exceptional’ performances of the top bands on Alan Fernie’s ‘Three Spanish Impressions’.
There was also warm applause for Mike Kilroy’s remarks, full of good humour and detail, when he added that the region was sending ‘real quality to the finals’.
It was hard to disagree with the experienced duo, who also added that even though the ‘traps were transparent’ in each of the three contrasting movements, every band had ‘risen to the task’.
Derek certainly found agreement with his assertion that, ‘I’m sure like us, you enjoyed this piece and the playing all afternoon’.
There were the usual throaty cheers with the announcement of Weymouth Concert Brass, Spinnaker Brass and Lydney Town in sixth, fifth and fourth respectively, before a beaming representative from Camborne Junior Band received the third place banner and their invitation to the finals.
Price is Right
The cheers from Porthleven Town had hardly had time to die down in the hall after they were announced in second, before an absolutely thrilled Corsham representative raced to the stage like a contestant out of ‘The Price is Right’ to grasp hold of the Fourth Section Trophy.
Just a little more reserved, but equally delighted MD, Colin Hogg later told 4BR that he was ‘simply thrilled’ to have helped a great band to enjoy a long overdue success.
208 mile round trip
"It’s worth every one of the 208 mile round trip to conduct them at each rehearsal," he said.
"What a brilliant band to work with — happy, committed and so full of life — as you can see!"
Colin was also pleased that success had come with a band that continues to build for the future. "We took to the stage with one second cornet and just three basses, but the commitment meant that we could overcome the lack of numbers.
I’ve really enjoyed the piece and so have the band, so you can see why they are going to celebrate for quite a while!"
With the West of England Regional Council putting on a splendidly organised event, led by Sue Oldfield and her team, registration problems, which saw the unfortunate disqualification of a band in the Second Section, were handled with diplomatic good sense.
There was also a lovely presentation made to the remarkable 87 year old Francis Cowley of Swindon Brass, who notched up an incredible 60 years of continuous Regional attendance as either a player or conductor.
We have a real sense of collective purpose that means we judge ourselves on our own increasingly high standardsFlowers MD, Paul Holland
Test Piece: 'St Magnus' — Kenneth Downie
Adjudicators: Derek Broadbent & Frank Renton
1. Flowers (Paul Holland)*
2. Woodfalls (Dr. Robert Childs)*
3. Aldbourne (David Johnson)
4. Mount Charles (John Ward)
5. Lydbrook (Tom Davoren)
6. Camborne Town (John Berryman)
7. St. Dennis (Darren Hawken)
8. Sherborne Town (Paul Cosh)
9. Lanner and District Silver (Stuart Chappell)
10. Michelmersh Silver (Melvin White)
11. Bournemouth Concert Brass (Major David Barringer)
* Top 2 bands qualify for National Final
Test Piece: 'Cry of the Mountain' — Howard Lorriman
Adjudicators: Steve Pritchard-Jones & Frank Renton
1. Filton Concert Brass (Tom Davoren)*
2. St. Austell Town (Steve Sykes)*
3. Yeovil Town (David Hayward)
4. Verwood Concert Brass (Kevin Smith)
5. Brunel Brass (John Winterflood)
6. Chalford (Steve Tubb)
7. Pendennis Brass Falmouth (Steve Thomas)
8. Roche Brass (Simon Badge)
9. Otterbourne Brass (Gareth Pritchard)
10. Helston Town (Derek Johnson)
11. Hyde (Callum Gray)
12. St. Pinnock (Chris Spreadbury)
13. Lympstone South West Telecoms (Charles Fleming)
14. Shrewton Silver (Michael Dunford)
*Top 2 bands qualify for National Final
Test Piece: 'Chaucer's Tunes' — Dr Michael Ball
Adjudicators: Mike Kilroy & Steve Pritchard-Jones
1. Forest of Dean (Chris Howley)*
2. St Keverne (Gareth Churcher)*
3. Ocean Brass (Edward March)
4. Poole Borough (Martin Purtman)
5. Wotton under Edge (Ian Dickinson)
6. AW Parker (Drybrook)
7. Downton (Dr Chris Davis)
8. Bream Silver (Phil Turner)
9. Sidmouth Town (Adrian Harvey)
10. Swindon Pegasus (Graeme Lewis)
* Top 2 bands qualify for National Final
National Rule 17d concerning registration was broken with Denmead who were disqualified.
The band was informed of this before taking to the stage, but still asked to play and be judged. This request was granted.
They were initially placed 7th by the adjudicators (who did not know this at the time the band performed) but this placing is not taken into account for the official results.
Each band below them is moved up one place.
Test Piece: 'Partita for Band' (Postcards from Home) — Professor Philip Wilby
Adjudicators: Steve Pritchard-Jones & Frank Renton
1. Bratton Silver (Simon Carr)*
2. New Forest Brass (Ian Luxford)*
3. St. Stythians (James Burns)
4. Gillingham Imperial Silver (Jim Bennett)
5. Andover Town (Steve Large)
6. South Molton Town (Gil Taylor)
7. Bath Spa (Dave Walker
8. Heyl Town (Shaun Marsden)
9. Cinderford (Kevin White)
10. Wilton & District (Colin Herbert)
11. Midsomer Norton & Radstock Silver (Joanne Sykes)
12. Swindon Brass (Francis Cowley
13. Chalford Academy (Steve Tubb)
14. Launceston Town (Jeremy Taylor)
Withdrawn: Bristol East & Kingswood (Ben Vleminckx)
*Top 2 qualify for National Final
Test Piece: 'Three Spanish Impressions for Brass Band' — Alan Fernie
Adjudicators: Derek Broadbent & Mike Kilroy
1. Corsham (Colin Hogg)*
2. Porthleven Town (Tom Bassett)*
3. Camborne Junior Contesting (Alan Pope)*
4. Lydney Town (Kevin Ford)
5. Spinnaker Brass (Mike Pennicote-Henrie)
6. Weymouth Concert Brass (Kevin Goodwin)
7. Cheltenham Silver (Rob Folland)7
8. Tewkesbury Town (Nigel Morgan)
9. Verwood ‘B’ (Barry Harkcom)
10. Tiverton Town (David Boorer)
11. Gosport Solent Brass (Stephen Dunster)
12. Shanklin Town (Malcolm Lewis)
13. Nailsworth Silver (Paul McLaughlin)
14. Pendeen Silver (Dave Hamilton)
15. Pillowell Silver (Ian Whitburn)
16. Totnes (Alan Wilmott)
17. Wellington Silver (Gordon Francis)
18. Marshfield (Philip Anderson)
19. Okehampton Excelsior Silver (Richard Beardon)
20. Torbay Brass (TBA)
21. Saltash Town (Mike Faro)
*Top 3 bands qualify for National Final