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National Finals - 2nd Section: Contest details, runners and riders, our dodgy predictions and test piece review..


Second Section:
Test piece: Diversions – Variations on a Swiss Folk Song (Philip Sparke)
Adjudicators: Derek Broadbent and Philip McCann

Preston Guild Hall, Sunday, September 23rd, 10.00am

Bands:
Ammanford Town (T. Jenkins) Wales
Bendix Kingswood (K. White) West
City of Bristol Brass (B. James) West
Dobcross Youth (T. Griffiths) N. West
Hade Edge (J&E) (S. Wood) Yorkshire
Harborough (C. Groom) Midlands
Knottingley Silver (K. Belcher) Yorkshire
Livingstone Brass (A. Samson) Scotland
Poulton-le-Fylde (G. Clough) N. West
Royal Oakeley (J. Jones) Wales
Stonesfield Silver (T. Brotherhood) London
Tayport Instrumental (R. McDonald) Scotland
Tilbury (R. Nunnery) London
Tintwistle (D. Shutter) Midlands
Towcester Studio (A. Sellers) Midlands
Westoe STHCT (S. Malcolm) North
York Railway Institute (D. Warley) North

If you thought picking a winner from the First Section was hard, then the Second will give you nightmares. As there are no real form guides to go on, it’s something of a lottery to try and pick the winners, but some bands again stand out, and our spies have given us some form book indications.

Knottingly Silver and Hade Edge for Yorkshire performed well at the Areas, with the former having a clear three point victory to their name and so should be one to look out for. Hade shouldn’t disappoint either.

Westcoe and York Railway will also present a strong challenge from the Northern Area and have two good conductors at the helm to steer the course through a very tricky test piece. Westoe have improved enourmously since coming 13th in the Third Section National Finals last year. Wales sends Ammanford from the south of the Principality and Royal Oakeley from the north and who came 14th in the Third Section last year and it should be the northerners who should possibly impress the most, as they did in winning the Area title in Swansea.

The Midlands sends champions Towcester Studio, who have a good record of late and Tintwistle who pushed them close at the Area. Both are young bands with Adele Sellars a young woman who studied under Howard Snell will be hoping to repeat her triumph at Burton on Trent. As the Midlands had a large entry a third band, Harborough under Chris Groom will be hoping to make an impression.

The West of England title was won by the Bendix Kingswood band and they will travel under Kevin White with high hopes of success. Joining them on the long trip north will be City of Bristol Brass under Bryn James, who pushed Bendix closely at the Area.

The North West title holders Dobcross Youth are a band that has achieved tremendous success under the care and attention of Ted Griffiths, the father of YBS superstars Morgan and Geraint. They, and fellow qualifiers Poulton-le-Fylde were a class ahead of the field in Yorkshire in the Areas and both should present a strong challenge for the National title.

The Scots have two very strong outfits trying to take the title back north of the border, with champions Livingston Brass under Alan Samson showing the form that has at their peak seen them come 5th in the championship Section in Scotland within the last ten years. They will travel with confidence, as should Tayport Instrumental under Robert McDonald who pushed them close in March.

London has two good bands on offer as well, with Robert Nunnery and his Tilbury band giving the area the best chance of success and Stonesfield Silver hoping also to do well. They may find it hard though against some very good bands from further north, but Stonesfield have improved quite a bit from last year when they came 5th in the Third Section Finals.

And the winners will be? Heaven help us. We’ll go with the form book of previous years and the bands that have continued to improve at the Area Championships. So we think the winners could be from……

4BARSREST PREDICTION:
Westcoe STHCT
Dobcross Youth
Bendix Kingswood
Hade Edge
Poulton-le-Fylde
Livingstone Brass
Dark Horse: Royal Oakeley

Test piece review:
Diversions – Variations on a Swiss Folk Song
Composer: Philip Sparke
Studio Music Company

This is going to be a fine test for the bands and one that gives the judges plenty of “sign posts” to look out for as reference points for comparisons between the competitors.

Diversions was commissioned as a 1st Section test piece for a competition held in the Cantons of Switzerland in June 1999, and it takes the form of a set of variations on a folk song called “Der Heimetvogel” which dates from the 19th Century. There are four main variations to the work – Vivo e scherzando; Subito meno mosso; Lento espressivo and Vivace and all take their form from whole or part of the first three notes of the folk song itself. The theme is played also in two separate guises at different times, so the interest and connection to it are never lost.

As with all of Philip Sparke’s works it is rhythmic and musical throughout and will require bands and conductors to be on top form if they are to make the piece come off successfully.

A vivo e ritmico introduction is marked forte and will need sharp tongues from the solo cornets, which hopefully won’t drown the sop and euph who lead the solo line. The music ebbs away towards the introduction of the theme before rehearsal marking 34 with the percussion needing to give clean and clear semi quavers that won’t completely submerge the last few bars marked piano from the band.

The Theme is taken up first by the horn and then passes to flugel, baritone and solo cornet, so that linking it together is the key – as is the marking, which is piano. Things build (with some delicate back row cornet work) to the themes end at rehearsal marking 75. Balance and clarity will be required as the score is quite thickly marked. The last chord marked piano with a pause seems easy enough, but if the balance and tuning are suspect, it could spell disaster.

Variation 1 is marked crotchet = 168 as its moving along, and sharp tongues and neatness should score well. This movement has Sparke’s fingerprints of rhythmic neatness all over it and there will be a need to ensure bands can show the difference in dynamics for it all to work . It looks deceptively easy on the page of the score, but with the adrenaline running high, the speed could induce scrappiness as it builds towards a fortissimo finish two bars before the Second Variation.

This is marked dotted crotchet = 120 and there should be a marked difference in tempo from what has gone before. It’s also in 12/8, so rhythmic differences should be noticable. Clarity and cleanliness are the key again, as will trying not to drown the solo lines from flugel and baritone at rehearsal 153 where temple blocks are introduced to compliment muted cornets and trombones. The sop has a nasty little bit of work around 157 with the solo horn and the movement carries along needing balanced entries from everyone for it to work comfortably. Towards the end there is a superb two bar crescendo for all the band from piano to fortissimo that will really show the class of the best bands before the movement ends with the possibility of a few splashes on a fortzando. Sops should go for the top Bb and sod the consequences!

Variation 3 is the tester though. A quiet seven bar introduction leads to a lovely cornet solo that will test the nerves. 226 sees the introduction of some difficult bars that will need work to sound clean and together and the music flows gently and softly towards a rall at 244 and a testing little solo for the horn. If this movement goes well for you, then you may well be in with a shout.

Variation 4 is marked crotchet = 152 and so is a touch down on the first variation. It’s time again for neat and tidy playing, and although it’s not technically that hard, (the horns have a nasty bit at 258 though) the better bands should sail through this with no problems. Dynamics are important through here as it’s not loud and it’s not until 289 that it becomes forte. Now it starts to build and the scoring becomes thicker, but clearly requires the bands to maintain balance between sections.

There’s a neat trick two bars before 323 that will catch many lesser bands on the hop before 323 makes way for loud, big rounded sounds before the Maestoso at 327.

Bands shouldn’t fall into the trap of playing this too slow as there’s still a way to go to the finish, and the percussion will have to stop themselves from drowning the rest of the band in their joy of playing something of interest at last. Balance again is the key before the close after 351 and an allargando and molto rall tests the tired lips one more time.

359 sees a vivo marked crotchet = 168 and it will be all hands to the pumps in the race to the finish. Just a note though. It doesn’t get quicker and there is still lots of detail that should be heard (trom glissandos after 367) before a last chance to show that you’ve been in complete control with a fortepiano crescendo in the last but one bar and two spiked notes to finish from the band as the percussion rap out six well timed semi quavers.

If things have gone well, then you could be in line foe a prize, but this is a test piece that will certainly find out the faults of both bands and conductors if they haven’t given things much thought. If you just try and blast your way through this you won’t get anywhere.

Many thanks to Studio Music for the loan of the score to the test piece. For further details, please contact Studio Music direct.

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