championships 2001: Test Piece Review:
Diadem of Gold G. Bailey arranged Frank Wright.
Whod be a soprano player eh? Given that it attracts
its fair share of weirdos, loners, general misfits and
oddballs then you can imagine, its not an instrument that
attracts the accountant types out there. Given
that theyve also got to play parts like that found in Diadem
of Gold is another reason for the sane and socially responsible
amongst you to give it a miss. No messing - this is a bloody
hard piece for the men and women of the high wire.
The piece has been around for some considerable time in its
varied form, but its general provenance, as the say on the
Antiques Roadshow is a little bit of a mystery. It seems
to have been written by a bloke called George Bailey around the
turn of the century as a fairly run of the mill overture, but it
wasnt until Frank Wright got hold of it and transcribed it
for the 1953 National Finals that it came to real prominence.
Since then it has been the bete-noire of nearly every sop player
in the world at some stage.
Fodens won that day and they were lucky enough to have perhaps
one of the greatest sop player ever, Charlie Cook to play the part.
By the time it came around again at a major contest - the 1977 Open,
most players knew of its challenges, but it still remained the ultimate
test of soprano players nerve and technique.
It is not a great test piece for the band as a whole, and the technical
challenges for the ensemble will be overcome by most bands with
ease, but its the soprano and solo cornet that hold the key,
and thats the beauty and danger of the piece. If youve
got two good players in these positions who are not liable to have
sweaty palms, rubber lips and twitchy backsides, then you could
be onto a good thing. If not
The opening section will require good intonation as well as a distinct
lack of vibrato and there are mean little tests for most sections
of the band before you get a chance to blow things straight around
figure 4. There are lots of little semi quaver runs for the
lower end (oh no!) before the top of the band takes over with the
same stuff. Theres a nasty bit of euph work to be overcome
and an even nastier link passage with the bass before we come to
the first quick bit.
This is only marked minim = 126 so its not a great rush,
but the solo cornet and sop will have to display neat and tidy playing
allied to a good technique. Its light and playful
and full of points losing traps. This moves along nicely
until the boys on the bass end, troms etc (who would have been pretty
bored stiff until now) get the chance to blow their nuts off with
the help of the back row cornets around figure 18. This lasts
a lip bursting few minutes, and what with the top cornets and horns
whacking out tremolos its all beefy stuff and should show
which bands can make the big rounded, rather than big and brassy
sounds. This all dies away when we reach the lovely Andante
Enter your solo cornet player with a tired lip and a first entry
leap slurred from middle C to top Ab. The sop enters next
with a very difficult obligato part thats a real bumclencher,
whilst below it all the horns have a fine time with an easy tune.
The solo cornet take over the obligato line, until the sop
has the most wicked leap from D# to top B as they take over the
main solo line. This section is enough to turn sop players into
2nd baritone players overnight! Only joking. Get this
lot out of the way with any hitches and your band could very well
be heading for glory.
Everyone gets the chance then to show off their romantic style
of playing and for conductors to squeeze the last bit of drama and
stamina out of their players before its all go again and a
repeat of the first quick section. The solo cornet and sop
to the tricky stuff (and by this time they are just about knackered)
before a long build up to figure 40 and the big climax. Then
its plenty more running around with the bass end pumping it
out and even the bored percussion team - a quiet piece for the shed
builders this - adding a bit of colour. Some fiddly
old runs in the cornets before a repeat of the fanfare motifs.
Just when you thought that was that, a nasty little ending, where
the whole band has to play syncopated chords from pp to ff before
a big final chord and welcome release for a few pints and a lip
transplant. Highly enjoyable and highly knackering.