Post Match Analysis:
London & Southern Counties Regional Championships 2002
Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre
Sunday March 17th
Adjudicator: James Scott
Commences: After 1st Section Prizes
1. Redbridge Brass (M. White): 12 194
2. Aveley and Newham (N. Taken): 1 192
3. City of Oxford (N. Taken): 11 191
4. Soham Comrades (P. Filby): 10 190
5. Alliance Brass (B. Ellin): 4 187
6. First City Brass (J. Wise): 5 185
7. Kidlington Concert Brass (C. Underwood): 6 183
8. Clacton on Sea Cooperative (M. White): 7 181
9. Bedford Town (G. Bennett): 2 179
10. Regent Brass (G. Wyatt): 3 176
11. Staines Brass (M. White): 9 175
12. Hatfields of Colchester (T. Davey): 8 174
Top two qualify
There have been many an unkind word said about the standard of
playing of the bands from London and the Southern Counties at the
National Finals, but one thing is for certain, they do put on a
very exciting contest with plenty of enthusiasm and no little quality.
Come the straight fight with the big boys they may suffer, but to
be fair, the overall standard wasnt as bad as many thought
and although there were a few performances that sounded out of their
depth, the vast majority made a good stab at Whitsun Wakes and the
winners and runners up were very decent performances indeed.
So this is how we felt they went.
As they have not played outside the first two for a year, Aveley
and Newham were probably hoping for a kinder draw, but it was not
to be. This was the fifth time in as many contests that they had
drawn either number one or two, but they certainly sounded undaunted
and they set the standard for the day with a classy and commanding
performance just marred by blemishes in some of the solo lines.
For us, their duet was the best of the day and Mr. Scott may have
had this in mind when he awarded them the Stephen Howard memorial
prize for best cornet. 2nd place was probably a fair result. They
set the marker early doors and it very nearly paid off.
Next up were Bedford Town. Their performance was not without merit
but they suffered in comparison with Aveley as they had neither
the size nor quality of sound, and much of the technical work went
by in an unclear haze. 9th place lifted them out of the bottom few,
but as ever, a different draw might have meant a different result.
There was little to choose between Bedford and Regent Brass, who
followed them on. For us, they never really brought the piece to
life. The adjudicator put them in 10th place we might have
had the two the other way round, and both of them were perhaps a
little unlucky to be pushed down and down the field as the day went
on as they both displayed qualities that were missing in later performances.
Perhaps it was because they had too high a marker to be used as
comparison in Aveley, but both suffered a little more than we thought
they should have.
Alliance Brasss performance was eagerly awaited but in our
view the students/college leavers band failed to live up to
expectations. There were some impressive moments in the faster technical
sections, but the sound, particularly in the middle band, was unbalanced
and thin. This impression was not assisted by very slow tempi in
all the slower sections which served to expose intonation and articulation
problems. 5th place seemed generous to us but is a very creditable
showing for a band performing at this level for the first time.
Their euphonium player (we think hes Richard Brown, ex-Royal
Academy) took a solo prize and sounded a class act.
We thought when they started that this was going to be First Citys
day: with competent players all round the stand, new principal cornet
David Geoghan and sly old fox Jerry Wise at the helm they were due
a good one. The opening was assured, with just a few minor intonation
problems, and the fast sections were competently managed. The principal
cornet played one of the repiano solos, but hes in good company
and we were interested to see the modern take baseball
rather than flat cap - on that old trick, the flugel impression.
The duet was beautifully shaped and the band seemed to be growing
in stature as the performance went on. Then the soprano stumbled
in her cadenza and this seemed to affect the baritone and from then
on the band never recovered and sounded tired and disinterested
for the recapitulation of the opening theme and the close. 6th place
was probably a bit harsh but who knows what might have happened
had they not let themselves be so badly affected by individual errors.
Next up were Kidlington, last years qualifiers from this region.
They caused some consternation when one of their front row cornet
players picked up another instrument to play the soprano solo, but
we are told that the rules of this contest do in fact permit players
to play more than one instrument. An enthusiastic response from
the crowd may have led them to expect better than 7th place, but
we have to say that on this showing we never thought they were going
to repeat last years success.
Clacton-on-Sea were the first of Melvin Whites three bands
of the day to appear. Their performance was well-shaped and stylish,
with sensible tempi selected and good attempts made at dynamic contrast,
and there was some praiseworthy solo playing (was that Mr. Drury,
ex of Black Dyke and Sun Life fame on repiano?) but they struggled
in the more technical sections and lacked ultimate weight of sound.
Hatfields of Colchester made a brave attempt at a difficult piece
but in common with all the outfits here today none of the soloists
got away unscathed, and some really struggled. They did not really
make the grade today and we couldnt argue with their 12th
Staines were Melvin Whites second band of the day but despite
his best efforts they did not ever take the piece by the scruff
of the neck. Although good efforts were made to capture the changing
moods of the piece the sound was tentative and unconfident. They
will be disappointed with 11th place but once again we couldnt
really argue with it.
Soham may feel they were a little unlucky not to take the 3rd spot,
but as they played back to back with the band that did come third,
Mr. Scott must be taken to have made a proper comparison. Their
performance was a talking point amongst many in the hall - they
played with confidence and style and their corner men were safe,
although not blemish-free. Soprano David Notley impressed us again
as he did at Pontins in the autumn. One to watch, we think.
City of Oxford were Nigel Takens second band of the day, and
as you would expect this was a tidy and well-controlled performance
which made the most of the bands strengths. All the soloists
played well, with the flugel playing particularly noteworthy. Not
the biggest sound in the world, and some bluffing we think in the
faster passages, but they did enough to earn 3rd place in this company.
Redbridge took the stage to a full hall and an excitable audience
who had to be treated to one of Melvin Whites hard stares
before they would pipe down. There were a number of individual splits
and slips in the opening but the band soon settled and after the
early muted playing was navigated this performance just grew and
grew in stature. The fast passages were rhythmic, all the soloists
played well, particularly flugel and band manager Alan Roberts,
and the music came to a convincing and exciting close. For our money
this was the most complete performance of the day and a deserving
So that was the best of London and the Southern Counties had to
offer and the adjudicator, Mr Scott gave a few telling remarks off
the stage to the very voluble audience. It was when he talked of
the music needing to be more than just a series of separate sections,
that you sensed that Redbridge were the band that he would have
more in mind for the winners enclosure, rather than Aveley, as there
was a distinct difference in musical approach between the two.
In the end, it went to Redbridge and gave the band their first win
at the contest since 1997 and their first return to the Albert Hall
since then. They were worthy winners and with Aveley they were definitely
the two best bands on the day by more than a little margin. Both
have shown that they can win on their own patch (a little like that
well known London football team, The Gunners) but come
the Finals and up against the exotic talents of the other regional
qualifiers, it could well be a different test of character all together.
You cannot deny though that they fully deserve to be there.