Post Match Analysis:
West of England Regional Championships 2002
The Colston Hall, Bristol
Saturday 6th April
Adjudicator: William Relton
Commences: c. 3.00pm
1. SWT Woodfalls (G. Cutt): 2 198
2. Camborne Town (F. Renton): 5 197
3. Flowers (P. Harper): 6 196
4. JAG Mount Charles (B. Hurdley): 7 195
5. Bournemouth Concert Brass (Nigel Taken): 11 194
6. Yeovil Town (P. Bailey): 10 193
7. Bodmin Town (Russell Gray): 3 192
8. Hyde (P. Wise): 4 190
9. Thornbury (Nigel Seaman): 8 188
10. Cinderford (L. Baglin): 1 186
11. Aldbourne (B. Grant): 9 185
Top two qualify
Its not often that you come away from a top section brass
band contest feeling disappointed but that was the feeling
4BR got after spending the afternoon listening to the bands battling
it out on Whitsun Wakes at the Colston Hall on the weekend.
There could be many and varied reasons for our trip back along the
M4 motorway to a cold caravan in Tenby being so bleeding miserable,
but on reflection it certainly wasnt because Wales lost once
more at rugby or that our Grand National tip fell at the first fence;
this was a contest when the majority of the bands left their chances
in the saddling enclosure that is their rehearsal rooms.
SWT Woodfalls under the baton of Garry Cutt won the day, with reigning
champions, Camborne and Frank Renton taking the other qualification
place on offer for the Albert Hall; but even these two winning bands
couldnt be totally pleased at the way they performed.
The contest was held close on a month after all the other Areas
had finished, and we think this may have had something to do with
it. Nearly all the bands could play Michael Balls work, but
maybe they had too much time in which to flog the piece to death
at rehearsal after rehearsal, because by the time it came to the
contest stage, many sounded tired and with a degree of going
through the motions, whilst too many MDs overcooked
their interpretations and tried to find hidden musical moments that
just simply werent there to be found.
The contest started with a very below par performance from Cinderford
under the baton of Lyndon Baglin. Right from the word go, when the
timp player decided to keep his walking out jacket on to play, to
the unfortunate second euph player scrabbling on the floor for a
slide that fell out three quarters through the piece, it was a struggle.
Mr Baglin must have known things werent going well, and decided
to cut out any further problems by keeping to a rigid tempo in all
the sections that barely wavered and gave the solo lines no time
in which to be played with anything other than a rapid flurry of
splits, blips and clips. It was a performance that merited the 10th
place it was given by William Relton.
SWT Woodfalls took the stage with Gary Cutt at the helm, and even
though it took a while for the piece to come to life, it benefited
greatly from a very secure and sensible approach by the MD that
as they say on the advert Did what it said on the tin.
Nothing spectacular and not a lot wrong, with some fine solo playing
from the flugel and horn and some exceptionally confident playing
from a sop player who had more ticks and twitches than Dustin Hoffman
in the film Rainman. He was very good indeed though.
At times it lacked clarity and there were numerous blips and blobs,
but overall it was secure and solid if a little staid in
places and it certainly set the mark. The applause started before
the last note from the excitable crowd and there were more individual
standing ups than were really necessary, but perhaps the locals
knew better than we did (who doesnt we hear you shout) and
it was in William Reltons opinion the best of the day - and
thats what counts, doesnt it.
Bodmin were taken by Russell Gray, not Steve Sykes as was stated
in the programme, and the winning MD at the North West tried his
best to drag a winning performance out of his Cornish charges. Things
didnt start too well, but they seemed to be on track until
it began to unravel in too many places, and by the end it was too
much of a curates egg of a showing to really make an impression.
There were too many frailties in the solo lines, with the notable
exception of the Eb tuba, who with his James Galway inspired Golden
Bass was the outstanding tuba of the day, but by the end there
was too much that had gone wrong for them to challenge for a trip
Hyde and Jeremy Wise were next up, with the MD carrying his score
in what seemed to be the type of exercise book cover that you used
to have to make in school out of old wallpaper and cellotape. They
also had a percussionist who chewed gum with immense vigour. Perhaps
he had heard the latest news that it helps intelligence if
so he became a Mensa candidate by the end of the piece.
It was perhaps one of the performances in which nothing more could
have been asked of the band, and one that the MD should take great
credit, as Jeremy Wise choose sensible and playable tempos, and
gave license for his players to perform with time and expression
in the slower movements. It was neat and tidy, and although it didnt
have the tonal sound, the dynamic variances, or the technique of
other bigger bands, it was a performance of merit and musical intelligence.
On a day when those qualities were at times a rarity, 8th place
was for us a little bit severe.
There were rumours galore about Camborne prior to the contest; stories
of ringers and Royal Marines, half full band practices
and Frank Rentons individual interpretation to name but a
few, but on the day, they gave the most musically satisfying performance
of all the bands.
It was big and bold, and a little too brassy and hard in too many
places, with Frank Renton having to keep his left hand in almost
permanent horizontal keep it down mode throughout. The
solo lines were very secure though, and from sop to tuba they played
with confidence. The only odd bit for us was the surprising tempo
that Frank Renton chose for the hymn section (it was very nearly
one in a bar!) and at the end, the hard tonal quality was starting
to grate. A bit OTT, but directed with an elegant liquidity by Frank
Renton that shone out amid so much mediocrity. Second place was
a fair return.
Flowers were the next of the pre match contenders that made up the
meat filling of the contest, and from the word go they certainly
sounded the best band of the day. Flowers were in total technical
command of the piece, and for the first third of the work they were
a veritable street ahead of the opposition. This should have been
enough, but for us, Philip Harper imposed a musical interpretation
in the slower movements and exposed solo lines that possibly destroyed
He is an immensely talented chap, but surely there was no need for
the way in which the quasi cadenzas and especially the trills were
handled. They were so slow that all flow and pulse were destroyed
and in the end we were left with a series of sectionalised features
that bore little relevance to what the composer surely intended.
The elongated timp feature, rep solos, euph and solo cornet lines
became so detached that it didnt make sense and spoilt all
the good quality work that went before and after. Conducting without
a score is a risky business as well, and there were times when things
were going awry and needed a reference point for the MD to lock
onto. Without the score, the band and conductor lost musical contact
one too many times for comfort and the ensemble playing became loose.
The flugel horn however was outstanding and the treat of the day
in the best cadenza we have heard anywhere this year, but even that
sheer class couldnt save the band from a third place that
could and should have been so much better. There is always music
to be made, but surely not in every bar of the piece.
JAG Mount Charles were our favourites for the title, but by the
end of a disappointing performance we were left with the type of
feeling that people get when they talk about New Labour
and Tony Blair.
Their form has been good, but like Tony and his friends there may
seem to be an argument that much has been done with the aid of smoke
and mirrors, and that the substance may be missing. We dont
quite go along with that, but this was a hard reality check for
a band that has ambitions to be contenders at the major contests.
Bryan Hurdley gave them a solid and uncomplicated foundation from
which to work, but when it came to the crunch too many individual
players failed to raise their game and it became a luck lustre performance
that even considering what had gone before from their rivals, was
a let down of major proportions. There is a very good band lurking
here, but they will have to start playing like one if they are to
really make a mark when the chips are down. 4th place was well off
the pace as well as way off what they can really play like.
And with this, the audience disappeared as if there was a sale on
the cheap beer at the nearby Yates wine bar, and even though they
didnt miss performances from both Thornbury and Aldbourne
that were going to make a play for the top places, they were not
performances without merit.
Thornbury had the experienced Nigel Seaman at the helm, and after
a cautious start they gave it a brave stab, and even though much
of the technical work was rushed and lacked clarity, they did produce
a well balanced rounded sound that was never over blown for the
first half of the piece.
The technical problems continued however, and some insecure solo
playing meant that they lost points all too frequently. Nigel Seaman
kept things on track with very composed direction, but it was a
losing battle towards the end and tiredness led to the sound hardening
and becoming forced and brash. Some neat touches from individual
players meant that 9th place was secured, but we thought that was
a good as it was going to get, and we think they would be happy
with it too.
Aldbourne also gave a brave account of themselves without ever suggesting
they were going to come any higher than their eventual last place
in the eleven band field.
Brian Grant gave solid direction and an interpretation that was
sensible and well thought out, but his band just couldnt come
to terms with either the technical or musical challenges of the
set work and by the end they fell away amid a litany of individual
errors and mistakes and a tiredness that made they sound become
forced and very harsh. No complaints with the result from Wiliam
Relton or us we feel.
Yeovil and Philip Bailey were 10th of the 11 bands to give it a
crack, and they really did make a good a fist of it. It was a little
over blown at times and a lot of the detail suffered as they tried
to maintain a fast and furious tempo in places, but overall there
were more plus points than minuses as they continued through the
All the soloists played with style, with the flugel horn in particular
superb, with a lovely sound and secure technique that made the extremely
difficult cadenza sound very easy indeed. As it went on though the
playing lost much of its zest and the dynamics became monosyllabic
in character, but it retained enough quality and ended with a flourish.
6th place was well deserved.
Bournemouth Concert Brass were the last band to take the stage with
Nigel Taken at the helm. As both Bournemouth and Nigels own
band, Aveley and Newham have much the same uniform, it appeared
he felt at home, and for much of the performance there was much
to admire. However, all the good playing was spoilt by some truly
awful tuning and this really marred what was a performance that
had its moments.
The second man down had a busy day taking over all the cornet solos,
but the decision to get the euph and solo cornet to stand during
their operatic duet didnt work and was unnecessary, as both
had fine tones that were clearly heard when they played within the
band ensemble. The sop did very well indeed to the accompaniment
of an errant mobile phone and the band held together right to the
end. Not really with the class to make it any higher up the listings,
but still not too bad at all.
And with that it was all over. Opinions differed between the people
we managed to talk to, but most thought it a straight fight between
Camborne and Flowers with Woodfalls in with a chance. So much for
Frank Renton made two very welcome awards of the Diplomas of Honour
to Francis Edward Cowley for over 40 years of sterling banding service
in the Swindon area, and to Malcolm Lewis from the Isle of White
and the Shanklin Town Band, who was actually in the army with old
Frank many a year ago.
William Relton then took centre stage and proceeded to say absolutely
nothing, other than a very lame third hand joke about Sir Thomas
Beecham and to say that the MDs had to concentrate on all
the different styles of playing that the music needed. Well I never!
Woodfalls were announced the winners and well done to them
for that, but we were left feeling that on this form, both they
and Camborne will be very hard pressed to make any kind of mark
come the Finals in October. Woodfalls were the best of a poor bunch
on the day a day when all the fancied runners failed to live
up to expectations and left their form in the rehearsal rooms.