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Around the Hall - opinions, arguements and general chat and gossip from the British Open 2002


Apart from the cost of a pint of beer, cup of tea and something to eat one of the great joys of the British Open is that you are able to get speak to so many people in and around the hall who have opinions about everything from Danny Tiatto's two footed tackle for Man City to the current state of the brass band nation.

We made our "Base Camp" in the cafeteria, next to a couple of power points and went about our business of having cups of tea, discussing performances and generally having a chat to all and sundry who took the opportunity to come up an find out what a couple of strange chap were doing looking at laptops and tapping away for all they were worth. Many thanks to all of you who spoke to us and offered support and congratulations on our efforts - it was very much appreciated.

We also managed to find out more than a few opinions about the test piece - and bloody hell! It would be fair to say, that 85% of non bandsmen and women did not like the piece, whilst the players we talked to fell roughly into a 50/50 split. Of the 85%, comments ranged from "Cr*p", "Rubbish", "Worse test piece I've ever heard", or our favourite, "Music to commit suicide by". The players tended to be a bit more astute, but once more we continually heard, "Too subtle and not hard enough", "Too bland", "Not a hard enough test" and our favourite, "Not exactly Nigel bloody Maunsell was it?"

It must be said that "The Maunsell Forts" was not your run of the mill fare, but it certainly didn't make a Leonard Cohen record sound like a Brazilian Samba as many thought.

We spoke to Martin Mortimer (a very astute, quietly spoken and intelligent chap) who wanted to know what people felt, but who also very keen to try and make the contest more forward thinking. He knows his demographics, is aware that people have an ever widening choice of how they can spend their money and is more than aware that there is a need to attract a wider audience to appreciate brass music than just the usual cognoscenti. He felt the choice of test piece was a good one, he himself enjoyed the music and he also felt that there was a need for new composers to be attracted to our medium. That being said, he was also very respectful of the need to retain many of the features that have made the Open the contest it is over the years - but he did remind us that there was a bit of an uproar when "Spectrum" and "Fireworks". You can be assured though, that he will take constructive comments on board for next year.

Our travels also made us ideal "earwiggers" and after just three bands we overheard one eminent judge (who has adjudicated in the top section at Regional level) stating that, "It was the worse test piece since "Songs for BL"!

Some of our leading MD's didn't like it either, with a few (they wished to remain anonymous) telling us that it was "fine music, but not a great test piece". When asked why, they felt it didn't do enough to test the bands. A couple we spoke to after the results felt that their concerns were justified because of the result!!

Many players felt the same - although once more, nearly all didn't take the opportunity to listen to more than one or two other bands. Those who did listen still had strong opinions though and there were a number of comments from players that were very well thought out and intelligent. Nearly all felt it was fine music, but not a great test piece and illuminated their arguments carefully.

Many thought it lacked a "sense of going somewhere" and that it never quite explored in depth the original themes that it set out. They also felt that the inner sections were too similar in style and that much of the writing was too subtle perhaps. Those who sat quite away from the stage (many players sat in the top most tier of the hall) said that they could not hear a lot of the very detailed low octave writing such as letter P or S.

Many felt that all they could really do was "play the notes" as there seemed little scope for interpretation, whilst many just thought it was a piece that didn't capture the imagination of the players - didn't excite them in rehearsal or on stage - and that it was a bit too bland. Again though, the main complaint was about its suitability as a test piece rather than as a piece of fine brass writing.

A couple of comments were also made of the judges - with many asking why were the same old faces still in the box. The respect for the likes of Relton and Read was manifest, but many asked why can't some new talent be blooded. Michael Ball's appointment was welcomed, but many thought William Relton was now too far out of touch with day to day contesting. When pressed, nearly all thought David Read was our best judge, but that he should be joined by the likes of Martin Winter, Edward Gregson or Howard Snell (the names cropped up on more than a few occasions).

After the results we were bombarded with people asking for our opinions, whilst most gave theirs freely. The winners were universally agreed upon, with Fodens and YBS featuring highly. Many though Dyke a touch lucky to get third place, but Brighouse's fourth was felt as a fair return. Many had Williams Fairey high up with Leyland, Tredegar and Grimethorpe getting lots of mentions. Cwmaman's fifth place was greeted unfortunately with next to down right amazement and even more unfortunately with some rather crass comments from many quarters. It was a surprise, yes, but some of the comments bordered on the idiotic - contesting will always through up a few surprises.

Many asked what our top six was, and we told them - and showed them on our note books. Ours was BAYV Cory, YBS, Black Dyke, Brighouse and Rastrick, Fodens. We had a choice for 6th between Tredegar, Grimethorpe and Williams Fairey.

And that was that for another year - thanks to all who took the opportunity to speak to us - especially Peter Roberts who won a pint of beer from 4BR for pointing out that question 109 in our 150 facts and figures was wrong and that Eric Ball, not Gilbert Vinter was in the box in 1969 - unfortunately Vinter was in his own box later that year. We challenged him to tell us the number of the question, and the bugger had it spot on! Sheer class!


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