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The Lower Section National Finals 2002

Post match analysis: First section

Perhaps Philip Wilby was tired – it was past midnight, but he did rather let the cat of the bag when making his remarks to the audience at the conclusion of the First Section, when he happened to say that it was a long and tiring day, enlightened by the quality of performances late in the evening. That give us the clue (even though it wasn’t hard to disagree) that the winning performances were to be found in the last quarter of the days draw.

Staffordshire won it – number 18 and last band on, followed by Mid Rhondda drawn last but one, with Derwent Brass in 4th off number 16. Keeping the best till last has never been so accurate. That being said, they still had to beat a fine show from St. Austell off a number 3 draw (early, but still on around 6.00pm!) and Ashton under Lyne of number 2 who set the early pace. City of Coventry made their mark from the centre of the field from number 8 to come 6th.

Our pre match predictions were Ashton, Harrogate, Gateshead, Derwent, Mid Rhondda, Livingston and Abergavenny. In the event they came 5th, 18th, 8th, 4th, 2nd, 17th and 11th – so not too bad – 3 out of the top six. However, we do apologise to Harrogate, who for the second year in a row we have placed the kiss of death upon – drawn 1 came last! They really didn’t deserve it in our eyes, and Livingston, who came at short notice and gave as good as they could have only to come home 17th. Sorry folks, but that’s contesting.

We also liked a few performances from bands on the day that didn’t make a mark – with Pemberton Old Wigan in particular giving a performance that we felt deserved much higher than 9th place and Kippax who came 10th. Both can count themselves unlucky.

The winners however were well deserved – we felt they gave a convincing performance with a superb bass end sound and some very fine solo players – especially on solo cornet and euph. David Maplestone directed in a fashion not too dissimilar to David King – lots of angular beat patterns, clear and direct pointers from the left hand and a few quirky moments when he used his whole body to bring in the large chords. It made for an exciting spectacle indeed, even though we hope his impassioned vocal encouragement of the solo cornet won’t come out on the recording – the lad was playing a blinder! This was a good band, very well directed and one of the very few on the day that could play the piece both technically and musically. The MD’s actions after the performance ended however – a Gazza style exhibition of drinking pints - seemed strange indeed! Lets hope he and his band had plenty of time to actually celebrate – it was the least they could have hoped for after finishing at near on 12.00pm!

Second spot went to Mid Rhondda (Thomas Coaches) who gave a super account of themselves and so nearly won the whole thing. The troms stood at the beginning and the band deserved a standing ovation at the end. It was super stuff – and one of the only bands to go for it in terms of dynamics. It was also a performance that was perhaps the tightest of the day and held the attention from start to finish. A bit more risk taking may well have won it for them.

Third place went to St. Austell who fielded a very fine, and very young lass on soprano and the best flugel horn player of the day. They set an early marker that if played later may well have possibly won the day – just a few too many slips cost them, but this is a band to watch out for – young and talented.

Fourth place went to Derwent Brass – who came just where we predicted they would, and they too had many fine moments in a performance that was full of conviction. Just too many blips and blobs cost them the chance of a win, but it was a fine show none the less.

Fifth place went to our pre match favourites, Ashton Under Lyne, who set the marker for the day with a bold performance from the number 2 draw. Perhaps it was a bit too strong in places as the band nearly blew the thing straight in some of the louder passages. The strain was noticeable at the end and this may well have counted against them as the bands that beat them seemed to exhibit a touch more control.

Finally sixth place to City of Coventry who had a well directed performance under the baton of Phil Bailey but who possibly suffered from playing after bands that struggled a bit before them. Thus, some classy work failed to be given the credit it possibly deserved and they came home 6th – it could have been higher.

Behind the top six and the standard started to drop away – with a few exceptions in our opinion. Ocean Brass just run out of steam at the end and came 7th whilst Gateshead gave a decent show that had a few too many troubled moments to make a higher mark. Pemberton can count themselves unlucky for us – they sounded a good band and we liked what Thomas Wyss did with the music – the judges didn’t though and it was their opinion that counted.

Kippax suffered the same, whilst Abergavenny, Broxburn and Chichester had their moments when they promised much, but ultimately failed to deliver. The experience however will see them as stronger contenders for sure next year.

Below this and many bands found the piece too hard technically and musically for them to deliver a prize-winning show. Welwyn, Wakefield and Alder Valley gave it their best shots, whilst Livingston and Harrogate had days possibly to forget. Harrogate performed well for us, and we would have put them higher, but the judges didn’t think so and they were heavily penalised whilst Livingston should take immense credit for the way in which they performed on such short notice.

In the end though it was Staffordshire who won – and went to the nearest pub to see if they could cadge a few celebratory drinks. They were fine winners on a day when they must have felt the Gods were against them when they heard their draw. Last on – finishing close to midnight and with little drinking time to boot – we bet they made up for it on the way home!

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