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The Lower Section National Finals 2002

Post match analysis: Third section

Speaking to most people before the announcement of the results of the Third Section, there seemed to be something of a consensus that the top prize was a toss up between two outstanding performances – that of Silk Brass under Ken Mackintosh and Wire Brass conducted by Paul Andrews. They weren’t wrong and both Philip Wilby and Goff Richards were in agreement as well – although Goff Richards we felt was a little unkind in suggesting that just the winning performance was outstanding – the top two bands would have graced just about any contest they played in.

In the end though they plumbed for Silk Brass Astra Zeneca (Macclesfield) who gave a performance that we felt really lived up to their name – it was as silky smooth as anything we heard all weekend and benefited from some fine sensitive direction from the middle and some super solo playing – especially from the Principal Cornet who was about the best top man we heard all weekend too. This was a very fine show indeed and with just minor lapses in intonation it was a most satisfying performance of Goff Richards set work. They took risks and they paid off in fine style to become worthy Third Section Champions of Great Britain.

In second place – and for us, just a short head behind came Wire Brass directed by Paul Andrews. This was a powerful performance, full of detail and dynamic contrasts and held the attention from start to finish. It perhaps didn’t have the smoothness in many of the solo lines as the winners, but it was high class playing. The odd thing though seemed to be the judges thoughts that the percussion went a bit AWOL in the last section. We didn’t really notice this, but the both judges made the point on a number of occasions – perhaps this was the ultimate difference. If it was then it was unfortunate as the overall standard of playing was excellent.

Third place went to Middleton who gave an enjoyable performance of the test piece that benefited from some neat and well thought out direction from MD Shane Foster. It had detail and clean playing, but just lacked the breadth and depth of sound that the two bands above them had in abundance. Still, a fine show and third place was well deserved.

Fourth spot went to the Welsh band Briton Ferry, who set the early marker off the number 6 draw with a solid performance under MD Mike Faro. We thought this had real touches of classy playing, especially from the solo horn player and all four movements had character and musical texture. It possibly deserved a place higher than it eventually got – although it was not quite in the league of the top two, but it was a performance that they could go back over the Severn Bridge with real pride.

Fifth place went to Raunds Temperance – off the latest draw in National contesting history. They started on Saturday and finished on Sunday – and to come fifth was a very fine achievement indeed given the circumstances. The MD was not a happy man before the band went on stage, but when he was there, John Fletcher directed in fine style, and the band performed to their limit for him. They were physically tired for sure, but it didn’t show and fifth place was the result. Well done indeed.

The final spot in the top six was won by RBL Crownhill Plymouth directed by the experienced Denzil Stephens – a man who has conducted with success at just about every level. This was a performance of character, let down for us by the speed at which they took the last movement – it was out of character to what had gone on before and the control was lost – costly we think for them. The performance also contained the only true motorbike gliss (as marked on the score) from the trombone section – nobody all day had the guts to really go for it like these lads, so well done. Perhaps they were old rockers?

Behind the prize winners came a clutch of bands that all did something with the music, but who all couldn’t quite sustain their challenge through all four movements of the test piece. Some had good first and second sections whilst others tried to hold something back and end with a bang in the last movement. The performances therefore of Arrow Valley, Carlton, Castleton and Helston didn’t quite do enough to push them higher up the list, but they were good enough to comfortably fight off the challenges of the bands who came below them.

The performances of Arbroath, Yiewsley, Shotts and Oughtibridge had their moments, but there were far too many individual errors and collective unease that saw them drop points in each movement of the test piece. We think there may be plenty of remarks concerning consistency from the two judges liberally sprinkled in their adjudications.

Finally, the bottom four of Ellington, Michelmersh, Houghton and Blaenavon – all of whom played as well as they could have expected, but didn’t get any reward. Blaenavon in particular can feel harshly dealt with as we though they gave a solid and detailed account of themselves. However, they did perform after Wire and were possibly judged against them somewhat – Wire sounded like a band from a higher section in truth, whilst Blaenavon sounded like the competent Third Section band that they are.

A final comment on the Third Section though must go the percussion teams who through no fault of their own had to struggle with a timpani that was so far out of tune for the last but one bar as to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Some tried to lower the tone, whilst others tried to play safe and play the note up an octave – each time it sounded as if the poor player was hitting a cow on the arse with a leg of mutton.

It would have been nice if one of the very hard working percussion helpers who did a grand job over the two days in helping bands on and off stage could have tuned the timp, even within a tone or three of the proper note – even the best performances ended with a penultimate bar that made for uneasy listening.

As for our pre match predictions? We plumbed for a top six of Wire Brass, Raunds, Middleton, Hebden Bridge, Blaenavon, Shotts and Carlton Brass and in the end we managed a 2nd, 5th, 3rd, 11th, 19th, 14th and 8th. Not bad again – three in the top six, but sorry to Blaenavon who we tipped to do well and came back to the 4BR home town with last place.

Still – the winners won’t complain and we think we may hear more of both Silk Brass and Wire Brass in the future – they are very good bands indeed.

© 4BarsRest

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