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Pontins Championships 2002:

First Section:

We give the 4BR Retrospective of the performances.


Like the third and championship sections, the first section winners played the other bands off the park. Dobcross Silver Band and Denis Hadfield put in a showy performance that was simply superior to others in the class.

So many bands struggled to get to grips with the fundamentals of playing the overture “The Sicilian Vespers” that it made for a rather disappointing overall standard. The chosen test piece was Bram Gay's new transcription of the Verdi work, and it is a very stren test indeed for First Section bands. The key signature doesn’t help, yet it is another arrangement by Bram that is of high class and it would take a good championship section band to perform well. Williams Fairey gave it a premier last year at the British Open concert and it sounded hard then. On Saturday, it sometimes sounded painful.

Many bands failed to capture the spirit of the music. With some loud and harsh playing their performances seemed more like renditions of Sicilian Vespas than Vespers. If Verdi was listening no doubt he'd have been crying into his pint of Stella Artois.

So many bands failed to play the opening - two demis followed by a crotchet. On various occasions we were short changed in note lengths. Good opening sections in contest performances are imperative if you want to make the prizes. So often bands wanted to play exactly what it said on the tin and forgot that it's all about music. Remember: in this type of music what sounds right is on most occasions what is right.

We wonder how many MDs actually took the time to get hold of a recording of the music. If you're one of those who think they know exactly how it should go - think again. Just ask Nick Childs what he did in the week leading up to the British Open in 2001. The test piece that day was another Bram Gay transcription - Les Preludes. Guess who won?

For soloists, it was a day when many soprano players wished they'd hung up their boots after the last contest. Congratulations to all of you though. Someone had to sit in the chair and we hope you were generously rewarded
for your efforts in the bar after you played. Well done to euph players too. We were however disappointed with the number of solo cornets players with straight sounds and who split their first entry.

Dobcross though put in a performance that was well controlled from the off and with some great cornet sounds, the music made complete sense throughout. There were moments of problematic intonation but Denis Hadfield always gave the music space and this made for some excellent playing from his talented outfit. We anticipate hearing more of this combination in the coming months and can only hope this band and conductor has firmer foundations than last time! First place though and this was no more than they deserved.

In second place came Holme Silver who will be mightily impressed with this result. Their performance had many moments of quality although we thought at times it was a bit harsh and a little quick and that robbed the music of some of the style it required. It was a worty performance though.

City of Bristol and Bryn James filled the third spot with a performance that, like many on the day, had to contend with the mobile phone horror but this didn't affect their approach. Some stylish sop playing was the highlight for us and the euph also impressed with a lovely rounded full sound. This is a band going in the right direction and has an MD who is an up and coming star – no histrionics, but plenty in the way of clear concise beat patterns. Other bands will be noticing him soon.

Fourth place went to Matthews Norfolk Brass and David Stowell. There was much detail in their performance but for us it got a little loud on occasion. A good effort though from band and conductor. Meanwhile, Ibstock came next and with some euph playing that we thought was sensitive on a day when others overcooked things. We liked their approach to the music throughout and fifth place was their reward.

St Austell Town and Melvin White came sixth off a number one draw. Exciting tempos and young soloists that impressed us with their maturity of sound meant a mention from the stage that was well deserved. They have made an impression this year on each occasion we have heard them, so 2003 may hold even better things.

Tintwistle filled the number seven spot and can thank some impressive euphonium work for their position while Welwyn Garden City's performance was a little one-dimensional, earning them eighth position. Swindon Pegasus in ninth place found many pitfalls but we liked the detail that the cornets managed to portray. Bedworth Brass came tenth - another performance that failed to paint the correct picture and suffered from some loose playing.

Towcester Studio and Adele Sellers were drawn last and playing to a fairly full hall gave some dynamically controlled playing but it was so often a little aggressive and at times quite untidy. Eleventh will disappoint them
immensely, whilst twelth was United Norwest Co-op Milnrow. Brave attempts at playing the dynamics meant the notes didn't always speak. This was a shame and we thought they'd come a little higher.

Flookburgh came thirteenth and after a fairly good start their performance became scrappy and the intonation at times wasn't good whilst fourteenth were Blackburn and Darwen. Some nice solo cornet work was a plus
point but coupled with hard, loud sounds made for a frenetic performance.

Number fifteen was filled by Vernon Building Society Poynton. Their up tempo approach had excitement but the band found difficulties that made for a ragged performance. Poole Borough took sixteenth spot. They started quite well but we were soon listening to the same old mistakes that troubled so many others. Nice ensemble work went to waste as the erros flowed too easily elsewhere.

Lydmet Lyndney's performance was a little soporific. We liked the euph work but this was small comfort to a rendition that ended poorly whilst Stalybridge Old's was a performance that left us scratching our heads. Their interpretation was a strange one. It was nervy stuff from the off with fast, fluctuating tempos and an interesting choice of style. You don't win contests like this.

Nineteenth was Markham and District. Although we enjoyed their interpretation, they failed to get off to a good start with some dodgy entries and a horn and cornet line that never seemed together whilst Jackfield (Elcock Reison) came twentieth and after a promising opening, it pushed and rushed and became harsh and hurt. This was vicious, vicious stuff.

Last place went to Pemberton Old Wigan. The Achilles heel in this performance must surely have been the tempos in the closing section. The good work from euph and cornet could do little to save them - the exceptionally loud percussion certainly didn't help.

Our predictions didn’t do themselves justice and we think we put the kiss of death on many. We tipped Pemberton Old, who will most probably burn their computers after we put the mockers on them and they could only manage last, whilst Towcester who we tipped for second came 11th. Balckburn came home 14th instead of the 3rd we tipped, but Matthews played to form and came 4th – just as we said they would!!! Jackfield we though would come 5th and came 20th, whilst Markham came 19th. Our dark horse though saved our blushes as they came home 3rd. We had tipped three bands who came in the bottom three. What on earth do we know about banding eh?

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The Heaton Collection -  Available with 4BR shopping