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2003 North West Regional Qualifying Championships - Retrospective

First Section
Sunday 9th March
Empress Ballroom, Winter Gardens, Blackpool
Test Piece
Passacaglia on a Theme of Brahms, Arthur Butterworth
Adjudicator - Malcolm Brownbill


First Section bands who have aspiration to play in the Championship Section need pieces to test them to the limit. In Butterworth’s Passacaglia they certainly got one, this in a nutshell is terrific music with a need to play in a style brass bands are not always familiar with. The eleven bands who competed had their work cut out to get the music over, but in the main they handled it very well.

In his remarks before the results, Malcolm Brownbill gave the best summing up we have heard from an adjudicator for some time. “The music” he said needed to be played in a restrained classical style and he commented that there had been many variations in tempo. He said he had had no problem with that providing the style and shape was right. He asked the audience to give all the Soprano players a round of applause in coping with this difficult part and also praised the composer for this excellent piece, saying Arthur Butterworth new how to write orchestral music for Brass Bands better than most.

First band on stage was Stalybridge Old, conducted by David Hirst. They opened well with a good bass sound and the music flowed, paying particular attention to detail. The soprano did well and the music was controlled with all the dynamics observed. David Hirst had done his homework and kept tight control on tempo in what was a very good standard for the rest to follow. 4th place was given we had them slightly higher at 3rd.
Soloist: Soprano

Next up were Blackburn and Darwen conducted by Gareth Pritchard. After a steady opening the soprano had an uncomfortable entry, but there was a good feeling about the music with good control and some good trombone playing. Nice style from the solo cornet led to a good ending and apart from some slight over blowing from the front row cornets around bar 393 to 409 this was a decent show and gained them 5th place from Malcolm and 6th from us.
Soloist: Solo Cornet

Tyldsley Band directed by Steven Booth followed at No 3 After a steady opening the detail was good but some suspect tuning in the basses and horns led to a lack of conviction in their playing at times but they recovered quite well with the soprano sticking to his guns admirably at 432. Some good euphonium playing was evident in a performance of merit but not of the standard of the two previous bands. 8th place was about right for us.
Soloist: Euphonium

Band No 4: Roberts Bakery, MD Colin Cranson had a decent opening and some good trombone sounds were heard. The band did not appear comfortable with the music and a lack of detail in some of the playing confirmed this. The soprano coped well at times but over blowing towards the end of the piece left us with a feeling that this band could do much better. 10th place in the contest 11th from us.
Soloist: Solo Trombone

Brett Baker and the Longridge band were no 5 on stage with a nice confident opening and some good attention to detail. Brett produced a reading which for us was the best so far. solo cornet, soprano and trombones all played well and apart from the odd clip or two we enjoyed this performance and had them in 2nd position. Malcolm Brownbill put them 3rd
Soloist: Soprano

Band no 6: Poulton le Fylde – MD Steve Tarry. This band having been promoted was making its debut in this section and overall they can be satisfied with their performance. Nice solo cornet and flugel playing and the soprano did well, although the band sound at times didn’t quite come through. 7th Place on the day we had them down at 9th.
Soloist: Soprano

Band No 7: United Cop-op (Crewe) MD Jef Sparkes. Thie performance opened confidently with good soprano and soon had us feeling that this band was on top of the music with good contrasts and dynamics. The MD had total control and the band sound was warm without ever getting too big. Lovely soprano playing and it all seemed to knit together in a very good musical performance. 1st Place was the result and we couldn’t agree more.
Soloist: Soprano

Band No 8: Vernon Building Society, Poynton MD Martin Obermuller. This was another performance which promised much but although the general all round sound was OK we felt a lot of detail was missing. They had a nice solo cornet though and the tempos were sensible. Not a bad effort overall just lacking a little in quality. 11th place from the adjudicator and 10th from us.
Soloist: Solo Cornet

Dobcross Youth were Band No 9 with MD Ted Griffiths. This young band, under the baton of Ted Griffiths are a credit to themselves and the band movement. Reaching 1st section status is a great achievement. They did not have the best of days but in their solo cornet player they had one of the best on the day. The band sound at times got a little strained although the conductor kept the music flowing perhaps playing a little too loud for this type of music. All credit to them for a good attempt. 12th place we felt was about right.
Soloist: Solo Cornet

Band No 10: United Norwest Co-op Milnrow with MD Carl Whiteoak. This band captured the mood and style of the music in some nice well balanced playing. The soprano and horns all contributed to a well directed performance although we felt it could have been a little more exciting. The euphonium player caught our ear on a few occasions. Malcolm placed them 2nd we had them at no 4. Well done
Soloist: Euphonium

Band No 11: Moston & Beswick, Manchester – MD Robert Taylor. Another band making is 1st appearance in this section and they produced a performance of merit with some nice soprano playing. The music had space and apart from the odd split note or two gave a good musical account of the piece to finish in 6th place. We had them at no 5.
Soloist: Soprano

Band No 12: Hawk Green Marple MD John Richardson.
After getting off to an uncomfortable start the band really didn’t recover. Loose ensemble playing plus uncertainty entries led to a rather ragged performance at times. The trombones had a good sound and the euphonium did OK but it was not one of their better performances. 13th place from Malcolm and us.

Band No 13: Pemberton Old Wigan, MD Nick Sheppard. This band produced some exciting playing but the soprano had a day he’ll want to forget and we sympathise with him - it’s a hell of a part. The flugel and horns had a nice sound and a good detail was heard in a lot of the playing and on the whole we felt this performance was a musical one. 9th place from Malcolm and 7th from us.
Soloist: Flugel Horn

We enjoyed listening to this section where the overall playing was of a very good standard. The only criticism we had was of some of the cornet sections attacking the fortissimos with too much vigour making it sound more like Meat Loaf than Brahms. (Meat Loaf is a Rock singer for those banding enthusiasts over a certain age) but never the less all the bands contributed to a very good and well run contest.

Pre Contest Prediction
United Co-op Crewe (1st)
Longridge (3rd)
Roberts Bakery (10th)
Stalybridge (4th)
Blackburn & Darwen (5th)
Pemberton Old (9th)

Pre Result Prediction
United Co-op Crewe
Longridge
Stalybridge
United Norwest Co-op
Moston & Beswick
Blackburn & Darwen

Results
United Co-op Crewe
United Norwest Co-op
Longridge
Stalybridge
Blackburn & Darwen
Moston & Beswick

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