2003 Welsh Regional Qualifying Championships
First Section - Retrospective
Adjudicator: David Read
Test Piece: Passacaglia on a Theme of Brahms -
Just like every other region in the UK the bands in Wales found
Arthur Butterworth’s “Passagaclia” an exceptionally
difficult test - and just like every other region the music won
out and the bands, even the winners came away second best once more.
The reasons why the music seems to have been such a severe test
for the bands at this level are many and varied, but most apparent
is that it is music that bands have forgotten how to play.
David Read made the remark when we spoke to him that he felt that
many of the MD’s hadn’t acted upon the detailed foreword
in the score from Butterworth himself, and that ensured that they
approached the work in a manner that was at odds with its musical
inspiration. Brahms is sober, refined music, broad and expansive
– much like the man himself. It is not in anyway shape or
form like Wagner – although once more too many of the conductors
seemed to have got the two mixed up. Stridency is not a feature
of the music of the former, or for that matter much of the latter
but having cornets whack it out like state trumpeters of the Imperial
German Court isn’t what is called for.
David Read is a great fan of Butterworth’s music and especially
this work and he has an intimate understanding of its construction
and musical architecture. He was therefore a little disappointed
that the bands too often went for an aggressive approach to the
music in an attempt to blow it into submission when a more intelligent
approach was to give everything a much more sombre refined application.
He felt that more of this type of music played more often would
lead bands to appreciate what they can actually do best –
produce sonorous textures, balanced sounds and rich detailed ensemble
sounds – just what was needed on this occasion. Some did it,
plenty didn’t, but overall it showed that it is a way of playing
that is unfortunately fast becoming extinct.
Treherbert and District under Graham Sheppard were one band that
did make the most of the music, and even though there was a fair
liberal sprinkling of cracks and splits the overall shape and style
was just what was required. Graham is an old head who was brought
up under the tutelage at Cory of the great Arthur Kenney so the
“old” way of playing is well ingrained in the marrow
and on this occasion it showed to good effect. They were worthy
Second place went to Abergavenny who qualified for the finals for
the second year in a row and will go again with high hopes of doing
very well. They produced a fine overall sound and had some quality
solo players whilst the direction from Lyndon Price was first rate.
Not without its errors, it ended the contest off the number 9 spot
in conclusive fashion.
Third place went to a band on the up – and one 4BR ignored
in our pre match preview to our peril. Tylorstown nearly made it
to the Finals with some neat and well-detailed ensemble work but
overall they just had too many little blips and blobs that counted
against them. They had a strong cornet end, which at times spoilt
the balance, but it was a worthy performance and on another day
may have just pinched a qualifying spot.
After the top three though and the standard dropped away. Rogerstone
made the best of it but had balance and tuning problems that at
times grated, whilst Ammanford had the right style and flow but
had too many mistakes from start to finish and that sunk them to
5th spot off the number 1 draw.
Wrexham suffered the same fate although the style was too aggressive
and at times it hurt the ears, whilst Markham were penalised we
think for much the same thing. A strong cornet end and soprano meant
that the balance went AWOL too many times and we think Mr Read may
have penalised them quite severely. The bands that finished from
4th to 7th could have come in any order really, there wasn’t
much to choose between them in terms of the number of mistakes they
made, but the one thing they had in common was that they all approached
the music with an aggression that wasn’t called for in the
score or by the composer.
Both Pontardulais and Rhyl didn’t have the best of days,
although Pontardulais had a fine middle of the band sound especially
on the horns and Rhyl battled bravely against the odds somewhat.
Both couldn’t complain about their final positions in the
placing table though.
Overall then it was a slightly below par section in terms of standard,
although all the bands here can perform better. The test piece though
was the clear winner – a fine work, perhaps too difficult
for the bands nationwide in the First Section and certainly one
that took its fair share of casualties here. Both Treherbert and
Abergavenny will travel to Dundee as strong contenders, but both
will hoe they won’t have to perform such a stern test as this
when they get there.