2003 North of England Regional Qualifying
First Section - Retrospective
Adjudicator: Colin Hardy
Test Piece: Passacaglia on a Theme of Brahms -
Arthur Butterworth’s “Passacaglia” has been a
superb test for Section One bands. Some will have really enjoyed
it, whilst many will have felt battered by the intensity of it.
Those who have qualified will also be mystified by the choice of
their finals piece which is also in ¾ throughout. Incredible!
Anyway, back at the qualification stage here we have to report straight
away that it was a fair result from the pen and ears of Colin Hardy.
Here’s how it finished for us.
In first place was BHK (UK) Ltd Horden, who off number 1 put up
a fine show and laid the marker down for the day. The opening suffered
from poor intonation and there was some rushing in the detached
crotchets but the cornets did very well, whilst the timp played
the low note in the trombone section!! We felt the tempos were on
the fast side and the second slow section was musically very weak
– it lacked flow. A good mention to the sop though who played
well throughout and was a real bonus on a day when others really
struggled. We had them in second.
In second place from Colin Hardy came Barrow Shipyard and on a
less serious note had the soloist of the day in the second euph
player whose buttons and slides featured on any number of occasions!!
Nevertheless a good solid sound was evident from the off and though
the music was a little hard it was generally good. The sop played
well but was a little too loud in places and hence the balance suffered.
No band managed a clean show and Barrow had plenty of splits and
blobs, but it also had some lovely lyrical moments. The final section
got way too fast and the cornets were messy but it has an excitement
that others missed or couldn’t find. Having said all that,
we had them first, so well done to John Durrant and his team.
Third were Flookburgh under John Iveson. After a shocking first
note the playing improved and some nice moments were heard all round.
The sop played well and there were some lovely musical shapes, but
as with the other bands the second slow section was poor and lacked
direction – it just meandered along. Lots of little problems
did detract throughout and we had them a bit lower than third. The
band deserves a special commendation for playing in the dark though.
Aunt Bessies came in fourth under Tim Oldroyd and as in all the
performances there were lots of mistakes but generally pretty solid
ensemble work. The ending was way too fast and spoiled some good
playing. We had them a little higher than Colin Hardy as we liked
what the MD was trying to bring out of the score – it sounded
like Brahms but with a few too many errors.
Westoe (STHCT) under J. Smith came in fifth with a very heavy and
dogmatic performance. The tempos were a bit mystifying and were
exactly same for the entire first half of the piece! It need a touch
more rubato to get away from the rather mechanical feel it did have
and there were simply too many technical mistakes for it to feature
whilst musically the piece couldn’t work within these strict
tempos. It could have been so much more musically satisfying if
the MD had just let the reins go a few times.
Kirkbymoorside under J. Woodward came in sixth and their performance
obviously had been given a lot of thought by the MD and lots of
good moments, but too much poor playing let it down. Every time
something sounded good along came another series of slips that just
lost them crucial points.
Pride Valley under B. Morton came in seventh and for us it was
the strangest of musical performances. It had little shape or warmth
and technically we felt the piece could never work within these
tempos. It was as if it was in a straight jacket – no lateral
movement was evident and the ¾ beat pattern remained strictly
in place from start to end. Perhaps the MD felt that it would give
precision, yet for us all it did was rob the music of the warmth
and character it cried out for.
Finally Easington came in eighth under D. Dye. The playing from
the band was generally hard and poor throughout though the performance
was saved by a good ending, which benefited from a sensible tempo.
They seemed to struggle from the word go and even though there were
some nice touches and moments the music had little vitality and
style and they couldn’t complain we think with their final
It proved a difficult day for most of the bands and we were a little
disappointed with the overall standard, which we felt was a good
mark below what we have heard elsewhere. Whoever gets the promotion
nod will also find it hard to survive we think in the highest section
as on this evidence the bands here had too many ingrained technical
faults and a preponderance to overblow. How they will get on at
the Finals we will have to wait and see as well, as hopefully Eric
Ball and his “Kensington Concerto” won’t be such
a severe test as this one year. However it is written in much the
same style and requires the same restraint that was not always shown
here. This was a tester for sure.
Our pre match top six consisted of Westoe, Barrow, Easington, Aunt
Bessies, BHK Horden and Pride Valley on the day we plumbed for a
top six of:
2. BHK Horden
3. Aunt Bessies
Of our pre match selections then we had four of the top five bu
tin the wrong order, with our 5th choice selection winning the day,
but Barrow playing true to form to take second. Not bad –
it just about summed up everything about the North East First Section
Thanks to Simon Wood