2004 Midlands Regional Championships - Retrospective
The Championship Section:
Sunday 7th March
Adjudicator: Barry Thompson
Test Piece: Tristan Encounters - Martin Ellerby
With the general mêlée settling down at the end of
the Third Section results, many stayed in the hall to listen to
the first bands in the Championship Section – Travelsphere
Holidays and Desford. In truth, following their performances, the
hall remained rather thinly occupied for the rest of the section,
and even when Ransome took the stage for the final performance of
the day, the mood remained pretty flat despite the increase in numbers
in anticipation of the results. It was a strangely lack lustre atmosphere
for the top section contest.
Much expectation could be felt around the old Town Hall as, with
a hard and somewhat straight pointed approach, Travelsphere took
the stage first and began their account of the Ellerby test-piece
‘Tristan Encounters’. They had an absolute stinker
of a result last year off the number 1 draw when they ended up
last but one in the prize list, so they might have thought that
by drawing number one again that the Gods were against them once
more. Not so. They definitely had polish in their playing and
in the main they delivered some precise phrasing.
David Stowell conducted an incisive and dramatic reading in which
the players, particularly in the horn section, gave their utmost
and achieved real sensitivity in the more lyrical transfigurations
to take the top prize. In truth though, together with every band
on the day, they did leave the door open for someone to step in
and really steal the show.
Taking the stage whilst the hall was still buoyant in numbers,
Desford gave the most dynamically contrasting account that searched
for both the colour and vitality in the work. The Eb bass cadenza
particularly drew the attention and overall they made the music
more boisterous than vulgar going for a hat trick of wins. However,
as with many other performances on the day there were a number of
untidy and hesitant moments that must have proved costly returning
only a mid-placed 7th.
Keith Leonard took Derwent in their first venture in the Championship
Section and took this powerfully concentrated work with emotional
thrust. Whilst the ensemble did not always have pinpoint precision
in a 10th place finish they did try hard to communicate warmth in
the interpretation, particularly in the final transfiguration, and
throughout the principal cornet anchored the performance very well
Kibworth too gained promotion back to the Championship Section
this year and their performance was crisp and vigorous, incorporating
well-integrated tutti passages. Unfortunately the solo and delicate
sections didn’t quite convince, but that said, the soprano
cornet certainly gave 110%. John Berryman gave the music lots of
space but the band just didn’t bring off those intoxicatingly
seductive sounds he was trying to encourage; and this perhaps
led to the 11th placing. The band, for this listener, certainly
brought out the characteristic Wagnerian chord sounds
in the writing.
Band five of thirteen, and from opening to finale Steve Bastable
had the Staffordshire Band, as they say, at the end of his stick.
Well in his case, more correctly the end of his fingers. He brought
to the band a reading of the score that had sympathy as well as
power and brilliance; drawing out the romantic warmth in the tender
writing; taking a notch off the volume to release the inner
detail of the more fierce fortissimos, to lead the band to the
runners up spot. If
ever a conductor captured a prize for a bandthis was a clear example
- but then the band did have to deliver his vision to gain that
place for qualification for the Albert Hall later this year.
Next was proof of the difficult and uncompromising
score delivered by Martin Ellerby. Half way through the section,
and at draw number six were the City of Coventry Band. This
piece really challenged them. They did draw out some lively and
sharply pointed playing - especially in the trombone writing -
but the score found too many rough edges in their playing. Their
performance was not seriously flawed, more troubled in its timing
and dramatic layout. Twelfth place was their reward.
Moving into the second half of the draw, in their traditional
blue uniforms, Glossop Band were once more passionately committed
at this contest. Jim Cant looked for expressiveness with bold direction,
but unfortunately the playing was just a little off the
mark overall. Only in the final transfigurations did the band
really capture the magic quality with full intensity of the writing.
The basses produced some wonderful sounds but a few too many blemishes
and loose moments early on were quite evident. They
came 13th in the final results.
Stan Lippeatt, synonymous with the Thoresby Band, sat just a few
rows from the stage as his old band took the platform. John Hudson’s
refined and obviously affectionate reading had an almost meditative
feeling at times. There was some delightful and stylish playing
but on the whole we were left slightly wanting.
They did produce some glowing sounds as the music unfolded and
we felt that they were perhaps a little unlucky to finish in the
lower third (9th).
The hall filled up a little around draw number nine, but for
Thoresby Colliery UK Coal & John Hudson substitute Newstead
Duncan Beckley, and it will give you an idea of the similarities
between the two bands and final placing (8th)! A superb 3rd place
last year was thoroughly well deserved but they were not quite
as irrepressible on this occasion.
Mike Fowles looked for refined playing from the Ratby Cooperative
Band who carried the playing forward as the 10th band on stage.
In a warm and well-detailed interpretation, this performance was
a match for most on the day: Being, in the main, satisfying
and full of purpose in a well-paced reading. Fifth place was a
nice return overall where once more,
the soprano cornet playing had a particular sheen about it.
The sound of the Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Band was quite bright
and often had quite a strong top end. Trevor Jones seemed to look
for the tear-laden qualities in the music and it could perhaps
have come unstuck in choice of tempo with some adjudicators perhaps
not fancying the most red-blooded reading of the day. The later
draw worked in their favour as their style found favour with the
adjudicator on this occasion, and netted a nice 3rd place.
The penultimate number in the draw - Jaguar (Coventry) - started
like the proverbial **** off a shovel.
It would be fair to say this was a very dramatic reading that could
not be criticised for not being anything other than extrovert in
any of the faster sections. It fell a little short of being a great
performance, as the slower sections lost a little in not
exploring the music deeply enough. The solo horn was
solid as a rock all through though! A good result of 6th for the
team at Jaguar who continued a pretty consistent record here the
The Ransome Band under Russell Gray claimed a superb 2nd place
at the 2000 National Finals and that winning duo was reunited
again on Sunday. They took a reading in which the MD certainly
wore his heart on his sleeve and his interpretation really sustained
the long lines in the slower transfigurations with well-measured
speeds throughout. This was a highly effective performance in
which the lower band, particularly Bass Trombone and Eb Bass excelled.
They gained a 4th place but it was very close to capturing that
old magic and almost one of the qualifying places.
Before Philip Morris presented
the prizes, adjudicator Barry Thompson gave a brief but thoughtful
summation. He told the audience that he thought the standard of
playing was quite high and particularly singling out the cadenza
playing for its quality.
our predictions we looked to Desford to pull off the top award
with Ransome claiming the second qualification spot. On this occasion
neither will be making the trip to Kensington later this year.
Travelsphere were our 3rd place prediction and took the top prize
with Staffordshire - who we thought may be in the top six - finishing
Well done to Travelsphere though – after a couple of years
when the Gods of the draw have certainly been against them, they
showed that they had both the character and the skill to beat
off the competition – all off another number 1 draw. 2004
is an important year for the band and it couldn’t have got
off to a better start.