2005 Regionals: Midlands - Retrospective: Championship Section

11-Mar-2005

4BR looks back at the events at Burton, where the judge set the tone for a result that had the tongues wagging.


David Maplestone and Trevor Jones
Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass: David Maplestone and Trevor Jones

Audio interview

Audio Interview with winning MD Trevor Jones [WAV]


At the conclusion of Sunday's Championship Section, many were left with a feeling resembling school days: a trip to the Headmaster's study.

Roy Roe, adjudicator for 'Rienzi' was of course acting as the headmaster, and prior to the announcement of the results, gave his assembled pupils in Burton Town Hall a forthright view of what he had just heard.

Nothing wrong in that at all, but it left you feeling more like a naughty child doing something behind the bike sheds as opposed to adults competing in a musical competition.

Granted, Roy's gripes on a number of bands performances within the opening section had some justification, but the only thing that was missing was the instruction to bands to be given detention for their inability to do the basic things right, such as play together and produce a balanced sound. 

Having given his concerns though on the opening section, Roy did confess to having heard some ‘good playing' with ‘dynamic detail' and some ‘good-shaped performances'.  However, by the time Roy had complimented them though on some good playing, you sensed that the judge had said more than enough to give an indication that the result would raise more than a few eyebrows.

Two performances also stood out for the adjudicator (Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass & Desford) and for the second time over the course of the weekend, 4BR and Mr Roe disagreed with the choices made to compete in the National finals later in the year.  For us, Desford and Ransome's should have been making the trip south to London.

The comments and order of placings from the adjudicator though will almost certainly have provided plenty of debate in the bars, and journeys home and not just from 4BR.

Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass
Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass: Winners

Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass under Trevor Jones will only be bothered what Roy Roe felt on the day though.  Performing in the last quarter of the draw, the West Midlanders (in our opinion) were one of the bands Roy Roe had cited for not having the best of starts.

That said, Trevor Jones, really got them ‘out of jail' with a commanding display that had musical moments of real class and sublime quality that few failed to get close too.  The overall musical shape and interpretation was the key to the band's success on the day for sure.  At times, it was pedestrian, but the musical lines were very clear and precise. The interpretation wasn't everybody's cup of tea, but the overall quality of sound within the band won a huge array of admirers.

Bemused and shocked by the victory, members of the band arrived on stage to receive the acclamation from the media representatives; they just didn't know what to say and couldn't speak.  The band's base in Smethwick is about ten minutes from West Bromwich Albion's ground, and having beaten neighbours Birmingham City earlier, for the Baggies contingent, two victories in the same day was almost unthinkable.

Speaking to 4BR afterwards, the MD, who heralds from an orchestral background confessed to ‘going back to the opera to get an insight into producing a true Wagnerian performance'.  Having come third last year, the team spirit in the band is excellent and with the recent acquisitions of David Maplestone as top man, Mark Hadlington on euphonium, and Brett Wharton on BBb bass, they are a band not frightened to get the quality that is required to produce the results needed.

Band Chairman, Steve Parsons also praised Trevor Jones for his impact on their winning performance and dedicated the win to long term sponsor of the band, Mike Wooley.  Mike sadly died recently  - ‘That's for him,' Steve told us. 

Thirteen years after last appearing at the Royal Albert Hall, Woolley Pritchard will once more compete against the best in the business, just looking to enjoy the day and see what happens from there.  Third here last year, this is definitely a band going in the right direction and one to keep an eye on.

The more immediate future sees them tackle ‘Montage' in the Senior Cup at Blackpool in May and with the self belief in the band, they will be confident of success once again. 

Desford
Desford Colliery: 2nd place

Joining Woolley in London will be, Desford Colliery (who 4BR thought were the winners).  For the second week in a row, Peter Parkes crafted a performance from his band that would secure a trip to London, and although disappointed at not winning it still showed how fine a brass band conductor he still is as we believe he approaches his late 70's. 

There isn't a lot you can teach someone of the calibre of the Major, and he'd have a good idea beforehand as to what Roy Roe was looking for.  Hence, a few subtle changes in interpretation from the BHK Horden qualification last week (where Geoff Whitham was in the box) in some of the tempo markings, but the quality of the band's sound never wavered and they had plenty of stamina left in them at the end.

Martin Britt on soprano was outstanding and unlike a number of sop players on the day, played without going over the top and being determined to make themselves heard, come what may. 

Peter Parkes was a delighted man when he spoke to 4BR: ‘It's just great for the band to be going back to London'.  Peter Parkes' enthusiasm is as strong as it's ever been and now he'll go for three area qualifications on the trot, next Sunday in Blackpool with Fairey (FP) Music Band.

If Iwan Fox had been present in Burton, then you could be certain in his retrospective that he'd refer to performances such as Jaguar (City of Coventry) as a curate's egg. 

Roy Roe had them placed third, but for us the opening salvos weren't the best of the day at all.  The pace and overall feel of the piece didn't have us on the edge of our seats and at times, it seemed to be hard going for Dave Lea's band. 

Despite all that though, the ending of the work had some appeal and the man in the box clearly was impressed with what he heard, even if it didn't take our fancy.

Travelsphere Holidays got the 4BR kiss of death (sorry) as we fancied them to win here.  Once again, the opening was good with some nice bass work, and at times the ensemble playing was excellent.  Occasionally though, a few slips appeared that obviously proved costly in terms of qualification, let alone taking the title. 

Duncan Beckley is enjoying himself at this year's regional competitions.  Having already conducted a winning performance in the Fourth Section at Darlington with Five Rivers Brass, Sunday also saw the MD gain a winning result with Grange Moor in the Third Section in Bradford.

Alas, Duncan then comes south to Burton, and conducts Newstead Welfare into fifth place.  This was steady stuff all of the way, sensible tempos, not asking anything of the band that they couldn't really do, guaranteeing that they weren't gasping for air at the end.

Duncan's approach paid dividends, and even though it was a touch bland for us, the safety first approach that had been rehearsed worked for them.  After coming eighth last year, fifth is a real result this time around.

Ransome and Russell Gray for us were a class act and deserved a trip to London.  Apart from Desford who played much later, this was without question the performance of the contest.

The opening cornet was projected from behind the other cornets, an effect that didn't have huge impact, whilst the opening lower end playing didn't sound totally together - but Russell Gray crafted one heck of a display that would have taken some beating in any region, never mind just here.

Some excellent ensemble work from in the middle of the band was equalled by Chris Jeans on trombone, and the performance grew from there.  The MD was very precise in his direction that never lacked energy, and had a terrific dynamic approach.

What baffles us though is why sixth?  Roy Roe asked for well shaped playing, even the odd risk, and musical interpretations to go with it.  That was what Mr Roe got from Ransome's on the day.

Thoresbury and Andy Duncan played next to last and like Newstead produced a steady account that never caught our imagination.  To be fair, Andy's interpretation was quite slow and deliberate at times, with a real orchestral feel to it, with a nice cornet line being produced. Towards the conclusion, the sound of the band was a touch over-bearing for us and the timp player even got caught up in the excitement at the finish having accidentally dropping a stick. It was there or thereabouts for us, but not quite I the same class as the likes of Ransome or Desford.

Staffordshire's challenge perhaps went out of the window before a note had been blown.  The dreaded number one draw befell them, but Steve Bastable really dug in and produced one of those ‘nothing to lose but everything to gain performances' that was unfortunate (in our opinion) to be placed in eighth.

As with last year, it wasn't a qualifying performance though, with a few splits that proved costly.  What it was though was musical and full of the passion and commitment that the MD puts into his performances. Their time will come again.

Ratby and Michael Fowles played last and put in a performance that certainly got the nod of approval from us.  The opening cornet playing was fizzing with vibrato and after a couple of suspect moments in the lower end they settled down, relaxed and enjoyed themselves.

As with other bands, Michael Fowles was very cautious with the tempi, making sure it wasn't a case of the band running away with things.  Some of the dynamics could have been better, but it was certainly one of the neatest interpretations of the day for sure.  Ninth place was unlucky, but predicting the order of merit here was like choosing those lottery numbers –

The final three bands really did struggle to maintain their performances right to the end for us.

Derwent and Keith Leonard played fifth and produced a hard sound.  The solo cornet never seemed comfortable and wobbled on more than one occasion.  Add to that, the sop was a bit too heavy in the projection of sound and towards the end, the sound came across as a little harsh and distorted and much of the detail, sadly didn't come across.

Towcester and the eloquent looking Adele Sellers, just never got going and to be fair to them, they ran out of steam long before the end. Adele's direction was slow, deliberate and precise, giving the band every chance to shine and they produced a big sound.  Some of the early ensemble playing was a touch wobbly, and you sensed the band never completely relaxed.  Over-blowing was a factor that reared its head on more than one occasion and they looked happy to get off the stage at the end.

Finally, The Riddings Band just had a bad day at the office.  The performance wasn't ever going to feature and the MD didn't take any risks whatsoever.  Tempos were steady, but the tendency was to over-blow and by the end of it, they looked completely and totally knackered.  Not a good day at all.

Before a note had been blown at any Regional contest, plenty of debate had been had about the choice of Rienzi as a test piece and whether it would produce one or two interesting results.

Without question, that was definitely the case at Burton.  The winners, Woolley Pritchard Sovereign Brass won't care about that though, but as in any sport, sometimes the referee (adjudicator for us) and decisions made produces more of a talking point than the events themselves.  Sunday night was without doubt, one of those occasions.

John James and Malcolm Wood

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