2005 Pontins Championships - Second Section Retrospective

2-Nov-2005

Wire Brass put the disappointment of Harrogate firmly behind them by winning the Second Section here - and also managed to overcome the dreaded 4BR prediction curse as well!


Wire Brass
Wire Brass: Winners - Second Section

Pontins can take credit that once more they served up a Second Section contest that had everything neatly in its place and ran very well indeed. Contest Controller Colin Morrison eased through the day with skill and expertise and Sally Coleman exuded warmth in her compere role. Ray Payne, once more the ultimate professional, provided the very best in percussion for the bands.

James Scott picked the test piece: 'Laudate Dominum' by Edward Gregson and adjudicators Roy Sparkes and Brian Buckley gave credit for its selection. Roy personally felt that the music had come back sounding fresh and challenging in this contest and that every band had given a worthy performance to meet the judges satisfaction.

Singling out two bands for distinction and four others for merit at the prize giving ceremony Brian Buckley gave a very accurate and welcome synopsis of the piece and what they were looking for in the performances from the 25 bands.

Brian pointed to the ‘Maestoso' opening as critical. "As time for the trombones to put their feet on the floor and deliver," he said. He was certainly correct; so many trombone sections certainly faltered on their second fanfare statement and perhaps didn't give the notes the majestic quality the judges were looking for.

In truth there were plenty of little figures throughout the work that caused problems,  notable of which were the second solo cornet figure in the first variation repeat and the close of the third variation.

As a rule of thumb the percussion playing was very good and we felt the percussion players from all the bands deserve credit. In particular the sections from Greenalls, Wire, Rhyl, Conway Town, Capital Concert, St. Stythians, Hawk Greene and Elland all contributed superbly well on the day and we would give a particular mention to the single percussionist from Strata who coped remarkably well with a challenging part. Ambidextrous – my word!
 
Brian Buckley went further and explained that the music certainly "came alive when quicker" but was "over aggressive at times". Meanwhile, of the slower sections he expressed an opinion that "slower, quieter playing was a major weakness where the music failed to flow." In closing he turned his attention to the final section where he explained the adjudicating team noted bands having "problems in sustaining the sound to drive home the message."

One could not criticise the trombone section of the Wire Brass ensemble and the band produced a performance that was a worthy winner of this conrtest. Their bold opening, ably led by their solo trombone Jill Riley, set the stall out for as confident a performance as one could wish to hear. We had to smile at their web site home page that now reads, "We had a fantastic result with a 1st place in the 2nd Section at Pontins on Sunday 30th October. We even beat the 4barsrest curse of being tipped to win!" Are we really that influential?

Musical Director, Paul Andrews, directed a performance that was both captivating and sparkling. The spirit of the music was superbly caught whether in the slow movements or in the exhilarating faster music and by the time they came to a well balanced and borad sounding close there was little doubt that even off the early number six draw it was a performance that was going to be hard to beat.

Given that they didn't quite have the luck they deserved at Harrogate last month, this was a performance of character and real merit. They are a band to watch out for in the coming months.

United Norwest 2000 who won the Third Section here in 2004 are a real form horse it seems and this year hasn't exactly been unrewarding either – a 2nd in the North-West Area Championships was followed by a top 6 place at the Harrogate Finals.

Whilst we predicted the band to come 3rd here we didn't place the band  in the prizes on the day. Playing immediately after a comfort break, there is no questioning the confidence of the band under Jamie Meredith and the music moved simply and directly in the slower sections. We had reservations overall though. We have a penchant in referring to some performances as a ‘curate's egg ("good in parts") and here was a performance that in our opinion truly warranted that description. Congratulations to the band for claiming the runners up spot from the adjudicators (the men who count) but an 11th and mid table order for our ears.

MD Brian Minear avoided any interpretative self-indulgence in the St. Dennis Band performance that took the 3rd prize. Setting tempi that were sensible and playing that had plenty of earthy vigour the result would certainly go to make the marathon journey back to Cornwall much easier. We didn't quite have them in the frame but only just outside the prizes in 7th place, but what talented youngsters they have in the ranks.

Boarshurst gave one of the most musically satisfying accounts of the piece on the day and certainly got its just rewards taking a prize and 4th place. We had the band in 3rd with a performance that saw David Morris release some beguiling sounds that blended well with the more vigorous musical demands. His direction had so much to offer the band and Boarshurst unquestionably benefited from his direction. This was another fine effort.

The Welsh flag was flown by Lewis Merthyr and their conductor Lyndon Price, who really set a fine marker with a very confident performance off the number 1 spot that very nearly held its own right through to the end of the contest. To win off number 1 in a field of this size in close on impossible, but this was a fine effort nonetheless.  The playing was certainly lively and it had without question some persuasive moments. It caught the judges attention in 5th but we had placed just a little lower.

A special mention though to the bass trom player, who if it had been open adjudication would have got the band even more marks than she did with her fine playing. Down Tiger!!!!

Hawk Green (Marple) got away to a most confident opening with real value in dynamic range with an interpretation from Phil Pavey, conducting without a score, that was fresh and at times, particularly in the slow movement quite searching. It gained a deserved placing - 6th from the adjudicators and 5th for us and it was nice to hear a fine young cornet player in Hayley Tuite making her mark under gentle and supportive direction from the MD and acting principal cornet. The young lady did it all with a lovely smile on her face too.

Having predicted Lockwood Brass to take one of the prizes in our predictions we pretty much concurred with the judges on their performance - a 7th in order of merit and an 8th place from ourselves. With tempos that were well judged by conductor John Roberts it was probably in the final section when the music didn't quite sparkle that points may have been lost. David Shawcross on solo euphonium played with wonderful expression and would have received our prize for best soloist for the whole section for his quality playing, but it was just that last section that cost him and his fellow players a possible top six place.

Hebden Bridge played out of their skins and we had them in runners-up place. An 8th place from the adjudicators on the day was a little severe, but without question it was a performance that had real quality. Ian Craddock's reading of the score had real perception and he drew from the band an energy that was vibrant and exciting.

A mid placed draw and a 9th placed result from the adjudicators for Moulton 77 Brass who played very safely. MD Howard Gibbs drew some nice detail from the band but perhaps, and echoing the words of Brian Buckley, they had problems in sustaining the sound to drive home the message. Mid table placing 12th from us to sit with their mid-placed draw.

Foresters Brass 2000 under the direction of Pete Collins entered the stage in happy style, the soprano cornet Andy Parker Bates even taking a entertaining bow on approaching the platform. The MD drew a very worthy opening from the band but a rather harsh and loose final section may have proved costly. A mid table place of 10th from the judges and a similar thought from us 13th.

Mark Wilkinson has worked hard with the Eagley Band and a middle order of merit was fair reward. The performance perhaps just lacked a little lustre but it came over as a nicely defined and quite well balanced performance. 11th from the judges 14th from us at 4BR.

We are probably not going to be on the Meltham & Meltham Mills Christmas Card list this year with a performance we placed 24th. We felt that Stuart Fawcett worked exceptionally hard but unfortunately it wasn't until late in the piece that we felt the band delivered for the MD the performance he went looking for. The adjudicators were far more taken with the performance than ourselves and awarded them a notable 12th place.

The Strata performance suffered from inconsistency. The MD drew a bold opening but almost immediately intonation cost points - an issue that could have been mentioned again and again as the performance unfolded. A shame because the 13th from the adjudicators and 16th place from us could have been very much higher.

In Jackie Gwynne the Forest Of Dean Brass have themselves a conductor who simply loves the lyrical and flowing slow sections of test piece work. The finesse and elegance of the fourth variation was there to hear but some uncomfortable solo lines and balance that just fell short in the outer movements may have proved costly. 15th place from us and 14th on the day by the judges was probably about right.

Elland Silver fronted by Morgan Griffith came 15th in order of merit. We had them at 17th a small distance back. Taking the stage next to last in the draw they came to the music with a very strong dynamic. There would be few quarrels with the quality of the ensemble playing but the dynamic really left little to reach a compulsive fortissimo to close.

One cannot accuse David Maplestone of being a shrinking violet. His conducting style almost pleads with his players to produce warm and confident playing. Stourport –on-Seven had to wait till last in the draw to take the stage and with a very healthy sized audience listening too. A steady opening that had some good moments was undone as the piece progressed and a few too many blemishes saw their chances slip further away. In the end 16th was about right as we had them in the second half of the field in 20th place.

One had the impression that MD Phil Goodwin had really penetrated the music in the slower section of this test piece and his band undoubtedly produced one of the nicest tones of the day. However it was undone by too many tuning errors and some serious over-blowing in the finale.  Delph Band took away as a result a disappointing 17th place from the adjudicators and an equally disappointing 18th from 4BR.

There must have been something to our taste in what followed for three performances in a row rated 18th 19th and now 20th by the judges were consistently marked well in the top third of the field by ourselves.  It really does bring home the subjectivity of our listening and commenting on contest performances.

We seriously did take to the performance of Conway Town under the direction of Keith Jones. We marked this for a prize and 4th spot in complete contrast to the adjudicators 18th. We felt that the playing was alert, sensitive and quite refined. With recognition for the dynamic demands of the piece and a beautifully clear tone we were completely taken in. Not so the judges so we have to accept we were wrong. Very unlucky though we thought.

4BR had the pleasure of the friendly company of supporters of Capital Concert Brass during this contest. As for the performance, 19th place from the judges for John Morahan and the band seemed quite a stiff result.. We had them a good bit higher in 9th place overall with a performance that we felt had some nice dynamic contrast. It may have been some imbalance, notably in the syncopated rhythms perhaps, that just detracted from some nice solo work.

If Brian Minear with St. Dennis avoided any interpretative self-indulgence the same could not be said for Chris Wormald who really did quite the opposite. If you live by the sword you sometimes die by it as well and with some rapier-like tempi and very bold dynamics the Hoover (Bolton) Band really took the risks. Another performance where we must have been really more forgiving - 20th from the judges 6th from us.

The bands in the last few places can really have no complaints on the day as their performances especially those early on drifted further and further away from the prizes as the contest marched to its conclusion.

Frickley South Emsall led by Bob Morton probably lost a few points in the final section when the thematic lines were simply not sustained whilst a few costly scrapes took time to recover and the result of 21st bore a similar level to the 19th from us.

The opening to this piece was crucial and it was this important figure that immediately let St Stythians Band down. Derek Johnson worked hard to engineer a recovery and the piece began to take shape in the third variation. Unfortunately the seeds of disappointment had already been sown and 22nd from the box and a 21st from us was about right.

Rhyl Silver under Gareth Westwood again suffered at the opening when the piece took a bit too much time to make an impact. The band had dramatically grown in confidence by the percussion led close to the middle variation but again they left the door too wide open from a relatively early draw. 23rd from the judges and 22nd from us.

Speaking to 4BR at the end of the contest MD Kevin Birch was most gracious in accepting that 24th position was not unexpected. We had them in 25th place.

Audley Brass, is in a period of real transition and around the stands they do boast a host of very young players. Not least amongst these is Nicholas Birch who played solo euphonium with a style that belayed his youth, but in the company of this very strong section theirs was always an up hill battle.

The surprise of the day probably and unfortunately befell Greenalls Band under John Ludden. The band has been building and returning some quite excellent results most notably at the Regionals this year when they narrowly missed out on a trip to Harrogate. This was a totally uncharacteristic performance that probably lost points from the start where the opening figure was unclean. The MD certainly had the measure of the work and technically the scope of the piece was well within the ability of the band, but it just didn't come over to the audience or, more importantly, the judges. In retrospect not much difference in the return from us either with a 23rd and a final 25th spot from the adjudicators.

Overall this was a fine contest with the top performances notable for the control and detailed approach engineered by the MDs. Wire Brass were excellent and showed the form that many knew they could produce on the contest stage. It gave them a deserved winners cheque and the satisfaction of not only beating the dreaded 4BR dodgy prediction voodoo but also giving them the satisfaction of putting the disappointment of Harrogate finals behind them too. Well done indeed.

John James

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