2006 North of England Regional Championships - Third Section retrospective

24-Mar-2006

Steve Jack was on hand to witness Durham Constabulary win the Third Section (he actually played for them) and with a bit of help from a learned friend he managed to give a retrospective on the enjoyable Third Section.


I will immediately declare my interest in this section – I was part of the winning Durham Constabulary performance, playing in the ‘shed builders and persecutionists' department. However as a journalist I must keep my impartial integrity and comment as you would expect a professional to do so – WE WERE MAGNIFICENT.

Durham
Smile please: Keith MacDonald takes possession of the winners cup

Well, not quite in those terms but we certainly played very well. As has been reported elsewhere and in other areas, the test piece was hard for Third Section bands to get to grips with and from experience, I can tell you that most bands would have struggled during rehearsals. We didn't click until about a week before the contest and we had been rehearsing from November. Even then we didn't escape unscathed - but more of that later.

Just in case you thought I couldn't have listened to all the bands, 4BR had a two man team on this one, so all the bands were covered. Back to the music however. The main problems throughout were obviously the rhythmic structure of the first movement, where some strange tempos chosen by conductors and some dynamics that certainly weren't on the written page.

Swinton and District played first and struggled with the first movement, not getting to grips with the rhythms whilst the tuning from the horns was awry. The Elegy was taken at almost crotchet=90 which seemed more of a jog than a solemn commemorative piece, whilst the March was well over 130 a minute and untidy.

Billingham Silver were a pre-race favourite but their opening movement sacrificed clarity for speed and subsequently suffered. The Elegy was taken at a more sensible speed however and produced the first good performance of the day of this movement. However the March was taken a touch over tempo and tiredness crept in as the tuning went awry near the end. Some dynamics were also pushed over the limit.

Flimby Saxhorn performed a nice Elegy and dropped the tempo in the March for clarity, but the balance of the band was not right with little being heard from the middle of the band, horns and baritones. Also the tuning with mutes went almost a semi tone out and there were huge differences of tempo when the trombones came in during the March as it suddenly increased markedly.

Dearham were last year's champions and certainly laid a good marker down. The tempos were dropped slightly for the detail again, but there were some ragged entries and a few slips in the Caprice. Apart from tuning problems the Elegy was good and the first real attempt to balance the final chord was heard. The March was sensibly taken at a speed comfortable for the band but again tuning with mutes caused some problems. Yet again the Maestoso was too loud, coupled with some over exuberant cymbals crashes which spoilt the effect. Yet at this point we still had them first.

By this time it was obviously noticeable bands were falling into two categories; those that were trying to play at the tempos written and those that dropped them slightly for the sake of definition and clarity.

Durham Constabulary fell into the latter. Keith McDonald had pondered and agonised over this for weeks yet felt it was the right decision. They did have some problems with the first euphonium entry but everything seemed to go OK after that. Barry Crawford went for the top C in the soprano apart and hit it, whilst the baritone played the slow movement beautifully, (it said so in the remarks by Brian Buckley) and apart from some slips all went OK. 

Durham
Strength and Shield: Durham Constabulary pick up something to beat off rioters at the Dolphin Centre with.

The Elegy worked well and the adjudicator liked the final chord - Karl Scarfe played a blinder on solo cornet (his dad was in tears – joy not pain mind you) and the March went even better than they could have hoped for. They looked well chuffed with the playing and the audience reaction of long applause and the victory was well deserved.

Five Rivers are a lovely band, nice players, friendly and always good for a laugh and support. Duncan Beckley had them again but for some reason it just didn't come off on the day this time. We know there have been some player changes recently but we don't know if this upset the applecart so to speak. Whatever, it wasn't the band we've come to respect and enjoy listening too over the last couple of years and although they will be disappointed with coming 7th, they will return for sure.

Carlisle St. Stephens can be brilliant one year and off the next. This year they were in the middle though!. A good performance but with those little lapses of concentration that are costly, and once again the clarity problem raised it head. Fifth place was just about right.

And so to Stape who, they won't mind us saying were the surprise package. To give some background, they are 75% female in band personnel (hey, the 4BR editor has just woken up!) with a number of young members as well. About a fortnight before the contest the soprano announced they couldn't make it to Darlington, so flugel Sharon Pape went onto soprano and conductor Michael Breckon took her place on flugel. Enter Gary Hallas – he of snazzy bow-tie at Yorkshire, who took the helm.

Stape
Lucky man: Stapes wonderful ladies lead the one male on his way to the promised land

The first movement was taken really slow at around 102 per minute and there were some problems with the first euphonium entry and some general untunefulness, but it had great clarity and was well chosen as it allowed the detail to really come through. The Elegy was also very good as the dynamics weren't pushed and solo cornet Katharine Sisk played very well. The March also seemed to go well as the detail was pretty much all there. The trombones were mis-balanced at places with too much second trom and if one thing cost them the title it was that there wasn't a lot of the middle of the band to be heard. It was very good though and fully deserved second place and pushed the winners all the way.

Hetton Silver, the last of the contenders started with a blistering pace which in places got quicker and well over tempo. The dynamics in the first movement were in places pulled down but it seemed that it was a fairly clean start. However in the slow mid section the band didn't move together and the old problem of tuning arose and the horns and baritones disappeared. The Elegy seemed to sit uncomfortably on some parts wanting to get it over with and a very loud bass drum just robbed the atmosphere. The March was quicker than most but the Maestoso was slower than others and again the rall was missed. Basic errors which can cost points, and that is what may have happened here.

In discussion before the results most had it between Dearham, Hetton and the Constabulary. John Morrison the police secretary was sitting at the front awaiting the results, when the two reps next to him began talking. ‘Did you hear the Police?' ‘Aye, I did and they were bloody good'. The omens were not good then.

Brian Buckley gave some excellent remarks noting that some bands didn't have the energy and precision required for the first movement, whilst in the second some phrasing and flow was lost. He felt overall the standard was not what he expected in the consistency of approach the bands have given to the three movements.

The murmurs that went round when Dearham were awarded fourth and Hetton were third just sent the nerves jangling. Stapes second was a surprise, but the relief when first was announced was indescribable. Keith McDonald became the first winner of the Joe Ireland Trophy (Joe, who passed away    was MD of Dearham for over 50 years supposedly it transpired on a temporary basis!) and the first to buy a round of drinks at the pub…where we bumped into Stape who are a smashing bunch and fine drinkers as proven by the photographic which may be used in court against him at some time in the future if he ever gets as close to beating us again!

Steve Jack and Erik Strodl.

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