2006 North of England Regional Championships - Second Section retrospective

24-Mar-2006

Just the five bands made it to the stage to tackle the immensly difficult 'Images'by Howard Snell. Lockwood won, but they all deserved medals for having to play it in the first place.


Just five bands faced the arduous task of getting to grips with ‘Images of the Millennium' and on the evidence put before us here, you could tell why. It has been well documented of how difficult the piece was and it certainly turned out that way for three of the bands at least.

Lockwood
Thanks Al!: Lockwood's rep takes possession of the first prize trophy

The winning band were excellent according to Alan Fernie, but 4BR didn't agree quite as much as to the extent of a winning three point margin. The other major point Alan stated was that quite clearly the percussion section is important  in this piece, but some of them had gone AWOL, ruining chances of some of the bands. 

The eventual winners Lockwood Brass (drawn 2) followed Murton on stage and the gulf in class was immediately apparent between the two bands. A super tempo was set at the beginning with obvious clarity in all sections and letter C was nice and delicate and the baritone parts gelling in ¾ time.

Lockwood
Leading from the back: Lockwood's lower end lead the band to Harrogate

There was dynamics and shape to the music at all times and there was some intricate sop playing before J with good precision in the bass section. There was also an excellent flugel at the start of second movement that also saw a very fine euphonium on display and a bass section where the harmony motif was well balanced. There was good cornet and soprano work in the third movement that perhaps just needed a little more clarity in the sextuplets at rehearsal letter Q. The cornets just held out to the end and overall this was an excellent well balanced performance.  One point we did notice though. John Roberts seems to have a very wide beat -at times resembling the Angel of the North. It works fine though, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Wansbeck's Ashington playing number four gained second place with a very detailed and musical performance. Great tempo at the start and the ¾ dovetails were just right, with plenty of dynamics and excellent balance in all sections.

Wansbecks
Red Alert: Wansbecks take second place

The second movement held together well and was well controlled with clear incisive beats from Nigel Steadman and the soprano shone again and this was allied to good euphonium, cornet and flugel playing. Good dynamic and detailed contrast to each figure in the opening third movement saw them off again, and there was excellent balance throughout. 4BR could not separate these bands and hotly dispute the three point's gap difference. On balance Lockwood probably just shaded it, although it was hard to call. 

Cockerton was drawn third and finished third - justly so as they started fairly safely with a slightly slower tempo which should have allowed for more clarity, but it didn't. The second movment could have started better, but there was nice playing between in the tuba and flugel, whilst the third movment lacked some clarity in the cornets and a little untunefulness here and there. The bass end became a little light but there was better clarity towards the end, if they had displayed the same gusto at the beginning of the movement it could have been so much better. One special mention goes to Charlie Harrison who has been with the band 76 years and is in his eighties. This was his last contest. Bow out proudly Charlie….we need more like you!!

East Riding of Yorkshire drawn fifth claimed fourth spot. There seemed to be a general lack of cohesion and clarity and poor tuning in the middle of the band and that was what may have cost them dearly. The percussionist dropped the sticks that didn't help either, whilst the cornets suffered tuning problems in the second movement. The third movement was fairly similar, and overall the band never really got to grips with the piece.

Murton Colliery like East Riding found this piece technically too hard for them in coming anywhere near the musical score. It is very difficult when you have a young band and it is too challenging, and the Music Panel has a lot to answer for with this pice when it is to be played by such young bands as this. Tuning was also a problem and was very evident throughout the piece, and they did have probably the quietest timpanist ever heard. Give them their due though they competed and gave their all.

Not really hard to predict the result here when you have only five bands in the section, although the top two places were unquestionably the best on the day by some distance. There was not much between the first two bands (for us that is) but Alan Fernie felt differently and that is his prerogative. The two winning bands had obviously dissected this piece and gave a good performances, but surely the National final test piece will not be as demanding.

Erik Strodl

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Alan FernieAlan Fernie
DRSAM, Dip.NCOS

Arranger, composer, adjudicator, conductor