2006 North of England Regional Championships - First Section retrospective

24-Mar-2006

A great piece and two very good performances here as Felling and Easington tickled the musical palette of Brian Buckley and book their journey to Harrogate.


Reminiscent images of the Onedin Line and that famous port where the cargo was loaded were conjured up in this wonderful piece of music. Nine bands were up for the challenge and what a test it was. Only two bands literally portrayed the atmosphere and excitement of this voyage, but other bands came mighty close as Easington were looking for their second win in a row here.
                                                                                 
Felling
Can I have it in writing please: Felling's rep gets the winning evidence from the judge Brian Buckley

Brian Buckley, dressed in a smart suit and with distinguished grey hair, commented his journey had been worthwhile and the two winning bands were excellent. And  he was spot on. "I'm quite familiar with the piece" he went on to say as he had been rehearsing the work with some bands in Wales. He made particular mention of the superb tenor orn players, backed up by good euphonium and percussion work.  He also gave a very good piece of advice for the soprano players," .if you think you will struggle to get a note, you will.  Be more confident, it's only one note in hundreds."

Things had been pretty mundane and the bands seemed to be coping quite well but there was a distinct lack of atmosphere and excitement about the piece - that was until Felling Band (drawn eighth) arrived on stage.

A clean opening and from the moment the trombones struck after the 5/4 bar we knew this was going to be something different.  The sound was full and rich but not overdone. The lilting euph/baritone theme was just at the right tempo and the euphonium duet just had the right balance favourably well accompanied by the whole band. There was a slight clip on the run up to the sop note, but it rang out true and clear and the horn cadenza that followed was excellent. The trombones keeping the precision and delightful playing at a high standard just breezed through letter K.

Felling
Journey to Harrogate: Felling power through to the finals

The fanfare section (aka: Hallelujah chorus) was well balanced and precise followed by a lovely bass solo by Jason Smith. The whole thing just gelled together so well and was beautifully directed by Graeme Tindall.  Spurred on by a brilliant bass section (bass trom included) the whole piece came to a brilliant climax of sound after the trombone motif at the close. The applause rang out and cheers of approval after hearing a thoroughly exciting performance and the band stood to the appreciative applause.

Easington Colliery, strongly tipped to do well again here after winning last year, were drawn last and got off to a fine start.  The big sound was well balanced throughout the band and displayed tight sectional playing. The euph/baritone them was nicely played but the euph duet just seemed a tad brittle in the upper register. The soprano easily accomplished the top note followed by a lovely horn cadenza.

The trombone trio seemed a little on the quick side, but they accomplished it without any difficulty, whilst the Fanfare section was delightfully played followed by the excellent Bass section solo. David Hirst was well in control and the band responded with a great finish that met with well deserved applause and the end 

Westoe Band (drawn 3) finished in third place being four points behind the winners. The band responded with a brilliant opening matching Easington for sound and all was going well, nice neat playing, lots of dynamics. A nice euph/baritone motif followed and some precise euphonium playing from Steven Kyle. The sop player missed the high C and seemed to unease the band a little, whilst the horn cadenza seemed a little nervy.

The trombone trio just needed a little more clarity and definition and the muted section before the fanfare seemed untuneful. There was the odd clip in the bass solo but it didn't deter the band from bringing the piece to a rousing finish. Overall an excellent band sound but not enough detail to beat Easington or Felling.

GT Group Peterlee played off a number five draw and this band had a nice compact sound with excellent balance. Euphoniums again shone like the other bands even if it did sound a little hurried. The euphonium duet was well mastered although the soprano missed the top note - such a pity as it had gone really well to that point. The trombone trio could have been a little more prominent whilst the fanfare was played really well and in tune too followed by an excellent bass solo. The percussion seemed to be slightly adrift just before R though. A good close and excellent sounding band. 4BR had Westoe and GT grouped together as the winning performances until later in the day.

Northumbrian Water (Ellington Colliery) were conducted by Alan Fernie fresh from his adjudication of the Second Section, and the band started boldly and had a full sound, balanced in all sections. There were some nice dynamics and the music was shaped very well and there was a good euph /baritone theme. There was also some good playing evident from the lower end of the band and a good sop note, whilst there was just a small clip in the horn cadenza.

The trombone trio was disappointing and failed to capture any playfulness though. Steady to the close but the run up to the last note and held chord was a little out of tune. Sadly this just tailed away after a promising start. It struck 4BR as quite odd that if you stood Alan Fernie on a stage and Ian Robinson (Tavistock) side by side you couldn't tell one from the other. Their conducting style and mannerisms are so similar, it is uncanny.                                           

Houghton Brass and York Railway ended up sixth and seventh respectively after promising starts with good sounds from all sections which displayed good dynamics and had excellent euphonium players. Both had reasonable trom sections but could have been more prominent. The bass solo was played on euph by Houghton and York really struggled here, whilst both slightly ran out of steam at the end. 4BR had Houghton placed just ahead of Ellington.

Broughtons' Brass meanwhile set off like an express train and consequently some of the mood of the piece was lost. This was a good sounding band, but in a hurry and the euph solo just being a little too quick to have any expressiveness. Good soprano and excellent Horn cadenza though and a trom trio and bass solo were well managed despite the tempo at R being just a little too fast. The conductor really enjoyed himself though, but the excitement of the piece and atmosphere was lost due to those over quick tempos.  

Langbaurgh gave a real decent start and this was a good tight sounding band, but a couple of fluffs in the euph solo and too much bass trombone in the trombone trio cost points. The sop struggled with the top note and the tempos were too safe to instil any excitement whilst the syncopated cornet solo was hurried. Probably unlucky to finish last though.

As for the test piece? Well what a corker of a piece this was; intricate detail, unison passages, exposed solos, the lot.  This was a fair and challenging test to the bands that were up for it. Rumour had it that Easington would repeat their success from last year but this retrospective writer had inside information that things would not all be plain sailing for the East Durham band. Both Easington and Felling have made superb progress in the last couple of years, a true reflection on their respective conductors, Stuart Gray at Easington and Graeme Tindall, who is doing a superlative job at Felling.  It was also a double whammy for Graeme as he played soprano superbly for Ashington in the Second Section where they qualified too.

Both bands displayed a real touch of musicality in this piece with intricate detail, dovetailing of parts and above all, excellent control rhythmically and dynamically in all sections of the band. Both bands were enriched with sound, particularly the bass sections - a solid rock on which to build the rest of the band (Felling won the award for best basses). Both brought about exciting Voyage's for certain, and these two studious bands, given their undying conductors' work ethic, could well be in contention at the Nationals.

Erik Strodl

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