2008 Butlins Mineworkers Championships - Retrospective: First Section

23-Jan-2008

A mammoth 24 band battle finally saw Skelmanthorpe once again prove that they are nigh on unbeatable with their backs to the sea and some Gregson on the stands.


Skelmanthorpe
We are the Champions: Skelmanthorpe celebrate
Picture: John Stirzaker


By the time we had reached 1.30pm on Saturday afternoon, this contest was only at its half way point, but it would still have taken something special indeed to remove a performance of real quality from the band drawn number twelve, Skelmanthorpe, from the first place spot in the results table. 

Come close

Only a couple of bands eventually came close to putting down quality performances to match their effort on the day, and after Skelmanthorpe had taken to the stage, no one produced a performance of Gregson’s ‘The Plantagenets’ that could beat them.

Twenty-four bands, the largest field of any of the five sections (and with no withdrawals) tackled the testing work, but for the most part, the contest never really came to life.

Cricket season

At times, it was reminiscent of an early day in the cricketing season where teams don’t want to make mistakes, are not at the peak of their form and the play is memorable for only fleeting moments of quality; be it a catch, a wicket or a laborious fifty from a number three batsman who isn’t in form and wonders how he’s got through to stumps with his wicket still intact.

When the quality did come through, it stood out significantly from the rest and those bands that did well here did so because they were match fit after the festive break and together with their MDs had worked hard at finding the correct styles required for the music.

Clarity

A large number of bands got the notes right, but they struggled with the stylistic problems and tempo’s – key ingredients to the successful delivery of Gregson’s music. Those that got reward did this, whilst those that didn’t at times provided some curious interpretations as a result.  Too many bands didn’t produce the required clarity from within the score and the music never really came through.

Credit also must go the MD’s who were in the hall early doors listening to performances and training their ears to the acoustics giving them some last minute thoughts on whether their preparation was spot on or whether or not it needed a little tweak here and there.

Clear winners

Skelmanthorpe
was the clear winners and judges Malcolm Brownbill and Paul Cosh wouldn’t have had too many problems choosing second and third places on the day either.

There was an interesting fight for the places four to eight, but placing the bands in the middle rather than the bottom end of the prize table would have given them plenty of food for thought.

The draw in actual fact was favourable to Skelmanthorpe and their MD, John Roberts, and playing from the number twelve slot they took a stranglehold on the contest that no one could wrestle off them.

The musicality of the band was to be heard from the opening fanfares coupled to quality ensemble and solo work from around the stand and all knitted together by clear direction from the middle. 

Principal cornet Joanne Payne had a dream contesting debut leading the band with authority and style (her reward was a kiss from the MD at the close) and that was mirrored throughout the band with the middle lyrical section terrifically executed. 

In the closing moments, the quality remained in place (others tired before the final chords) and as long as nothing serious went wrong, it was clear there and then to those present that Skelmanthorpe would take some beating.

Real merit

Michael Fowles led United Co-op Yorkshire’s challenge and they put down a performance of real merit that found favour with the judges.

Tabby Clegg led the band and the cornet section (of which the females on the front row found plenty to smile about) with a sense of purpose, and the MD’s energy from the middle and thought that had gone into the reading paid dividends.  The ensemble work along with the soloists was solid and well executed and the music came alive with well chosen tempos and a stylistic approach that was delivered with vibrancy.

Vernon Building Society Poynton under the direction of Kevin Gibbs produced a terrific interpretation full of style and musicality and which gave the judges plenty to think about late in the day.

The playing was tight and precise, and there wasn’t much to chose between them and Yorkshire Co-op come the results – 4BR had Poynton just ahead in fact but both bands were worthy of a top three berth and like the winners, sets them in good stead for the forthcoming regionals.

Interesting battle

Away from the top three, it was an interesting battle for fourth place, right down to eighth, with any of the bands placed here giving themselves a real opportunity of taking the final cheque on the day of £450.

In the end it went to Ipswich and Norwich Co-op, for an impressive account that although not sparkling as much as the top three was stylistic in its approach, had some solid ensemble and cornet work and clear direction from MD Robin Norman in the middle.

Derek Renshaw’s Stannington Brass also delivered a performance of merit, with a robust style and good sounding ensemble but not without the odd blip along the way. Meanwhile, City of Cambridge produced an interesting interpretation that suffered from a few errors along the way but again was a good confidence booster ahead of the regionals.

Touch unlucky

Markham and District Colliery
and Pontardulais can both consider themselves a touch unlucky not too have finished higher than seventh and eighth respectively.  Adrian Morton’s sensible approach brought the best out of Markham as they finished as the highest placed mining band, whilst Pontardulais didn’t quite settle down as quickly as they’d have liked but the quality came through once they did.

The bands placed from ninth to sixteenth all suffered from high error counts in their performances and varied interpretations from the middle that never faired well with the men in the box.

Carlton Brass, Foresters Brass and Becontree Brass never really mastered the style of the work despite putting in plenty of effort whilst Old Silkstone, Egham, Gresley and Jackfield Elcock Reisen all had experienced hands in front of them who’d thought about their approach but found that they couldn’t quite get their intentions executed as they would have wished by their charges.

Little to chose

There was little to chose between these bands – some had greater consistency than other, some had better solo lines but weaker ensemble, tuning was an issue fir many but not all, whilst the direction from the middle sometimes made you scratch your head in puzzlement. 

The remaining bands were never at the races and for various reasons, never gave themselves a fighting chance of finishing in the prizes. 

This was mainly due to the chosen tempo’s and unforeseen errors including wrong entries all catching out Bedworth Brass, Sandhurst, Shirland Welfare, GT Group Peterlee, Wansbeck’s Ashington, NW Ellington Colliery not forgetting Cawston, Hopkins Blidworth and Ibstock.

Much of a muchness

Again, it was all much of a muchness – some good, some mediocre, some patently bad.

You’ve got to hand it to Skelmanthorpe and John Roberts though.  Being nominated for 4BR Lower Section Band of the Year last year was testament to their efforts.  They’ve started 2008 like they finished 2007 and they’ll be a match for anyone on the contesting stage this year if this performance was anything to go by.

Malcolm Wood

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