2008 Yorkshire Regional Championship - Retrospective: Fourth Section

5-Mar-2008

10 bands providing a fine morning's entertainment - the Fourth Section contest had plenty to enjoy.


Lofthouse
A pair of Lofthouse lads: The MD and his percussionist enjoy the victory

Saturday morning’s Fourth Section competition, where 10 bands tackled Rodney Newton’s ‘Four Cities Symphony’ proved to be an enjoyable contest, although the overall standard of playing did vary.

The Yorkshire Regional committee took the opportunity to invite the composer to judge the contest alongside Philip Harper and this resulted in the bands getting the definitive viewpoint on how the piece should be performed. Whilst that may never stop bands leaving a contest still wondering why they were placed where they were, it did mean they got real insight from Rodney on their playing.

It doesn’t really matter what level it is, but if you get the type of informative and helpful comments from the stage as given by the PolySteel MD you can’t go wrong. 

Analytical

Speaking for around five minutes, Philip addressed the areas bands should look at to help them in the future, most notably the fundamentals of tuning.  To aid with this aspect, the suggestion was put forward to open the hymn book with  Philip encouraging the MDs and players to be very analytical as to the sounds they produce.  Players should also be encouraged he said to look at alternate fingering to help intonation. 

In addition, Philip encouraged them to look at how they approached the ‘corners’ - the links between sections where the style changes - and making them more watertight in the bandroom. It was a fine analysis and explicit common sense.

The test piece itself is split into four movements: London, Paris, Rome and Moscow, each depicting their stereotypical musical characteristics. However, it was the stylistic approach to ‘Pari’s that really sorted the bands out on the day.  Rodney Newton’s notes in the score request the bands to play the section in the style of a romantic waltz and whilst some came close, it was only the winners from the adjudicators’ viewpoint that truly nailed it.

Nailed it

That band was Lofthouse 2000 who from the number two draw put down a performance that was not to be beaten.  The MD paid lots of attention to the score, adhering to the markings and the stylistic approaches required and that Paris style waltz was very impressive with the euphonium transporting the audience to the banks of the Seine. In addition the principal cornet James Whitaker aged 18 led the band with mature security (he is only 18) throughout the four movements to deservedly take the Soloist Prize.

In second place, and also booking a trip to Harrogate was Skelmanthorpe ‘B’.  Once again, it wasn’t blemish free, but there was enough quality on show and the performance benefited from fine direction.  The dynamics were good and what came across in particular was that sense of enjoyment – something that certainly paid dividends.

Maltby Miners Welfare was the last band to play and whilst they didn’t quite deliver the same impact as the top two bands they adapted to the styles of the piece extremely well. The Parisian movement didn’t quite come off as well as it could have done though, but it was a overall performance of merit.

Memorable

Armthorpe Elmfield’s
performance off the number one draw was memorable for MD, Hayden Griffith’s singing during the Rome section - making it feel like a Rhapsody for voice and band. That aside, the band just needed a little more consistency throughout the entirety of the piece to have made more of an impression.

Throughout the contest the one thing that stood out was the amount of young players on show, and there was not a band in this section that wasn’t influenced by young talent.

Mix

Barnsley Metropolitan, with a good mix of youth and experience also displayed a lot of good basic playing. They too had a fine solo cornet player and good solid trombones and basses, but a touch of youthful exuberance just got the better of them at times. It was another decent show though.

The same went for Thurcroft Welfare too, directed by Ken Vernon, who were big and bold at times but demonstrated good dynamic contrasts with excellent percussion.

Friendly Band (Sowerby Bridge) containing the youngest player, Jacob Lusk, aged 11, was confident and bright, but just had too many tuning problems. A bit of work on that aspect will bring huge dividends we are sure as the rest of the basic stuff was well in place and can be honed further in the coming months.  

A similar tale can be applied to Tingley. Again it was the tuning that robbed them of a chance to come higher up the prize list, but the MD has done a great job here getting the band back on its feet and there is also a great deal of promise in the ranks too.

Linthwaite meanwhile had a real sense of brightness and eagerness about them and they are clearly a band that is moving in the right direction.  The MD was full of encouragement for his players and whilst it didn’t quite come off, they kept going right to the end.

Congratulations

Finally congratulations go to the debutants, Deepcar from Sheffield.  They came last, but so what? 

Yorkshire Regional Secretary Peggy Tomlinson expressed her delight in the contest programme that another new band was competing, and to be fair they really did give it a go and concentrated on making music as opposed to blowing their way through the eleven or so minutes.  They looked like they enjoyed every second too and fingers crossed they’ll come back much better for the experience.

You’ve got to give it to Lofthouse 2000 and Skemanthorpe ‘B’ though. Both bands had enough quality on the day in Rodney Newton’s enjoyable piece that fulfilled everything it was commissioned to do. They now head for Harrogate and should be confident of doing very well there.

Malcolm Wood.

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