2008 Yorkshire Regional Championship - Retrospective: Second Section

5-Mar-2008

The bands that adhered to Plato came out on top here on the weekend. Read on...


Slaithwaite
Hands on the cup: York Instruments John Rogers hands over the winners pot to Slaithwaite

According to Plato, necessity is the mother of invention. Well if it is then the need to encourage creative efforts to solve problems was alive and well here at Bradford on the weekend when Slaithwaite conducted by Barry Hudson won the Second Section title and booked itself a place along with YBS Concert Brass in Harrogate. 

Kenneth Downie’s ‘Three Part Invention’ proved to be an enjoyable test for the bands and each of the 11 runners delivered performances of varying degrees of merit. None tried to reinvent the musical wheel, although a few did come close at times, and the overall standard on display was pretty good.

On the tin

The winners, according to adjudicator Alan Hope ‘…did what it said on the tin – nothing more, nothing less.’ It was a fair assessment of a fairly neutral reading from the MD that allowed the music to flow unhindered by pretence or misplaced emotion. Where others tried to extract something that was patently non existent from the very transparent score, Barry Hudson’s charges played the notes in the right place, at the right time and at the correct dynamic marking. Simple necessity really.

Barry Thompson was also in agreement with his fellow judge, telling the audience that the opening ‘Prelude’ had caught many bands unprepared, the ‘Romance’ needed a touch more boudoir inspired intimacy rather than wham bang thank you mam approach favoured by many, with the final ‘Caprice’ requiring a whimsical informal feel rather than misplaced aggression - all straightforward, accurate instructions that appeared very clearly marked in the score (OK - perhaps not the wham bang stuff). If more bands had done just that then perhaps their decision would have been harder to make. Necessity again.

Both Alan and Barry were clear about what they wanted and rewarded the bands that gave it too them accordingly. There cannot be any complaints when that consistency of approach is so clearly undertaken, even if it was a bit strange that Alan spoke in such glowing terms of the excellence of the horn and flugel players but then gave the soloist award to a euphonium player. Ian Gill from YBS Concert Brass was very good though.

Winners

Slaithwaite were drawn number 7 and by the time they took the stage there had already been a number of performances that although flawed in execution had the hallmarks of the required style that Alan and Barry were looking for.

The two opening bands Kippax and Frickley/South Elmsall, eventually came 6th and 5th respectively after delivering performances that had much to commend.

Kippax were bright and breezy in the ‘Prelude’, calm and expressive in the ‘Romance’ and good humoured rather than laugh a minute in the ‘Caprice’. All in all  Russell D. Gray and his band could count themselves a touch unfortunate that they eventually ended up where they did as it was a performance that although a little forced in tempo at times, certainly set a healthy marker.

So too Frickley under David Nicholas, who recovered from a rather untidy start to shape a controlled opening section, a well balanced, Bach inspired ‘Romance’, and a compact and slick ‘Caprice’. Perhaps those early moments of fragility lost them a few valuable points, but it too was a performance that on another day may well have made it into the top three.

That opening duet from two strong bands must have given Alan and Barry plenty of food for thought, but Strata Brass who followed them under the direction of David Hirst upped the ante even further.

Theirs was a very persuasive account, rich in detail and nuance allied to very effective internal balances and solid soloists. It really was a stylish performance and after a tender ‘Romance’ they seemed set to take to the contest by the scruff of the neck. That they didn’t was perhaps due to the fact that they just let their guard down in the ‘Caprice’ and although exciting and playful, it was also not without error. It was a fine performance though – and it came as no surprise that Alan stated from the stage that they he did feel for them on the day in coming third. 

No complaints

Both Chapeltown Silver and Clifton & Lightcliffe who followed could have little cause to complain after they eventually came 10th and 11th respectively.

Clifton delivered a rather inconsistent performance that certainly had its moments but also contained too many small, but annoying, little errors that robbed the well thought out musical picture by MD, John Clay. Meanwhile, Toby Bannan and Chapletown suffered the same fate with a nicely portrayed reading just floundering at times under the increasing weight of scrappy ensemble and solo fragility. The plusses outweighed the minuses in both though.

It was much the same to report with Horbury Victoria. Just before the announcement of the results, MD Bob Walker had received a certificate from the Yorkshire Committee in recognition of 50years service to the banding movement, so it was a pity that he couldn’t celebrate that fine achievement with a better placing than the 9th they came overall.

They could count themselves a touch unlucky – many in the press contingent had them in the top six, but given what Alan and Barry clearly stated what they were looking for, the slightly over emphasised ‘Caprice’, that although not aggressive was a touch boisterous, could have lost the valuable points. That, added to just a few too many annoying little clips pushed them down the prize list.

Winners

And so to the eventual winners – Slaithwaite – or Sloughwit, as they call them in these parts.

Resplendent in Black Dyke lookalike uniforms and with a moon and star motif badge on the lapels they certainly looked the part – and for the judges and many in the hall, played the part too.

A well paced opening ‘Prelude’ was clean and compact, whilst the ‘Romance’ was delivered with efficient rather than Viagra inspired intent. It certainly did what it said on the bottle if you get the drift. The best of their playing came in the ‘Caprice’ with a real sense of control, detail and balance that the MD held onto right to the final chord. It may not have been the most thrilling or exciting performance of the day, but it was certainly the most efficient and complete – the very attributes both Alan and Barry were on the look out for.

Compare

With YBS Concert Brass following them on, the two judges had the ideal opportunity to compare and contrast the slightly more cerebral approach of Barry Hudson to Ian Craddock’s more intense, emotive reading.

This featured a colourful, vibrant ‘Prelude’ followed by a delicate touchy feely ‘Romance’ and playful, witty ‘Caprice’ that despite noticeable clips and blips really brought the music to life. The frailties aside, it was the one performance of the day that just about captured the intent of the composer to the letter and certainly benefited from that fine playing of Ian Gill on euphonium. 

Duncan Beckley and Holme Silver can be proud of their efforts.  Following on two well crafted accounts they delivered a bold and robust performance that certainly caught the ear, even if at times it did threaten to become a touch OTT.

Despite a collapsing percussion department in the second movement Duncan allowed the music to flow, and whilst it didn’t quite have the cohesive balance or controlled musicality of the bands that featured above it in the eventual prize list, you could hear why it appealed in the box. It was non nonsense sensible playing – a touch harsh to end perhaps when stamina just started to fade, but a well managed account nonetheless.

Two contenders

That just left two contenders, Wetherby and District conducted by Roy Roe and Dodworth Colliery MW directed by Eliot Drawin.

Wetherby’s light approach at times cried out for a touch more Yorkshire beef in places, but Roy Roe deliberately kept a lid on the dynamics. It made for an enjoyable, if slightly dynamically bland account, but there were some lovely little touches here and there that kept the listeners interest right to the end.

Emotive

On the other hand, Dodworth’s rather robust, emotive, heart on sleeve approach certainly didn’t find favour in the box, although there were many in the hall that had them in the mix.

Conducting without a score the MD certainly went looking for the music, and whilst it made for a very interesting, colourful performance, there was a distinct feeling that less would have given more on the day. The opening ‘Prelude’ was a touch heavy in approach, whilst the ‘Caprice’ was tremendously detailed and full of bravura playing, but also got a touch overblown too.

It was the ‘Romance’ though that really cost them – it was a little self indulgent if truth be told. The wine and roses were great but there was no need for the extra chocolates, perfume, saucy underwear and Barry White backing track. A very good band and MD, they perhaps overplayed their hand on this occasion.

There were few surprises at the results then given what both Alan and Barry said to the audience. We had a top six of YBS, Kippax, Strata, Slaithwaite, Holme and Horbury, whilst the judges had Slaithwaite, YBS, Holme, Strata, Frickley/South Elmsall and Kippax.

Necessity is the mother of invention then? Perhaps reading the instructions means that you don’t have to do that at all – it certainly made sense for Slaithwaite.


Iwan Fox

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