2008 West of England Regional Championship - Retrospective: Second Section

12-Mar-2008

Plenty of foundations laid here - from the great winners to the plain speaking of the judges. Something to keep everyone interested then...


Bristol East and Kingswood
Time and space for Bristol East and Kingswood

Saturday's opening contest of the West of England Championships laid the foundations for how the rest of the weekend would pan out: Some excellent playing that reaped reward with qualification, some indifferent playing, some ineffective direction from the middle and some firm and at times, hard hitting comments from the men in the box who were charged with making those all important decisions. 

Full potential?

Whether all the bands here really played to their full potential on the day is open to debate.  The ones who finished at the top end certainly produced performances that had the level of consistency judges Colin Hardy and Alan Hope were looking for. 

Some of the other bands didn’t manage to produce three good movements of Kenneth Downie’s delicate work, whilst for others, it just didn’t happen at all and they’ll very quickly want to forget Torquay 2008.

If the twelve competing bands weren’t quite sure how they were going to fair come the results, they very quickly realised that they were going to either fall into the  ‘it could be us’ or, it’s ‘certainly not us’ camps once Colin Hardy started to speak.

In the opening movement, the 'Prelude', Colin cited the importance of tempos and the lyrical style of the composers intentions - and immediately looking at the audience, shoulders slumped from several representatives as they immediately knew it wasn’t going to be their day. 

So what about the 'Romance'? Control was very much the key here to everything that was implemented and in a number of cases, not implemented.  Those who were still ruling themselves in with a shout after the first movement, pretty soon discovered if they were still in with a chance as Colin again told them plainly what he and Alan were looking for. 

As for the ‘Caprice’? Doing what it says on the tin can be something of a get out clause as a judge’s comment – but once again Colin told it straight and took no prisoners. You can’t complain the bands didn’t know what the two men wanted. 

Nine point margin

Walking out of the hall and pondering the results, the nine-point margin that separated the top six bands certainly created a few talking points, but only the odd band can have cause for complaint on the day over where they came.

Roy Curran directed Bristol East and Kingswood to the title in a thoroughly engaging performance that was stylistically excellent, with plenty of time and space given to the music, although they did survive the odd blip to maintain an impressive level of consistency throughout. 

The Romance was delightful in its execution and the two outer movements were delivered with plenty of self assurance from the middle and matched from the players.  Yes, it was beatable, but in the end no-one got close to them.

Stood out

The performance that stood out from the first half of the draw was Shrewton Silver.  Michael Dunford delivered a confident reading that never lost its focus and there was a real of sense of belief that was transmitted from the MD to the players and subsequently, they responded.  The Prelude transmitted as much brightness as a 1000 watt bulb whilst the Romance was beautifully expressive and the closing Caprice had some nice touches of humour within it.

With only one point separating second and third, this was the indication from the judges that there wasn’t much to divide the two bands.  Soundhouse Brass missed out on a trip to Harrogate and just some early wobbles before settling down in the First Section must have impacted on them missing out on North Yorkshire.  It was good stuff though with a common sense approach from the man in the middle.

Musical

It doesn’t matter at what level of banding Melvin White conducts, he always manages to produce a musical, if not flawless performance from his troops, and on Saturday morning it was the turn of Michelmersh Silver.  The reading was one of the best of the contest, but it was little clips and blobs that took the edge off them finishing higher than fourth place.  The clips were unforced and whilst the band can take delight for finishing in the top four, perhaps they’ll still be thinking, ‘if only’.

Alan Pope’s Camborne B are a young (and in some cases very young) and talented bunch, and fifth place was a touch unlucky for us. On another day, they could have sneaked in via the back door into the second place.

Once again the approach and thought beforehand from the MD was excellent and the players responded superbly and were a real credit to themselves.  The opening was as bright as anything on the day, but maybe it was the Romance that undid them just a bit, as the final Caprice was nicely delivered.  The players in this band continue to make extraordinary progress and if you’re at the National Youth Championships in April, look out for them as they’re a great bunch who love what they do. 

Forest of Dean drew Kelly’s Eye for number 1 and to be fair, it was a good marker. It wasn’t at the level of those above it - nerves were in evidence throughout and that just took the cutting edge off the performance.

Consistency

For the judges, consistency was the watch word and no band from seven to twelve managed to glue everything together. 

Phoenix Brass (Crewkerne) weren’t bad at times, but again it was those little unforeseen errors that proved costly as the picture painted by the MD was a good one. Similarly with Gillingham Imperial Silver and South Molton

Both gave an indication that they’d played better in rehearsal in their bandroom’s and it wasn’t just meant to be on the day.  Mr Treherne certainly kept a firm hand on the dynamics with South Molton but the style just wasn’t quite settled.

Filton Concert Brass, St Pinnock and Solent Brass fought it out for the wooden spoon and if truth be told, it could have gone to anyone of them. 

Tuning issues

Tuning issues were quite prominent at times, particularly in the Romance section and all three had that feeling of not quite feeling at home with the style of writing in the score. It certainly didn’t appeal in the box and in the end Filton finished tenth, St Pinnock eleventh and two points ahead of Solent Brass who picked up the wooden spoon.

For Bristol East and Kingswood though, victory certainly tasted sweet in the bar afterwards and they can look forward to Harrogate in the autumn where Shrewton will join them.

Malcolm Wood

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