2008 North West Regional Championship - Retrospective: Third Section

14-Mar-2008

It was a question of keeping the best till last here as Oldham (Lees) took the title in what was a cracking contest for everyone to enjoy.


Over the past 10 years the North West area has produced a winner no less than six times at the lower section finals in the Third Section. So if ever there was a lower section championship to be at on the weekend then this was it.

Before the results, adjudicator James Scott was invited to say a few words, and after a brief battle turning the microphone on he informed the audience of how he had chosen the bands going on to Harrogate as the North West representatives.

Precise analysis

He thought the piece was a good test and enjoyed the fact that the composer had left the speed of the ‘Presto’ very much down to the conductor.  He also mentioned the tuning and intonation issues that had affected so many performances throughout the day, whilst also pinpointing the key issue of listening to went on with the links between the sections. 

It was a very precise analysis from the great man and left no one in any doubt to what he was looking for and why he made his decision.
 
Nevertheless, he enjoyed the overall standard of performances he heard and the winning band’s performance especially, mentioning that all the prize winners were worthy of going on and doing a great job at the finals. Those top three will surely be favourites to do very well indeed come September in Harrogate.

Best till last

Those winners were Oldham (Lees) conducted by John Collins and they were well worth the wait - in this case it really was saving the best till last. 

They got off to a brilliant start, one of the very best heard all day and the euphoniums and trombones in particular were at the top of their game. 

The conductor choose a bright tempo but also asked his band to really show off what pianissimo dynamics could be achieved too. In the section going into the slow movement the cornet and trombone showed great control whilst towards the end of the piece there were some added touches of quality and a special mention should also go to the soprano, solo horn and bass section in what was a truly outstanding winning performance. 

They could well be one of the favourites come September for sure on form like this.

Fine show

Joining them at Harrogate will be Eagley conducted by Grenville Moore. They produced one of the quietest starts by the basses and whilst it was a little out of balance at times as it went along with the euphonium, it didn’t detract too much from the performance. 

The accel was really well controlled moving up through the gears and into one of the fastest ‘Prestos’ of the day - obviously pleasing Mr Scott.  The slow movement was set alight by the solo cornet playing and notable performances were also given by the flugel and trombone, whilst making full use of the dynamics throughout probably bought Eagley their ticket to Harrogate. It was a fine show in anyone’s book.

Fully deserved

The final qualification place went to Pemberton Old ‘B’ Band conducted by Paul Ashley with a performance notable for a fine start where the back row cornets turning in was a really good effect.

A couple of intonation problems in the euphonium line were apparent but some nice confident playing from the solo cornet and really good ensemble more than made up for it.  This was quality stuff and although there were a couple of little liberties taken in places it was a performance topped off with some first class soprano playing. It fully deserved its qualification place for the finals too.

Missing out

Just missing out on this occasion was a number of performances that had so much to commend. The strength of the lower sections here is well known and without doubt the bands that did come in the top six would have been qualifiers at just about any other area – they were that good.

Flixton delivered a very fine account to come 4th. A confident start was perhaps a touch loud but the quality of the ensemble sound was so well balanced. 

A fine contribution from the bumper up and some neat touches elsewhere from an impressive team of lead players seemed to set them up nicely and the slow movement in particular was full of emotion and warmth. It sailed through to the end, and whilst it was very exciting you were left with the doubt in your mind that the lack of a real quiet dynamic would possibly cost them. Unfortunately, it did.

Douglas Town’s performance was also cut from the same cloth in many ways too, although they didn’t quite have the depth of sound of the bands that finished above them. This was a neat and very precise account with some lovely mature cornet and soprano playing on show in particular. It just started to tire at the end but overall it was a very competent and enjoyable show.

The final top six place went to BMP Europe Goodshaw, with a confident performance, led it must be said by a very nonchalant MD in Kevin Gibbs (who took to the stage with hands casually in pockets – cool guy!).

This was a very driven performance with great use of dynamics and some truly excellent flugel and trombone playing. Where it possibly fell down was that it just lacked a bit of atmosphere and poise in the slower section and against such good rivals on the day, that may have been enough to just miss out.

Outside prizes

Just out of the prizes were a host of bands that it must have been very difficult for James Scott to separate out. As always it was a question of consistency at this level, but these were generally pretty consistent performances, perhaps not having the overall quality of the bands above them, but still, pretty admirable efforts. 

Morecambe started brilliantly and must have felt that even after such a long wait to play (number 17) they were heading for a qualification place at least. Some super trombone playing in particular caught the ear, but just when it felt it really was going to take off things went a little awry with a strange sounding glock and the some poor intonation just taking the gloss off. It was a nearly performance – nearly a cracker and they may feel a tad disappointed.

Formby on the other hand had no wait at all as they were drawn number 1 on the day, but they laid down a very good marker of a performance with a warm and balanced band sound the main feature. Some tuning problems did just rob them of valuable points, but it was a fine effort from last year’s Fourth Section national champions.

So too Hawk Green with a great start promising much and the solo cornet and horn on top form throughout. Adding a neat cherry on the cake was a fine sop, but just when it too was looking good it tired and the intonation started to wane, costing them a higher place.

Dobcross Silver has been through some turbulent times of late but this very young band delivered a good show and could perhaps count themselves a touch unlucky not to have finished slightly higher than 10th. There was so much potential in their playing that despite the obvious weaknesses you sensed that it will only be a matter of time before they will find themselves in the winners enclosure here. 

Mini contest

These top ten performances were a little way ahead of the rest of the field and the bottom half of the contest was in fact a mini contest of its own.

Top of that section came Skelmersdale who played well enough and had one of the best soprano players of the day in their ranks, whilst there were notable efforts too from Whitworth Vale & Healey, Valley Brass and Ramsay Town.

Each had more plus points than minus ones and it must have been difficult to separate these bands out when none did anything really too wrong, but had varying and various errors that undermined their chances of coming higher than they did.

That was also the case for Boarshurst Silver who perhaps had one of those days when nothing quite came off for them in a performance that held so much promise.

Bottom quarter

The bottom quarter also contained performances where there were many a plus point to enjoy but also significant structural problems that just found the bands struggling to overcome the technical as well as musical hurdles in Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s score.

Pilling Jubilee Silver, Rivington & Adlington, Dobcross Youth (who had a cracking young cornet player), City of Chester and Greenall’s all had their moments when things were going alone very nicely indeed, only for them to trip up over the well laid traps in the score. None though found the piece beyond them and there were real signs in each prformance that there was potential as yet possibly untapped. Next year could well be another story.

This year though it was the three of Oldham (Lees), Eagley and Pemberton Old Wigan JJB  B that won through, and on this evidence anyone of them could well come back here next year wearing the national crown – now that would be yet another contest not to miss.

Gareth Brindle 

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