2008 Lower Section National Finals: Fourth Section - Introduction & Predictions

23-Sep-2008

Malcolm Wood looks at the Fourth Section contenders and wonders which one will find their sea legs and take the title and which ones may find it a titanic struggle...


Test Piece: The Shipbuilders - Peter Yorke
Adjudicators: Richard Evans and Chris Wormald
Saturday 27th September
Commences 9.30am
 

It is something that 4BR says every year, but the Fourth Section National Final is one of the highlights of the contesting year.  It invariably makes for a brilliant contest with the bands and conductors giving their all as though their lives depend upon it in search of that all important national title.

Major impact

Nowhere else do the players come in as many shapes and sizes, ages and experience too; from nippers knee high to a bass trombone to pensioners enjoying a bit of an Indian Summer, mams and grans with less playing experience than their offspring, to up and coming young stars ready to make their first impact at a major contest.  

The atmosphere is friendly but competitive, the commitment nothing short of absolute.  

Old classic

The Music Panel do get criticised from time to time (4BR included) for their choices of test pieces, but in recent years they've pulled out some real crackers in the Fourth Section, such last year’s 'Roman Triptych' by Leigh Baker, Philip Wilby's ‘The Seasons’ and Alan Fernie's ‘Anglian Dances’.

Rodney Newton's ‘Four Cities Symphony’ was another enjoyable piece that nearly all the competing bands could play, and play well at the Regionals this year too, and we think that will also be the case with an old classic, Peter Yorke's ‘The Shipbuilders’ too.

The Shipbuilders contains four contrasting movements; ‘Web of Steel’, ‘The Launching’, ‘All Hands at Work’ and ‘Maiden Voyage’.  Descriptive, transparent and full of rolling melodies and character it will be a fine old test to see which of the bands can find their contesting sea legs.

Twenty bands will make their way to Harrogate on a work that's around ten minutes long, and it looks quite an evenly matched field.

North West

The North West remains a real strong hold of competitiveness at this level with Formby taking home the Nationals Trophy last year.

In what was a very good contest at Blackpool in March (with an excellent entry of 23 bands) Uppermill took the title directed by Alan Widdop, with Lostock Hall Memorial and Tarleston and District joining them on the trip over the Pennines.

Uppermill will surely be hoping that the contesting gods look a little more favourably on them this year, after their powerful performance 12 months ago was only deemed good enough for 12th place by the judges, whilst Lostock make their fourth appearance at the Finals and come with some good form behind them too. 

Less than a decade after they were formed as a youth band Tarleston and District make their debut appearance at the Finals and they complete a high class trio of North West contenders as they also have some pretty good form under their belt so far this year.

London & Southern Counties

4BR Editor Iwan Fox should know exactly what the strength of challenge the three bands from London & Southern Counties will come up as he enjoyed 22 bands at Stevenage in the qualifiers, where Hemel Hempstead under Graham Weeks triumphed in a marathon contest ahead of Tadley Concert Brass and Cold Ash.  

Hemel Hempstead has a proud old history that it hopes it can add a new chapter to this weekend, whilst both Tadley and the five year old Cold Ash are two progressive outfits that are making their mark both locally and nationally.

West of England

As usual there was also a big field of contenders in the West of England this year, where the up and coming Brunel Brass conducted by John Winterflood beat off 19 other challengers to claim the title ahead of Wincanton Silver and Totnes.

The region has a proud record to uphold at Harrogate and Brunel could be the band to add to that after their impressive victory in Torquay. Totnes have nearly completed their rebuilding programme and have some pretty good form to back themselves with this year, whilst Wincanton will be looking to build on a series of positive results over the last couple of years.    

Wales

Unfortunately across the Severn Bridge, Wales could only muster up seven bands in what is usually a keenly contested Fourth Section. The overall standard was pretty good with Crosskeys taking the title for a second successive year under conductor Keri Bowden, with Severn Tunnel joining them on the long trek north to Harrogate. 

The Finals haven’t been the happiest of hunting grounds in recent years for the Welsh with their last victory in 2000, but there is optimism in both camps this time around with Crosskeys boasting an impressive contest record this year and Severn Tunnel gaining in strength and confidence too. 

Scotland

There was a slightly better turn out of eight bands north of the border in March where Renfrew Burgh conducted by David Hutchison and Irvine Dreghorn Brass won through to represent the Tartan Army.

The Scots like the Welsh have found victory hard to come by here over the years (1973 was the last time the trophy went back over Hadrian’s Wall) but Renfrew has been on good form all season, whilst the ambitious Irvine have also been making progress too. 

North of England

There was a highly encouraging turn out of 13 bands in Darlington this year as the North of England closed the 2008 Regionals in fine style.

There was also a very good winning performance to enjoy too, with South Milford under the direction of Richard Wilton taking the title with some aplomb. Kirby Lonsdale Brass joined them in gaining the other qualification spot on offer, and in recent years bands from the region have fared pretty well at the Finals.   There seems to be a quiet confidence about both bands this time around so a first victory for the region since 1994 could be on the cards.

Yorkshire

Yorkshire of course set the whole regional bandwagon off in March and the first regional winners in a keenly competitive 10 band field was Lofthouse 2000 under Andrew Whitaker, who pipped Skelmanthorpe B to the title.

There has been a bit of a renaissance in Yorkshire banding at this level in recent times and it could well be that one of the pair will emulate Dodworth Colliery in 2006 and return the National title to the White Rose county once again. 

Midlands

Finally, the powerhouse region of the Midlands, where there was a battle royal at Bedworth amongst the 23 contenders to take the title and the three qualification places on offer. In the end a highly impressive performance from Amington under Wesley Kendrick saw them win with something to spare from Croft Silver and Thoresby Colliery Youth.

Amington was runner up at the finals last year and will of course be keen to go one better this time around, whilst both Croft and Thoresby could be dark horse contenders.    

Prediction:

It promises to be a real good cracker of a contest but who do we think Richard Evans and Chris Wormald will opt for?

Uppermill and Amington should be the two bands that could well battle it out for glory, but there will surely be a strong challenge from the likes of the Yorkshire pairing of Lofthouse 2000 and Skelmanthorpe.

Wales may get a look in with Crosskeys and Lostock Hall should be confident of making it into the top six too. Our darkest of dark horses this time around are Thoresby who could well upset the form book. 

1. Uppermill
2. Amington
3. Lofthouse 2000
4. Skelmanthorpe B
5. Crosskeys
6. Lostock Memorial

Dark Horses: Thorseby Colliery Youth

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