2008 Lower Section National Finals - Postcard from Harrogate

1-Oct-2008

It seems Harrogate is now moving slowly to becoming the contest it needs to be - its a pity then that the standard of playing in some sections is moving in the opposite direction.


coming off stage in the 1st Section
Slow progress in the right direction: Even the walk takes time for the bands
Picture: Ian Clowes


Harrogate is getting there, slowly but surely. 

Since the Lower Section National Finals found its new home at the International Conference Centre in Harrogate, there has been a feeling that the contest would find it difficult to re-create the atmosphere that used to accompany the event all those years ago when they were held on the same weekend as the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall. 

Halcyon days

We may never get back to those halcyon days, but it seems the organisers Kapitol Promotions have finally realised that by investing some innovative thought to go with the money they put in, the contest does have a viable and vibrant future.

Others though must follow suit.

The biggest problem remains the standard of the playing. This is not the bands fault, but that of the organisers of the regions themselves and stems from the fact that there are far too many Championship graded bands.

Faintly embarrassing

Until someone is brave enough to step in and reorganise appropriate gradings in the sections to reflect the true musical standards around each of the regions we will continue to be presented with contests, such as this year’s First Section, which were faintly embarrassing.

Kapitol themselves may have to force the issue on the regional committees to do something, because it cannot be allowed to go on much longer. The Fourth Section, is dying on its knees because nobody is brave enough to put their hands up and address the issue.  Let the Championship Section emphasise the very best quality and leave the quantity to find its proper level here – then the true quality will appear too. 

Music Panel

It would also mean that the Music Panel could sleep safely in their beds knowing that they need not worry about the choice of test pieces they make for the Finals either.

On paper the choices made this year seemed OK, but in reality ‘The Shipbuilders’ was far too hard for the Fourth Section, and Dean Goffin’s, ‘My Strength, My Tower,’ was wholly misplaced for the Second Section. 

That the vast majority of First Section bands couldn’t play ‘Haakon the Good’ proved that re-grading is a must, whilst ‘Suite for Brass’, thankfully, did what it had to do.

The Panel has a very difficult job, but it now needs structural help from the regions themselves. ‘Pentacle’ for the First Section looms, and it could prove to be a depressing experience.

David Childs
Clinical expertise: David Childs shows just how its done
Picture: Ian Clowes


Walk in clinics

If you were able to drag yourself away from the playing (and many still do here, although numbers seemed to be up once again), there was plenty to keep you amused and entertained.

The walk in ‘Clinics’ (a rather unfortunate title) with David Childs and Owen Farr were an excellent addition, as were the recitals before the announcement of the results, although having the British Army Brass Band play a mini concert wasn’t needed – it just added extra dead time to a very long day on the Saturday.

Traders

The Traders reported that the credit crunch hadn’t quite made it to Harrogate yet and for the principal sponsors it was a good weekend too, with York banners above the stage a very visible statement of their support.

The contests as always benefited from excellent backroom work from the team of helpers and support staff employed by the organisers, and Peter Bates was first rate as compere over both days, keeping things flowing from the stage and encouraging just the right amount of free spirited celebration before the announcement of the results.

He also expertly nipped in the bud a potentially ugly moment at the results of the Third Section when some boorish behaviour after the announcement of the Oldham (Lees) Band in 4th place.  
 
Good value

Meanwhile, the colourful programme was excellent value at £3.00 (others take note – although it was hard to ink in the results as the pages were a bit dark), the speeches were fairly short, and players were let in for free for the results (although not for the contests themselves, which tended to give a slightly false impression about just how many people actually came to listen to the bands). Even the weather was good. 

Credit for judges

The adjudicators this year were faced with difficult jobs, but with a well-positioned box they all emerged with credit.

Kevin Wadsworth’s intelligent analysis of the Third Section was a joy, whilst Melvin White, Jim Davies and Richard Evans all informed and encouraged, giving detail and perspective.  Steve Sykes, Peter Roberts, Chris Wormald and Stan Lippeatt all deserve a pat on the back too.

Watering holes

The post contest celebrations were well under way in many of the watering holes 4BR visited, with a special mention to the players and supporters of the Shrewton Band on Sunday night.

They had battled like so many to raise the funds to get the Harrogate and were driven by a very personal desire to remember their former principal cornet player Alan Dunford who tragically died earlier this year.  

Victory wasn’t to be and despite coming 13th they certainly did him proud, and we spent a delightful couple of late night hours with them at the Holiday Inn, finding out more about the band, its personalities (and there are many), poker tips, and why you shouldn’t wear trainers under a wedding dress. 

Fine weekend

It rounded off a fine weekend. Harrogate is getting there, slowly but surely. There is work still to do (getting a hotel room for a decent price is still a nightmare), but the organisation is strong and seemingly long term.

Now its up to the regional committees and the bands themselves to do their bit too.

Iwan Fox

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