2009 Yorkshire Regional Championship - Second Section retrospective

11-Mar-2009

It was a happy return to Holme territory for Duncan Beckley on the weekend, as he led his band to another regional victory. He has plenty to his name now...


Hade Edge
Happy trio: Holme Silver celebrate their regional title
Picture: John Stirzaker


A field of 12 bands gathered in Bradford on Sunday to do battle for the Second Section honours, and qualification for Harrogate. 

The portrayal of musical life in different parts of America proved a challenge for all the bands, and those who qualified showed their mettle in being true to one of the new US President’s sound bite, “Can we do it?  Yes we can!”

New World Sketches

A fine piece of music by Dan Price was chosen for the bands to get to grips with.  The three movements portray a descriptive journey through the landscapes and images of the US in the early twentieth century.  With the movements entitled ‘Sidewalk’, ‘The Deep South’ and ‘Rodeo’, there was a wide variety of musical style incorporated in an interesting challenge.

Adjudication clues

Chris Wormald and Malcolm Brownbill were very certain as to what they were looking for from the bands’ performances.  Those who captured the style in the three movements were assured of a higher placing than those who didn’t. 

Another important aspect was to convey the mood of excitement, enthusiasm and general enjoyment - certain bands did this very well and were rewarded accordingly.

Holme Silver “bring it home”

It turned out to be a case of saving the best till almost last, when Holme Silver took to the stage and delivered a performance of real quality. 

Initially the feeling was that the tempo set by conductor Duncan Beckley would be a little too quick for the adjudicator’s liking, but it proved otherwise in the final reckoning.

The band brought to the contest the best start to the piece of the day – confident, full of vibrancy and very accurate.  The soloists were bang on too, particularly the flugel and trombone players.  There was much attention to detail too - the band’s playing of the movement conveying the mood of busy New York streets and capturing the change to the Harlem jazz club section brilliantly. 

Superb

Superbly confident euphonium and bass trombone entries at the start of a tricky 2nd movement heralded a display that was instantly going to be in the reckoning. 

Tempo changes were exquisitely executed, and the percussion shone in portraying the entry of the steam locomotive.  Cornet and euphonium soloists again deserve special mention for the way they played so accurately together - you couldn’t get a ‘Rizla’ paper between them.

The romp that was the ‘Rodeo’ again showed the band soloists in fine form, and at the end of a breathtaking performance the band took a well deserved applause from an appreciative audience. 

This was high quality playing, with solid bench work from the solo cornet team and good ensemble throughout the band.  Top class this, and a deserved victory.

Early draws aren’t always bad

Joining Holme Silver in Harrogate will be Frickley South Elmsall who finished runners-up off the dreaded number 1 draw.  In a performance of some note, this certainly set down the marker at the very outset of the contest.

The band opened with a controlled tempo and superb dynamic contrasts.  The ensemble work in the cornets was sufficiently outstanding to be of note too, and despite a little uncertainty in the transition to movement 2, the quality shone through again, with some fine solo work from the principal cornet (indeed this display won the soloist prize for the section). 

The basses provided a solid foundation for the rest of the band throughout.  The band rounded off the performance with a good clean start to the ‘Rodeo’ culminating in a rousing ending completing a high quality all-round show.

Close but no cigar

Just missing out on a place in the final at Harrogate was Kippax under the impressive direction of Stan Lippeatt. 

This promised a high quality performance with an appearance from members of the famous Morrison family in the playing ranks (including dad Alan), and it certainly delivered. 

All the solo parts were precisely executed, the ensemble work was well balanced and sensitive, and the various moods and styles portrayed in the music came through superbly.  Perhaps it could have been attention to some of the finer detail that cost the band in the end, but nevertheless a high quality performance was rendered.

Attention to detail

Grange Moor under Mark Bentham provided the adjudicators with a dilemma as their performance was also of a very high quality. 

The attention to detail was top drawer and the band soloists made superb contributions to what was a very compelling rendition of the test piece.  The band idiomatically conveyed the various styles in the music which led one to believe that this was a performance that would be there or thereabouts. 

The attention to rhythmic and textural detail in the 'Rodeo' added to the sense of expectation that a qualification place beckoned.

Unfortunately this was not to be but the band can take great encouragement from the fact that they delivered a very competent, inspiring display.

Uncertainty certainly costs

Bringing up the final two placed bands were Strata Brass in 5th place and South Yorkshire Police in 6th. 

Strata had some moments of uncertainty; the very opening had late off-beat quavers from the middle of the band, and the start of the 'Deep South' lacked confidence. 

There were occasional examples of the balance between parts being slightly awry too.  Having said that, there were plenty of moments that shone but the uncertainty will certainly have cost them.

Meanwhile South Yorkshire Police could have been forgiven for thinking they had played well enough to be placed higher.  All around the band there were examples of very mature, expressive playing, bringing out the style of the music excellently. 

The percussion team were first class too (this was probably the best car hooter heard all day), but they were always sensitive to the overall musical journey.  A shame for them that again one or two moments of uncertainty will have forced them down the placings in the minds of the adjudicators.

All rise

In the performance from 7th placed Dodworth Colliery MW, it appeared that the solo cornet and euphonium thought they were in a court room and rose to greet the arrival of the judge. They did in fact stand to play their solo passages in the Sidewalk movement, and a fine job they did too. 

This was a solid performance but didn’t quite capture all the moods throughout the piece.  Some fine playing from the corner players was in evidence, but overall this just lacked some crucial elements that had been evident in other performances.

Barnsley Building Society under the leadership of Billy Rushworth put in a creditable performance having been drawn to play in one of the allegedly better numbers of the draw. 

They set a nice jaunty tempo at the outset of the piece, showing some fine dynamic control and ensemble work.  However as the performance progressed things became a little bit more uncertain and unsteady, the ensemble showed the occasional intonation problem, all in all meaning that the American dream was over for them for this year’s area contest assault at least, and so it proved with their 8th place.

Difficult

The remaining bands all seemed to find conveying the meaning of the music a little difficult.  In 9th place were Clifton & Lightcliffe whose opening to the piece had all the notes in the right place but felt a bit lifeless. 

This didn’t improve much throughout the rest of the music, but there were positives to be drawn from the performance, like the percussion section who showed some real class in playing their parts.

A pity

Drawn last in the order of play were Horbury Victoria who, despite their obvious youth, showed some moments of real maturity in their playing. 

It was a pity that there were too many instances of untidiness in the playing (which must have been frustrating for them), including some noticeable “clips” around the band.  Nevertheless, this is another band with a promising future, and an excellent percussion team, but on this occasion 10th place was all they were awarded for their efforts.

An early draw did prove too much for 11th placed Rockingham, who started the piece a little untidily and suffered from the St George’s Hall stage nerves initially. 

This was a start that they were never really to recover from, although special mention must be made of the very “sleazy” cornet playing in the opening movement – most commendable!  The intonation went astray in a couple of key areas (mainly duet work) which again would have cost them marks from the adjudicators.

Not off the ground

Finally, and finishing in the dreaded 12th place, were Elland Silver under Phil Shaw.  This performance never really got off the ground in terms of delivering the atmosphere and images required. 

An untidy start led to some slips by key players, but of special mention was the flugel playing which was top class.  A nervous start to the second movement again caused unnecessary nerves throughout the band.  No doubt the band will take this on the chin and regroup for future challenges.

The final thought

Dan Price is to be commended for writing a superb piece of music, full of character, twists and turns, and imagery.  The key to doing well in this contest was to capture most if not all of this detail, which only a couple of bands truly managed and were rewarded accordingly. 

Interestingly these were the bands that also gave the audience the impression that they were really enjoying themselves playing the music.

Congratulations to Holme Silver and Frickley South Elmsall who will, no doubt, be top class representatives of Yorkshire in the Harrogate finals in September.

Alun Perry

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Brett BakerBrett Baker
BSc (Hons), ARCM, PG Dip

Rath clinician, conductor, teacher, adjudicator, editor