2009 Midlands Regional Championship - Third Section - retrospective

19-Mar-2009

It was a beautiful day in Bedworth and fantastic return to form for the winners Cubbington Silver.


Cubbington enjoys the limelight
Cubbington enjoy the limelight

On beautiful sunny Saturday we arrived at the Midlands Third Section area contest full of anticipation for the contest that lay ahead - and we were not disappointed. 

Mick Veasey, the contest controller, and his team provided slick, calm organisation that kept the contest moving with an average 4 minutes turn round time, by providing assistance for all the bands at every stage of their contest journey. 

Gold nuggets

The composer of the test piece Andrew Baker and I listened to every performance, comparing notes, likes and dislikes.  With his conductors hat on Andrew picked every flaw, with his composer’s hat on he forgave them if the musical gold nuggets were found.  As for me, I had my players and adjudicators hat on, so was able to enjoy the contest from either side of the fence at the same time, very schizophrenic you may say.

Excellent performances

The general standard of the bands was good, sprinkled with some excellent performances that made it pretty tough for the judges.  Before the results were announced both adjudicators, Chris Wormold and Colin Hardy gave a very clear overview of the criteria that they had applied to the judging of the contest. 

They said the top placed bands displayed more consistency and overcame the traps better than the others.  They also gave this advice for the future, “Do what is on the page, find the music in the piece, don’t improvise”. They praised the general high quality of the performances, but pointed out some issues; in particular tuning, and some overly loud percussion playing. 

Composer

Much to the delight of the audience Andrew Baker who had sat through every performance; spoke about the piece and the general standard during the day.  He felt that every band had some good and bad moments during their performance, and only a few had managed the gear change in terms of style from movement to movement. 

He also pointed out that the quaver pulse throughout the third movement should be consistent in approach and only a very few bands had managed that.  He praised the soprano players particularly remarking “when I wrote this; I didn’t think it was that hard!”

There were four or five excellent performances, with the rest showing moments of real quality on occasions.  Every band found something different and interesting within the music.

Cracking start

What a difference a year makes for Cubbington Silver who finished in last place in 2008, showed their intent from the start with a seating arrangement that created the right sound and feel for the music. 

The cornets and trombones facing each other in a slight V formation highlighting the antiphonal nature of the first movement.  The second movement started confidently and the soloists were all secure, in particular the soprano who was excellent.  The general ensemble though sometimes suffered with the odd bit of brashness and rhythmically it could have been a little better. 

The third movement was driving with good pulse throughout and the band played with obvious enthusiasm to the end.  It was clear that the band enjoyed playing the music and  obvious that much thought had gone into the preparation and presentation of the performance.  The overall consistency that the band showed throughout was the key factor in their success.

Incredibly close

Behind them came Bakewell with an initial solid start, demonstrating the excellent sound of the band, however the MD subdivided the entire first movement batonless with fingers spread wide, resulting in a  disjointed feel to the music,  try this at home and you will observe the result. 

However the second movement was a different kettle of fish with excellent sop, trombone and cornet solos, and a nice build to the finish which was absolutely tremendous. The last movement was exciting and interesting, spot on tempo, with a measured tambourine rhythm that set the scene perfectly. 

The balance of the moving quavers and the bass choral was perfect but, some rhythmical issues crept in towards the end that left the judges the hardest job imaginable to separate the top two.  Rather them than me.

These two bands will represent the Midlands at the finals, with a little more attention to detail and taking note of the sound advice offered by the adjudicators, both bands could feature in Harrogate.

Almost

Shirebrook M.W. with the deadmans draw of number two had a great start, the bands sound was one of the best all day, but they fell into one of Andrew Baker's traps and the first movement ended with a little uncertainty. 

The second movement was atmospheric with superb rhythmical patterns throughout, topped off by an array of excellent soloists; this was the band at their best.  The third movement clicked along well and every one contributed in a performance that grew in confidence the further on it went. 

Shaky

The shaky first movement gave the judges just enough reason to demote this into third spot.  Huge congratulations to MD Mark Wilcockson who had a great day leading both Bakewell and Shirebrook into the top three.

Very close on their heels was the very highly fancied Amington who played the first two movements well, particularly the second movement which was quite possibly the best of the day, superb contributions from the soprano, euph and trombone added to the overall quality. 

The third movement started with drive and commitment, Andrew Baker and I nodded in agreement that this was going to be the one to beat and then, out came the shotgun.  Now who shot who in the foot I cannot tell you, but the band took off like a startled gazelle and raced through the finish line faster than Ussain Bolt. 

Someone to blame

If you want someone to blame then blame us, perhaps it was commentators curse.  A great effort that snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory.  It could have been and should have been a different story.

Very close on their heels in 5th place was Hucknall and Linby, a very young band making their debut at the contest.  They opened well and were one of the first bands to avoid the early trap.  Displaying well integrated sounds and good style the first movement was played well. 

The second was a little lacking in atmosphere and perhaps a tad loud but they revealed a soprano player of real quality and along with some other good solo playing showed they were a band to be taken seriously. 

The third movement was energetic and well measured however some of the underneath parts and some of the finer detail was a little scratchy here and there.  This performance bodes well for the future, look out for this lot they could be a real threat in the not too distant future.

Last of the top six

The last of the top six spots went to Stamford Brass who started the first movement with purpose but took real liberties with the music in terms of tempo. 

The second movement was a little insecure to start but the band began to show its true quality with superb bass sounds, solid soprano, trombone and cornet playing and an interesting take on the balance of the chords from MD Rob Prew that were different, well thought out and very pleasant on the ear. 

The third movement was quite good; just the odd spit and spot here and there but the icing on the cake was the fantastic sounding Baritone that made the trip worth while, bravo that player, real quality.

Close on their heels

Just out of the top six placings was a group of bands who demonstrated many positive qualities but odd inconsistencies helped the judges pick them out.

In seventh place were Porthywaen a mature sounding band who started well but individual sounds rather than a blend were the order of their day.  The second movement started pretty well and the basses were excellent aided by good soloists but the intonation gremlins appeared towards the end.

The third showcased some fine individual playing and the confidence grew to the end.  The stars for me were the percussion team who were excellent throughout.

Confident

WEM Jubilee came 8th with a confident opening movement featuring a good band sound, clear detail and slick tempo changes all the way to the very last bar which seemed to finish in slight disarray. 

The second movement was generally well played with solid foundations of sound and flowing direction from MD Roger Thorne but the odd scratch here and there detracted. 

The third started well but had the odd moments of rocky rhythmic passages and it felt a little rushed to the end. 

The percussion although enthusiastic and perfectly played was overdone in terms of volume.  This had all the hallmarks of a quality band that just didn’t keep a cool head on the day.  

Closely

Following closely were City of Birmingham who played with real confidence but showed the odd lack of control with some brash sounds in places. 

The second movement had good pace to the music and featured excellent soprano playing, however when the volume increased the brashness returned.  Poor chords at the front of the third movement led into a well controlled section rhythmically and included star contributions from the soprano, solo cornet and trombone, but the brash playing returned again as the dynamic increased to the end.

Puzzling

Meanwhile in tenth place, Avonbank (Evesham) was a puzzling performance that started as bad as the worst and ended as good as the very best.  The first movement got off to a poor untuneful start, lacking in poise and balance, enough said. 

The second started poorly but MD Nick Smith took the performance by the scruff of its neck and started to get real atmosphere out of the music.  The ensemble became spot on; the band sound blossomed and was topped off by some sublime solo cornet playing. 

The third movement got off superbly with a great build up and then ticked along with well oiled ease.  The back row feature so rarely heard on the day was an unexpected treat and the baritone played with aplomb.  The ending was exciting and controlled.  This should have been a contender, that first movement cost them very dear indeed.

Out of contention

Rushden Windmill started well enough but chose to ignore the early indicated break in the music, however showed nice style in the rest of the movement.   The percussion was very heavy in the first movement particularly and the large concert bass drum was played with great enthusiasm. 

We benefited from the odd humbug that spilled under our chairs from the paper bag held by a snoozing lady who was rudely awoken at this point.  So thanks for that.  The second movement suffered odd scratches and the odd extraneous noise, but the soprano and euphonium players were on top form. 

The last movement grew in confidence and the baritone feature was good.  This performance played into the judges critical hands and they marked it accordingly.  

Solid

In twelfth place were Moulton 77, the opening fanfare was solid but suffered in the tuning and this was a problem throughout.  Good percussion and good ending.  The second was well played with good basses and soprano but again intonation problems particularly with the mutes cast a shadow. 

The third movement was generally good with a good rhythmic feel but the tuning problems were to prove too damaging and the judges were on the case.

Posh

Burbage Buxton delivered a performance that could have produced a much better placing than thirteenth.  They got off to a secure start albeit a bit brash, everything in its place, solid to the end.  However the young percussion team were having a whale of a time bashing all the posh equipment. 

We were hoping that the very enthusiastic young woman on bass drum would provide yet another cascade of humbugs for us but the lady behind had been lead out in shock after the first onslaught, shame that. 

The second movement had good atmosphere, good dynamic contrasts, solid soloists, but it was plagued with more than the odd hint of intonation issues.  The third was good featuring fine baritone and horn playing, with some very crisp and accurate percussion detail shown, however a little bit of rewriting in the lower bass parts was noticed and not appreciated. 

Again this could have featured higher up the placings but as soon as the judges spoke and laid out the criteria for their adjudication it was doomed.

And finally

In the last two placings were Daventry in fourteenth who got off to a reasonable start but found problems lurking in the second movement, some uncertainty and rhythmical variation created a sense of general unease. 

However the cornet and euphonium rose to the challenge nicely and the MD created good shape and some balanced sounds, but intonation problems and insecurity in individual lines returned at the end. 

The third movement got away well but again some rhythmical problems took a hold and consigned this performance into the bottom two

Kirkby Colliery had a confident start but suffered balance issues aplenty.  Tuning problems particularly in the louder sections didn’t aid the cause either.  The second movement didn’t flow and although the soprano was excellent there was a general sense of unease. 

The third movement didn’t get off to the best start and continuing rhythmical problems cost dearly.  The last chord had some individuals straining every sinew to make as much noise as possible causing the brave people on the front few rows considerable discomfort. 

Best sounds

I was surprised I have to say.  In last years contest this band demonstrated one of the best sounds on that day.

But take heart,  Cubbington were placed last in 2008.  Sensible direction controlled playing and attempting to do what was on the page saw them win the day, today.

Great day

Well there you have it, a great day out.  Very well organised and well attended.  A great test piece that the bands enjoyed playing and the audience enjoyed listening too, (take note this would make a fine addition to any bands concert repertoire). 

Many congratulations to those that appointed these two experienced considered and accurate adjudicators and provided such superb support during the day.  

I am sure it is greatly appreciated by all the bands in the third section that they are shown so much respect and taken so seriously by their Regional Committee.

Mike Kilroy

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