2009 Midlands Regional Championship - Championship Section - retrospective

19-Mar-2009

40 years after his death, Gilbert Vinter still got one over all 13 bands here in the top section - the winners included.


Desford receiving their prize
Desford receive the silverware

Forty years on from the untimely death of Gilbert Vinter and nearly fifty after he wrote ‘Salute to Youth’, it would be a misguided MD and band that took his music lightly.

As had already been proved in Yorkshire the Sunday before the Midlands bands took to the stage, a good test piece is a good test piece…no matter how yellow and crinkly the parts might be.  

One over

We’re not necessarily saying that the piece was taken lightly in Bedworth, but Gilbert Vinter proved that he can still get one (or thirteen more to the point) over on bands with the very first test piece he wrote. As Derek Broadbent remarked afterwards, just imagine how musically richer (and challenged!) we could be if he had hung around for a bit longer.

Disappointing

The reality of the matter is that the Championship Section contest at Bedworth produced thirteen of the most disappointing performances at this level one could possibly imagine.

In a perverse kind of way it could have made for an exciting conclusion, but with most of the Desford players already having left the Civic Hall it was left to a delighted Newstead to lend some atmosphere to the occasion as they celebrated the runner up spot and a return to the Royal Albert Hall for the first time since 2006.

Reason to celebrate

By rights, it should have been good reason for Desford to celebrate as they succeeded in retaining the title for the first time since 2003, but with the players apparently unhappy at the way their own performance had gone, there appeared to be hardly anyone from the band that had ventured into the hall for the ceremony.

There was also little reaction from a somewhat bemused audience, many of whom had been scratching their heads at where the result was going to go. In different circumstances the fact that the result was a difficult one to call might have added to the occasion. As it was, it only served to add to the frustration of having waited for an outright winner that never came.   

Gift of a draw

From a gift of a draw at number eleven, Desford were always going to be the fancied band and with ten performances having come and gone with no band having nailed it, the opening of Resilience was full of promise. The opening cornet flourish was clean, in tune and rhythmic when few before had been.

The weighty sound of the band might have been a touch too much for some tastes, but was quality nonetheless. The errors and slips however started to mount and although Russell Gray shaped the Romance with sensitivity, lapses continued to frustrate.

Danger

The danger was that it began to sound like a battle of errors against musicality, the latter clearly attempted but suffering as a result of the execution. Relaxation, in common with Newstead, was one of the quickest of the day but still marred by errors although Robin Taylor on euphonium was in fine form in the dreamy central section.

The ending did capture the excitement and spirit of the music but by then it was just a bit too late. The band knew it was not its best and the player’s body language said it all…but then they hadn’t heard the ten performances that had gone before.         

Right result?

So was it the right result? Yes it was. Desford had “left its real winning performance in the bandroom” to quote one of the players afterwards, but in the end the band did just about enough to make sure of its victory by the skin of its teeth. It wasn’t so much that Desford won though, as the fact that no other band quite seized the chance to beat them; and it had been there for the taking.      

The previous week in Yorkshire Duncan Beckley had continued his remarkable Regional record by steering Holme Silver to victory in the Second Section. Newstead famously won the Midlands Regional in 2006 on Journey to the Centre of the Earth, but the last two years have yielded little reward with sixth and seventh positions respectively.

Clean

From a middle order draw of six, Newstead opened cleanly and competently although for us, Resilience never quite seemed to ignite. Duncan Beckley allowed the music to move along pretty quickly in the Romance although it did blossom in the final climax despite insecurities in some of the solo lines during the course of the movement.

The initially brisk enough tempo seemed to run away in Relaxation and was at times in danger of rocking the boat a little too much for comfort. We had the performance further down the field but it was an approach that clearly found favour with the men in the box.

Safest

In many ways Thoresby Colliery turned in one of the safest performances of the day. Safe that is in that it was occasionally rather one dimensional dynamically, with a weighty band sound and relatively few risks taken. On the day though it was a tactic that served to keep the error count lower than many of the other bands and was aided by reliable soloists around the stands.

Ultimately it paid off with third place, narrowly missing out on a place in London. Subtle in its nuances it was not, but our scribbled note that “this could surprise a few” turned out to be pretty close to the mark.

No favours

We all know that there are days when a draw can go against a band and for Virtuosi GUS, taking to the stage at number two might not have done them any favours on this occasion. John Berryman is a man with the experience to know his Vinter and in many ways there was a bold confidence to the band’s playing.

The weight of the band’s sound was such that it did tend to the heavy handed at times though and the Romance did not entirely avoid clips and slips in the solo lines. Relaxation was taken at a good tempo and James Fountain, the band’s young and exceptionally promising principal cornet player shone through here on several occasions.

It wasn’t without the odd rocky moment but every band had those on the day and we had GUS in second place and on its way to London. The fact that they are not going will have prompted a few raised eyebrows following the results.                  

Ray of sunshine

Glossop Old were one of the rays of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day. Not because the band was ever going to win and not because the performance was error free. But on its Championship section debut (the band had previously been relegated from the Championship Section in 2004) Phil Pavey and the band gave it one hundred percent commitment, apparently unfazed by its new status in the elite.

There was one very hairy moment in Resilience where the percussion section got out of kilter with the band but the Romance was well shaped with soloists largely avoiding the various pitfalls.

Relaxation was laboured at times and errors started to mount as lips and concentration tired, but it was enough for the judges to reward it with a creditable fifth place. We had it seventh.

Nail biter

For Dave Lea and Jaguar (Coventry) this year’s contest was something of a nail biter, with the band having to achieve sixth or above to avoid the very real possibility of falling through the relegation trap door.

Had it happened, it would have been something of an irony in the year that the band will once again compete in the Grand Shield having gained promotion through the Senior Cup last Spring.

As it turned out it could hardly have been tighter with the band gaining the required sixth place and surviving to fight another Championship Section day. For a band that competed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2006, it’s a reminder of how precarious life on the edge in the top section can be.

In the circumstances it’s not surprising that Dave Lea chose steady tempos for the outer two movements, but as with Thoresby, it was a day when safety paid off.

The tempo in Resilience allowed the notes to go in with reasonable clarity and although there were fleeting moments of insecurity for solo cornet at the opening of the Romance, the movement progressed towards a controlled climax. Jaguar was not alone on the day in the carefully controlled pace of Relaxation and although tempos might have held the band back with the judges, it was a case of job done and survival. 

Back of his hand

Peter Parkes must know the score of Salute to Youth like the back of his hand and he clearly knew exactly where he wanted to go with it as he took reigning Pontins champions Sovereign to seventh place.

Despite the controlled dynamics, sensitively shaped melodic lines and occasional touches of real quality it turned out to be another performance that suffered from inconsistency of ensemble and individual slips. It wasn’t the band at its best and the players knew it.

Pretty difficult

In eighth place Jonathon Mott and Enderby sounded tired before they really got going, taking to the stage as the last band of the day and finding the going pretty difficult.

Eighth was not a bad placing in the end, although the early signs are that Enderby will be one of three bands to drop out of the section. With a hefty number of young players around the stands though there is clearly promise for the future.

Derwent Brass was another band that didn’t seem to settle, with a rocky opening from the middle of the band and a strange decision by the MD to prolong pauses in Resilience to the point that players were falling off notes like lemmings.

The Romance was rather too weighty to live up to its title, whilst Relaxation started at a good choice of tempo before seeming to run away at the end. Unfortunately, the First Section beckons for next year’s contest.

Stay the course

Kibworth’s was a performance that couldn’t quite stay the course after a promising first movement and although there were some nice touches in the Romance, Relaxation was tired and scrappy. Tenth was the result although the players will be pleased that they live to fight another day in the Championship Section.

It was clear from the opening of Ratby’s performance that Mike Fowles had the measure of the score, but as with so many other bands on the day, the error count around the stands was high. Eleventh place might have been a touch harsh for us although not as harsh as the twelfth that Staffordshire was to suffer.

Lumpy

With the band’s fifth conductor in as many years at the Area in the shape of Huw Thomas, it was never the player’s best day and Relaxation in particular was lumpy and laboured throughout. There were bands that found the going much tougher though and as a result Staffordshire are going to have to be very careful next time round.

Having drawn number one, Jackfield found the piece to be beyond its capabilities and although battling valiantly at times, Simon Platford and his team are likely to be joining Enderby and Derwent Brass in the First Section next year.                            

Inspired 
               
Come October and the Royal Albert Hall then, it is to be hoped that both Desford and Newstead will be inspired to find better form than they did here in Bedworth, as the contest drew to a muted and anti-climactic conclusion. On an afternoon of disappointments, it might just have been that the real winner was one Mr Gilbert Vinter. 

Christopher Thomas  

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