2009 Regional Championships: Questions & Answers? - #cover#

28-Mar-2009

With the 2009 Regional Championships at an end 4BR looks at some of the questions the eight Area qualifiers raised, and tries to give some answers too.


Was the number of competing bands down this year?

Yes. Just 484 bands made it to the stage this year around the country – the lowest number for over 25 years

Were some Areas harder hit than others?

Yes. Only 1 region, the West of England reported an increase in competitors. Yorkshire stayed the same, whilst the rest all saw a fall, some to their lowest levels for over 25 years.

Some of the lower sections only had a handful of competing bands?

Scotland’s Fourth Section contained just 5 bands in fact. There was a reduction in each Fourth Section contest at every area this year, yet the number of Championship Section bands actually increased. 

Were the choices of test pieces responsible for this?

Debatable, but a couple didn’t help. It is always a hard balancing act for the Music Panel to decide on test pieces, but the general consensus was that three of the five did their job well, but two were badly misplaced.

What two were they?

Graham Cole’s ‘Pentacle’ was generally agreed to have been more worthy of a Championship Section level contest, whilst ‘The Talisman’ was a disaster – far too difficult for the bands in the Fourth Section.  

Three good ones though?

Yes. ’Salute to Youth’ showed once again that true class loses none of its potency even after 47 years, finding out both players and conductors who had seemingly forgotten how to play Vinter’s music in truly authentic fashion.

’New World Sketches’ by Dan Price was colourful, exuberant and testing for the bands in the Second Section, and ‘The Once and Future King’ brought a great deal out of the bands in the Third Section. All three got the thumbs up from the majority of people we spoke to about them. 

Who picks the pieces and isn’t it time for new people to be involved?

The current Music Panel is John Maines, Richard Evans and C. Brian Buckley, in addition to Secretary, Alan Hope. They have been doing it for some time now and perhaps there is an argument for fresh faces and new musical ideas.   

Why is it that the Regionals are now seemingly crammed into a few weeks, whereas in year gone by they were more spread out over two months or more?

Organisers have to book the venues in advance. There doesn’t seem to be much discussion going on though between regional committees. Surely a longer term approach can be initiated, which will also benefit conductors, adjudicators and players alike, if they start talking more to each other. The ‘Little Empire’ syndrome does prevail however.
  
What about the qualification process? Some areas sent 2 bands to the finals in Harrogate when there were only 5 bands in the section, whilst in others there were 16 and still only 2 went through.

Something for Kapitol to sort out. Perhaps only 1 band should qualify for every five bands that compete in the lower sections.

RAHAnd what about the bands going to the Royal Albert Hall? Does that need looking at?

There are those who believe that the top 10 bands at London should gain automatic qualification to the Finals the following year plus the 8 regional winners. That would mean 18 bands at London (a decrease of 2), but could ensure that a more representative split of the best bands get through each year.

What would that mean for the Regional contests though?

The qualifiers still compete, (the highest placed band goes through if one of the pre qualified bands win the Regional contest).  It already happens in Wales and Scotland and there is qualification for the English Nationals to think about.   

What about the number of Championship Section bands?

Far too many. It is hard to think of an argument for saying that there are close on 90 true Championship Section bands up and down the country.

A re-grading of bands in each region is needed to bring the whole structure of the contesting tree back into meaningful shape and to reflect the true musical levels in each section. 

Bands won’t be happy with this?

Of course, but the sooner they realise that the current system does them no favours the better. It would only affect this contest too (Pontins, etc are open to Championship/First Section bands).  
  
There were grumbles about adjudicators in some areas?

As always! Very few complaints about the decisions they made this year though, although the Association of Brass Band Adjudicators will surely have to bring in some sort of transparency to guidelines over the question of potential conflicts of interest to help both the judges and the organisers. 

Allowing conductors of rival bands to adjudicate in the box in one area and then compete in another a week later cannot be right in anyone’s book.

One or two in the box?

Two is preferable, but not always practicable (2 judges for just 5 bands for instance and the regions being played on the same day).

It would be nice to see new, younger, adjudicators being used too – having the same people making the decisions year in year out doesn’t encourage a feeling of a movement really looking forward to the future.
 
There were also grumbles about prize money. It has remained the same now for well over 20 years?

It has, and it is not clear if the separate Regional Committees can do something about it. Surely they could create more interest in the contests if they were able to independently seek additional sponsorship for prize money from sources other than Kapitol. 

There were some encouraging initiatives?

Indeed. Scotland pioneered a Community Section to encourage non competing bands to come along and play on the weekend. Only two to start but the idea holds great promise

In Yorkshire the Youth Adjudication Panel sat for a second year and was a great success with over 20 applicants.

It shows some people are trying to encourage children and families to come along and be apart of the weekends entertainment.

What is the future for the Fourth Section if numbers keep dropping?

Not good, but a possible way forward is to open up the Fourth Section totally. Let bands play 10 minutes of original brass band repertoire of their own choice, open adjudication, relax the rules on registration and instrumentation, and make it a much more family orientated event.

What is the long term outlook for the Regionals?

Terminal decline if nothing is done to change them, a prosperous and rejuvenated future if the owners, organisers and interested parties can get around the table and thrash out a long term plan of vision an innovation.

Don’t hold your breath though… 

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