2009 National Youth Championships - Intermediate Section retrospective

8-Apr-2009

It may have been a long contest, but time flew by with some great playing - especially by the eventual winners, Gloucestershire Youth Band.


Winners
Champion dividend: Gloucestershire celebrate their Co-op windfall
Picture: John Stirzaker


The Intermediate Section may well have changed its name from the Community Section, but it still remains a very tightly contested competition with a number of evenly matched bands, despite some ensembles being able to put over 30 or 40 players on stage whilst others had around 25. 

The class itself is a step up from the Junior Section but there is flexibility to show the varying standards of ability, shown by the introduction of the new level Merit Award. 

MC's on the ball

An important factor in the enjoyment of the day was the contributions from MC’s David Hayward and Peter Bates.  Both men put their own characters into the presentation of the music and they helped to make the day go along with a bang. 

The overall standard was tremendous and it guaranteed that the contest, which lasted around seven hours, passed very quickly. The bands had to play the test piece; ‘The Pioneers’ by Philip Sparke and an own choice programme lasting no more than 20 minutes.

Pioneers a cracker

The test piece proved to be a cracker - typical Sparke, with lots of rhythmic and dynamic detail and proved to be a well chosen work suitable for the section. What also stood out was the standard of solo playing, and all the players who stepped forward gave great accounts of themselves.

The atmosphere inside The Bruntwood Theatre prior to the announcement of results was extremely upbeat and everybody appreciated the informative comments from judges Philip Harper and David Horsfield.

That haircut?

Philip Harper is quickly developing a great reputation for his summaries and once again he delivered a polished assessment of what he’d been listening to with his colleague – even managing to get the answer to the most asked question of the day – Was the mohican hair style on the percussion player from Enderby completely genuine?  The answer was a resounding 'yes'.

Both Philip and David gave detailed reasons behind their decision – something appreciated by the packed hall, and it was clear from their remarks, just what they were looking for.

In terms of where the overall prizes went, the cream of the playing was very much at the start of the contest and towards the end but it was close at the top for sure. 

Gloucester’s Gold

Ian Porthouse had made it home to South Wales when he’d discovered Gloucestershire Youth had taken victory off the number one draw. 

The band’s performance reflected the MD's approach.  From the opening 'Music for Greenwich'  through to the closing 'Postcards from Home', it was all really good stuff. The tuning was great, ensemble playing was tight, there were excellent dynamics throughout, and it paid dividends. 

Although there was just a hint of tiredness right at the end of the last piece, the South West outfit had made the journey North and put one heck of a marker down that was worthy of Gold, and some seven hours later, the overall title.

Smithills On top form

Chris Wormald and Smithills delivered the goods straight after Gloucestershire.   

'The Pioneers' was solid, with fine ensemble and everything as tight as it could be and as long as the remainder of the programme continued in the same manner, it was going to be in the frame for honours. 

Smithills also chose the interesting,' Lake of the Moon' by Kevin Houben, which will be the band’s set work in Kerkrade in the summer.  It’s a very descriptive work portraying the journey of the Aztec people searching for a new home.  Once again it was solid stuff with attention to detail and musicality.  It proved to be a Gold Award performance for sure and just a narrow margin behind the eventual winners.

The Lions roar

Lions Youth under Nigel Birch opted for a couple of world premiere's in their challenge for the title. 

Andy Scott’s  'Roar' is certainly a challenging piece with interesting chord structures coupled with complex rhythms and dynamic challenges.  The band responded to the challenge with extremely confident playing though that contained a great deal of clarity. 

Their second premiere came from Ian Raisebeck entitled, 'Fantasia on a British March' (the march being The British Grenadiers) which was one heck of a stern test with some cracking variations and solo contributions.

'The Pioneers' was solid throughout and was followed by a cracking solo performance from euphonium Alex Holsgrove in  'A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes', that was so secure in its execution. 

To close, a quick romp through 'Music' arranged by Derek Broadbent, which didn’t have the sharpness of some of their other playing but was good enough overall to take third and a Silver Award.

Four other bands were rewarded with Silver Certificates.

Elland’s champagne moment

Elland Silver can consider themselves unlucky not to have made it into the top three, such was the quality that finished ahead of them. 

Soloist
Champagne moment: Solo Award winner Phiip Varely
Picture: John Stirzaker


They playing throughout was tight, musical and so effective from the confident march, 'Le Tricot Rouge' to David Horsfield’s 'champagne moment' of the day with Elland’s principal cornet, Philip Varley who produced a stunning performance of 'Adirondacks Polka'  by John Slinger to take the ‘Best Instrumentalist’ Award.  

This was a Moet and Chandon performance alright before he then demonstrated his versatility by leading the band in 'Shepherds Song' – the quality of his performance was truly outstanding - a credit to his teacher – the one and only Jim Shepherd.

To close, 'The Pioneers' was well delivered, but didn't quite have the polish of their other pieces. They can be proud of the efforts though after finishing second at the Youth Entertainment Contest in Blackpool recently. Elland are certainly on the up.

Final band

Poynton
was the final band of what was a long day, but they certainly played with plenty of fresh feeling confidence. 

The opening 'One Voice' featured an excellent solo euphonium whilst Danielle Miller was in fine form on cornet in 'Share my Yolk'. The test was extremely well directed by Andy Hirst and whilst the band finished with 'Amazing Grace' and music they’ve used on the contest stage previously, Bach’s 'Toccata' to close. 

Wardles Imps shine

Wardle and Lee Rigg was another band to deliver an entertaining musical programme that had much to admire. 

The band really found its feet in the march, 'The Elephant' before the xylophone duo of Jonathan Garside and Matthew Rigg had loads of fun in 'The Two Imps'. 'Abide With Me' calmed things down before the set work rounded off a solid overall performance.

Good playing

The final Silver award went to Worcestershire Youth‘The Pioneers’ was disciplined with lots of good playing, whilst tenor horn soloist, Kendal Lee was in good form in Hugh Nash's 'Demelza'. 'David of the White Rock' was nicely shaped and the band had a ball in Philip Sparke's 'Klezmer Karnival' to close.

Four bands picked up Bronze Awards

Confidence

Dobcross Youth
and Brian Lamb started off with Mozart's 'Magic Flute’ Overture which grew in confidence before the band’s euphonium soloist showed plenty of poise in John Golland's 'Peace'. That just left 'The Pioneers' which did have a cautious approach and feel about it, but they coped admirably with the music.

Enderby Youth started confidentially with 'Army of the Nile' and this was followed by the band’s cornet and soprano featured in 'Pie Jesu'.   The set-work, certainly had its moments of quality, as did the closing 'Zulu' from the Battle of Rourke's Drift
 
Fred Longworth had made one of the shortest journeys to Manchester of the competing bands and certainly gave a good account of themselves.  They opened with 'The Pioneers' but seemed more comfortable with their own choice material which included, 'There is a Green Hill Far Away' and 'Softly as I Leave You', where one of the soloists certainly made a mark on her 16th birthday.

Varied programme

Oldham Music Centre
had the unenviable task of following Gloucestershire Youth and Smithills on stage and they performed a varied programme. 

The march, 'Goldcrest' was taken at a steady tempo whilst 'Irish Blessing' did take time to really warm.  The cornet quartet enjoyed themselves in 'Trumpets Wild' and the full band joined in the fun in 'Sweet Gingerbread Man' before they closed with 'The Pioneers' which tested them.

Merit

That just left four Merit awards.

Chalford and conductor Steve Tubb made the journey up from Stroud and despite having been held up en-route they could head home proud of their efforts. 

Musically, they didn’t quite hit their straps during their performance but they had loads of fun, particularly John Grant on percussion in 'Brassed Off' (not related to music from the film) and in Queen's, 'Fat Bottom Girls'

Special mention must go to Katie Godwin and Amy Tubb who produced some confident playing in 'Don't Make My Brown Eyes Blue'.

Congratulations

Warmest congratulations go to Horbury Victoria who by their own admission has lost a few players in the last year.  They only had a couple of basses but the band gave it everything and they enjoyed it too, and mention must go to the band’s Principal Cornet for an Alan Morrison style performance of 'Buster Strikes Back'.

Macclesfield Youth and Louise Renshaw opted for just two pieces.  'The Pioneers' tested them at times, but they seemed to really relish the challenge of playing Paul Lovatt-Cooper's 'Dreamcatchers' which was delivered with real purpose and style. 

That just leaves Tewitt Youth who put together a really enjoyable and varied programme, the highlights of which came from the cornet soloist in 'Hello Dolly' and the band certainly letting their hair down in the closing 'Valero'.

Awards

With the contest concluded, all that remained was the acknowledgements from Robert Morgan and on behalf of The Co-operative, before the judges stepped forward to deliver a first class verdict. 

Then the results, and the end of a long but enjoyable day for everyone – especially Gloucestershire Youth and Ian Porthouse.

Malcolm Wood

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