2010 Butlins Mineworkers Championship - Entertainment innovators?

28-Jan-2010

It's two years since innovation and invention became the brass band buzz words here - so did the 2010 contenders do the entertainment business?


tHORESBY
Thoresby tell it as it is...

It was at Butlins two years ago that Major Peter Parks and David Read first broached the subject of innovation in brass band entertainment contest programmes.

Fed up

Both men had become more than a little fed up by the conveyor belt of repeats and rehashes, predictable programming, lazy musical ideas and weak comedy items.  Innovation and invention became the new buzz words, and for a time it appeared that people were taking notice.

Not before time too, as British bands were being shown up as dated entertainment providers – highlighted when the overseas visitors from America and Norway delivered classy, inventive concert and contest programmes at Brass in Concert.

Trickle down

Like ‘trickle down’ economic theory, what first happened at The Sage finally found its way to the entertainment contest platforms around the country – through a process of cut and paste osmosis if you like. 

Desford
A little light pipe music for Desford

Since then, Brass in Concert has become more interesting (even if there is still a reluctance from some bands and the organisers to really try something different). However, the good news is that the bands at Butlins have taken the advice (and the evidence) and have decided to become fully-fledged entertainers.

This year’s contest was a surprising delight.  A couple of bands were still reluctant to go the whole hog, and due to loss of rehearsal time because of the recent terrible weather there were a few programmes that had to be amended.

Avant -garde

However, just about every band tried something that even a couple of years ago would have been thought of as being far too avant-garde, especially for a so called  ‘traditional brass band’ audience – the type that packed into the Centre Stage venue like sardines on the Sunday.   

Redbridge
Redbridge deliver out of the shadows

Butlins have done their bit by putting the judges in the open and getting two Redcoats to award the ‘Most Entertaining Prize’, whilst the bands have responded (much to the delight of Dr Roy Newsome who flagged up the issue up over a decade ago) by not opting to go down the custard pie, monkeys on the back of performing elephants route, that started to become the depressing norm at Brass in Concert.

Speaking to both adjudicators and David Read during and after Sunday’s event confirmed that at this contest at least, bands were trying something different and innovative.

Thoresby Colliery for instance may have known that they were going to be outsiders to come in the overall prizes on the weekend.

U Tube classic

However, the amount of sheer hard graft and rehearsal time it would have taken them to master the classic U Tube silent monk ‘Halleluiah Chorus’ sketch, fully deserved them taking home the £1,000 Entertainment Prize and the fantastic old Butlins Cup.

Quality

Reigning champion Redbridge, may not have liked the set work on the Saturday, but they will perhaps be kicking themselves that if they had played half as well as they did on the Sunday, when they produced an entertainment programme of such quality that it would have been a contender for the prizes at Brass in Concert, they would have perhaps retained their title instead of coming third overall.

Wingates
Eyes right: Wingates find form with their contrasting programme

This was highly choreographed, inventive programming, with a real sense of professionalism of 20 minutes or so of high quality brass band playing under the baton of Jeremy Wise. From the opening 'Earth, Wind and Fire’ ‘Got to get you into my Life’ through to the ‘Blast’ inspired ‘Bolero’ finish it was top notch stuff – appreciated and applauded to the rafters by the audience. 

Can't afford?

The eventual winners, Desford will now know that they cannot afford to provide a programme like they did this year if they are to retain their title again.

This time around there was just enough (and we do mean just) quality and not quite ‘past the sell by date’ freshness about their programme under Russell Gray to fend off the challenge of their rivals.

However, despite the quality of the execution the material was pretty threadbare in places (‘Firebird’ to finish and a repeat of a ‘Black Bottom Stomp’ from last year). Perhaps a penalty clause should be put in by the organisers to stop repeats of programmes – it would certainly have made Desford’s task harder.

Hepworth
Strings and things for Hepworth

Brave enough

One man who has certainly been brave enough to try something different over the years has been Philip Harper, and despite the inclusion of a couple of real gems in Wingates programme, you were left scratching your head with ‘The Circle of Life’ as a big finisher

It would perhaps come as a real surprise if he decided not to include a ‘bonus’ encore in future programmes he conducts. He isn’t afraid of being innovative though, so we can perhaps forgive him doing it just one more time…

For Hepworth and Virtuosi GUS, perhaps a chance missed to really show off their entertainment talents.

Solid

Both provided solid enough programmes (Hepworth’s ‘The Smile’ and ‘Danse Macabre Variations’ two neat originals, whilst GUS premiered an upbeat ‘Spanish Dance’) that placed the emphasis on their playing abilities.

Both had their moments when their class shone through, but both also had that feeling of conservatism about them.

Flowers
Sage and Flowers for the West of England band

Too far?

EYMS on the other hand may have gone too far the other way, with the inclusion of two ‘comedy’ items one after each other, which rather diluted the effect of both.

The Cuban inspired Salsa seemed OK, but left you wondering about the Hull band’s sense of geography, given that Alan Morrison and Andrew Kennedy were wearing Hawaiian leis around their necks.

The brilliant Laurel and Hardy skit that followed was top-notch stuff, but perhaps emphasised the fact that sometimes bands have to provide something that doesn’t always put a smile on the face.

Vocalist

Like Redbridge, Milnrow included a vocal soloist in their programme (and a bit more successfully too it must be said).

The question raised was whether or not this was really brass band entertainment or more suited to an X Factor audition, but it was certainly something different, and of a very much higher quality than say, James Gourlay’s or Foden’s Gladys Knight and the Pips efforts at Brass in Concert in the last two years.

GUS
GUS swingers as Cliff Pask struts his stuff for the Midlanders

Bravery

In the bravery stakes, Woodfalls just about deserved a VC for opting to cut and paste the start and end sections of Philip Wilby’s ‘Dove Descending…’ as an opener, whilst Hatfield Powerfuel may have decided to opt for a programme that was perhaps starting to yellow round the edges in 1980, but still contained two of the best soloists you could expect to hear at any entertainment contest.

Miles Davison rolled back the years to win the Geoff Dove Solo Prize with the Strauss ‘Rondo’ – it was just a pity that the band couldn’t quite do the same too.

sINGER
Vocal difference for Milnrow

Nuns and monks

Flowers meanwhile opted for a repeat showing of the majority of their recent Brass in Concert appearance, and whilst it was disappointing to hear them unwilling to try something new, it was perhaps understandable given that they didn’t play it well the first time in Gateshead.

With singers, nuns, monks, trumpeters, Laurel and Hardy, electric guitars, projected images, lightening effects, dry ice and even the occasional bit of original brass band repertoire thrown in for good measure, the bands here showed that they had taken on board that advice about innovation and invention from Peter Parkes and David Read.

Now comes the trick of what to do next.

Iwan Fox

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