2010 Midlands Regional Championship - Third Section: retrospective

19-Mar-2010

Somtimes the clue isn't in the title - athough for Porthywaen, being crowned Third Section winners is.


Sometimes the clue isn’t in the title: ‘Labour & Love’ sounds like a cross between an old Juila Roberts film and a Tony Blair promotional video.

However, given that this piece was written at the height of the Edwardian era, by a composer steeped in the 19th century operatic selections of the London stage, it was always going to be marginally less inspiring than either Julia or Tony at their cinematic best.

If it had been called ‘New Labour meets Love Actually’ then perhaps it would have been a different story.

Modern traits

Somehow the bands here never quite managed to rid themselves of those more modern traits of powerful ensemble playing, pointed articulation and metallic tonality, which would have been ideal on just about any other test piece.

These strengths are fine and dandy on pieces invariably written decades after this old pot bolier had seen its better days, but Percy Fletcher’s work cried out for old fashioned banding virtues from what appeared to be, for the judges at least, a long forgotten past.

Solid playing

There was plenty of solid playing on show – too solid at times for the likes of Paul Norley and Malcolm Brownbill in the box, who must have been frustrated that despite an acoustic that made clear detail difficult to hear at the Nicholas Chamberlaine Technology College, so few bands managed to lighten their approach to try and accomplish it.

Paul was clear in his view that the ‘weight’ of sound produced by nearly all the bands on the day was too blunt and heavy to allow the lightly written filigree work and operatic textures of the music to find an easy way through.

Dated style

Although dated in style, bands and MDs should still be able to do this, even at this level he went to say, and their inability to do so meant that the character of the music (which to be fair to the bands is heavy handed and bluntly drawn itself) couldn’t come through.

Malcolm was very much of the same opinion, and whilst he thought it to be a ‘fantastic piece’ he did balance this by saying that the MDs did have to try and bring the story of the composition to life (although to be fair once more, the story in question is a piece of over romanticised added whimsy).

Lighter approach


With the clear opinions of the judges in mind, there was little surprise that two latter performances from Porthywaen Silver conducted by Mark Parry and Shirebrook MW (Unison) directed by Mark Wilcockson, got the nod to qualify for Harrogate.

Their seemingly ‘lighter’ approach to the dynamics and some neat individual contributions tickled the fancy of the men in the box.

Perhaps the MDs had taken the opportunity to listen to a few early bands, or had good intelligence information passed to them by their spies on the day, but it was clear their dynamic levels were noticeably less robust than quite a few of their rivals, even if the actual level of execution was very much the same.

Rushden Windmill
in fact very nearly made it through immediately after the two qualifiers played, but their slightly harder sound didn’t quite have the warmth that the judges were looking for, and they had to be content with 4th place.

Contest marker

The contest marker had been produced by Avonbank (Evesham) directed by Andy Davison, whilst there were other notable early draw performances from City of Birmingham and Long Eaton.

In the end Avonbank just missed out on a trip to Harrogate in coming 3rd, whilst Birmingham and Long Eaton finished in 7th and 5th places respectively.

The final top six place was taken by Hucknall & Linby, who produced an encouraging performance under the baton of Paul Whyley, whilst the remaining top 10 places went to Stamford Brass and Daventry.

For the most part all these bands managed to play the piece with varying degrees of competency, but the more subjective question of style may have cost a couple of bands dearly in the confines of the box.

Below top 10

Below the top 10 the standard was variable, but whilst many in the hall enjoyed what they were hearing, it wasn’t always the case in the box.

There will be some bewildered MDs and bands at rehearsal this week for sure, as for the most part the technicalities of the piece were overcome, and at this level, that usually means that bands should find themselves higher up the results table than perhaps they came here.

The emphasis on style though was always going to be difficult for many bands to achieve with a degree of comfort, so a deal of sympathy should go to the MDs. Perhaps the judges were expecting a bit too much of the competitors here.  

Overall though, an interesting, if slightly bewildering contest that eventually produced two solid bands to represent the region at Harrogate in September.  


4BR would like to Ian Parsons for his help with this report

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