2010 London & Southern Counties Regional Championship - Fourth Section: retrospective

25-Mar-2010

Some French style came in handy in the Fourth Section where a trio of chic performances headed to Harrogate.


Echoing sentiments expressed around the country regarding Philip Sparke’s test piece, Brian Buckley said it had been a pleasure listening to bands tackling such delightful music.

Following discussions regarding over-blowing, he had analysed the score and found that only 23% of the bars were marked at fortissimo, and he felt that very few bands had tried to force the sound.

Quality concern

He was more concerned over the quality of some of the quiet playing; pointing out that the piano dynamic should be pointed and precise, not puny and pathetic.

He mentioned the range of moods of the music, saying that bands hadn’t made enough of the cadence at the end of the ‘Meditation’, and also remarking that some had slavishly tried to follow the interpretation on the Regionals CD, regardless of whether they had players of sufficient ability to carry it off.

Rhythms had been imprecise at times, and he quoted the very opening, with 3 timpani quavers followed by 3 on brass, saying that too many bands had tried to squeeze in the first bar instead of producing 6 measured notes.

Problems

Similar problems had occurred in the accelerando at the end of the piece, with quavers becoming uneven. As to the placings, he had no doubt over the top two, and felt the 3rd placed band had been a little unfortunate on the day.

Unfortunately, due to the timings of the day and difficulties ringing through the results, together with a misunderstanding as to when the comfort break was being taken, we didn’t hear the first two bands – Charles Church Camberley (R. Cherry) (15th place) and Great Yarmouth Brass (S. Philpot) (11th place) – or that drawn 9th – Royston Town (S. Earley) (placed 10th).

Letchworth Garden City
(T. Welch) took to the stand with three basses, including one young lad who was clearly giving his all for the cause. There were some good attempts at dynamic contrast, but notes in the quieter passages often didn’t speak properly, and intonation was not very good.

The final statement of the theme was very uncertain, and 16th place came as no real surprise.

Clean reading

Amersham (P. Fisher) gained 3rd place, securing the final qualification berth for the finals, with a very clean reading, if a little under tempo at the start.

There was real attention to detail, with possibly the best rendition of the final ‘maestoso’ we heard all day, featuring crisp trumpeting rhythms and a strong trombone section.

With Bletchington Silver (N. Hall) the ensemble playing was a little ragged, with quieter notes not sounding. At one point the side drum seemed to lag behind, which was quite unsettling, and intonation problems afflicted the middle of the band in the ‘Transformation’ section. It was near the top of a number of middle-ranked readings for us, with 6th place about right.

Young players

M K Development (D. Johnston) included some very young players in the ranks, including several who were taking part in their first contest. They suffered from poor intonation and loose rhythms, but it would have been a valuable experience for them, regardless of their lowly 14th place.

King’s Lynn Town (S. Ingham) had a very scrappy opening, and solo work on the whole lacked confidence, with uncertain entries and tuning problems. The ‘Apotheosis’ was very insecure, not helped by some rather lacklustre percussion, and 13th it was.

Gaps

Despite a couple of gaps around the stand Bradwell Silver (B. Keech) produced a good, balanced reading, recovering well from a rather tentative opening bar.

There were some problems regarding intonation and general ensemble, but passages such as the ascending scales before the ‘Transformation’ were neatly handled. They showed good control in the ‘Meditation’ and a forthright approach to the ‘Apotheosis’, receiving a well-deserved 5th place.

Having missed Roston Town (S. Earley) – apart from hearing the final bars of trumpeting whilst waiting to re-enter the hall, the next band was Harwich R B L Brass (A. Sanders).

Their opening was a little under tempo but very clean, with a nicely flowing style, with the occasional blips not detracting too much from the overall impression. There was some fine quiet playing, and a child growing restless during the ‘Meditation’ did not put them off!

The ‘Apotheosis’ was a little chopped, and there was uncertainty in tempo towards the end, but it was an excellent rendition for 4th place.

Steady tempo

E.P.B. Brass (M. Turner) also set a steady tempo, the playing rather tentative but topped off by a fine soprano. Their overall sound was full and rich, nicely in tune, with effective interplay between the sections.

The  ‘Meditation’ proved a stern test, however, and the trombones sounded a little muddy in the ‘Apotheosis’. With intonation problems affecting the final melody in the lower band they seemed to have run out of steam, but they had done enough for 7th place.

LGB Brass (I. Stewart) produced what was for us something of a curate’s egg of a performance: Cornets at the opening were rather strident, and elsewhere the balance was bass-heavy. The ‘Meditation’, however, got off to a lovely hushed start, with good control throughout the band. Whilst the reading as a whole was very clean, it seemed a little lacking in excitement, making their 2nd place seem a bit generous to us.

Mobile tones


The tones of a mobile phone rang out as Battle Town (J. Penton) was about to start. Unfazed, they produced a finely-judged opening, with the cornet and trombone fanfare figures coming nicely through the texture. Theirs was certainly the tidiest rendition of the  ‘Transformation’ heard during the day, despite nervousness affecting a couple of the soloists.

Trombones were strong in the finale, although an apparent drop in tempo at the final 3/2 was rather disconcerting. We had to agree with Brian Buckley, however, that this was a deserved winner.

Cobham (D. Ruel) suffered from poor intonation and general untidiness – it was as if the intention was there, but the execution was lacking. The soprano player in particular seemed to be left out on a limb, with a lack of proper support from the lower parts. An untidy ‘Apotheosis’ left them in 12th place.

Resonant

The opening from Snowdon Colliery (K. Spencer) was rather muddy and unclear, and balance problems led to the horn melody in the scherzo being somewhat overwhelmed. With over-resonant timpani in the ‘Apotheosis’ and a lack of vitality towards the end of the piece, it was another middle-ranked performance, in 9th place.

Cold Ash Brass
(S. Sizeland) produced one of the stars of the day in their young soprano player: playing with a sweet tone, nicely in tune and apparently without an ounce of fear in her body, she proceeded to charm the audience, recovering immediately from the occasional slip even at the top of the stave.

Underneath her, the band produced some nice sounds, with excellent solo work from flugel and baritone in particular, although the basses were a little unclear in the ‘Apotheosis’, and the trombones were also on the heavy side. It merited another middle-ranked placing at 8th.

Confusion

After a little confusion as to how the withdrawal of one of the 17 entrants affected things, it was confirmed that Battle Town, L.G.B. Brass and Amersham would represent the Region in Harrogate, at the end of an interesting day’s music making.

As an aside, it was notable that there were fewer empty seats in the hall for the Fourth Section than had been seen in the Third Section earlier in the day.

Peter Bale

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