Police action - South Yorkshire celebrate their win at Bradford
There were twelve varied interpretations of Eric Ball’s iconic ‘Resurgam’ on Saturday afternoon, but it could be argued that the most fascinating performances weren’t delivered by the competing bands, but by the adjudicators, Philip Harper and John Roberts.
The two gave constructive, detailed pre-results appraisals, and the fact that the joint analysis stretched nearly as long as most of the performances told its own story.
John highlighted both the scope and importance of the composer's repertoire, and that in his opinion it had become a somewhat forgotten genre of brass band music making.
He felt it contributed to why there were perhaps no problems at all picking out the qualifying bands and the top six in the 12 band field.
Philip Harper didn't pull any punches either – delivering a forensic appreciation of the pitfalls to be found even in the opening four bars of the work.
There were a few Yorkshire folk wriggling rather uncomfortably in their seats at the end of it all – the result of two very intelligent, cogent appraisals of just what was good and what was not on the day.
They didn’t miss a trick.
In a way it was neatly summed up byJohn's observation about the standard of gong playing – the final repose invariably disturbed by a clang that wouldn’t have been out of place at the beginning of an old Rank film.
Overall, it made for an uneven contest – with the judges letting it be known that the two qualifiers were someway in front of the rest of the field.
There was a clear podium finisher in third and two decent efforts from the bands in fourth and fifth.
The generous old euphemism that ‘the standard did drop off after that’ perhaps didn’t tell the whole story.
At times it fell like a stone.
Ball control pays off for Leigh Baker...
The clear winners were South Yorkshire Police under the astute leadership of Leigh Baker.
The former Brighouse baritone player is a very competent banding all-rounder and he is now delivering performances built on strong musical foundations, where nothing is more important than reproducing what is on the score.
Leigh revealed that for him ‘Resurgam’ was all about ‘Ball control' – the desire to imbue his band with the essential characteristics of the composer’s musicality through the basics: tunefulness, balance, warmth of tone, refinement in phrasing and production.
It certainly paid dividends, with the component parts adding up to a totally coherent whole, enhanced by a reading of sympathetic understanding.
Principal cornet, Leisa Mallalieu took the instrumental prize with a lovely contribution, and whilst they had a long wait before the final announcement of the results from the number 3 draw, it was all well worth it when Peggy Tomlinson finally read out their name.
They were thoroughly deserving of the title.
On this form they are a band more than capable of taking the National title in the Autumn.
Joining them in Cheltenham will be Barnsley Chronicle, who produced a rendition of warmth and musicality under Rob Straw.
It was always going to challenge for a podium place or better, thanks to well executed individual contributions and the MDs insistence on keeping a lid on the dynamic range.
It didn’t quite have that deeply ingrained sheen of the winners but it was a performance of real merit that deserved its reward.
Read about it in the paper - for qualifiers Barnsley Chronicle
The reigning champions Knottingley Silver could perhaps count themselves unlucky not to have qualified.
Dr Owen Wedgwood’s intelligent direction enabled his band to deliver a fine account that had a persuasive lyrical flow from beginning to end.
There was disappointment yet again for Strata Brass, despite David Hirst’s lovely interpretation of the score, which was shaped with an intuitive understanding of the musical phrasing of the work.
Too many minor errors and untunefulness just saw it remain off the pace of the front-runners to come fourth.
Lindley had the unenviable task of playing number 1, but delivered a solid marker under the direction of Neil Jowett to end on fifth with a performance that certainly had the basics in place, but couldn’t quite add an extra level of warmth to the ensemble sound.
The drop in standard from 6th place down was marked, although Clifton & Lightcliffe could perhaps count themselves a touch unlucky that their well worked, but slightly uneven account, led by a singing John Clay, didn’t quite find a little more favour in the box.
Below this it was a question of compare and contrast and the age old problem of consistency.
Not quite for Knottingley Silver this time
Favour in hall
Eliot Darwin's Dodworth MW found favour in the hall with some Yorkshire stalwarts, but the bravura approach was perhaps a bit too robust at times, whilst it was much the same with Rockingham directed with great gusto by Roland Spencer.
A reliance on the louder dynamics to try and create excitement robbed the music of it sense of despairing loss.
Tabby Clegg’s lyrical approach with Slaithwaite was one of the most enjoyable of the contest, with a delicacy to the phrasing and a sense of musical flow.
However, the minor error count was high and in the end it left a deeply polished musical patina pockmarked with expensive chips.
Best Soloist - Leisa Mallalieu of South Yorkshire Police
The bottom three bands will know that they will ‘rise again’ – but not on a piece like ‘Resurgam’ on this evidence.
Wetherby & District, Garforth Brass and Emley certainly delivered committed performances, but the heart on sleeve approach isn’t one that brings the best out of Eric Ball’s work.
The desire to try and create something that wasn’t really there in the first place saw misplaced enthusiasm get the better of all three.
Not so with South Yorkshire Police, with Leigh Baker's knowledge of 'Ball control' paying off in fine style.