Thunder Bale! Peter Bale presents Thundersley with the Area trophy
Picture: Paul Barker
This was a contest that mirrored every other across the country on ‘Cross Patonce’.
The bands made the most of their resources to battle their way through a test piece that challenged their abilities to the very limit – and beyond in far too many cases.
It wasn’t the fault of the players or for that matter the MDs – just a misplaced choice that made for difficulties the vast majority couldn’t overcome.
Thundersley were deserved winners – thanks to a performance that was well structured and delivered by John Ward and his band.
It was intelligent music making from start to finish; nothing overdone, strengths enhanced, weaknesses minimized. It was solid, unspectacular and more than good enough to take the title honours.
The outer movements flowed rather than rushed, whilst the central section was shaped with care and consideration rather than exploitative misplaced effect.
A good solid band led by a conductor who used his experience and know how to fine effect: It won by a good length or three.
As expected Kevin Wadsworth once more ensured that the audience was left in little doubt about his reasoning in what was another crystal clear analysis of a contest that varied greatly in consistency.
His eloquent appraisal highlighted the need to get the basics in place first and foremost – then worry about adding the extras touches of Gallic inspired finesse.
The winners certainly managed that and more in what was as good a winning performance as perhaps any around the country.
Not far behind
Chalgrove were not far behind, whilst Littleport also managed to shape the basic ingredients with more than a soupcon of tasteful imagination.
The trio was good value for their Cheltenham qualification.
Thundersley’s victory was clear cut, whilst Chalgrove, with an energetic Terry Brotherhood at the helm and Littleport with the more diminutive but equally purposeful Nigel Bramley keeping a tight rein on dynamics and tempi, were classy, if occasionally more scrappy in execution.
Compare and contrast
Behind them and it became the usual balancing act of compare and contrast, with a well structured account from Ware Brass pipping the slightly more malleable efforts from Colchester and Denham to fill the remaining top six places.
Each had their moments, with solid ensemble work a feature, even if some of the solo contributions did struggle.
The central ‘Shepherdess’ movement saw some lovely moments, but the technical insecurities in the outer sections was much more pronounced.
The midfield finishers could have come in just about any order – from 7th to 12th in fact.
The overall standard was pretty average however, with none of the bands really coming to terms with the piece almost from the word go.
Much as the MDs tried, the problems were just too acute in places to overcome. Nasty individual errors, nerves and some poorly chosen tempos didn’t help.
Hungerford, St Sebastian Wokingham, Fulham, Northfleet, Epson & Ewell and BAE Systems ended up in the credit side of the performance ledger, mainly due to immense commitment, enthusiasm and unbreakable contesting spirit.
None of them sounded as if they really enjoyed the experience though.
The same was true of the bands that eventually ended up behind them in the results table.
What benefit hard working ensembles such as Tilbury, Waterbeach, St Alban’s City and Grimsdyke will have gained from having to battle against this piece is questionable.
The players gave their all, the MDs used their experience and good sense to try and mask the obvious fragilities.
It was a real struggle at times though. ‘Cross Patonce’ didn’t get the beating of them, but it came mighty close: Better days lie ahead.
Better days certainly lie ahead for the trio that head for Cheltenham.
Thundersley in particular could be a real each way bet for possible victory, with Chalgrove and Littleport good value punts for top 10 finishes or better on this form