Although the first major shock wave of the 2017 Regional Championships took place earlier on Sunday evening in Durham, where Reg Vardy's Area domination came to an end, it was a mere tremor compared to the seismic rumble of surprise that greeted the end of Flowers hegemony in Torquay.
Their pursuit of a sixth consecutive victory shuddered into a fourth place finish on 'Pageantry', as Woodfalls and Filton Concert Brass claimed the Albert Hall qualification places, with Verwood Concert Brass in third. Flowers result was their worst since 2004, as they failed to qualify for the first time since 2008.
In contrast, it was Woodfalls first Area success since 2011, as Dr Robert Childs used his experience and know-how to produce a winning rendition of Howells' classic work that was described by adjudicators Stephen Roberts and Paul Norley in their respective written remarks as; 'An outstanding performance — technically superb and musically satisfying', and, 'An outstanding team effort and superb individual contributions'.
Earlier, they made clear their decision-making thought processes: Paul speaking of their 'collective irritation' at the number of times rather obvious liberties were taken with the interpretation of the score, whilst Stephen stating that unnecessary over-emphasised detail had resulted in the music being denuded of its overall characteristics.
And although both were well aware of the more obvious errors in the winning performance, they felt that the overall musical picture created was one that 'clearly understood' Howells' intentions, whilst in contrast, others gave renditions they felt were rather more 'manufactured' in approach.
"That was the main difference today," Stephen later told 4BR. "The music requires a sense of nobility and stature throughout and some conductors rather forgot that as they simply looked to bring out manufactured detail. We had little problem picking the winner or second, with the rest a little further behind."
Paul agreed: "No band came away unscathed, but the clear understanding of the overall musical picture was always of prime importance. We became increasingly irritated by some conductors who rather forgot that. It's wonderful music that simply doesn't need that intrusive approach."
For Dr Robert Childs, that 'clear understanding' saw him gain a twelfth Area title and first since 2012. His considered interpretation of the score in terms of tempo and dynamic in particular was backed however with an inventive use of personnel — utilising two sopranos and dispensing with the need for a flugel horn.
"I wanted to create that bright, precise timbre — one that can be heard on the older, iconic recordings of the piece," he said.
"The flugel part is also somewhat redundant — more a darker cornet addition, so that was something that gave scope. It's wonderful music that needs respect from a conductor in terms of interpretation. I'm delighted that came through with the judges."
Dr Childs also congratulated his band for their approach. "I really enjoy my trips to Woodfalls. They are such a hardworking band that overcomes any problems without fuss. That's so refreshing and rewarding for us both."
In reply, a band spokesperson told 4BR: "Our heartfelt thanks go to Bob. His musical presence is immense and the way he approached this piece was superb. It opened our eyes to music that is so rewarding to play. The victory has been a long time coming, but the wait has been well worth it."
Waiting game over
The waiting game was also over for Filton Concert Brass, as under Tom Davoren they reached the first of their major championship objectives exactly on time thanks to a confident contest opening marker that retained its boldly portrayed cohesion from start to finish.
"Our aim when I first took over was to reach either the British Open or National Final within five years, and we have done that," Tom proudly told 4BR. "For me, Filton is the blueprint for successful and enjoyable banding. That's down to the players and the way in which they have been able to balance work and personal life commitments to that of the band.
The players once again did everything I asked of them — especially off the number 1 draw. Now we will concentrate on the Senior Cup at Blackpool."
Despite just missing out on what would also have been a debut Albert Hall appearance, there was no mistaking the collective joy shown by Verwood Concert Brass, who produced a fine account of to end third, led by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra bass trombonist Kevin Smith.
Their opening and closing movements were perhaps the best of the day, with nervousness and fragility just costing them in the 'Cortege'
For Flowers however there was major disappointment — as despite an uncharacteristically hesitant start they went on to produce an authoritative account of ensemble detail and solo confidence that seemed to have placed them in position to repel their rivals.
However, Paul Holland's approach on this occasion failed to find favour in the box, and the result was an unaccustomed fourth place finish — just ahead of the surprise package of Lanner & District who played immediately before them off the number 2 draw.
Completing the top-six was the fancied St Dennis, with their confident, but rather more malleable interpretation under MD Darren Hawken also failing to find overwhelming appeal in the box.
In a contest of varying approaches and somewhat more variable execution, 'Pageantry' (and especially the 'Cortege') caused numerous problems.
With basic errors (the amount of wrong notes in exposed lines was startling), nerves, poor ensemble balance and fragility undermining numerous efforts, it also showed that the standard of top section banding in the West of England (like many other regions around the country) is perhaps also out of synch with the number of its competing bands.
'An outstanding performance — technically superb and musically satisfying', and, 'An outstanding team effort and superb individual contributions'Adjudicators remarks on Woodfalls winning performance
Test Piece: 'Pageantry' (Herbert Howells)
Adjudicators: Paul Norley and Stephen Roberts
1. Woodfalls (Dr Robert Childs)*
2. Filton Concert Brass (Tom Davoren)*
3. Verwood Concert Brass (Kevin Smith)
4. Flowers (Paul Holland)
5. Lanner & District (David Hamilton)
6. St Dennis (Darren Hawken)
7. Aldbourne (David Johnson)
8. Camborne Town (Michael Fowles)
9. St Austell Town (Steve Sykes)
10. Lydbrook (Glyn Williams)
11. Mount Charles (Stan Lippeatt)
12. Brunel Brass (Paul Collis-Smith)
13. Roche Brass (Garry Cutt)
14. Yeovil Town (Ian Holmes)
*Top two bands qualify bands for National Final at The Royal Albert Hall