As has been reported from the other regional contests around the country this year, James Curnow's 'Brass Metamorphosis' test-piece has caused widespread problems: It was no different for the six competing bands at the Gala Theatre.
A short contest was certainly not overly sweet — despite the hard-working efforts of all the contenders who tried with varying degrees of success to overcome the testing challenges of a set-work that rather starkly highlighted the limitations of their potential top-flight aspirations.
And although there wasn't one performance that was not significantly blighted by nerves, unforced errors, major blips and clips, credit must go to the MDs — all of whom tried to mould renditions within sensible dynamic and tempi boundary markers.
As a result they all made significant inroads into the score, but none could create a coherent, cohesive account that was in complete control from start to finish. The troubles did not go amiss in the box either, with Mareika Gray and Michael Fowles giving sympathetic appraisals that did not shy away from the realities of what they had to compare and contrast.
"It seemed that nerves got the better of some bands today", Mareika said, before adding a touch of perspective to the contest by adding, "...although tomorrow when we wake up, we'll realise it's only been a brass band contest and we actually do this for fun."
She praised all the MD's for coping with some "tricky tempos" as well as for "finding something from the score which we thought was enjoyable."
Meanwhile, Michael also mentioned the obvious elemental issue of nerves, both positive and negative, as well as thanking the bands for, "...dealing with awkward transitions to give us moments in every performance where we thought 'that was nice'. It was a rare event though."
In the end both Harrogate and Houghton Brass gave creditable accounts to secure their qualification to Cheltenham, with the North Yorkshire outfit eventually taking the title under Dean Jones.
Their warm, expressive sound outshone the 'splashes and dashes' that inevitably scratched the surface, enabling the musical picture to develop with sense of building tension and well-defined shape.
For Houghton Brass, coming runner-up means a fourth consecutive Cheltenham appearance. That fine achievement came after they produced a more restrained account under MD Lee Morris who coaxed first class solo contributions from around the stand.
The technical challenges were just about fully met too, allowing for a performance that had a stamp of substance in its execution.
Speaking of which, Jack Capstaff almost committed the ultimate in 'hari-kari' in stepping dangerously close to the edge of the stage with Ripon City in a rendition that had colour, texture and balance there or thereabouts in place. It was a highly encouraging performance from a band to watch out for later in the year if they carry on building on these energised foundations.
Behind them, GT Group Peterlee found that their slightly cautious approach perhaps needed a touch more fizz to have bubbled away in the box, whilst Ashington and Dunston certainly gave of their all in their contrasting ways — the former bold and a touch wayward, the latter more circumspect and introverted.
And whilst Harrogate and Houghton head to Cheltenham a little battered by their metamorphic challenge they will also know that like the vast majority of rival qualifiers they will have not been alone in feeling that way.
Harrogate's warm, expressive sound outshone the 'splashes and dashes' that inevitably scratched the surface, enabling the musical picture to develop with sense of building tension and well-defined shape4BR
Test Piece: Brass Metamorphosis (James Curnow)
Adjudicators: Mareika Gray & Michael Fowles
1. Harrogate (Dean Jones)*
2. Houghton Brass (Lee Morris)*
3. Ripon City (Jack Capstaff)
4. GT Group Peterlee (Simon Kerwin)
5. Ashington Colliery (David Kendall)
6. Dunston Silver (Aidan Hodges)
*Qualify for National Final
Best Trombone: Harrogate
Best Basses: Harrogate
Best Percussion: Ripon City