2004 Pontins Brass Band Championships - Introduction


This weekend sees the 31st running of the Pontins Brass Band Championships - so plenty of bands, beer and bad weather is guarenteed.

Pontins logoThe annual jamboree to the wind swept coastline of North Wales takes place this weekend, with the 31st Pontins Brass Band Championships held in Prestatyn.

A huge turn out of bands will congregate in the ironically named "Fun Factory Ballroom" (if it ever was) and "Lunars Hall" (lunatics more like come Saturday night) to sample the delights of some well chosen test pieces played by a whole raft of competitive bands. After the serious business of winning prize money is out of the way, all can return a few hours later to enjoy the even more serious business of drinking the contents of the bars dry.

This year it is also hoped that the weather will not be as bad as it has been in the past (although the forecast is for the usual mix of wind and rain, rain and wind, wind and wind and rain and rain). This however makes the organisers very happy, as the 2000 plus players and supporters are stuck on mass in the camp. Why do you think they hold the contest at the fag end of October for eh?

This year, over 100 bands will take to the stage for the chance of winning some decent prize money and the event as a whole benefits greatly from being smoothly run by the organisers. The test pieces have been chosen very much with the realistic standard of the bands in mind by James Scott, and so those hoping to win the Harry and Margaret Mortimer Championship will have to get to grips with the challenging but not insurmountable "Dances and Arias" by Edward Gregson - a stern test for the bands here, but one that should ensure that the judges, Malcolm Brownbill and David Read (fresh from the National Finals) should be able to pick out the very best bands from a large 24 band field.

In the First Section the 24 bands on view will have to get to grips with the popular "A London Overture" by Philip Sparke, which will certainly test the nerves of the main soloists early on and should prove both a demanding technical and musical test as well. Colin Hardy and Raymond Tennant will certainly enjoy themselves picking the winner from this one.   

The Second Section bands will have to overcome the  "The Deep" by Bram Wiggins. Contrary to popular belief this isn't the music from the rubbishy old film of the same name that starred a scantily clad Jacqueline Bissett (although this was a highlight of the film) but a neatly constructed original that should prove popular with both players and audience alike (although perhaps not as popular as Miss Bissett if she was to make an appearance in costume). Colin and Raymond will be doing their Jacques Costeau impressions in picking the winner

The Third Section sees Malcolm Brownbill and David Read return to adjudicate 20 bands playing Darrol Barry's clever "Prelude and Jubilate" - a piece that should give plenty of scope for the bands to show off their mastery of the basics that matter. Meanwhile the Fourth Section contenders will have to get to grips with Malcolm Arnold's tremendously entertaining "An Attleborough Suite" which we last heard at the National Finals a few years back and which was a real gem. Nice touch as well by James Scott to give an appreciative nod of thanks to a composer who has given the brass band movement some fine compositions and who is currently receiving plaudits and something of a renaissance in the music world on his 80th birthday.  Roy Sparkes and Christopher Wormald are the men in the box for this one, and both know what it takes to make an impression at this level, so the bands better get the basics put in place.

A point to note for the top section bands is that both Malcolm Brownbill and David Read made  very interesting observations to 4BR about what they looked for in London and what they will be looking for in the future at other contests they will be adjudicating at. Both said that they would like to hear more bands trying to make the effort with the lower dynamic levels more often, and would reward those who really made the effort to do so. Loud, brash and hard sounds are to be punished it seems (and about time) and with the acoustic at the venue as dead as Norwich City's chances of winning the Premiership, it could well be the bands who do take that little extra chance and try to play the dynamics as marked could well feature. We hope so.

As always, it should be a great weekend of banding - who can ask for more.


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