2006 Pontins Championships - First Section retrospective


There was nothing common about Chalford's winning performance in the First Section as they headed back to the West country as champions.

If there's one thing Music Advisor James Scott will do when it comes to choosing the music for Pontins, is coming up with accessible but challenging music for all concerned. He really does have a particularly good knack at doing it year after year.

This time he chose Kenneth Downie's ‘Music For The Common Man' and it certainly tested the bands. For some it was too much for them on the day, whilst others coped admirably and when it came to the announcement of the results, there were more than a few eyebrows raised at who and who'd not got into the prizes. 

Us Common? Chalford enjoy the winning feeling
Picture:John Stirzaker

To say it created a bit of debate is an understatement.  There were a number of performances at the top end that produced a good old fight for places and they rightly deserved to be in the frame, but one or two will have gone home, not just licking their wounds, but wondering where they went wrong in their preparation, because when they performed on the day, judges Roy Roe and Barry Thompson, didn't like it one bit.

Speaking before the announcement of the results, Barry Thompson stated that there were three or four good performances and he made the point that the correct tempo's must be adhered too in the early part of the work, but complimented the bands on their slow playing.

The opening of the piece is very much in the style of a hymn, but as with ‘Judges of the Secret Court' at London a week earlier, a number of the bands struggled to play together at the beginning, causing intonation and tuning problems. Sadly that set the tone for the performance that followed and many couldn't recover the lost ground.  For the bands that nailed the opening though, they were able to produce performances that had much to admire.

West of England outfit Chalford coped very well with the early part of the performance and it set the tone for what became the winning performance on the day. It was steady, and secure and confidence grew throughout the band – it was easy to sense that should the opening hurdle be conquered, the band knew they could put a strong performance together and that's exactly what they did. It was a very musical rendition and very well shaped.  It wasn't without blips though and even though we didn't quite have it as our winner it was more than worthy of featuring in the frame.

Steve Tubb, the bands conductor was honest enough to confess to 4BR that he knew the band had to work hard on the run up to the contest and that the opening section of the work was of key importance, and his diligence in making sure the basics of good brass band playing where adhered too paid dividends. More bands should have followed his approach, as with the opening section out of the way, the rest of the piece was well within nearly every bands capabilities.

Hebden Bridge achieved a prize for the first time in over 50 years at a contest of this standard after John Roberts stepped into the breach for Professor Philip Wilby.  John brought the music to the fore on the day and collectively the band played well with some good tempi. It wasn't flawless but the quality of ensemble work and the neat direction impressed throughout.  Taking the runners-up spot is a massive boost for the band who weren't going to be too far away from the prizes come results time.

Steve Beardmore pulled out the most invigorating performance of the day with a wonderfully shaped show from Vernon Building Society Poynton Band who can consider themselves unlucky not to have finished just a touch higher.  The band sound was terrific with some fine ensemble work and all of the solo lines pulling out the stops - particularly Tony Wyatt on top man. It wasn't without clips, but it certainly gave the judges plenty to think about and 3rd place was a fine effort for a thrilling rendition.

David Horn's Barnsley Building Society opted for a no-nonsense, no thrills, solid musical performance that never quite set the pulses racing in the way Poynton did, but they still took a podium place with a real degree of comfort. It was so very secure and steady in places that it just cried out for a bit more devil and daring, but the ensemble work had a touch of class about it and they sounded like a very well drilled outfit. 

Tintwistle didn't quite have the full compliment of players (they were a front row cornet light) but it didn't stop them getting 5th place on the day - which was a little bit of a surprise to ourselves.  For us it certainly didn't have the conviction that the four bands that finished above them had and the opening did take time to settle, but the slow and closing sections of the performance had much to admire about them.

Maxilead Metals Tyldesley was the second band to play on the day and it sounded very nervy at times, but as with Tintwistle it benefited from some fine solo and ensemble work and a good closing section and sixth place from in effect the number two draw was a very commendable result.

Wrexham and Wayne Ruston were drawn to play number six but with Langbaurgh withdrawing having pre-drawn the number five slot, they followed Tyldesley on stage.  The North Wales outfit can consider themselves very unlucky to have finished in seventh place as it was one of the first bands who really got inside the music from the opening moments and maintained their fine form right the way through to the end.  The ensemble work was excellent and the slow section was one of the nicest of the whole contest - but it wasn't to be their day.

Northop wasn't always in tune but under the direction of Thomas Wyss, (whose conducting style is very reminiscent of Howard Snell who he played for) the band gave a performance that took a little bit of time to settle but once it did, produce some fine musical moments that was well shaped.  The tuning issues seemingly proved to be costly though and that may have been the reason for them coming home where they did. A pity.

Stuart Chappel's St Keverne were fancied to do well by ourselves and from the relatively late draw of eighteen, showed plenty of promise but lacked the consistency that would have seen them finish a lot higher than ninth on the day.  It is though a young band that is learning quickly and the talent within the band is there for sure, but it just didn't click on the day for them.

Wantage Silver ‘A' and Bedworth Brass proved to be another two bands that were not consistent enough throughout and each time they showed potential and promise, errors reappeared.

The position of Marsden Silver (Riverhead Brewery) finishing in 12th place became a talking point after the contest and over the course of the weekend.  Playing from the number sixteen draw, Glyn Williams' band was the winner for us and quite a few others in the hall.  Overall, they had the cleanest sound, the best cornet and bass section and had the sound of a Championship Section band and they were (for us) the only band on the day that brought all of the music right to the fore.  It has to be said though, some of the tempi were taken quicker than others but it certainly created discussion and as they read this, they'll probably still be pondering where it went wrong. Contesting can be a cruel mistress at times.

With four withdrawals from an original field of twenty-one, that left five bands who in fairness, never got to grips with the music with some struggling more than others.

Thomas Coaches Mid Rhonda, Ibstock Brick Brass and Newmilns & Galston all never sounded at home on the piece nor did the last two bands that competed on the day, Stourport-On-Severn and Stannington who found the work hard going. All these bands had their moments, but moments they were and al lacked cohesion and security and they cannot be too disappointed at coming home where they did come the results.

Chalford took the spoils though in a contest that created plenty of talking points afterwards.  ‘Music For The Common Man' proved to be an excellent test piece selection that tested the bands here and it will be more of the same at Butlins in January where the work once again appears in the First Section. 

Malcolm Wood


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