2007 Yorkshire Regional Championship - Third Section retrospective


There is no stopping Dodworth it seems as they found just the right ingredients to make it a Prelude to Jubilation after winning the Third Section.

The 2007 Regional Championships of Great Britain started off on the Saturday morning with an enjoyable Third Section contest which was won in some style by Dodworth Colliery Miners Welfare conducted by Eliot Darwin.

More silverware for Dodworth: Paul Coupland picks up another Yorkshire title for his band

Darrol Barry's ‘Prelude & Jubilate' provided a stern tests for the bands, (and we suspect will do so again and again around the country in the next couple of weekends) and was something touched upon by adjudicators, Malcolm Brownbill and Peter Roberts.

Both provided the audience with exemplary critiques before the announcement of the results that left players, conductors, supporters and journalists in no doubt to the reasons behind their decision. You cannot ask for more than that can you now?

Peter was as clear and penetrating as one of his trademark top C's when he said that on the day perhaps they had not heard the best of the Third Section bands. The quiet playing had caught so many out he said, whilst others found difficulty by taking the Allegro section too quickly and above the marked 160 indication in the score. Others however had slowed parts of the piece down too much and had suffered a lack of musical flow as a result. 

Malcolm delivered his usual forensic analysis pointing out the difficulties throughout the piece – from the opening bars with soprano and horn to the difficulties in the the main solo lines in the quicker Jubilate.  He too pointed out the differences in tempi chosen by many MDs – some too quick for their own good, others too slow to allow the music to flow. He also made the point that that they were a touch lenient (although noting its effect) with percussion, knowing that in many bands it was not a question of not being able to play the part, but not having enough percussionists on hand to attempt it – it was a sensible approach to what can at this level be a real handicap.

The two bands that won through they said were a little above the rest with the winners a touch ahead of the runner up. Both would head to the Finals with confidence of doing well. It was hard to disagree.

The eventual winners were Dodworth Colliery MW Band – a result that many (including 4BR!) had forecast before the contest (although we had them 2nd after all the bands played). They may have been pre contest favourites but they still had to perform when it came to the day, and even though they did have a few uncomfortable moments in the opening Prelude there was enough quality about their solo and ensemble playing to show that they were a solid and well managed outfit, led by a very talented MD. 

Teamwork: Dodworth's cornet section go to work

A slightly nervous start (the piece opens in a way like ‘Eden') took a little time to knit together but thereafter it was high class playing with a sense of shape, style and vitality. They were also the only band to really feel comfortable at the 160 tempo in the Jubilate too with the basses and percussion adding a solid rhythmic foundation, and although it did get a touch over vibrant towards the end it rounded off a performance of some considerable stature.  This is a band going in the right direction, but doing so with a great family orientated atmosphere and sense of togetherness. They will be a band to beat in Harrogate.

Joining them there will be Clifton & Lightcliffe under the direction of the admirable John Clay. Whereas Eliot Darwin is a veritable whippersnapper in terms of experience, John has a CV that is as long as your arm and equally impressive. A former top man at Black Dyke, his philosophy of producing and developing players for a lifetime of brass band music making sees him take a philosophical attitude towards contesting, but after delivering a performance of such musical merit from the early number 3 draw even he allowed himself a wry smile of delight.

A philosophical approach? Clifton & Lightcliffe take second place and a trip to Harrgate

A four man percussion team certainly helped the band on its way but the clever positioning of the soprano next to the solo horn gave the opening a sense of cohesion, allied to good tuning.  After two below average performances prior to them, this stood out for its control and sense of musicality, and although it did have its moments of unease it was a marker by some distance. In the end we had them in 4th place, but there was little to complain about after the judges placed them where they did.

Just missing out were Gawthorpe Brass '85 under John Edward and who followed Dodworth on stage. They had the best start of the whole contest with a super bit of soprano and horn playing a real feature, but it just lost focus before the Jubilate. Up until that point it was ahead of the rest of the field. The Jubilate started well, but just when it appeared that this was going to be the one to beat the adrenalin pumped through the veins at a rate of knots and the control was lost as it got tired (in the end we had them in 5th).

Waiting to do her bit: Gawthorpe's percussionist waits her turn

That was a pity as up until that point the MD had controlled things so well, but as the stamina waned so to did their chance of claiming that precious qualification place. It was close though.

Outside the top three there were other performances that the judges (and 4BR) felt were a good head and shoulders above the rest of the 11 band field.

We had Rockingham under Duncan Beckley in 3rd after they produced a stylish performance notable for its clarity and musical shape. Duncan managed his resources with intelligence, just taking the edge off the tempos to give his players the ability to perform in comfort.   It didn't always quite come off but it was right up there until the stamina just waned and it finished a little scruffily.

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We had Elland as our winners on the day, but even though we really liked what Phil Shaw and his band tried to do musically you could hear why the judges may have just thought it didn't quite have the sense of security that marked out the top two performances.

Star sop: Elland's soprano player shows his class

Their performance certainly benefited from some excellent solo cornet work from Samantha Harrison, who took the Best Instrumentalist prize, but even she was outshone for us by the bands soprano player, who really was a class act.   The ensemble work was a bit patchy in places and even though we were drawn to the excellent contributions of those two main soloists, you could understand why the judges felt that at times the rest of the band didn't quite match them.

Phil Shaw and Samantha Harrison lead Elland to the prizes

The final top six place was taken by Garforth Brass conducted by Steven Bailey. Resplendent in what looked like copies of Fairey's old uniforms the MD gave the band a serious look of intent after a nervous start which didn't quite make the most of the intelligent positioning of the soprano next to the flugel and solo horn. Those little errors and misplaced entries may have robbed them of their chances of really challenging for a hi
gher place come the results, and although the Jubilate had the right sense of vitality and brio it got a little harsh to end.

Hitting the right notes: Garforth's percussionist does his bit

These top six were a furlong or two ahead of the rest of the field and although there were moments that did stand out from other bands, it was as Peter pointed out, the quiet playing that separated the wheat from the chaff.

Gawthorpe Brass under Stephen Bradnum had their moments but lacked real consistency to have come any higher than it did, although the MD did try to encourage his players to let the music flow in the right places and put the breaks on when he felt things were getting a touch hot on the throttle.

Emley however didn't produce their best form until it was too late and despite Gary Hallas once again showing a neat touch in trying to bring the music out of the score there were far too many annoying little errors. Player shortages may not have helped either with one bass light and just the one percussionist doing his best to try and cover all the parts.

The same could also be said of Huddersfield & Ripponden who suffered too many errors in the first part of the work to give themselves a chance, although it was not helped by some slow tempos chosen by the MD. It did improve the longer it went on, bit overall it wasn't a performance that really captured the essence of the piece.

The same could also be said of Armthorpe Elmfield with a tempo in the ‘Prelude' that just begged for some juice in the tank. They did have a good soprano player who was perhaps the most in tune of the entire day, but elsewhere the intonation in the ensemble grated too often and there was a feeling that some of the time signatures were approached with a sense of trepidation. 

Finally, Maltby Miners Welfare who did the very best they could despite having to perform short on numbers. It says a great deal for their spirit that even with players missing around the stands they still came and played, and at times played well on a difficult work. If they go down then they should not despair after showing such character despite being up against it here on the day.

Overall then a decent contest although we would have to agree with the judges that perhaps this wasn't a display of Third Section playing at its best. The winners and runners up though certainly were up to the mark and Dodworth and Clifton will head for Harrogate confident of doing well.

Iwan Fox.


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