2007 Midlands Regional Championship - Third Section retrospective


There was plenty of top class playing here in the Third Section where any number of bands could have made it to the finals.

The 2007 Midlands Regional Championships kicked off with the Third Section contest starting on Saturday morning in Burton upon Trent.  With 3 places at the national finals up for grabs the competition was hot and was won by WEM Jubilee with a well rounded performance of the test piece "Prelude and Jubilate" by Darrol Barry.

Both adjudicators gave full explanations as to what they were looking for from the performances of the test piece and this left conductors, players and supporters alike in no doubt as to what the bands had been judged on during the day.

David Horsfield said that there were two bands that stood out as having captured the mood and character of the piece and they were duly awarded placings that saw them through to Harrogate. Both adjudicators also mentioned that the test piece was a real test for the Third Section bands that competed, but that overall they had enjoyed listening to the days' performances.

The winners were WEM Jubilee conducted by Roger Thorne.  In a contest that saw 16 bands competing to get through to Harrogate they played off a relatively early draw at number 4.  The band gave a confident rendition of the opening of the piece, and despite there being one or two moments where the intonation was slightly out, the overall performance was excellent.

The ensemble work was first-class and the accompaniment to the solo passages was very well balanced.  Particularly notable were the percussion section who gave a top class display.  WEM Jubilee was one of the few bands who settled into the changes in tempo comfortably, a factor that was to prove crucial in the final reckoning and the band will be feeling confident of putting in a serious challenge for honours in Harrogate.

JepsonIn second place were the Matlock Band conducted by Roger Jepson.  Following a slightly shaky opening, our prediction was that they would finish in 6th place.  As the performance progressed however, the band gained in confidence and rounded the music off with an ever improving show that saw them qualify for the finals.

The band's overall performance was enhanced by some fine cornet playing from a very tight-knit back row.  Again the band showed they had mastered the art of settling into the tempo changes and also demonstrated some superb contrasts in the dynamics.

Joining WEM Jubilee and Matlock in the finals will be the Wellington (Telford) Band.  This performance caught our attention as being our winning performance as everything about it oozed class.  The band's soloists were all in top form and the overall performance was one that drew prolonged applause from the audience.

CurtisA fine opening from the soprano and horn was followed by an exciting build to the first quick movement.  The intonation throughout the performance was top class and the solo passages were delivered with style and finesse.  Good control was also demonstrated in the quicker tempos, both band and conductor Steve Curtis working well together.  Perhaps it was down to one or two matters of interpretation that this performance didn't win, but the band will be one to look out for at the finals later this year.

Crossing the finish line in fourth place and just missing out on a place in the finals was Leicestershire Co-op who may be cursing their luck having played off number one.  Their talented MD Graham Jacklin clearly enjoyed the performance and gave his band every opportunity to bring out the detail in the music.

One or two moments of uncertainty may have also let them down, but a well balanced sound was evident throughout and the band demonstrated some real class in their contrast in dynamics.  Notable also was the fact that they are a young band with what must be a low average age, which all bodes well for the future.

Outside of these top four performances were a couple of others that 4BR felt were also very good and worthy of qualification for the finals.

The first of these was the University of Warwick band that put in a very commendable performance and one, which we thought, could have nicked a qualification place.  The band may have fallen a little short due to some shaky soloist entries and lack of clarity in some of the quicker passages.

There was a feeling of great togetherness between the sections, particularly the muted cornets and xylophone and the dynamics were well controlled and varied.  It's back to the drawing board however having just missed out on the finals.

In sixth place was another band that we felt were possible winners.  The Bakewell Silver Band led by Mark Wilcockson displayed an excellent opening with good work from soprano and horn. 

The band had strength in all departments and showed some moments of real quality, particularly in the first quick passage where the music lilted along very pleasantly.  Good tight playing in the percussion department was complimented by some super playing by basses and euphonium in the link passage before the percussion solo.

All in all, these six bands were noticeably ahead of the rest of the field, which was borne out in the adjudicator's placings and one of the major factors separating these bands was the fine playing in the quiet passages.

Following next in 7th were the Avonbank (Evesham) Band under the direction of Nick Smith.  There were several instances of intonation problems throughout the piece that took the attention away from some great moments elsewhere.  A classy display from the solo euphonium couldn't lift the band into the prizes either. 

Arrow Valley Brass took to the stage early on and took a little too long to capture the mood of the music.  The quiet passages were a little too loud and again intonation problems haunted them (which seemed to be the case for most bands on the day).  Only 3 bass players took to the field which led to a slight under balance from the lower end of the band.  On the positive side there was some fine playing from the solo horn and soprano players.  Overall 8th was just about right.

Warren Belshaw took his City of Birmingham Band to the stage in confident style.  This was another band fielding a shortage of players with only 3 front row cornets and 3 basses.  However, they delivered a confident rendition of the music but once again lack of dynamic contrast throughout let them down and 9th was their reward.

Another surprise result for us was the 10th place given to Rushden Windmill Band under their conductor Richard Graves.  Some fine playing in the opening from soprano and horn gave the band a confident start and expressive playing throughout from the euphoniums and baritones, and some class playing from the solo cornet followed this.  Perhaps it was the occasional split note and the fact that the band took time to adjust to the tempo changes that cost them, but 10th seemed a little unjust and we felt a higher placing was deserved.

In 11th were Newhall Band who again played early in the contest at number 3 and their start was a little rocky with some of the inner parts not moving together.  Some good playing ensued however from the horns, showing a good balance across the parts.  The tempos that the band took the music at were noticeably slower than most other performances of the music but this allowed real clarity to come through in the quicker passages.  Overall the band didn't quite convey the true impression behind the music and their placing was just about right.

Dronfield CMW Band came to the contest ably led by Alan Tyler.  Some of the ensemble playing grated a little and there was evidence of some uncertain entries.  However they can be encouraged by a star performance from the solo cornet who demonstrated a great technique and an expressive style.  There were too many mistakes in this display for us though and 12th was again just about right.

Next in the reckoning was Audley Brass.  Conductor Clive Fox seemed to struggle to control the band at times and there were too many annoying errors for this performance to feature in the prizes.  Meanwhile, Steve Berrill led Kirkby Colliery Welfare through the piece in a very enthusiastic fashion.  It was most entertaining to watch the conductor at work, possibly even more so than the band's playing!  Intonation problems were prevalent in this display as were uncertain entries and some problems settling into the tempo changes. 

The same can be said for Moulton 77 Band as Dronfield.  The band made too many needless mistakes and suffered as a result.  The soprano player will no doubt want to quickly forget this performance with missed and incorrect entries evident during the piece.  The basses displayed a good range of dynamics and were well controlled, but it was as if the occasion was a bit too much for the band.

Finally, Malvern Hills District Band played well at times on a difficult test piece.  They showed good character in tackling the music but it was all too messy and suffered from a lack of clarity.

Overall this was an enjoyable contest and the bands all gave of their best.  With one or two exceptions we feel that the adjudicators got the placings just about right.  A special mention must be made of the contest controller Mick Veasey whose support throughout the day was first class and the region will send three quality bands to the finals who will be confident of doing well.

Alun Perry


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