2009 Lower Section National Finals - Fourth Section - Introduction and prediction


Which of these 19 bands will be able to construct a musical skyscraper to take home the National title?

HarrogateFourth Section:
Saturday 26th September
Commencing after Second Section
Test Piece: Alta Vista (Bruce Fraser)
Adjudicators: Roy Roe & David Horsfield
Section Controller: Brian Elliott

It’s always nice to wax lyrical about the Fourth Section and its more obvious delights, but we may have to temper any thoughts of doing just that after the trials and tribulations of ‘The Shipbuilders’ here last year.

Even though the top few bands managed to get through the piece relatively unscathed, the choice of what the Music Panel believed would be a stern test, turned out to be a stinker that did no one any favours at all.


To top it all, the Music Panel then picked the dire ‘Talisman’ for the Area, which may have been good news for the Samaritans helpline for suicidal MDs and players, because it caused a deep depression on those who had to endure playing it.

Hopefully that won’t be the case with Bruce Fraser’s, ‘Alta Vista’, which takes its inspiration from three of the best known, and tallest buildings in North America.

Good form

Fraser has form – and good form at that, in writing for bands at this level. ‘Imperium’ was used as the set work in the Third Section here in 2007 and was a cracking piece, full of character, colour and excitement.  

This work, which can be translated as ‘a view from above’ has a very personal undertone – as many of its themes come from his setting of the ‘Magnificat’ written in memory of his daughter. Although entertaining, there is an emotional core to the writing that conductor’s will do well to reveal. 


Each of the three chosen pieces of architecture are well known – the opening CN Tower in Toronto, the Empire State Building in New York and the Sears Tower in Chicago.

The writing not only reflects the iconic nature of the buildings themselves but that of their hinterland – the cities whose skylines they so dominate. 

The CN Tower is all about power, energy and the smell of money. The Empire State reflects historical time and place, and the musical influences of the age in which it was constructed – the music of Copland, Harris and Schuman. The edifice that is the Sears Tower, is all bustle, drive and desire to make something so complex look so simple.

The Sears Tower is a homage to the architectural school of Mies van der Rohe – big and bold, a 1,000 foot mirror glassed block of urbanism that may not be beautiful in itself, but allows you look at the beauty around it in its reflection – especially that of Lake Michigan.   


As with the buildings, the appreciation is not in their overall aesthetic beauty, but that of the detail that makes them so iconic.  The same goes for the score.

Get the basics right and something will grow from out of the foundations of good tuning, ensemble balance and secure soloists that could well become a skyscraper of winning proportions. Get the basics wrong and a band’s performance will resemble a council house in Merthyr Tydfil.


The judges Roy Roe and David Horsfield may not need to know their Corbusier from their Frank Lloyd Wright, but you can be sure they will be able to tell the difference between those bands who are trying to construct contesting winning homes in the same way as the three little pigs.

There will be plenty of huff and puff, but hopefully quite a few bands will have performances based on solid bricks and mortar direction from the middle.


The 19 bands on show will all fancy their chances, and each got through to Harrogate on merit, after displaying valour in the face of rubbish music at the Area contests.

Victory in Blackpool went very much to form, when Eccles Borough took the title.

The Butlins winners showed their quality on the day under Les Webb, and although they have slipped a little since with disappointing returns at Brass at the Guild and St Helens, they should be a fancied runner.

The lads and lasses of Cheshire Constabulary will join them in Harrogate and will be looking to enjoy themselves after their somewhat surprise qualification, whilst Rivington & Adlington is a busy and strong contender wherever they go.

10 year wait

Maltby Miners and Thurcroft Welfare return to the Finals for the first time in a while this year – over 10 years in fact for both bands, after they won through at Bradford.

Maltby has shown good form so far this season, coming 4th at Butlins, whilst Thurcroft hasn’t been too far behind, coming 9th at Skegness. 


With Wellington (Telford) taking the National title last year, the Midlanders of Whitwell, Dronfield and Fairfield (Buxton) have plenty to live up to. Whitwell showed good form at Butlins where they came 5th, whilst Dronfield will know they will have to find some consistency after coming joint 14th in Skegness and 10th at Buxton. 

The Welsh challenge this year comes from Pontypool Brass who won in Swansea in some style and Ebbw Vale, who won the Fourth Section National title back in 1971.

Both bands will have their work cut out to really make an impression, although Pontypool has shown decent form in claiming podium finishes at both Weston and Ebbw Vale.

Strong challenge

There is sure to be a strong challenge up from the West of England as usual, and St Breward Silver, Downton and Test Valley will be keen to make an impression at the top end of the results table.

St Breward won the marathon Area title with a fine performance earlier in the year, whilst Downton fully justified their qualification too. In a hard fought battle to claim the third qualification place, it was Test Valley that came out on top off the number 1 draw. 


The last weekend of the Areas saw some decent performances in Stevenage, Dundee and Darlington.

Battle, battled so to speak to take the title in Stevenage with a performance of great authority, whilst Wantage Silver B also produced a fine show to join them on the trip north. They picked up a 4th place at Weston not so long ago, so confidence should be high.

In Scotland only five bands took to the stage in Dundee, but the winners, Peebles Burgh and Brass Sounds Inverclyde were worthy qualifiers to Harrogate despite the shortness of the contest itself.  Inverclyde has since gone on to show good form in winning at Fife, so they could be a bit of a dark horse.

North East

That just leaves the contenders from the North East, and both Kirkby Lonsdale (who came 17th last year here) and Kingsway Printers Cleethorpes (who came 17th at Bultins earlier in the year) will be looking to post decent returns on their trip south. 

As for a winner?

As always this is a section that is up for grabs – although in the past couple of years there have been some clear cut winners taking home the title.

This one could go anywhere though as the test piece will have given plenty of encouragement to players and MDs alike.

Eccles seem to have the pedigree, but can be a touch inconsistent, whilst St Breward could be the band to watch out for under the experienced baton of Derek Greenwood. 

Rivington & Adlington and Whitwell can’t be dismissed either, whilst Wantage B and Test Valley could well be in the mix and our dark horses are Pontypool Brass.

1. St Breward
2. Eccles Borough
3. Wantage B
4. Rivington & Adlington
5. Whitwell
6. Test Valley

Dark Horse: Pontypool Brass


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