Champion duet for Nigel Howard and Daventry
The clue to mastering Philip Wilby’s ‘A Little Light Music’ was to be found in the titles of each of the three movements of the work, according to adjudicator’s David Horsfield and Alan Hope.
It may have sounded as if they were stating the bleeding obvious, but it wasn’t a piece of patronising advice in any way shape or form – just good basic brass band contesting sense.
And that good basic brass band sense was what at the end of the day separated out the best from the rest – especially with the winners, Daventry and fellow qualifiers Amington.
Control and respect
Both gave performances of control and respect, led by two impressive MDs who had certainly taken the time to understand the deliberate implications of the titles and how they could be played by the resources at their disposal.
Neither Nigel Howard or Wesley Kendrick tried to bring something out of the score that wasn’t there; tempos were sensible (especially in the ‘tarantella’), dynamics controlled, ensemble precision kept sharp and neat.
There was very little overblowing, good basic tuning and a sense of musical confidence about each performance.
These timeless brass band virtues were missing in many others on the weekend – from Championship Section to Fourth, so you could see why Alan and David were so impressed.
It made their job a fairly easy one: Both MDs deserve a great deal of credit for the way in which they prepared their bands.
Colour and style
As a result of that preparation Daventry’s performance was full of colour and style, solid solo lines and confident ensemble playing, and most of all, a sense of musical understanding; from a controlled majestic opening, a light ‘Clog Dance’, lyrical ‘Lady of the Fountain’, and substantive reprise.
So too Amington – with just a couple of little clips that chipped the polished patina of musicality.
That was just the difference between first and second – but it was close.
Both bands will represent the Area with distinction on this form at Cheltenham.
Behind them came a batch of solid renditions, all of who emerged from the competition with a great deal of credit for their efforts.
Avonbank (Evesham)’s performance was the most musically inspired of the day – a little over wrought in places perhaps under Nigel Smith, but bold and highly enjoyable nonetheless.
Meanwhile, University of Warwick also produced a boldly coloured account under Simon Hogg, that on occasions was thrilling, but on others just lost ensemble focus to end in a well deserved 4th.
Behind these and the standard did start to fall away – although both Rushden Windmill and Arrow Valley who eventually filled the top six places provided plenty of vibrant life and colourful textures in their performances, even if they were at times a bit edge of your seat in delivery.
The midfield finishers of Stamford, Long Eaton Silver, Hucknall & Linby, Shipston and Rolls Royce (Derby) could have come in just about any order – the judges having to makes difficult decisions in comparing and contrasting the good points (and there were many in each) with the bad ones (and there were some of those too).
The main problem seemed to stem from a desire to try and play too loud where it wasn’t needed.
The ‘Light’ in the title was the giveaway, with the piece more successfully overcome with a much more compact ensemble tonality.
All of these bands started well enough – if a little bold in the dynamic, whilst the following ‘Clog Dance’ just required a more delicate shoe size on the cobbles.
The central romantic interlude was generally well played, with a number of fine individual solo cornet contributions, but the following ice cream ‘tarantella’ was either too fast, too heavy or too error strewn.
It was as if the man in the local Mr Whippy ice cream van was dishing out the ‘99’s with a soup ladle at times.
By the time of the reprise, some tired bands just had enough about them to blow their way to the close, but in the process losing that sense of dynamic control that so earmarked the bands that claimed the podium places.
More plus points
All emerged with more plus points than minus ones for their troubles – and we suspect, as better bands too.
The bottom three of West Mercia Police, Cubbingham Silver and Croft Silver will know that they were off the pace on the day.
Too many unforced errors, a lack of ensemble and solo security and that desire to try and bundle their way through the quicker, louder elements was their undoing – and was picked up very clearly by the men in the box.
Overall however, a highly enjoyable contest (made all the better by the wonderful warm welcome and helpful Midlands Committee volunteers led by Mick Veasey) that was topped by two very good qualification performances courtesy of two very good bands under their impressive MDs.
Daventry and Amington may be worth a few bob or two on at the Cheltenham bookies on this form.