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2011 London & Southern Counties Regional Championship — Second Section retrospective

Technically the bands today may have been better than the 1950s, but still 'Resurgam' proved to be an ageless test of musicianship.

Having thanked the bands and Musical Directors for their efforts in preparing for the contest, Dennis Wilby highlighted some of the problems that ‘Resurgam’ had presented, before the announcement of the results.

Timeless

Explaining that he felt bands were in general more technically proficient than in the 1950’s, he pointed to the timeless pitfalls regarding interpretation and in particular dynamics.

He added that ‘Resurgam’ still held considerable fear, not just for the notes themselves, but in seeking out the musicality.  

Citing such issues as togetherness, articulation, dynamics, tunefulness and solo playing, he also placed great emphasis on the need for the Musical Director’s to shape the music effectively.

Accurate critique

In what was a very accurate critique, he pointed out that many bands seemed petrified by the quieter dynamics, and lost the quality of sound, whilst he was disappointed with the playing in the ‘Adagio’, in particular the cold tone of the cornets.

With this in mind it came as little surprise the majority of bands struggled on the iconic work, although the standard of the top six bands and the three qualifying performances in particular was very good with a number of bands that ended in the top half of the results producing performances of merit.

Top two

The top two bands in his opinion (and most of the neutrals listening) came either side of the comfort break, with runner up Northfleet Brass under Melvin White’s producing a cultured opening, with a warm, full sound to send the listeners to the tea break with a performance to savour.

On a day when most solo cornets seemed to struggle, their solid team produced an almost error free account, with the semiquaver work in particular, kept nicely in the background.

In common with many other euphonium players on the day, the passage immediately following the cadenza seemed a little under-powered, but overall it was a confident, well controlled and directed performance.

High quality winners

Eventual winners Thundersley followed after the break, and in Gavin Hall they had the most impressive cornet player of the day, whilst Paul Hicks on euphonium displayed confidence and clarity.

The ensemble was tight and secure, whilst Stephen Tighe brought out the best from his players, not least the percussion, who showed how the tubular bell and tam-tam should be played.

It was a high quality ‘Resurgam’ played with real musical understanding from a band and MD on fine form

Grew in stature

With three qualification places at stake it was Becontree who claimed the remaining Cheltenham slot, despite a somewhat uncertain start and some minor tuning problems in the cornets.

However, it grew in stature and momentum with the ‘Dies Irae’ played with weighty portent on a day when many bands seemed to underplay it, before closing with a finely judged repose.

Solid display

Playing immediately after Becontree, Littleport Brass claimed 4th place with a solid display built on a foundation of a warm bass end sound and secure ensemble playing.

Their principal cornet suffered from a slight blip at the climax of the solo, and the euphonium was a little tentative, but whilst the basses were rather overpowering at times, overall it was a very convincing interpretation that on another day may well have claimed a place at the Finals.

Last of the day

The last two bands to play Chichester City and Hungerford Town, came 5th and 6th respectively.

Chichester produced a warm, balanced sound, with clean articulation in a well-constructed account, although their well-controlled ending was rather undone by the trombones cutting off early.

Hungerford,
playing with only three basses meanwhile, recovered from a dodgy start, and some stamina issues in solo lines.

Oddly, theirs was one performance on a day when percussion was rather intrusive, where their team’s reserved approach perhaps needed a touch more projection.

Well defined account

Behind them, Ware Brass produced a fine opening under Philip Littlemore, before suffering from intonation problems that tarnished a well defined account, whilst Betteshanger Welfare’s rather disjointed effort was destined never to quite knit together coherently enough to have come higher than 8th.
 
Varied

Behind these the performances became increasingly varied, with Grimsdyke starting well, if a little on the steady side, before falling away somewhat with an absent timpani a real handicap, whilst Denham Hendon started with purpose and intent but just couldn’t maintain a level of consistency as they progressed.

Full sound

Despite a full, round sound at the outset, St Sebastian Wokingham suffered from broken phrasing, some rogue entries and a harshness of sound as they tired to end 11th, whilst from the number one draw, Tilbury seemed nervous throughout, in what was a rather untidy account to come 12th.

Fancied

Fulham
was a fancied runner before the contest, but despite starting well they fell away after some fine solo contributions from the cornet and euphonium. 

Colchester meanwhile were plagued by poor intonation and insecure ensemble (although the ringing of a mobile phone probably didn’t help) to come 14th, whilst Chinnor Silver was at a considerable disadvantage in fielding only 2 basses and 2 trombones, although the remaining players did their best.

It was an uphill struggle that they bravely tried to overcome to end in 15th.

Intonation

After a good start from the lower band, Stantonbury’s intonation proved to be their Achilles heel in coming 16th, whilst both Epping Forest and Waterbeach suffered from untidy readings, both in terms of ensemble playing and solo work, to bring up the rear in 17th and 18th places respectively.

Certain top three

Dennis Wilby was certain of his top three, and there seemed to be little disagreement in the hall, although Littleport on another day may have crept into contention.

It was not a vintage day for cornet soloists, and despite some good euphonium playing, many seemed too concerned with controlling the dynamics and moderating their tuning, rather than bringing out the full expression in the score.

As for the percussion?

You can empathise with players having to use unfamiliar equipment, but even at this level players should know how the damper on the bells works.

Peter Bale



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