Londoners may well be getting a bit fed up with all things ‘Olympic’ these days, but it seems the brass bands of the region are still inspired by the five rings of glory.
As a result, this was a highly enjoyable contest, made all the more so by a whole track of runners and riders performing Philip Harper’s work with a sense of verve, vitality and very good musical sense.
As always Kevin Wadsworth said it as it was – giving appropriate praise those he felt captured both the excitement as well as the mystic of the colourful writing of 'Olympus', and dishing out a few well placed hits to those he felt tried to win their place at Cheltenham with bombast and misplaced endeavor.
Candle in the wind
His wonderful descriptive analogy of some misplaced attempts to fan the delicate flames atmosphere in the central temple movements was as good as it gets. Not even Elton John could have bettered Kevin’s take on ‘Candle in the Wind’.
The winners were excellent value for their gold medal winning success.
Hitchin Town delivered a performance that had all the essential contest elements in place from the first bang of the starter’s pistol – and didn’t let any of them go until they had crossed the line in impressive fashion under MD Craig Patterson.
The ensemble playing was tight and precise, the solo lines confident and secure, the direction neat and economical.
It was a performance of high quality from a band on damn good form. If they play like that in Cheltenham they will be close to a podium finish for certain.
Joining them there will be another impressive contender, as Epping Forest delivered an exciting, energetic account under Derek Desmond’s baton that was only beaten off the number 2 draw by that burst of super charged quality from Hitchin late in the day.
Once more, solid contest day virtues held their own in an interpretation of considerable insight by the MD.
Behind them came a quartet of classy performances, all of which just didn’t quite have that extra gear of quality in their overall execution to force their way down the M4 to Cheltenham in September.
LGB Brass, Battle Town, Cold Ash Brass and Wantage Silver B, all produced performances that had all the basics firmly in place.
There was much to admire in the security of the ensemble playing and the main solo lines in particular, and whilst some of the dynamics were a little on the bold side at times, the sense of vibrancy was never lost despite the occasional ragged edge to the overall band sound.
The main dividing line came in the middle sections, where the ability of the top two bands to maintain a cohesive ensemble balance even at the lowest dynamic levels was marked.
Behind the top six the standard became increasingly variable – although not one band was beaten by the demands of the sometimes intricate, if readily transparent score.
Once again Kevin Wadsworth was faced with comparing and contrasting performances of merit, just marred by occasional untunefulness, overblowing and tempos that lost rhythmic accuracy due to the adrenaline flowing through the veins – both of conductors and players.
Olney Town Brass set a solid marker off the number 1 draw to get the contest off to a good start, whilst Crystal Palace, Hangleton, Tadley Concert Brass and Hemel Hempstead all delivered accounts that just waxed and waned in overall quality – although each ended well in the credit side of the contest day ledger.
The bottom four bands did struggle, although it was noticeable how the MDs tried to ensure that their bands did not fall into the trap of trying to create a false start of optimism by giving their all too soon and then desperately holding on to make it to the finishing line.
The quality of execution did vary, but the conductors of, Harwich RBL, Brighton & Hove City Brass, Jubilee Brass and Watford all deserve credit for their intelligent use of limited numerical resources: As a result all four bands will have benefitted from this particular Olympic experience.
As for the qualifiers?
Two very solid contesting outfits in Hitchin and Epping Forest will take to the starting line at Cheltenham – both with medal winning aspirations.
They have a very realistic chance of providing London with yet more Olympic success.