Test Piece: Tallis Variations (Philip Sparke)
First Prize: £600 and Senior Trophy
Second Prize: £400
Third Prize: £300
Fourth Prize: £200
Draws: 9.40am & 1.10pm
Adjudicators: announced on the day
A step closer to Symphony Hall for Friary Guildford in 2014
The final contest to get under way on Saturday will be the Senior Trophy, which takes place amid the ornate splendour (and lively acoustic) of the Spanish Hall.
The British Open is possibly just three years away for any of the twenty contenders here, but if they are to take a step closer to Symphony Hall they will have to master the deceptive challenges of Philip Sparke's wonderful 'Tallis Variations'.
Commissioned for the European Championships in Birmingham in 2000, it has proved a popular own choice selection work ever since, and was used at the Grand Shield as recently as 2003.
It has lost none of its edge since for certain.
The man behind the Tallis - Philip Sparke
The hymn tune on which the four linked variations are based is the third of nine that Thomas Tallis wrote in 1567 as part of a psalter for the first Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker.
It was later used by Vaughan Williams in the English Hymnal as a funeral hymn, as well as the basis for his famous ‘Fantasia’, which Philip Sparke stated, ‘fascinated’ him.
He also wrote that the tune, ‘…as well as being classically beautiful, contains a certain musical truth and symmetry which, allied to its major/minor key conflicts, made it a perfect subject for variation treatment.’
Sparke’s work opens with a turbulent introduction, the first half of the theme stated by the middle of the band.
Variation 1 (each based on a cell motif) contains the first two notes of the theme, exploring the E minor tonality with repeated semi-quaver activity, whilst Variation 2 features a gentle solo for flugel horn and a varied statement in chorale form.
Variation 3 starts with a series of short solos before a serene cornet melody appears. The theme returns, re-harmonised, before the variation closes peacefully.
The final variation is ebullient in character, starting with cornet fanfares, before evolving around a fugue-like lead first presented by the euphoniums.
Eventually, music from Variation 1 returns to herald the final, fiery statement of the theme, accompanied by figures from the fugue.
However, the piece ends quietly, the serene beauty of the Tallis chorale unshakeable.
Who will win?
Such a hard one to call, especially as there are a host of well matched bands making the long (and shorter) trips to the North West coast in search of a jackpot return and promotion to the Senior Cup.
Making the some of the longest journeys from opposite parts of the UK are Dalmellington, Lochgelly, Newtongrange and Unison Kinneil heading South from Scotland (not forgetting Felling from the North East), whilst East London Brass, Medway and Wantage Silver 'A' head North.
Filton Concert Brass will be joined on the M5/M6 traipse by Llywdcoed from Wales, and the Midlands is represented by debutants Blidworth Welfare, Jackfield (Elcock Reisen) and SPAL Automotive Sovereign Brass.
Yorkshire sends City of Bradford, Hatfield Colliery and Wakefield Metropolitan, whilst closer to home, the North West is represented by Longridge, Oldham (Lees), Rainford, and VBS Poynton.
Out of these, City of Bradford gave an excellent account of their contesting credentials in the cauldron of St George's Hall in the top section in March and could do very well here, whilst Filton Concert Brass also signalled their contest credentials with a merited podium finish in Torquay.
Llwydcoed, Newtongrange, Rainford and Oldham (Lees) could be in with shout at the bookies with our dark horse selection of Jackfield (Elcock Reisen)
1. City of Bradford
2. Filton Concert Brass
6. Oldham (Lees)
Dark Horse: Jackfield (Elcock Reisen)