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2017 Spring Festival
Senior Cup preview and prediction

4BR Editor Iwan Fox takes a closer look at the Peter Meechan's 'Fragile Oasis' and tries to pick the four bands that may just give the best musical view of the Blue Planet in the vast blackness of space.

Earth
A very Fragile Oasis... 

Peter Meechan’s engaging ‘Fragile Oasis' will certainly be an imposing test for the 20 contenders in the Senior Cup.

Originally commissioned by Leyland Band under their then MD Michael Bach, and partly funded by The John Golland Trust for their appearance at the 2013 European Brass Band Championships in Norway, its five linked sections provides a contrasting musical narrative that both conductors and players alike may not be too over-familiar with. 

Beautiful for all

The composer states that the title comes from the collective of high-achieving individuals who describe themselves as ‘a grass-roots participatory initiative that connects the shared perspective of astronauts from different countries and cultures with people on Earth, encouraging all to work together so that our planet is not only visibly beautiful, but beautiful for all.’

‘a grass-roots participatory initiative that connects the shared perspective of astronauts from different countries and cultures with people on Earth, encouraging all to work together so that our planet is not only visibly beautiful, but beautiful for all4BR

It’s all very laudable - especially as they form their opinions from the unique viewpoint gained from the International Space Station (I.S.S.), and who post different details of their experiments, photos and video footage of the Earth to emphasise the ‘fragility’ of what floats beneath them.

Rainford
2016 Champion: Rainford

The work itself relates to the literal or metaphorical aspects of these findings and opinions, with the composer's writing style encapsulating both the hopefulness as well as the pessimism of what the future may hold for the Blue Planet.

Intrinsic command

Meechan’s intrinsic command of colour and texture seeps through the musical canvas, as does the hypnotic undercurrent of a rhythmic pulse; which is almost like the earth’s variable heartbeat.

it will be the palette of both strident as well as muted timbres that is sure to be much more difficult to command and express successfully4BR

The technical demands are imposing (although the cornets playing into a tam-tam is not a pre-requisite), but it will be the palette of both strident as well as muted timbres that is sure to be much more difficult to command and express successfully (the extensive percussion writing being essential to this) if bands are to be in with a chance of grabbing one of the four promotion places.

Who will win?

There is a plethora of well-matched contenders at the Pavilion Theatre (starting at 10.30am), and with a work that is just a little bit different in terms of style, and especially ensemble balance, it could make for a very interesting contest.

The trio of Albert Hall qualifiers will be amongst the pre-contest favourites: Friary Guildford (winners at Stevenage), Filton Concert Brass (runner-up in Torquay) and Redbridge (second behind Friary) all in recent fine form and led by MDs with fertile musical imaginations. 

Friary
Can Friary Guildford add yet more silverware to their CV?

However, there are also quite a few others that are in pretty decent form, despite not winning through at the Areas. Co-operative Funeralcare (North West), City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) and Ratby Co-operative certainly showed their quality in claiming top-six finishes at three tough contests.

Watch out for

Derwent Brass and the North of England duo of EYMS and Fishburn will also fancy their chances after continuing to showcase their solid top-flight credentials over the past couple of years, whilst there is an interesting match-up with Yorkshire Imperial and David Thornton that could be one to watch out for. 

Marsden Silver is certainly enjoying a fine 2017 as they rebuild with solid intent, with Cheltenham qualifiers Newtongrange and Butlins winner Skelmanthorpe potential dark horse contenders.  

Maturing bands in Goodwick Brass, St Dennis and Oldham (Lees) could also be in the hunt for a top-six finish under their inspirational MDs, whilst Jackfield (Elcock Reisen), Blackburn & Darwen, Staffordshire and Kingdom Brass are experienced outfits more than capable of making a significant mark.

Iwan Fox


4BR Prediction:

There are so many potential qualifiers on show that the judges could have a very difficult time of it, if they are all inspired by their eco-friendly musical instincts.

Friary Guildford, Filton, Redbridge and Co-operative Funeralcare (North West) may just have the edge – but if they show their own moments of fragility then it could leave the door open to the likes of Ratby Co-operative and Fishburn, as well as potential dark horses such as City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) and Yorkshire Imperial Urquhart Travel.

1. Friary Guildford
2. Filton Concert Brass
3. Redbridge
4. Co-operative Funeralcare (North West)
5. Ratby Co-operative
6. Fishburn

Dark Horses: City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) & Yorkshire Imperial Urquhart Travel



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Craig Roberts

BA (Hons), MA
Conductor / Adjudicator