The curse of the defending champion may well continue in the West of England – but that is something to worry about for next year for Woodfalls, as they claimed the top section title in Torquay under the baton of Dr Nicholas Childs.
"Never mind about the curse. We’ll worry about that again," celebrating Woodfalls players told 4BR after the announcement of a result that saw the band maintain its excellent 2011 form and hold aloft the Area trophy for the first time since 2002.
On a day when adjudicators Derek Broadbent and Kevin Wadsworth told the packed forum auditorium that they had enjoyed some performances that ‘were quite top drawer’ and an others that ‘acquitted themselves to quite a good standard’, it was the recent Yeovil winner’s ‘Paganini’ of impressive variance of dynamics, tempos and textures that gave them victory over defending champion Flowers.
It also gave the MD his first Area title with the band, and his 21st in total, as he put behind him the disappointment of his Yorkshire Area assault with Black Dyke, by leading a carbon copy interpretation to success.
And whilst he was making the long trip back to Queensbury, he was able to tell the band by phone of his delight at being able to lead Woodfalls back to London for the first time since 2008.
it was the recent Yeovil winner’s ‘Paganini’ of impressive variance of dynamics, tempos and textures that gave them victory over defending champion Flowers4BR
Although Flowers will have been disappointed not to have held onto their Area title, the Butlins champion will have taken a great deal of satisfaction by the polished stamp of authority they imposed to return to the Albert for a third successive year – especially as they had to overcome the late withdrawal of their regular soprano player due to ill health on Friday morning.
Paul Holland’s bold interpretation found favour with many neutrals in the hall, but a couple of noticeable unforced errors just meant they couldn’t quite retain their grip on the area crown.
Overall, the judges praised the efforts of the spotlight soloists with all bands, but also reminded the audience of the inherent problems posed by what Derek called, ‘a wonderful test piece’.
That may have been the reason why Camborne’s lyrical but slightly reticent rendition under Garry Cutt ended in 3rd place to just miss out on a trip to Kensington, although Mount Charles will have left for home disappointed that their more consistent account under Andy Duncan could only come 4th.
The final top six places were taken by a delighted pairing of Lydbrook under Ian Holmes and St Dennis directed by Darren Hawken, who like Flowers, also had to overcome the late loss of their flugel players – with both the repiano and 4th solo cornet doing an admirable camouflage job with the help of assorted dusters and pegs.
A revitalised Aldbourne Band claimed the First Section title on Sunday afternoon, with a performance of ‘Le Carnival Romain’, that was as colourful and occasionally unexpected, as any held on the streets of the Italian capital over the years.
Directed by David Johnson, it was their first Regional title success since 2005, and gave the band from near Swindon a huge boost in their 151st year – something the MD was keen to point out.
"I played with the band a few years ago and know just what potential they have," he said.
"Everyone has worked so hard since I came to the band last October, and it paid off today. This gives us something to build on with the Senior Trophy and the finals to come. I want to make our 151st year one to remember."
He also revealed that his trademark ability to draw something different from the score came from a respected musical source: "I was really taken by Andrew Litton’s interpretation of the piece with the Royal Phil, so tried to bring something of that to our version."
In their summing up, adjudicators Ian Brownbill and Kevin Wadsworth stated they were looking for ‘music making based on a clear understanding of dynamics, colour and pace’ from the MDs.
Those elements were clearly evident in the winner’s performance, although the choice of bright red shoes worn by the female players, (the MD cheekily wore a neat bit of red nail varnish on his pinky) was thankfully not within their judging criteria on the day.
"I like to try something a bit different," Dave added with a smile, "...although I think I may get in to trouble if I tried wearing them!"
Thankfully, it was the overall quality of their playing that created the right impression in the box: ‘The winner’s achieved what we were looking for quite clearly,’ Kevin Wadsworth added.
With the judges also looking for overall security, it was the solid ensemble qualities and tasteful soloists found in a purposeful account by Bournemouth Concert Brass conducted by Dave Barringer that gained the all important second qualification place.
They head to the finals for a second successive year, whilst just missing out in what was an uneven contest in terms of quality, was an energetic rendition by Hyde directed by Ivan Hutchinson.
The remarkable rise of Brunel Brass continued at a pace Isambard Kingdom himself would have been proud of on Sunday afternoon. Conducted by John Winterflood, the band formed in 2007 took the Second Section honours – their third regional title in just five years.
Every bit as good
And according to their MD, the win was every bit as good as any they have enjoyed in their short history – including a National title.
"We have been building towards this for the past year – not just the last few weeks," John told 4BR. "We aimed to improve significantly this season both musically and technically, and have worked really hard to make sure we have done that."
The result of that work was shown on ‘Resurgam’, with a rendition described by the adjudicators as, ‘superb – a very, very well shaped musical and technical performance’.
The win now means more hard graft for the band from Swindon though.
"We now have more to do," John added. "We want to make the next step up well prepared, so we’ll be planning what to do after we enjoy a celebration. I’ve a young band, so even though we are losing some players, others are being developed. It’s such an exciting time for us."
With the judges stating that despite the enduring difficulty of Eric Ball’s iconic work – ‘it’s an immense challenge’, David Lancaster added — they were impressed by at least a couple more of 14 contenders from an uneven overall standard, in the box.
Notably for the pair who had first come across the piece as aspiring young cornet players some years before, the second best account came from the hard working Pendennis Brass (Falmouth) conducted by Steve Thomas, who have also risen rapidly upwards since winning the Fourth Section here in 2007.
Unfortunately, just missing out was Forest of Dean who had impressed many in the hall with their musical approach under MD, Martyn Ford.
Sidmouth Town lived up to their pre-contest tag as favourites as they retained their Third Section title with a commanding performance of Philip Wilby’s ‘A Little Light Music’ on Saturday afternoon.
It was a clear victory for Adrian Harvey and his band, as they gave adjudicators Ian Brownbill and Kevin Wadsworth just what they were looking for off the number 10 draw.
They now return to the finals, confident of bettering last year’s 3rd place and bringing the National title back to their East Devon bandroom.
"There was a very good winner today – with a very good conductor," Ian said, adding that their winning performance also benefitted from ‘a very lyrical solo cornet in the romance section’.
Despite the MD missing the onstage celebrations, soprano player Christine Sweetapple told 4BR that everyone was delighted that they will be back to try and claim that National title.
"We all came off stage happy with the way we played, and Fiona (Bell) on solo cornet was great. Adrian is such an inspirational conductor. We really want to go on and win the title after coming so close last year."
Ian and Kevin made sure that the 11 competitors were left in no doubt about how they reached their decision, with Ian giving a detailed appraisal of the work and the pitfalls that caught bands and MDs out.
He also highlighted the need for a good start – ‘Only one band really did that’ – as well as playing the clog dance with a light touch, the romance with lyrical flow, and the reprise with focus and clarity.
With the winner’s certainly doing that to claim the title, it was the opening performance of the weekend from Downton Brass under Roland Wright that claimed the second qualification place following their 2009 promotion.
Just missing out on a trip to Cheltenham was the rapidly improving Weston Brass conducted by Tony Osbourne, who produced a solid account to claim a deserved podium place.
There was a great atmosphere in the Arena on Saturday afternoon after a highly enjoyable contest gave adjudicators Derek Broadbent and David Lancaster plenty to ponder with 22 performances of merit on John Golland’s ‘Prelude, Song & Dance’.
The audience also appreciated Derek’s thoughtful and witty analysis that pinpointed the need for MDs to take a literal look at the titles of each of the three movement’s of the work.
"This was a real piece of music – a super test", he said, before adding that its success lay ‘in the musical character of the three movements’ – styles of which ‘were in the titles’.
David added that they were impressed by the overall standard – 'There wasn’t a clear cut winner for us today', although he did feel that the age old problem of consistency sorted the best from the rest.
Intriguingly, he also revealed that through personal experience that the composer wasn’t a great fan of vibrato or distorting the written intentions on the score – "The winners today adhered closest to his instructions,", he added.
And the band that did that in their opinion was last year’s runner up, Hatherleigh Silver conducted by David Hayward, who claimed the title from the late number 18 draw.
David was delighted at being able help the band back to the finals, when he spoke to 4BR, 24 hours after the success.
"They are a great bunch, who get so much support from the town. There was a bottle of champagne waiting for them as soon as they got off the bus, with people in the streets to welcome them back too. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much."
"It’s amazing," Bb tuba player and resident conductor of 20 years Robin Wonnacott told 4BR. "Just a few years ago we were in real trouble, and now we are going back to the finals for a second year in a row."
Heart of the band
And whilst players such as Cary Brock thanked David Hayward for his inspirational efforts, he also pointed out that it was because of Robin’s determination that the band is now enjoying their success.
"Dave has done wonders for us, but Robin has been the heart of the band for over 45 years. We owe them both a huge debt of gratitude – so now we have to go on and do well at the finals."
Joining them there will be New Forest Brass, conducted by Ian Luxford and Bratton Sliver directed by Simon Carr, both of who delivered well structured accounts.
It was enough to pip many people’s favourite, AW Parker (Drybrook), who for a second year under Kevin White, just missed out on a place at the finals in 4th.
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Sunday 13th March
Test Piece: Paganini Variations (Philip Wilby)
Adjudicators: Derek Broadbent & Kevin Wadsworth
1. Woodfalls (Dr Nicholas Childs)*
2. Flowers (Paul Holland)*
3. Camborne (Garry Cutt)
4. Mount Charles (Andrew Duncan)
5. Lydbrook (Ian Holmes)
6. St Dennis (Darran Hawken)
7. Helston Town (John Hitchens)
8. St Austell (Gareth Pritchard)
9. Sherborne Town (Paul Cosh)
10. Portishead Town (Ian Dickinson)
11. Poole Borough (Phil Randell)
*Two bands qualify for finals
Saturday 12th March
Test Piece: Le Carnival Romain (Hector Berlioz arr. Frank Wright)
Adjudicators: Ian Brownbill & Kevin Wadsworth
1. Aldbourne (David Johnson)*
2. Bournemouth Concert Brass (Captain Dave Barringer)*
3. Hyde (Ivan Hutchinson)
4. Michelmarsh Silver (Melvin White)
5. Shrewton Silver (Michael Dunford)
6. Lanner & District Silver (Stuart Chappell)
7. Chalford (Steve Tubb)
8. Camborne 'B' (Alan Pope)
9. Filton Concert Brass (Bryn James)
10. Verwood Concert Brass, (Philip Bailey)
11. STORM Brass (Andrew Lomas)
12. Yeovil Town (Nigel Seaman)
13. Ocean Brass (Jonathan Camps)
14. Otterbourne Brass (Dr Chris Davis OBE)
15. Lympstone South West Telecoms (Charlie Fleming)
*Two bands 2 qualify for the finals
Sunday 13th March
Test Piece: Resurgam (Eric Ball)
Adjudicators: Ian Brownbill & David Lancaster
1. Brunel Brass (John Winterflood)*
2. Pendennis Brass Falmouth (Steve Thomas)*
3. Forest of Dean Brass (Martyn Ford)
4. St Pinnock (Chris Spreadbury)
5. Bugle Silver (J. Wilcock)
6. Soundhouse Brass (Simon Badge)
7. Phoenix Brass (Crewkerne) (Dave Hatton)
8. Cinderford Town (Nigel Seaman)
9. Swindon Pegasus Brass (Mike Lock)
10. City of Bristol (Ceri Thomas)
11. Bath Spa (David Hayward)
12. Wotton-under-Edge & District (Dennis Grant)
13. Bodmin Town (Garry Lannie)
14. Bristol East & Kingswood (Rhodri Griffiths)
*Two bands qualify for the finals
Saturday 12th March
Test Piece: A Little Light Music (Philip Wilby)
Adjudicators: Ian Brownbill & Kevin Wadsworth
1. Sidmouth Town (Adrian Harvey)*
2. Downton (Roland Wright)*
3. Weston Brass (Anthony Osborne)
4. Bream Silver (Huw Cole)
5. Denmead Brass (Estelle Flood)
6. St Stythians (James Burns)
7. Gillingham Imperial Silver (Paul Williams)
8. Tewkesbury Town (Nigel Morgan)
9. Weymouth Concert Brass (Adam Glynn)
10. Test Valley Brass (Steve Dunster)
11. Pillowell Silver (Ian Whitburn)
*Two bands qualify for the finals
Saturday 12th March
Test Piece: Prelude, Song and Dance (John Golland)
Adjudicators: Derek Broadbent & David Lancaster
1. Hatherleigh Silver (David Hayward)*
2. New Forest Brass (Ian Luxford)*
3. Bratton Silver (Simon Carr)*
4. A W Parker (Drybrook) (Kevin White)
5. Swindon Brass (Frances Cowley)
6. Tiverton Town (Gilly Taylor)
7. Andover Town (Steve Large)
8. Wilton & District (Colin Herbert)
9. Chalford Academy (Steve Tubb)
10. Launceston Town (David Dobson)
11. Totnes (Sid Davis)
12. Okehampton Excelsior Silver (Des Law)
13. Bideford Town (Roger Ashby)
14. Midsomer Norton & Radstock Silver (Joanne Sykes)
15. Wight Brass (Tim Carter)
16. Shanklin Town (Malcolm Lewis)
17. Marshfield (D. Jones)
18. Gosport Silver (Richard Sharp)
19. Verwood 'B' (A. Clarke)
20. Wincanton Silver (Brian Kelloway)
21. Torbay Brass (T. Finnigan)
22. Porthleven Town (Frances Ralph)
*Three bands qualify for the finals