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Report & Results: 2020 West of England Regional Championships

Camborne, Brunel Brass, Hatherleigh Silver, Poole Borough and Nailsworth Silver pick up the silverware at Torquay

nailsworth
  Camborne claim the West of England title

In 1914 the Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey mournfully remarked that the "lamps are going out all over Europe" as Britain faced the prospect of a future way of life changed forever by the consequences of a challenge few could comprehend.

Whoever finally turned the lights off and locked the doors at the Riviera Centre in Torquay after the West of England Regional Championships on Sunday evening may well have had the same thoughts.

When brass band contesting does return there is little doubt it will never be the same again.

Anger

The organisers were certainly challenged by the consequences of a statement issued by Brass Bands England before the event — one that advised its member bands not to take part due to advice they had been given concerning the Coronavirus pandemic.

That was initially met with annoyance which turned to unmistakable anger when a second BBE announcement was made on the Sunday morning.

It was later revealed that Regional Secretary Sue Oldfield had also been subjected to a number of unpleasant anonymous phone messages — a cowardly response directed at someone who has gained widespread respect for her leadership running of the event.

In contrast, the understandable decisions taken by those bands who withdrew were at no point castigated by the organisers.

Emotions

Emotions were therefore somewhat febrile at times.

However, the show of support from the pre-results audiences to Sue and her fellow volunteers for their efforts (led by compere David Hayward) to inform everyone of official Government advice to follow so that people could make their own informed decision over attending the event, was universal.

What the contesting future holds for the various Area title winners though is unclear. The National Finals seem far on the horizon. Whether their lights will still be on in Cheltenham and London by then we will have to wait and see.

Championship Section:

For Camborne it would be a cruel twist of fate if they were not, after the Cornish band claimed the title for the first time since 2009 — and off the number 1 draw at that.

That in itself was a notable statistical achievement, as no band had won off Kelly's Eye for well over 20 years, and especially as it was conductor Ian Porthouse's third Area success of the year as the first band on stage — following the victories of Tredegar at the Welsh Area and Kingdom Brass in the First Section in Scotland.

It was a well deserved success after a contest full of contrasting musical approaches from the fancied contenders for the title.

Mirror

Unsurprisingly Camborne's 'A Tale As Yet Untold' mirrored the approach of Tredegar; the clarity of the ensemble detail enhanced by tempered dynamics and well observed balances, the flowing connective approach to the central cadenzas making way for a sprightly romp of a finale.

Aided by confident soloists and by keeping the error count low it was a high class marker — beatable, but only by a band on top form.

None appeared for the judges, who later told 4BR that Camborne had been a "clear winner" on a day when too many rivals misjudged dynamic and balance levels from a stage that was only a couple of meters away from the box.

Detailed analysis

"There were a cluster of bands at a higher standard than the rest today," Chris King told the audience before the results.

Both he and Jappie Dijkstra gave comprehensive explanations of what they were looking for and what they had heard — from the "composure" to shown in the horns and cornets in the opening, to the "terrific solo playing" and "inner lines that took time to settle" in the middle movement and the "generally well handled" third movement.

Tellingly though Chris remarked that some had "blattered their way through it", whilst Jappie's also highlighted that an adherence to the composer's specific written instructions, rather than trying to unlock his 'untold' emotional intentions, was key.

"He is a master of instrumentation and blending of sections," he said. "That is the clarity that brings the musical character. We heard that in the winner and the top three or four."

Record win

They certainly remarked on it as Camborne secured a record 21st title success.

"A very fine reading with outstanding soloists. A lot of detail in this exciting performance!" wrote Jappie, whilst Chris ended his remarks by stating; "Wow! Super band and MD — You will be pleased by your performance today!"

Too right they were, although due to the enforced circumstances, there were only two players left to enjoy the moment of raising the Regional Trophy in triumph.

Ian Porthouse later told 4BR that he was delighted for the players after the commitment shown in the lead up to the contest.

"With all that was surrounding the event, for the band to stay as focused as they did was tremendous. They did everything I asked of them, showed great character and brilliant musical confidence.

All that off the number 1 draw as well — although I did tell them it wasn't a problem for me at the moment!"

No complaints

No complaints you suspect from defending champion Flowers, as a curiously overwrought dynamic rendition saw Paul Holland's band never at complete ease.

The decision to place the vibraphone behind the soprano at the front of the stage gave the opening a textural imbalance that was never resolved, whilst uncharacteristic ensemble and solo line fragility terminally loosened their grip on the title.

It was still good enough though to claim the all important second qualification place, although they were pushed by Filton Concert in third, who started so impressively under the energetic direction of Erik Van De Kolk, but faded in the finale to miss out on a first Albert Hall appearance since 2017.

Behind them came a considered account from Aldbourne, an impressive Verwood Concert Brass playing with confident cohesion, and a neatly portrayed rendition from St Dennis to fill the top-six places.

Individual fragility also bedevilled the early promise shown by Woodfalls whilst the remaining contenders from Bournemouth Concert to Michelmersh found 'A Tale Untold' a severe test of top flight credentials.

First Section:

Brunel Brass, a band gaining a reputation for distinctive musical inventiveness under their talented conductor Daniel Hall was an impressive winner of the First Section title.

Imbued with musicality unlike any other on the day, their evocative rendition of 'Legacy' succinctly captured the sense of anxiety, hopefulness and excitement encapsulated in the opaque textures, balances and dynamics of Tom Davoren's nuanced work.

Little wonder it elicited rich praise from adjudicators Chris Davies OBE and Jappie Dijkstra. "A fine performance with much to commend" wrote Chris, whilst Jappie added that they had given "a well crafted musical picture — lots to admire."

Sorting nightmare

The observations certainly backed their pre-results remarks as Chris said it had been "a conductor's sorting nightmare" where the MDs had to show an "understanding of the music rather than mere technique to make it come to life".

Brunel Brass was a clear winner, although Chris did say that "three bands achieved nearly everything", as they were joined in Cheltenham by Roche Brass and Forest of Dean Brass.

They also brought a sense of musical understanding to their performances ("we twice had spine chilling moments"in the 2nd movement, Chris said) under MDs David Johnson and Gareth Ritter — their experience ensuring a careful eye was focused on ensemble balance and texturing even if they also had a few moments of unease.

Encouraging

Elsewhere it was encouraging to hear that MDs had taken note of judge's remarks from earlier contests, (Jappie said "most bands understood the music") with conductors trying to create a sense of atmosphere from the music rather than simply plough through the technicalities of the score.

It certainly gave the duo plenty to think about in the box, with a close clutch of renditions separated by the narrowest of margins.

In the end the remaining top-six places went to a fine marker off the number 1 draw from Lanner & District and intelligently led accounts from Sherborne Town and Glastonbury Brass, whilst a couple of contenders such as St Austell and City of Bristol may have rued their luck in not quite gaining a better result.

Second Section:

A host of well-drawn contest battle plans gave judges John Winterflood and Chris King plenty to think about in their decision making in the Second Section.

Both come from a military background, so were pleased to report that all 14 rivals had tried to draw out the colourful storyline character of Kit Turnbull's 'The Golden Sabre' score — from the opening bugle call to arms to the Borodino victory finale.

When the dust had finally settled it was Hatherleigh Silver led brilliantly by MD Nick West that had raised its battlefield standard in triumph.

Great performance

John described it in his written remarks as "a great performance that captured the style of the music", whilst Chris summed things up by stating it was, "A super, convincing performance with great characterisation."

It was the latest in a series of victories not even Napoleon at his rampant best could possibly match. Hopefully there will be no Waterloo on the horizon for the band that won the Fourth Section here in 2017 and Third in 2018.

Excellent marker

Joining them in Cheltenham will be St Keverne, who provided an excellent marker under Karl Long, full of drama and clear purpose off the number 1 draw to qualify for the first time since 2014.

"There were three very fine performances," John said before adding that the two bands would represent the region "in a strong manner"in Cheltenham. "My commiserations to the band in third though."

That band was Wotton-under-Edge, who just missed out on what was the last contest performance directed by MD Ian Dickinson.

Pinpoint

Chris meanwhile pinpointed the areas in which the best came through and where others fell short — from the intonation in the opening sections to the rhythmic challenges of the 10/8 and 6/8 meters, and the need to choose tempi that suited the band's abilities as well as the hall's acoustic.

They were excellent analysis' which left no band in any doubt of why they came where they did.

That meant that an expertly directed account from Shrewton Silver (with two solo cornets and 3 tubas), a neatly portrayed rendition from Denmead Brass and bold effort from Phoenix Brass (Crewkerne) filled the remaining top-six places.

The other bands all emerged with credit (the percussion playing was excellent) with many bringing a sense of adventure to their playing even if a few also had an eye on a form of contesting health and safety.

The winner though had a Napoleonic swagger that could well lead them to even further triumphs in the future.

Third Section:

Although there was a reduced field of 13 bands for the Third Section on Sunday morning, the rules meant three bands qualified for Cheltenham.

That was good news for Gosport Solent Brass who had a nervous wait after the results were announced to find out that they had deservedly claimed their place alongside winners Poole Borough and runner-up, Ocean Brass.

It also came at the end of a tough contest — one filled by bands who displayed fortitude, endeavour and determination to overcome the chilly challenges of Andrew Baker's very demanding 'Endurance'.

Adjudicators John Winterflood and Gary Davies recognised the fact — giving generous pre-results remarks that emphasised that they had heard "a good standard" on "a very difficult piece."

"On the whole a lot of bands captured the atmosphere" John said, whilst Gary added that "most tried to portray the story. One or two really did that and four or five were close".

No doubting

No doubting what they thought of the winner directed by Lloyd Bartlett, who produced an excellent marker off the number 1 draw to repel some determined challengers and return to the finals for a second year in a row.

"A very good performance, full of style and great phrasing," wrote John, whilst Gary said that overall it has been "a very impressive performance... well shaped by the MD".

After coming third last year at Cheltenham (also off the number 1 draw) they will be relishing that particular challenge.

Persuasive

The in-form Ocean Brass led by Martin Humphries claimed their first finals appearance since 2007 with an excellent account as the last band to take to the stage, while Gosport returned for the third year in a row after delivering a persuasive rendition under Colin Garner.

The remaining top-six places went to determined efforts from Wroughton Silver (who had a four man trombone crew where at least five other rivals could only muster 2), Porthleven Town and Gillingham Imperial Silver, whose MD James Bennett showed both confidence and early morning bravery in the chilly air by conducting without either a score or jacket.

Elsewhere the contenders battled through to relative safety, with a special mention to Francis Cowley who led Swindon Brass for a record 71st consecutive time at the event. That was a form of 'Endurance' to be exceptionally proud of.

Fourth Section:

There was a wonderful first Area victory for Nailsworth Silver in an enjoyable Fourth Section battle.

Led with exuberant musicality by Anri Adachi, their cracking rendition of Christopher Bond's 'Neverland', played with an exciting narrative sweep, entranced the judges and audience in the Arena auditorium on Saturday morning.

Not only that, but it also cast a spell over the composer and a certain conductor of the world's number 1 brass band to return to Cheltenham for a second successive year.

Tweet

Chris listened to all 14 renditions, but after Nailsworth performed off the number 2 draw he tweeted that he felt that it was "one of the closest representations of what I envisaged when writing it that I've heard."

With all the basic foundation stones of contesting solidity cemented in place, the judges were equally impressed, with Nicholas Garman and Gary Davies feeling that it was a performance where "the music flowed and dynamic contrast was evident".

The post contest celebrations in the Harper household on Saturday evening after Anri and daughter May had claimed the title on their debuts would have been a bit different to the norm (Phil has won his fair share of course).

Celebrations

Qualification celebrations also for Redruth (for a second year in a row) and Tewkesbury Town (for the first time since 1999), both of whom have been rejuvenated in the past few months by the appointment of new conductors in Mark Arnold and Andrea Price. They also used their experience to paint cohesive performances full of neat characterisation.

And whilst Gary Davies remarked that there had only been a couple of bands that gave them a "magical" start, "three or four bands" added "extra levels" to show off their "excellent preparation to bring the score to life".

It meant that the youngsters of Brunel Brass Academy just missed out on this occasion, whilst the remaining top-six places in a contest of an excellent overall standard went to Illogan Sparnon Silver and Bideford Town.

Each band though will have benefited greatly from playing the work, especially Cheltenham Silver Academy who was presented with a certificate to mark their debut at the event.

If they get to play test-pieces as good as this one from Christopher Bond then they are sure to be back year after year.

Iwan Fox

They did everything I asked of them, showed great character and brilliant musical confidence. All that off the number 1 draw as well — although I did tell them it wasn't a problem for me at the moment!Ian Porthouse

Results:


Championship Section:


Test Piece: A Tale as Yet Untold (Philip Sparke)
Adjudicators: Jacob Dijkstra & Chris King

1. Camborne Town (Ian Porthouse)*
2. Flowers (Paul Holland)*
3. Filton Concert Brass (Erik Van De Kolk)
4. Aldbourne (Dr David Thornton)
5. Verwood Concert Brass (Kevin Smith)
6. St Dennis (Darren R Hawken)
7. Woodfalls (Dr Robert Childs)
8. Bournemouth Concert Brass (Dr Howard Evans)
9. Lydbrook (Glyn Williams)
10. SW Comms (Sam Hairsine)
11. Michelmersh Silver (Melvin White)

Withdrawn: Chalford (Steve Tubb)

*Qualify for National Final


First Section:


Test Piece: Legacy (Tom Davoren)
Adjudicators: Dr Chris Davis OBE & Jacob Dijkstra

1. Brunel Brass (Daniel Hall)*
2. Roche Brass (David Johnson)*
3. Forest of Dean Brass (Gareth Ritter)*
4. Lanner & District Silver (Aaron Harvey)
5. Sherborne Town (Jonathan Lush-Camps)
6. Glastonbury Brass (Daniel Shave)
7. Bodmin Town (John Maines)
8. Andover Town (Steve Large)
9. Sidmouth Town (Adrian Harvey)
10. City of Bristol Brass (Ian Holmes)
11. St Pinnock (Colin Hudson)
12. A W Parker (Drybrook) (Joshua Ruck)
13. Camborne Junior Contesting (Alan Pope BEM)
14. St Austell Town (Iain McKnight)
15. Soundhouse Brass (Lee Clayson)
16. Otterbourne Brass (Jonathan Lush-Camps)
17. Hyde (Nigel Seaman)

Withdrawn: Helston Town (John Berryman)

*Qualify for National Final

Second Section:


Test Piece: The Golden Sabre — Tales of the Hussar-Poet, Denis Davydov (Kit Turnbull)
Adjudicators: Chris King & John Winterflood

1. Hatherleigh Silver (Nick West)*
2. St Keverne (Karl Long)*
3. Wotton-under-Edge & District (Ian Dickinson)
4. Shrewton Silver (Mike Dunford)
5. Denmead Brass (Estelle Flood)
6. Phoenix Brass (Crewkerne) (David Boorer)
7. Weston Brass (Lewis Wilkinson)
8. Cinderford (Chris Howley)
9. Mount Charles (Jeremy Taylor)
10. New Forest Brass (Ian Luxford)
11. Lydney Town (Sion Rhys Jones)
12. Downton (Paul Williams)
13. Bream Silver (Hugh Bamford)
14. South Molton Town (Gil Taylor)

Withdrawn: Midsomer Norton & Radstock Silver (Joanne Sykes)

*Qualify for National Final


Third Section:


Test Piece: Endurance — narrative variations for brass band (Andrew Baker)
Adjudicators: Gary Davies & John Winterflood

1. Poole Borough (Lloyd Bartlett)*
2. Ocean Brass (Dr Martin Humphries)*
3. Gosport Solent Brass (Colin Garner)*
4. Wroughton Silver (Neil Webb)
5. Porthleven Town (Tom Bassett)
6. Gillingham Imperial Silver (James Bennett)
7. Verwood Town (Emma Button)
8. Bratton Silver (Simon Carr)
9. Exeter Railway (Gareth Davies)
10. Pendeen Silver (Leonard Adams)
11. Cheltenham Silver (Nigel Galliott)
12. City of Bath Brass (Martin Perry)
13. Swindon Brass (Francis Cowley)

Withdrawn:
Bugle Silver (Tom Howard)
Pendennis Brass (Ian Edwards)
Pillowell Silver (Ian Whitburn)
St Stythians (James Burns)
Weymouth Concert Brass (Helen Brind)

*Qualify for National Final


Fourth Section:


Test Piece: Neverland (Christopher Bond)
Adjudicators: Gary Davies & Nicholas Garman

1. Nailsworth Silver (Anri Adachi)*
2. Redruth Town (Mark Arnold)*
3. Tewkesbury Town (Andrea Price)
4. Brunel Brass Academy (Ben Halstead)
5. Illogan Sparnon Silver (Shaun Marsden)
6. Bideford Town Band (Mark Durham)
7. Chalford Academy (Steve Tubb)
8. Test Valley Brass (John Heritage)
9. Shaftesbury Town Silver (Martin Hill)
10. Saltash Town (Ross Farr-Semmens)
11. Okehampton Excelsior Silver (Robert Julian)
12. Wincanton Silver (James White)
13. Cheltenham Silver Academy (Colin Forster)
14. Torbay Brass (Joe Rowlands)

Withdrawn: Shanklin Town Brass (IoW) (Malcolm Lewis); Tiverton Town (John Fitton)

*Qualify for National Final

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