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Report & Results: 2015 West of England Regional Championship

Flowers retain title in Torquay with Roche Brass, AW Parker (Drybrook), Soundhouse Brassand Pillowell taking the section awards

Flowers celebrate

 

The West of England will send an impressive set of representatives to the London and Cheltenham National Finals later this year, although all were made to work hard for their qualification places at Torquay on the weekend.

Flowers, Roche Brass, AW Parker (Drybrook), Soundhouse Brass and Pillowell Silver emerged as 2015 Area champions, only after producing title winning renditions of considerable endeavour.

Perspiration

That was certainly the case in the Championship Section, where Flowers recorded their fifth win in six years with a performance hallmarked by perspiration as well as inspiration under the baton Paul Holland.

They will be joined in Kensington by Camborne, directed by Ian Porthouse, who secured their first Albert Hall appearance since 2010 with a rendition of ‘The Torchbearer’ with an equal reliance on well prepared hard graft.

Behind them came inconsistent top six prize winners; led by 2014 First Section National Champion Filton Concert Brass under Tom Davoren, who also knew they had perhaps left their best away from the unforgiving Riviera Centre stage.

Some way ahead

With the top two ‘some way ahead’ according to the judges, they led home Bournemouth Concert Brass, Mount Charles and St Austell, all of who couldn’t quite align their technical execution to their MDs well informed readings of the score.

The rest of the 13 band field certainly struggled; Woodfalls endured a rare ‘off day’, whilst others found Peter Graham’s set work placed technical demands on them they simply couldn’t overcome.

Outstanding

Despite producing in the words of the adjudicators, ‘an outstanding performance that would have been a prize winner in any area’, even Flowers’ most ardent supporters would have realised victory was achieved by their band not quite hitting the heights of recent form — something MD Paul Holland certainly acknowledged.

“It wasn’t our best performance by any means,” he told 4BR. “All bands will have minor slips and unforced errors on this piece, so I knew that could well be the case for us.

However, I was still pleased at the way we showed our quality in others areas and our ability to produce an all round performance that was still recognised as being outstanding in the box.”

Written remarks

That was shown in the written remarks of both adjudicators Roger Webster and David Hirst.

“Not a flawless performance, but one to be proud of,” David wrote, with Roger adding; “This is well shaped and ‘generally’ very well played — a real joy to listen to.”

Further incentive

On a day when those extra hours of preparation paid off, Paul added that the victory had given Flowers a further incentive to keep improving as they look towards the British Open and beyond.

“The win shows we can’t relax and take anything for granted, and we will certainly use the next few months to work on improving through our growing list of high profile concerts, where the pressure will be on to perform at our very best.”

Excellent analysis

On a weekend of excellent adjudication analysis, Roger and David didn’t shirk from telling the audience what they felt had been ‘a mixed bag of performances’ — highlighting the innocuous looking opening as where so many ‘fell away’.

“Some recovered; others, the rot set in,” Roger later said. “Some found the technical and musical challenges out of their reach. It was a very inconsistent contest — the best in the outstanding class, the worse very disappointing to say the least.”

Warm up

There was little to disagree about with his assessment as time and again the opening was awash with anxiety (although a number of bands told 4BR that the absence of a warm-up room due to the Saturday contest date, meant players took to the stage ‘cold’), whilst many simply sounded of borderline true top flight quality.

Not so Flowers, despite on this occasion having to rely more than usual on the results of hard work to secure a deserved victory.

First Section:

In contrast to the title winning graft on show in the top flight, Roche Brass produced one of the best renditions of ‘A London Overture’ to be heard around the country in winning the First Section in considerable style.

Under the baton of Garry Cutt, the band formed in 2012 near St Austell produced a performance hallmarked by quality; from artistic soloists in the fearsome quartet of cadenzas to the contrasting precision of the pulsating rhythmic playing and the broad flowing sweep of the lyrical interludes.

Impressive qualifiers

With Yeovil Town also delivering a fine account under David Hayward, the Area will be represented by impressive qualifiers at Cheltenham — something adjudicators Michael Fowles and David Hirst readily acknowledged when speaking to 4BR.

“We had no problems picking the top two,” David said. “There was real quality on show with both — although in contrasting performances. The winner was clear cut though — outstanding playing. Both could represent the Area very well at the Finals and in the Championship Section.”

However, the judges did admit that they had found themselves ‘frustrated’ throughout a contest that was in David’s words, ‘full of inconsistencies’ — something shown in each of the other top six prize winners.

A purposeful early marker from Verwood Concert Brass eventually ended third, with the remaining places picked up by Hyde, St Keverne and Helston Town.

However, behind them came a veritable triage ward of casualties — some finding that the test piece was simply beyond their capabilities, with others blighted by odd interpretations by MDs.

Frustrating

“It was an interesting day,” David told the audience, as he held the score to ‘A London Overture’ (‘an instruction book’ as he said) in his hand. “Although a better word would be frustrating — there were so many inconsistencies.”

He later told 4BR. “There were so many poor choices of tempo — so wide of the stated markings by Philip who is so clear in his intentions. Despite some excellent efforts in the cadenzas, the MDs have to shoulder responsibility: It wasn’t good at times.”

Poise and precision

No such problems with the winners though, with Garry Cutt using his experience to draw a wonderfully shaped account that had poise as well as precision in both solo and ensemble contributions.

“I really enjoy myself at Roche. It’s only an hour’s flight down to Newquay from Manchester, and the band works so well for me,” he said.

“They are a lovely bunch of people who want to enjoy their banding — and they certainly showed that today. That was a performance to savour in anyone’s book.”

The band themselves certainly enjoy their link with the Marple maestro too.

“Garry’s been superb,” a spokesperson said. “He fits in with us so well — and the respect the players have for him shows from the first moment he picks up the baton. This was a real landmark achievement for a young band — but one we want to build on.”

Unfortunately the contest saw a disqualification for St Pinnock under National Rule 23a. It is understood the band failed to meet entry requirements and were informed of the decision before the contest after two meetings had taken place with the Council of the West of England.

Second Section:

The Second Section was also a contest won by hard graft rather than free flowing inspiration, as AW Parker (Drybrook) took their first Area title in 32 years, on a day when ‘Variations on Maccabeus’ didn’t quite produce the ‘conquering hero’ as David Hirst and Roger Webster in the box were perhaps hoping to hear.

Difficult task

“It was a difficult task today — and the bands made it so”, David told the audience before the results.

“It’s a superb piece of music for this level, but the bands didn’t capture the consistency needed and tempo marking were liberally interpreted — some going so slow. There was only one band technically proficient enough to play the piece, although those at the top of the table achieved a lot of that.”

Variable quality

The remarks certainly reflected a contest of variable quality — despite some fine musical intentions from conductors.

In the end it was a solid performance from Wotton under Edge that joined AW Parker (Drybrook) on the trip to Cheltenham for the second time in three years, with the final podium place going to a delighted Bodmin Town.

The remaining to six places were claimed by Downton, Poole Borough and Andover Town, with the rest of the field finding varying levels of difficulty in trying to overcome the technical and stylistic subtleties of the score.

Bruised and bemused

That said, although some bands were left bruised by their encounter with Handel’s hero, others were left a little bemused too with their end result.

One such was even the winning MD Josh Ruck, with the talented young conductor admirably honest in his appraisal of his band’s performance when speaking to 4BR.

“I felt we left the door open today,” he said. “We didn’t play as well as we could have as we seemed to get a bit over excited, especially towards the end. I think we were so determined to play well as one of our players was taken to hospital the day before the contest, that emotion just got the better of us.”

Lesson learnt

However, Josh revealed his band would learn a lesson, even though he was delighted with the victory.

“We want to improve with each contest — and the win shows that we are heading in the right direction. This win will be of huge benefit, and we’ll certainly learn from it as we look towards the National Final.”

Third Section:

One group of competitors who didn’t find the going tough on the weekend were to be found in the Third Section, where Philip Sparke’s ‘Evolution — Five States of Change’ brought some inspired performances out of a host of contenders.

In the end it was Soundhouse Brass directed by Lee Clayson who pipped their rivals in a high quality contest, with the talented youngsters of Camborne Junior Contesting claiming a Finals trip for the second time in three years under Alan Pope.

There was very little choose between the top six or so rivals on the day, with Roger Webster remarking that he felt ‘most bands played beautifully’ despite ‘tempos leaving a lot to be desired’.

Crystal clear

It was another crystal clear analysis from the men in the box (Roger was joined by Graham O Jones), which balanced well deserved praise with constructive criticism.

“It’s a lovely piece, so well written to show bands what they need to do,” Roger later told 4BR. “The best did that, especially the top two in making the music flow — and did it so well, but too many MDs lost sight of tempo markings and didn’t bring anything meaningful out of the score as a result.”

Despite the tempo drawbacks, each of the 16 competitors emerged with great credit for their efforts on a stern test of their musicianship — all the way down in fact to the amazing youngsters (average age 14) of Chalford Academy under Steve Tubb, who delighted the audience with their fearless enthusiasm.

Compact

Behind Soundhouse and Camborne Junior Contesting came a compact rendition from Denmead Brass, closely followed by well directed efforts from Bath Spa, Midsomer Norton & Radstock Silver and Corsham.

Emotional win

It was an emotional win for Soundhouse Brass (named after the music facility in a school in Torbridge near Plymouth where they rehearse), as spokesperson Alan Gears told 4BR.

“We last came in the prizes here in 2002, and we have had a bit of an up and down time of it of late,” he said. “We were down to around 18 players at Christmas but we determined to make it to the contest.

Our MD, Lee Clayson has been superb and the effort the players have put in has been rewarded. Now we can look forward to a trip to Cheltenham.”

Fourth Section:

There was plenty of great music making to enjoy in the Fourth Section as 21 bands produced a cracking contest for a highly supportive audience and judges Michael Fowles and Graham O Jones to savour.

‘An English Pastorale’ certainly ensured the best bands found their way towards the top end of the results table, with the adherence to good basics of balance, intonation, precision and dynamic control finding favour with the two men in the tent.

Super playing

“We certainly enjoyed ourselves,” Lt Col Graham O Jones later told 4BR. “There was some super playing on show, especially from the bands that came in the prizes. The top two were clear and very good, and third wasn’t that far behind.

Our congratulations go to the MDs who tried to bring the character out of the music, but it was those that were able to do it on a firm foundation of good basics that really made a mark.”

The best

The best of those was Pillowell Silver directed by Ian Whitburn, who produced a wonderfully coherent marker off the early number 3 draw that was only eventually challenged by the penultimate contender Porthleven under Tom Bassett.

Joining the duo in Cheltenham will be Totnes conducted by Alan Wilmott, whilst the remaining top six places went to solid, well directed performances from Cheltenham Silver, Lydney Town and Tiverton Town.

Fantastic achievement

“It’s a fantastic achievement for the band,” Pillowell’s Jayne Gethin Lewis told 4BR. “It’s 10 years since we last won here and qualified for the Finals, so it’s great to be back. Ian has done a wonderful job with the band and we really enjoyed playing the test piece.

We have had some great success of late, but to win here tops the lot. Now it’s down to fund raising and plenty of hard work for Cheltenham.”

Hard grafting organisers

With Regional Secretary Sue Oldfield and her team expertly keeping the contest running on time, there was a great deal to enjoy once more in Torquay, with a deserved presentation made to Frances Calver in recognition of her contribution to the Association over the years.

I was still pleased at the way we showed our quality in others areas and our ability to produce an all round performance that was still recognised as being outstanding in the boxFlowers MD, Paul Holland

Results:

Championship Section:

Test Piece: 'The Torchbearer' — Peter Graham
Saturday 14th March

Adjudicators: Prof Roger Webster & David Hirst

1. Flowers (Paul Holland)*
2. Camborne (Ian Porthouse)*
3. Filton Concert Brass (Tom Davoren)
4. Bournemouth Concert Brass (Nigel Taken)
5. Mount Charles (Nigek Seaman)
6. St Austell (Steve Sykes)
7. Lanner & District (Stuart Chapell)
8. Aldbourne (Josh Ruck)
9. Woodfalls (Dr Robert Childs)
10. Lydbrook (Mareika Gray)
11. St Dennis (Darren Hawken)
12. Sherborne Town (Steve Rogers)
13. Alder Valley Brass (Roger Burke)

*Top 2 bands qualify for National Final

First Section:

Test Piece: 'A London Overture' — Philip Sparke
Sunday 15th March

Adjudicators: Michael Fowles & David Hirst

1. Roche Brass (Garry Cutt)*
2. Yeovil Town (David Hayward)*
3. Verwood Concert Brass (Kevin Smith)
4. Hyde (Jonathan Lush-Camps)
5. St Keverne (Gareth Churcher)
6. Helston Town (David Johnson)
7. Michelmersh Silver (Melvin White)
8. Brunel Brass (John Winterflood)
9. Chalford (Steve Tubb)
10. Pendennis Brass (Falmouth) (Steve Thomas)
11. Forest of Dean (Chris Howley)
12. Otterbourne Brass (Gareth Pritchard)
13. South West Comms Lympstone (Richard Harvey)
14. Shrewton Silver (Michael Dunford)

St Pinnock (Jane Whitehead) disqualified under National Rule 23a

* Top 2 bands qualify for National Final

Second Section:

Test Piece: 'Variations on Maccabeus' — Kevin Norbury
Saturday 14th March

Adjudicators: Prof Roger Webster & David Hirst

1. A W Parker (Drybrook) (Josh Ruck)*
2. Wotton under Edge & District (Ian Dickinson)*
3. Bodmin Town (John Maines)
4. Downton (Paul Williams)
5. Poole Borough (Dr Chris Davis)
6. Andover Town (Steve Large)
7. City of Bristol Brass (Bryn James)
8. Phoenix Brass (Crewkerne) (David Boorer)
9. Sidmouth Town (Adrian Harvey)
10. New Forest Brass (Ian Luxford)
11. Ocean Brass (Edward March)
12. Bugle Silver (Paul Uzzell)
13. Swindon Pegasus (David Mace)
14. Weston Brass (Bryn James)
15. Bream Silver (Philip Uzzell)

*Top 2 bands qualify for National Final

Third Section:

Test Piece:'Evolution, Five States of Change' — Philip Sparke
Sunday 15th March

Adjudicators: Graham O. Jones MBE & Prof Roger Webster

1. Soundhouse Brass (Lee Clayson)*
2. Camborne Junior Contesting (Alan Pope)*
3. Denmead (Estelle Flood)
4. Bath Spa (Martin Perry)
5. Midsomer Norton & Radstock (Joanne Sykes)
6. Corsham (Colin Hogg)
7. Wilton & District (Colin Herbert)
8. Cinderford (Gary Davies)
9. Bratton Silver (Simon Carr)
10. South Molton Town (Gil Taylor)
11. Spinnaker Brass (Michael Pennicote-Henrie)
12. St Stythians (James Burns)
13. Gillingham Imperial Silver (Jim Bennett)
14. Heyl Town (Shaun Marsden)
15. Swindon Brass (Francis Cowley)
16. Chalford Academy (Steve Tubb)

* Top 2 bands qualify for National Final

Fourth Section:

Test Piece: 'An English Pastorale'- Dean Jones
Saturday 14th March

Adjudicators: Michael Fowles & Graham O. Jones MBE

1. Pillowell Silver (Ian Whitburn)*
2. Porthleven Town (Tom Bassett)*
3. Totnes (Alan Wilmott)*
4. Cheltenham Silver (Nigel Galliott)
5. Lydney Town (Kevin Ford)
6. Tiverton Town (David Boorer)
7. Tewkesbury Town (Nigel Morgan)
8. Saltash Town (Mike Faro)
9. Bidefird Town (Mark Durham)
10. Gosport Solent Brass (Stephen Dunster)
11. Weymouth Concert Brass (Kevin Goodwin)
12. Pendeen Silver (Darren Jenkin)
13. Verwood Town (Emma Button)
14. Shanklin Town (IoW) (Malcolm Lewis)
15. Hatherleigh Silver (D. Button)
16. Nailsworth Silver (Paul McLaughlin)
17. Redruth Town (Sara Munns)
18. Okehampton Excelsior Silver (Richard Beardon)
19. Shaftesbury Town Silver (Martin Hill)
20. Torbay Brass (Graham Eaton)
21. Marshfield (Philip Anderson)

*Top 3 bands qualify for National Final

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