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Report & Results: 2018 Yorkshire Regional Championships: First Section

Consistency was the key to Strata Brass ending a 40 year Yorkshire title drought to head to Cheltenham with qualifiers Skelmanthorpe.

Yorkshire
  Strata Brass claim the Yorkshire First Section title and head to Cheltenham alongside Skelmanthorpe

Although there was a great deal of musical ambition on show in the First Section on Sunday morning at Huddersfield Town Hall, it was the more basic requirements of contest stage performance that secured a first Yorkshire Area victory in 40 years for Strata Brass.

Four words

It was rather neatly summed in four very clear words by adjudicator Alan Morrison: "Consistency is very important", he said in what was a witty, but very pointed précis of what both he and John Doyle had heard in the box from the 12 contenders on James Curnow's 'Brass Metamorphosis'.

And for them, the right level of title winning consistency came with Strata Brass; directed with a mature appreciation of the detail of the score by Jonathan Bates in leading the band from just outside Barnsley to their first Area win since 1968 and a return to the Cheltenham final for the first time since 2015.

They will be joined there by Skelmanthorpe, as one of the pre-contest favourites maintained their excellent start to the season under Martin Heartfield's baton.

Just behind them the early markers from Stannington and Knottingley Silver battled for the final podium place, whilst the remaining top-six slots went to Wakefield Metropolitan and Drighlington.

Dedicated bandsman

Little wonder the Strata celebrations started almost as soon as their delighted percussionist Rob Hardy grabbed hold of the Area trophy in his hands (above).

He had endured 33 years of Area title winning disappointment before the announcement of their victory was made. There wasn't a more delighted, dedicated bandsman in Huddersfield all weekend.

He was hard pushed though by the winning MD, who in the last seven days had also played with Foden's in winning the Championship Section honours in Blackpool, and had enjoyed hearing plenty of excellent performances of his own work, 'Ex Terra Lucem' in the Second Section.

"It's been a fantastic week," he later told 4BR. "Hearing my work played so well both here and in Blackpool was a real treat and the win with Foden's was great — but this topped it all. I've been very fortunate to link up with Strata, as they have a great desire to improve and work hard, and it's such a close knit band full of great people.

All the credit goes to them and especially people such as Rob and the four members who are leaving due to family commitments. What a way to go out for them too. I can't thank everyone enough."

Very clear

Both Alan Morrison and John Doyle were very clear what they wanted to hear in the box — perhaps explaining why many people's fancied contender of Lindley led by Robert Westacott could only finish seventh and others fells by the qualification wayside.

Both used analogies and wit to illuminate their thought processes; Alan referring to the piece being like a 'jigsaw', with the bands having to try and fit things together in a seamless fashion.

"Each bar was played amazingly well," he said, before adding the punch line reminiscent of the old Eric Morecambe joke; "…although not necessarily in the same performance."

Sid James

And whilst John praised the fine efforts of soprano players, he was a little more critical of the dynamics employed by the percussion sections, as well as the need for soloists to fill up with air.

"If you don't blow, it don't go" he remarked in almost Sid James manner — much to the delight of audience members who remembered the double-entendre humour of the Carry On films.

No such problems with air supply though for the well deserved solo winners; Strata's horn player Adele Ashton claiming the 'Best Soloist' prize, Skelmanthore's Elizabeth Wood taking the 'Best Euphonium' trophy and Louise Belton winning the 'Best Soprano' accolade on a test-piece that certainly shone a testing light on conductors and players alike.

Consistency key

Behind the laughs though the points made by Alan and John were clear and defined — consistency, or the lack of it, the key for the duo in separating out the bands at the top end of the table — more basic requirements of tuning and tempos towards the bottom end.

"We could have made a composite band out of all the best bits of some bands," Alan added. "This is a fantastic piece of music, but it does have its pitfalls and technical challenges."

It was hard to disagree as the contest, although both engaging and intriguing, also showed the gulf that continues to exist between Championship Section ambition and reality, as some poorly chosen faster tempi in particular made a great deal of the playing sound frenetic in the faster sections.

Hopefully it will be one that can be shown can be bridged by two well led Yorkshire qualifiers in Strata and Skelmanthorpe when they head to Cheltenham later in the year.

Behind the laughs the points made by Alan and John were clear and defined — consistency, or the lack of it, the key for the duo in separating out the bands at the top end of the table — more basic requirements of tuning and tempos towards the bottom4BR

Result:

First Section:

Adjudicators: John Doyle and Alan Morrison

1. Strata Brass (Jonathan Bates)*
2. Skelmanthorpe (Martin Heartfield)*
3. Stannington (Derek Renshaw)
4. Knottingley Silver (Kevin Belcher)
5. Wakefield Metropolitan (Richard Larder)
6. Drighlington (Tommy Tynan)
7. Lindley (Robert Westacott)
8. Hebden Bridge (David Hamilton)
9. Hade Edge (Jonathan Beatty)
10. Old Silkstone (Owen Wedgwood)
11. Skelmanthorpe Prospect (Philip Garlick)
12. Chapeltown Silver (Sam Fisher)

*Qualify for National Final

Best Euphonium: Elizabeth Wood (Knottingley Silver)
Best Soprano: Louise Belton (Skelmanthorpe)
Best Soloist: Horn (Strata Brass)
Youngest Player: Max Creese (aged 10) — Hebden Bridge

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