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Report & Result: 2018 Senior Cup

Oldham Band (Lees) show the rest of the field (and perhaps Meghan Markle) how to successfully wear a diadem of gold on their big day, as they are joined in the Grand Shield by St Dennis, Redbridge and Skelmanthorpe.

Oldham Band (Lees) (John Collins)
  Diadem of Gold has proved to be a stern test for the bands in the Senior Cup

Hopefully, if Meghan Markle is given a diadem of gold of her own to wear at her forthcoming wedding it won't cause her as many problems to fix into its correct place as Frank Wright's creation did with the 20 bands looking for a musical marriage made in heaven in the Senior Cup.

Alongside 'The Triumph of Time' and 'A Kensington Concerto', it made up a trio of excellently chosen test-pieces that shone a demanding light on the aspirations of the 60 bands that dreamt of a 'happy ever after' appearance at the British Open in the years to come.

Ruritanian

There may be something almost Ruritanian about Guillaume Balay's richly Gallic work — all puffed-out splendour, romance and ceremony, but despite its age it remains a demanding test of musicianship. And under the wedding reception-like canopy of the Pavilion Theatre it rather compellingly showed its teeth.

It was therefore rather fitting that adjudicators Mike Fowles and Roger Webster expertly delivered their pre-results appraisals like dentists giving advice on maintaining all-American 'happy smiles' after hearing far too many performances blighted by a lack of appreciation of style, tempo and even original provenance.

"This is a fabulous piece," Mike said in a detailed, precise analysis. "If we want to play all the modern test-pieces we have to appreciate where we have come from. It's terrific music that needs to be performed."

He added: "It's music that needs time and space, poise and consideration — right from the placing of the first quaver in the opening bar. You also have to consider the context of accents and of tempo. The music must be exciting not excited."

Liberties

Roger was equally as prescient as he recalled a work that he made his British Open soprano debut on in 1977.

"The MDs need to really study the score," he said. "One or two took liberties, and although we didn't really penalise them, they didn't need to try and find something that wasn't there. There were one or two 'unique' performances, some exciting ones and some very good ones."

Few then would have been able to argue successfully against their findings, as the "potential pitfalls" as Mike called them, were fallen into time and time again by MDs who lost control of tempo and dynamic cohesion, and players, who through nerves or technical limitations, simply didn't sound as if they were playing with ease on their solo interventions.

Some of the percussion playing sounded as if it was heralding the arrival of President Macron at Windsor Castle.

Oldham's bold confidence

Come the results it was the bold confidence of Oldham Band (Lees) that claimed the honours under MD John Collins.

Full bodied and purposeful in the ensemble playing, delicate and artistic in the solo interventions (especially Benjamin Richeton on soprano who deservedly took the 'Best Instrumentalist' award), they extended their fine run of 2018 form (winning the First Section at Brass at the Guild and the North West Area) to take one step closer to the British Open.

"The odd clip and re-invention of the music — but a performance full of class and style", Roger Webster wrote in his remarks, whilst Mike added that it was "emphatic" all the way to "...a close of conviction."

"We are on something of a crest of a wave at the moment," the winning conductor later told 4BR.

"I know contesting success comes and goes at times and we've experienced both aspects over the years.

Dropping back to the First Section though has been a good thing for the band as its enabled us to work harder on getting the important things right if we are to make a mark at the National Finals in Cheltenham and then the Grand Shield next year."

He added: "Both Mike and Roger pointed out what was good and what wasn't in their remarks, and that's what I like as a conductor as it gives us something to work on to keep improving. And that's what this band thrives on."

Joining the nobility

Accompanying them to the Grand Shield in 2019 will be three bands that are also on the right track to join the nobility of elite banding at Symphony Hall in the years to come, with St Dennis, Redbridge and Skelmanthorpe claiming the other all important qualification places.

Forever the bridesmaids on this occasion (although potentially only for a year) came the Yorkshire duo of Hatfield and Yorkshire Imperial Urquhart Travel, whilst those dropping through the relegation trap-door to the registry office of the Senior Trophy were Jackfield, Burry Port, Staffordshire and Unite the Union (City of Sheffield).

Jostling minor royals

In between came a host of bands who jostled for position like minor members of the royal family trying to get close to the happy couple for the wedding shots outside Windsor Castle.

All though will have known that the top four were a little way ahead of them on the day as inconsistencies and increasingly noticeable unforced errors put pay to their chances.

Early arrivals

It was the early arrivals of St Dennis and Redbridge that gave the judges their potential qualification markers, with little to choose between the emerging top flight solidity of Cornish band led by Darren Hawken and the mature level headedness of Londoners conducted by Richard Ward in taking the podium places.

Both gave finely structured renditions (notable for the quality of their soloists in particular) that captured the joie-de-vivre spirit of Balay's writing without ever meandering into misplaced excess.

Well directed early door accounts from Yorkshire Imps and Ratby also caught onto the Republican Guard coat-tails according to Mike and Roger to end sixth and seventh, whilst Skelmanthorpe, led with almost 'English' musical reserve by Martin Heartfield delivered a super account full of clean lines and layered dynamic textures to come fourth.

And whilst the second half of the contest didn't quite live up to the promise of the first, it did contain a typically well thought out account from Stan Lippeatt from Hatfield to end fifth and that pulsating, colourful rendition from Oldham (Lees) to capture the title with energetic Gallic brio and a touch of American showbiz pizzazz.

Miss Markle may want to give John Collins a ring to find out the secret of keeping a title winning crown in place when the spotlight falls centre stage on her bonce come Saturday afternoon.

Dropping back to the First Section though has been a good thing for the band as its enabled us to work harder on getting the important things right if we are to make a mark at the National Finals and then the Grand ShieldMD John Collins

Result:

The Senior Cup:

Test Piece: Diadem of Gold (G. Bailey arr Frank Wright)
Adjudicators: Michael Fowles & Roger Webster

1. Oldham Band (Lees) (John Collins)*
2. St Dennis (Darren Hawken) *
3. Redbridge (Richard Ward)*
4. Skelmanthorpe (Martin Heartfield)*
5. Hatfield (Stan Lippeatt)
6. Yorkshire Imperial Urquhart Travel (Jack Capstaff)
7. Ratby Co-operative (Mareika Gray)
8. Blackburn & Darwen (Jonathan Bates)
9. Lydbrook (Glyn Williams)
10. TCTC Group (Jef Sparkes)
11. Aveley & Newham (Alan Duguid)
12. Dalmellington (Richard Evans)
13. Northop Silver (John Doyle)
14. Newtongrange Silver (Anne Crookston)
15. Goodwick Brass (Matthew Jenkins)
16. Kingdom Brass (Ian Porthouse)
17. Jackfield (Simon Platford) **
18. Burry Port Town (Gareth Robinson) **
19. Staffordshire (Jonathan Pippen)**
20. Unite the Union (City of Sheffield) (John Roberts)**

Best Instrumentalist: Benjamin Richeton (soprano) — Oldham Band (Lees)

*Promoted to the Grand Shield
** Relegated to the Senior Trophy

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