Issue 5970

Egon Virtuosi Brass - An inside story

The Owen Farr Seminar - the first in a monthly series of brass masterclasses by the tenor horn virtuoso

Besses Boys' Band - Celebrating 75 years

Grimethorpe Youth Band feature

LIVE - Midland Regional Championships - Championship Section

Sunday 12 March, 2017

Adjudicators: Philip Harper and Leigh Baker

Test-piece: Pageantry (Herbert Howells)

Paul Hindmarsh reporting


1. Virtuosi GUS (Adam Cooke)

2. Thoresby Colliery (Ian McElligott)

3. Desford Colliery (Thomas Wyss)

4. Ratby Co-operative (Mareika Gray)

5. Derwent Brass (Keith Leonard)

6. Jaguar Land Rover (Dave Lea)


In the BB Frame*

1. Virtuosi GUS (Adam Cooke)

2. Desford Colliery (Thomas Wyss)

3. Jaguar Land Rover (Dave Lea)

4. Thoresby Colliery (Ian McElligott)

5. Staffordshire (Steven Walsh)

6. Bilton Silver (Rugby) (David Stowell)


 *NOT the official result!  



1.Thoresby Colliery (Ian McElligott)

2.Spal Sovereign Brass (Trevor Jones)

3. Blidworth Welfare (Martin Heartfield)

4.Virtuosi GUS (Adam Cooke)

5. Desford Colliery (Thomas Wyss)

6. Bedworth Brass (Chris Houlding)

7.Ratby Co-operative (Mareika Gray)

8.Derwent Brass (Keith Leonard)

9.Jaguar Land Rover (Dave Lea)

10.Newstead Brass (Phil Goodwin)

11.Jackfield (Simon Platford)

12. Staffordshire (Steven Walsh)

13. Bilton Silver (Rugby) (David Stowell)



13. Bilton Silver (Rugby) (David Stowell)

King’s Herald: The sounds is full-on and there is plenty of effort on show, but a lot of the close detail is missing. A little less volume and greater focus on clean lines and unified articulation might have paid greater dividends.

Cortege: one of the cleaner openings – nicely executed by baritones and horn. Solo cornet and trombone are also effective. The climax is rather aggressive, but the final bars are lovely – what a mixture.
Jousts: Bumper-up solo cornet executes her jousting fanfare very well, setting the tone for a much more varied diet of musical expression – some welcome contrasts of articulation and phrasing. Plenty of effort here as the volume rises, but again detail and finesse are sacrificed.
In places this was a creditable performance.

12. Staffordshire (Steven Walsh)

King’s Herald: Another scruffy opening, but the general approach is tight and controlled. The middle section is louder than some, but not all the voices are played cleanly. The tempo is stable, however, and the build up is sustained through to the reprise. The movement ends strongly with clear semi-quavers – not everyone has achieved that.

Cortege: A comfortable dynamic enables the baritones to play and the horn solo still comes. The solo cornet is a bit ‘vibby’ for my taste but the notes are there and phrased appropriately. The speed seems spot on at 80 crotchets and what a difference that makes to playing the movement. The solo cornet line in the big tune could have been blended more subtly. Not perhaps the most expressive reading we’ve heard, but the notes were delivered.
Jousts: Solo cornet experiences some navigation problems, but the signposts seem clearer when the full band comes in. I like the lift in the horn and cornet trios in the middle section. The detail comes through well at the back end of the piece, as Steven winds up for the big finish, which is a tad scruffy to be honest.

11.Jackfield (Simon Platford)

King’s Herald: This got off to a terrific start – I’m enjoying the trumpet like style – just a bit edgy at times. Lots of detail going in, although it is less secure when exposed. Simon is certainly not hanging around, but his band is responsive and seems to be coping well. Was it getting a bit too aggressive by the end for the judges, who are sitting quite close to the bands? I’m right at the back.

Cortege: This is not so secure and although the solo horn is lovely, the hardness of attack from the trombone trio and sol cornet disturbs the mood and flow. A ‘clip’ contagion is stemmed by the tutti return of the main tune. The movement ends on a quietly controlled note – nicely done.

Jousts: Nice job at the start solo cornet, and thank you Simon and the band for not including the additional timpani notes during the last bar of the cornet solo – they do not work for me. The quiet playing is a welcome relief from so much at full bore. By the end (really fast by the way) the double fortes are sounding shrill and tired – not surprising.

10.Newstead Brass (Phil Goodwin)

King’s Herald: Quite a few bands have knocked a few fanfare notes over this afternoon – Newstead joined the club. This is brisk in tempo, but not as controlled or secure in detail as the previous band.

Cortege: A nicely-judged tempo from MD Phil Goodwin but another pearly start for baritones. The solo horn shines here as in the first movement. It’s not the warmest solo cornet tone we’ve heard today, but the young soloist copes well. Quite a lot of expressive detail is not being highlighted – like the precipitous demi-semiquaver fall of the cornets - but the movement ends on a poignant note.

Jousts: The playful mood is captured in a spirited approach. The general picture is appealing, and as the movement unfolds the band gains in confidence and consistency. The basses really go for it at the end – good job guys!

9.Jaguar Land Rover (Dave Lea)

King’s Herald: A clean, purposeful start – the contrasts of articulation and dynamic catch the ear. The subtle changes of tempo work well and we are always listening out for the net point of interest. The bass tread in the middle of the movement caries us along. We never lose the sense of direction. The band’s attention to note lengths (especially long ones) is noteworthy. Well shaped and delivered.

Cortege: Baritones note quite together on the first notes, but they soon blend well with a fine solo horn. Trombones come in discretely as marked. The tutti cornet and euphonium lines are plaintive and with the horns lilting beautifully this opens out expressively. I’m enjoying the interplay between the ‘voices’ here. Having kept the pulse going, the big climax is really effective. Keeping the music flowing was the key to success of this movement compared to some others.

Jousts: Not bad from solo cornet – lacked a bit of poise perhaps – but all the notes were there, and there so much crisp detail being conveyed as the movement unfolds – one of the ‘happiest’ accounts of the day. There are some minor fluffs but the music making is of quality. All the 'voices' are interacting so well to complete the musical pictures. And the pause before the start of the reprise – electric! A resolute ending.


8.Derwent Brass (Keith Leonard)

King’s Herald: A muscular sound but scruffy in detail from the first bar. Once we hit Fieramente, things gel better, but there a still split notes at key moments. The music is rushing as well, so we lose shape and detail. It’s exciting though. The tricky ending isn’t co-ordinated between timp and the band.

Cortege: not all the baritone notes sound, but the solo horn’s line comes across effectively. The trombone trio doesn’t balance. The tempo is slow, details from cornet and horns not always secure and that crucial sense of forward motion – it is a meant to convey a solemn processional -  is not consistent.

Jousts: The cornet fanfare is played, but could have been more rhythmical and that’s the key issue generally here – the music rushes. Momentum can be maintained without losing the pulse. By the end the music time we approach the main theme reprise, the breaks have to go on big time! Plenty of excitement here, but at the expense of control and that magisterial splendour than characterizes the finish.

7.Ratby Co-operative (Mareika Gray)

King’s Herald: Not the cleanest of starts, but the band is soon into its stride – brisk, tight in ensemble and a light tone (just three tubas on show). The fanfare details and textural layers are well-organised and prioritised. The fast approach works for much of the time, but the ending sounded rushed and lost some cohesion.

Cortege: nicely done at the start baritones, but solo horn could have projected out a touch more, like the solo cornet. There is attention being paid to the lines here, but at such a low dynamic some players are not able to sustain. The breadth of the tutti reprise is encouraging, as is the solo cornet’s response. The big moment could have demonstrated a more powerful tone. Overall the movement needed a higher dynamic perhaps.

Jousts: The solo cornetist is having a very good day. Well done at the start! Not the most energetic jousts we’ve heard. Most of the detail goes in, but it needs consistently to feel progressive towards the majesty of the reprise of the main theme. Having said that, there is a lot of neat playing on show.

6.Bedworth Brass (Chris Houlding)

King’s Herald: Under tempo at the start, and rather scruffy in the cornets. Fieramente – the tempo lifts and the playing is much more secure now, with some varied touches of dynamic and articulation. The soprano cornet player is challenged by his part, but the band is clearly working for stand- in conductor Chris Houlding – lucky band! He is bringing all his experience to bear in getting the best out of his players.  

Cortege: A very nervy start from baritones and horns and the insecurities with this kind of exposed writing continue. The musical intentions are not in doubt, but the execution is on the limit one senses.
Jousts: A brave attempt at the start, and the uplifting character of the music comes across. The speed is sensible, given the band’s capabilities, and there some fine moments here when everyone is playing. Pageantry was a tough call for the local team, but their effort is to be applauded.

5. Desford Colliery (Thomas Wyss)

King’s Herald: Desford is making a bold, cohesive sound, but the opening cornet fanfares were not completely clean. Thomas Wyss is bringing the same values to this performance as he did with Leyland in Blackpool – crisp, direct, symphonic, influenced by the approach of Howard Snell with Britannia in the early 1990s. Nicholas Hudson from those days is on first trombone. Matthew White sounding well on principal euphonium too.

Cortege: Lovely flowing start from solo horn and principal cornet, but there are some intonation and blend issues in horns and top-line cornets. The expansive reading captures my imagination however. And the dynamic range is huge in this intimate venue. A slight wobble from the soprano at the end and minor intonation concerns are clearly audible
Jousts: Great start and loads of detail to follow but could be more playful here and there. There is a relentlessness about the approach here, but sense of triumph to. Some brilliant ensemble playing and a high-octane finish

4.Virtuosi GUS (Adam Cooke)

King’s Herald: With both Fountain brothers on the front row, the opening was bound to set the pulses racing – as it most certainly did! We hear the full brilliance of King’s Herald for the first time this afternoon, and all the inner workings of the harmony and counterpoint are set against it with a swagger. The speed is up, but the music seems to have more time to resound. The surges of bass tone are filling the hall. There is so much vigour and energy, but the final notes were not quite in tune!

Cortege: Tender baritones sit comfortable in support of a languid solo horn. This is slow but the quality of the soloist’s line holds it all together. Thomas Fountain is excellent in his cameo solo and the top-line is beautifully blended. The intensity through the tenuto chords engages the ears. There is plaintive melancholy as well as rich pathos here. The breadth of phrasing is impressive and the ending genuinely touching – gorgeous.

Jousts: Thomas Fountain lays down the gauntlet with aplomb. This is fast but crisp as you like in detailing – loving the repeated semi-quavers. This cuts a brilliant dash and ends in resolute and blazing fashion, as if to say, beat that! I wonder if anyone will?
A mature and authoritative account.

 3.Blidworth Welfare (Martin Heartfield)

King’s Herald: After a minute smudge on the opening semis, we hear a determined non-nonsense approach. Some of the semiquaver detailing is being glossed over, but overall this is a pretty clean, if unrefined effort so far. Fig. 8 doesn’t quite ‘fit’, but this is an encouraging opening from a newly promoted band. A touch more ‘front’ on the notes from cornets would have lifted this substantially.

Cortege: Intonation within phrases is an issue here for the soloists and accompanying duettists, but the speed is good. There are production and blend issues in the top solo cornet line but the intensity overall builds well to the tutti reprise of that wonderful tune. Lovely finish

Jousts: Solo cornet splashes a few, but the intentions are good. There is some loss of vigour and tension when the volume drops and individual parts are more exposed, but all eyes are clearly focused on the rousing ending. The band needs to be careful not to overblow in the excitement of the final bars. But a decent effort.

2.Spal Sovereign Brass (Trevor Jones)

King’s Herald: The solo cornets are little sharp and the attack is a touch fierce at the opening. I’m hearing plenty of bass trombone, but not quite balanced from cornets, where the detail isn’t always pristine. Tension drops in the quiet middle section, where disciplines also fall away a tad. Details smudge in the last few bars.

Cortege: Nicely done baris. Troms take over naturally, but the tempo is a little slow for soloists’ and top line comfort throughout.  At fig. 3 the tenuto crotchets in the lower band are rather spread and not unified in approach, and therefore focus. If only it had been a notch faster, we’d not have heard so many pearly entries.
Jousts: Steady speed, but not that stable. Solo cornet is insecure but the tutti band soon takes better control. I’m enjoying the clarity of the horn entry in the middle, but the other detail lacked projection. The Piu mosso (fig. 11) is well handled and the drive to a determined finish reveals the band at its best.

1.Thoresby Colliery (Ian McElligott)

 King’s Herald: Tempo is spot on and the heraldic style well captured as you’d expect with former military man Ian McElligott on the podium. Some deft articulation – every detail can be heard in the intimate acoustic of the Civic Hall. There a few tiny indiscretions, but nothing major. It just needs to sparkle a touch more for me. Excellent start that bodes well for the contest ahead  

Cortege: This is where it counts, and the nervous entry of solo horn and hesitant baritones will undoubtedly count in the final reckoning. Also lack of sustained quality and balance of tone by the trombones. The reverential atmosphere is well caught and once again the tempo and character is appropriate in the central tutti. I’m enjoying the solo cornet’s contribution.  Some uncertainly towards the end, but the band is going for the atmosphere- great last chord!

Jousts: Steady tempo at the start, with a decent attempt by the principal cornet, but a little unsteady a couple of times. I’m appreciating the way the MD allows the music to grow from a modest start. He conveys the bigger picture with authority and produced the biggest sound for the final reprise of the main theme.
A persuasive reading and determined performance to start us off.