JAPAN'S RISING CORNET STAR - Chiaki Hirata talks to British Bandsman in an exclusive video interview

Issue 5974

THE UNFINISHED SYMPHONY: A CENTENARY CELEBRATION - Celebrating 100 years of Tullis Russell Mills Band

 GEARING UP FOR GATESHEAD - Extensive preview of the 42nd Brass in Concert Championships

North West Regional Championships - Championship Section LIVE!

Sunday 25 February, 2018

Championship Section

Opera House

Test-piece: Odyssey (Kevin Norbury)

Draw 1.30pm (commences following 4th section results)

Adjudicators: Derek Broadbent and Jim Davies

Paul Hindmarsh reporting

There are 11 bands for the judges to rank following performances of Kevin Norbury's test-piece. There is a break after band number 6.

Odyssey is all about delivering detail with precision, power (when required) and drama. It is a difficult piece to balance, musically and texturally. We have heard many different approaches to coping with its demands in terms of tempo and dynamics. In the end the three quality bands rose to the top, with quite a gap between them and the rest, as is traditionally the case here in the North West. Terrific result for VBS Poynton Band - 4th place for a dynamic,  individual reading, the best in its history. 

Results

1. Foden's (Professor Nicholas Childs)

2. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)

3. Fairey (Garry Cutt)

4. VBS Poynton (Stig Mærsk)

5. Pemberton Old Wigan DW (Ben Dixon)

6. Wingates (Paul Andrews)

7. Longridge (Mark Peacock)

8. TCTC Group (Jef Sparkes)

9. Rainford (Gareth Brindle)

10. Milnrow (Mark Bentham)

11. Ashton-under-Lyne (Phil Chalk)

Best Soprano: Richard Poole (Fodens)
Percussion Section: Leyland
Youngest Player: Adam Penlington (15)

 

In the BB Frame

1. Foden's (Professor Nicholas Childs)

2. Fairey (Garry Cutt)

3. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)

4. Milnrow (Mark Bentham)

5. TCTC Group (Jef Sparkes)

6. Pemberton Old Wigan DW (Ben Dixon)

 

11. TCTC Group (Jef Sparkes)

Jef Sparkes sets up the band with cornets left and right and hons through the middle with baritones and euphoniums in a line with basses at the back. Therefore the sound is very compact and top driven with no hiding place – we hear all the rights notes and the wrong ones! The piece sounds very different. Bags of power and excitement in the Allegro deciso tutti, but not everything sits comfortably at the speed adopted. It’s not the only performance where the cornet solo is shared with soprano. Sitting next to each other made this efficient. The set up works well here, contrasting forward and upward facing groupings. The finale is brusque in character and full of energy and no little skill. 

10. Vernon Building Society Poynton (Stig Mærsk)

Sensible opening tempo choice and a creditable performance through the tricky opening section. There is vitality if not compete control in the playing – a lower error count than some we’ve heard. The solo cornet negotiates his solo with aplomb, setting the tone for others to follow. Stig Maersk takes the finale at a lick – one of the fastest – and takes his players with him in an exuberant finale. This performsnce sounds like a step change in VBS Poynton's evolution.

9. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)

The Lutoslawski/Peter Graham influence on the opening is very evident here in the grip Leyland has on the rhythm. He soprano nails the tricky solo moment that so many have fluffed. The sound has some attack and presence, and above all some contrast. The tutti cornet melody is a bit scruffy but so much else is played with assurance and character. Taking the Allegro deciso at Foden’s speed (!) was a smart move, bringing the music dramatically to life. The exposed details are going in – well done horns and basses. The Irish hymn bristles with life and the details that follow are delicate and precise – terrific work in today’s context. Thomas Wyss builds momentum to the last note and them a long pause allows the energy before the cornet solo (a couple of tiny slips away from superb!). The hushed atmosphere throughout the slow music is beautifully projected. The finale is lively and crystal clear in texture, with power in reserve for the final stretch. This is as good a regional performance as I’ve heard from Leyland in a while!  

8. Wingates (Paul Andrews)

The music opening with purpose, and musical character – which was maintained – however, the level of slips and clips was very high throughout the first section, creating a scruffy surface! Things settled down somewhat in the tango style section and the delicate interplay before the entry of the hymn was successfully negotiated. Paul Andrews took a risk with tempo where others didn’t. Andy Macdonald’s tasteful cornet solo brought a measure of calm. The scherzo finds the band much more comfortable, if not always in tune, in the less exposed style – this suits their light sound - and the technical requirements. A spirited performance.

7. Longridge (Mark Peacock)

Longridge, like Milnrow, adopts a steady tempo at the start, but picks up at the Allegro to a more decisive speed, after which the ensemble is less secure. Exposed solos find the hard-working soloists at their limit, but they perform the hymn section well. Mark Peacock’s tempo in the slow movement keeps things moving. The finale exhibits an attractive lightness of touch.

6. Milnrow (Mark Bentham)

The opening few bars are steady and apart from a slip in the sop, are powerful and accurate. Trombones are crisp and the playing overall is pretty error free, but the measured tempo will account for that. There is much less risk of accidents at this speed and more time to make an expressive gesture – a clever contesting approach from Mark Bentham. I like the way he sets up the Be Thou My Vision reference. The solo cornet doesn’t have his best day on the solo, but the rest of the band isn’t phased and develops an appropriately tender atmosphere – lovely euphonium moment towards the end. The scherzo tempo is firmly established. Rhythmic detail is under control accurately played to a spirited conclusion to a secure performance.  

5. Foden's (Professor Nicholas Childs)

There is a brilliance, range of colour and ‘poke’ in the Foden’s cornet sound that suits this music well. However, one has to measure the brilliance of the sound, the demonstration of virtuosity against precision of ensemble and there were some bumpy moments, notably the accel. into the Allegro deciso section. The hymn tune section could have been more incisive, but that is a subjective point. The slow movement is beautiful, but perhaps not quite as tender as Fairey’s, but Mark Wilkinson’s solo soared out into the dead Opera House acoustic.The finale cuts a dash – the Irish reel moment brilliantly captured. There was a slight rocky moment going into the final bars, but there was so much else that was razor sharp with clarity and presence.

4. Ashton-under-Lyne (Phil Chalk)

The determined air of the start took on a more frenetic cast as the technical demands of the top line grew in severity. There were many small slips under the pressure of rapid articulation or leaping gestures. However, the first part ended strongly. The central section had its moments – good ones from solo cornet in particular. The finale goes at express pace – exciting and energetic and with bags of contrast.  The band’s tutti sound is resonant and has some range and capacity to build. Howaever, the final chord was overblown.

3. Pemberton Old Wigan DW (Ben Dixon)

Plenty of intent and spirit in this performance with some strong moments, but also some uncomfortable ones – lapses in pitching and errant rhythmic coordination are the most obvious in the first section. Not all the solos are completely secure and from the interpretative aspects – the succession of short episodes do not always gel into a cohesive journey. The contributions from solo cornet, euphonium and trombone are confident and characterful. The short finale could have cut more of a dash to provide the thrilling counterpoint to the journey of the first part of the piece, but lots to like about the performance too. 

2. Fairey (Garry Cutt)

The Fairey players seem to have more time to make the filigree detail tell and Gary Cutt brings greater contrast of tempi to the reading, building in drama. Tango detail comes across well. The bass end solos (basses and euphs) are sharply delivered and almost all of the cornet detail is crisp and accurate – delicate when needed. There is a growing sense of drama and drive towards the full statement of the hymn tune ‘Slane’ and building momentum towards the change of mood for the slow melody – delivered with poise and restraint by Brian Taylor. Trombone and euphonium solos are expressive and there is a subtly to the lyrical interplay (developing the composer’s own setting of the familiar Irish hymn) that engages the ear. The joyful playfulness of the final dance contrasts well and the building of drama and intensity towards the brief finale balances the first section’s expansiveness with its triumphant power. Terrific performance from band. Soloists and conductor.

1. Rainford (Gareth Brindle)

The first part of Odyessy is a note fest – requiring huge resources of energy, agile techniques, articulation and ability to explore rapidly the full range of instruments. Tempo choices in the first part were sensible and the band sounded strong and confident. A lot of finessed detail was just sketched in but the overall effect of growing confidence and power was well captured. The slow middle section with its extended solos for cornet and euphonium will be the testing ground for many performances today. Here solo cornet was poignant and the band sound restrained but expressive. The final dance, with its Irish twist, is rather short, so it has to pack a punch. Here was plenty of energy and excitement here, but probably more to be found in terms of sound and drama. A nice touch to emphasise the little reference to the Lord of all Hopefulness tune towards the end. 

 

Draw

1. Rainford (Gareth Brindle)

2. Fairey (Garry Cutt)

3. Pemberton Old Wigan DW (Ben Dixon)

4. Ashton-under-Lyne (Phil Chalk)

5. Foden's (Professor Nicholas Childs)

6. Milnrow (Mark Bentham)

7. Longridge (Mark Peacock)

8. Wingates (Paul Andrews)

9. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)

10. Vernon Building Society Poynton (Stig Mærsk)

11. TCTC Group (Jef Sparkes)