THE ULTIMATE GOAL - Full Regionals coverage from Bedworth, Perth and Torquay

Issue 5989

THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IN BRASS BANDS? How do brass bands ensure they have a future?

THE SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE - David Read discusses the pieces that have made the most impact on him

Midlands Regional Championships - Championship Section LIVE!

Sunday 10 March, 2019

1 Desford Colliery

 2 Virtuosi GUS

 3 Ratby Co-op

 4 Foresters Brass

5 Blidworth Welfare

6 Jaguar Land Rover

7 SPAL Sovereign

8 Langley

9 Derwent

10 Thoresby Colliery

11 Rushden Town

12 Hathern

 

Derek Broadbent - nobody sank but a few took on some water. Looking for bands to tell  a story and paint  a picture. 

 

Brett Baker - a tough test particularly in terms of layering and textures and nobody cam away unscathed. Looking for a musical picture.

 

Adjudicators are out and about to speak.

 

Round up and prediction

it has been a disappointing standard today with a small group at the top and a much bigger group battling for the lower places. The winners stand out for me and second and third pick themselves easily today with clear gaps between these three and a bigger gap to fourth. 4-8 is tricky as there's were some sensibly played renditions from perhaps slightly less good bands with some decent playing let down by a reading that didn't engage at all which makes it so much harder to choose. As it is a band contest not a conductor contest I have gone for playing over reading today. I have no personal doubt about the first three places but it's much more open to interpretation in the next four or five. Again, just my opinion and it counts for nowt ultimately.

 

Prediction

1 Desford

2 GUS

3 Ratby

4 Thoresby

5 Foresters 

6 Langley

 

 

 

We end today with Langley and it's a mixed bag to open with some warm confident sounds undone with scruffy entries. The link into the allegro furioso gets legged up with the band taking off ahead of the conductor slightly. Once in their stride it is well organised and structured and we get to hear lots of clear detail. This is solid stuff the lead coming from the middle and driven along by the powerhouse bass trom who is certainly enjoying himself. A decent start. A few clonks to start the second movement but some young soloists are starting to shine. It's really pretty good and a band that is really having a real go today and having a good day overall.  The cornet duet is lovely and again there haven't been many of those. The movement just falters right at the end with players dropping off. Another conductor who is getting the best from his band by sensîble tempo choice. Unlike some the standard of playing has been consistent between the movements. The band struggle for clarity in the doubling but they are not alone in that today. A very creditable show.

 

 

Ratby are the penultimate band of the weekend in the brightest of bright blue shirts. Another steady Eddie start with slightly over prominent flugel line. This is a tidy good sounding band no doubt. Good attention to detail and really well graded dynamics are a feature. It's well organised and rehearsed and this makes it all quite convincing. It's good playing without that final musical layer of passion  but well placed in today's line up. Safe close although nowhere near pp. movement two moves nicely along with authentic tempo choice and some shapely phrasing heard. Solid and sensible stuff this and it has been a day with that in short supply at times. Doing what it says is the key with this piece - the man knew how to write for bands so just do it - nothing else is needed really. The last movement is really pacy and driven but well played still with the technique to deliver albeit with some loss of clarity. This is heading for a podium place if it's continues as it's a small group at the top today. The clarity in the faster section should is impressive and we have heard so little of it today. Safe and solid with lots of good virtues and not much that went wrong puts this much nearer the top today than the other end. Ratby have been 4th the last three years and this should be right thereabouts again,

Blidworth Welfare start solidly with a well chosen tempo and relatively smooth transitions with good solo and duet contributions. It's just a bit loose at times which spoils the picture which isn't bad overall at all. The band play confidently and this is not a piece to tip toe around today as it has shown its teeth on many occasions. This is more than holding its own so far despite some ragged moments with a few percussion entries not quite in the right slot. The second movement starts lumpily but the sensible direction gets it back quickly. The duets again prove a stumbling block for some players. This performance is scoring well due to the really sensible leadership - intelligent and faithful to the score. That alone is making all the difference here. No histrionics just sensible Brass band playing. The last movement is pacy but the semis really lack clarity and some individual contributions are not quite there which is a shame. The central section of this last movement has caught so many out as it's bare and random with hard solo interjections which have proved to be real traps. There has been a pattern today of good first movements less good second and weak third movements and this band is following that pattern. A band that made the most of its opportunity through sensible leadership. 

 

GUS now again with new leadership and Chris Jeans in front of the band at the Area for the first las time Chris was involved with this piece he was playing for Desford at the Finals and we know how that ended. A steady start with warm sounds from the middle and bottom end. Tempos are carefully considered and link well with smooth transitions. It's highly accurate with lots of crystal clear detail heard and security around the band. It builds really well and the drive never becomes uncomfortable leading into a fine and rhythmic section. Flugel and trom not perfectly in tune to close but the cornet chord is smack on if a little top heavy. The second movement starts very steadily giving James Fountain chance to shine on the early solos. Cant help feeling this needs to move on slightly. Feel ever so slightly ponderous and sticky albeit with lovely playing. Shapely warm playing with some heartfelt phrasing is very appealing through this mid section. Care is taken over note values and clearly defined articulation. The duets are dispatched well with the cornets the pick of the bunch. This is good quality playing with some real soul. Fabulous close to the movement - a real musical moment. Pacey driven start to the final section. The lower band double semis arent crystal clear but it's very good playing generally - organised and structured. The build is really ther when needed and the detail and technique in the cornets is exemplary. This is pushing Desford close today. An unfortunate early entry near the end was such a pity but soon corrected and the detail and dynamics are so well observed making it genuinely exciting. A good show and clearly right up there. Less clinically accurate than Desford but perhaps a little more emotional. 

Hathern now with John Hudson after his recent front row stint for the Mrs. Sensible tempos takes us through the opening section and there is security and organisation. Some very untidy moments appear when the band and percussion  part company for a few bars. The movement ends well after an untidy minute or so but the last chord is not in tune. The second movement is more of the same with a lot of good work momentarily undone with mispitching and splashy entries. Like so many other bands today they are working so hard to just play it the finer points of the music are lost. The duets again cost them so dearly as with other bands this area of the piece is like an expected vortex in the ocean swallowing up the unsuspecting. The final moments suffer from real untunefulness sadly.  This is another performance that seemed to start reasonably well and get progressively worse as it goes on. A performance that showed early promise but sprung an early leak and floundered more and more as it progressed. 

 

 

We resume with Derwent Brass again with new leadership. It's immediately uncomfortable with fragile entries all around in the opening decorative patterns. The band has a warm sound but the little transitions between sections aren't well organised and end up sounding untidy. The allegro furioso is very brisk probably the fastest today so far. Those new batteries in the metronome weren't a good idea it's a bit of a scramble. The style is fine but it's too fast to get played accurately. The final coda is manic and no detail comes through. Too brash and pacey for me. The second movement is very articulated in style which makes it lumpy rather than smooth. There is a real attempt to shape the music but perhaps overdone in the poco ralls and then it shoots forward again. Less is more here and it's too pushed and pulled constantly it's becoming very self indulgent. Again the little duets are proving very tough to play it seems with fallers at nearly every hurdle. It's dramatic for sure but it's all so overwrought the simplicity of the music is lost. An unusual one very different to anything else today and not better for it really. The last movement is full ahead and man the gunwales steaming along at a rip roaring pace. This performance has been one of extremes all the way in terms of shapes, dynamics and pacing. A closer adherence to the instructions on the score would have made sense of this bizarre show. Bonkers and not in a good way. This was a really strange performance indeed. Manic at times and just out of control too often. 

 

 Half time round up

 

A very inconsistent first half apart from Desford who were super. Not one of the other five bands convinced us although they all had their strengths and weaknesses. From a playing point of view Thoresby probably delivered more than most in terms of accuracy but it wasn't an interesting or engaging performance at all. Jags were so inconsistent with some very good but some very uncomfortable moments especially in the centre. Foresters sounded a really decent band but it was all heavy and scruffy at times. Sovereign suffered from a slow and fussy reading which seemed to leg them up. Rushden will have enjoyed themselves today. For me it's is Desford on their own followed by (with little confidence) Thoresby on playing and accuracy then Foresters and Jags. 

 

Jaguar Land Rover 

The band's first outing without Dave Lea who seems to have been there since the 1800s. It's the fastest opening tempo yet with nice flow and some lilt. It's all well negotiated but a touch scrambled at this pace at times. It steams along well but uncomfortable individual contributions spoil tthe picture as it's splashy. Safe and secure close. Two starts uncomfortably and it seems quite articulated for the music to flow. Tuning and blend is letting them down at times which is a pity as there are many nice stylistic touches from the middle. Too many individual sound so appear from within the sections which lack blend and intonation is not spot on. Again the duets are taking a toll with cornets and trombones not comfortable at all. Such a pity as this started really well but this is proving tough. Interesting ideas about the style of this dance with note lengths and stresses featuring but the playing doesn't quite match the intent. The final movement charges off a touch which makes it scruffy and the bell sounds like a scaffold pole. This hasn't been a frustrating performance of such inconsistencies one moment sounding really good and then it wanders off for twenty bars. This final movement isn't lacking clarity in the doubling and cornet tuning is hurting them badly now. One that promised much early on but lost its way too many times along the voyage. 

Desford Colliery 

The pre contest favourites take the stage now confident after their convincing Butlins win in January. They are also the band that won the Finals on this work in 1988 under James Watson. Immediately the balanced Andy broad sound impresses although the horn motif isn't perfectly in time throughout. This is playing of a different quality with style, substance and clarity for the first time today. Such a marked difference to what we have heard so far. It all makes such perfect sense when it works this well. Tiniest of moments of untidiness in percussion just before the end. Super close. Tiny clip to start but the conductor allows it to flow with sensible direction that doesn't get in the way at all. It's simple and doesn't need to be fussed over when it's like this.  Each section links up and smooth transitions are heard for the first time again. The dance feel is just right with elegance and some bounce it's a Sarabande at last. Fabulous bass sound at the close smooth and rich. Hard to fault this. As soon as I said that the opening of movement three clanged into action with a nasty cornet pick up. Soon forgotten it moves on well with confidence but just the odd mispitch appears. It's fine playing but not quite as good as earlier with the odd bit of intonation within the cornet and bass section. Some really well graded and sudden dynamic changes really enhance this toward the final close. Messy interjection but a rousing finish to a really fine show. Final movement the weakest of the three but playing of a different level so far today.

Foresters Brass

Robust mf start but the playing is rhythmic and confident. Being dynamically  up pretty much constantly makes it easier but then sloppy imprecise entries spoil it. Loose ensemble marks the allegro furioso but the band are certainly going for this and it's the most full blooded account yet. No prisoners taken with that first movement. Let's see what they can do with the quieter playing and again the dynamic is generous straight away. It's a good sounding band but it tends towards heaviness so often the lightness of touch needed in this dance is absent. Security over style at the moment. Solid and secure rather than elegant and shapely. The band are following the conductors lead here and it's is strong stuff with intent and they are trying to capture the essence of the music albeit without ever actually playing quietly. It will be up to the adjudicators if this is rewarded or punished at the end of the day. The stringendo pushes on so hard it nearly falls on its face and it's a bit of a scramble into the the close. Not bad at all but a risky strategy to ignore so many quieter moments.

 

SPAL Sovereign 

Warm start but again steady and sub-divided spoils the lilt and flow early on. Allegro furioso has more energy and drive  as expected but more furioso is needed. It's a good band sound when it gets going and certainly the biggest yet heard today. Energetic drive to the movement close brings some much needed excitement and the final repose is scruffy in the cornets with some very uncomfortable tuning on the final cornet chord. A steady second movement follows which at times nearly stops - it needs to flow more as it sounds fine when it does. The central dance section with the featured duets is messy and pedestrian - this is uncomfortable and it's mainly the slow pace to blame. There is lots of pace and drive to start the final movement but we can't really hear much in the way of clarity and the double tongued semis cant be heard clearly. There is an increasing error count now in the middle of this final movement and again the technique is unconvincing at times. The final slow section is marred by wrong entries and mispitching in cornets. A frustrating one with some good band sounds but some strange decision making - simple music at times made extra complicated by so much unhelpful sub-division. 

 

Rushden Town

Looking at the past prize winners it shows the amazing progress made by this band since 2014 when they won the 3rd section. This marks their debut in the top section. Solid start and the tempo flows but a few decorative details get lost. It's well organised with a compact sound but a lack of blend in the cornets catches the ear. There is some furioso but the ensemble rocks and sways a bit too. Some upper lines are struggling to be heard and the technique isn't quite all there. Ending is balanced and in tune. It is a busy day for the husband and wife team here with Adele conducting now and John Hudson playing before he conducts Hathern later on. The band are mirroring this hard work with great effort. A little unbalanced to the final chords. Not totally technically secure to open and the ships bell is also a little timid. These rougher waters in the third movement are testing the band. This music is providing a very stern test now as we head for the final section and we are nearly given a cardiac arrest with the most almighty sudden tam tam moment. Band and conductor couldn't have worked harder today and they should be pleased with their efforts. A tough test for their debut.

 

 

 Thoresby 

A very tentative and slow start is made and it's all a bit fragile. Once it gets going it improves but there is a not a lot of furioso to the allegro furioso it's all a bit tame so far. It's a slight breeze not quite the tempestuous ocean waves at the moment. Decent and balanced close to the movement. Movement two starts in similar vein - some phrasing and shape is heard but it lacks much passion to the lead lines. The central dance section is a series of duets which are reasonably played but it is so 'mattter of fact' in style it lacks character in this characterful music. The end of the movement is louder than marked but we still lose some of the chord. The final movement has drive and tempo but the dynamics are all underplayed so that the contrast is missing. The playing really isn't bad at all and the players deliver well on the whole but it is a bland picture of beige on beige matching the conductor's jacket. A greater dynamic range particularly top and bottom would have added to the excitement which was missing when needed. Lots of potential in the band but so much more interest and excitement could have been present but sadly wasn't. 

 

 

 

Ding ding round one 

The adjudicators today are Derek Broadbent and Brett Baker. Band number one are taking the stage. Thoresby qualified three times in the last ten years in second place to GUS each time 2011, 2016 and 2017. Can they repeat that feat off number one or even go one better and win? That is a tough call today but we'll soon see and hear what they have to offer.

Draw 

1 Thoresby

2 Rushden Town

3 SPAL Sovereign Brass

4 Foresters Brass

5 Desford Colliery

6 Jaguar Landrover

7Derwent Brass

8 Hathern

9 Virtuosi GUS

10 Blidworth Welfare

11 Ratby Co-op

12 Langley

 

Jeremy Wise reporting:

I'm sitting in the cafe with a cup of tea waiting for the second section to finish. The draw has been done and we should be underway in the next hour or so. We'll post the draw once the adjudicators are in the box. 

I played Seascapes in 1988 - I was bumper up for Halls Oxford with my father on second euph. It's a fine work by a master of composition and scoring for brass band in particular. It's not the hardest technically by today's standards but poses great challenges in balancing the thick scoring and textures. It's a piece for organised and detailed conductors who ask their players to respect the balance needed to get everything heard. No huge solos today but it's a very testing ensemble piece for sure.

An interesting day is promised and I'll try to paint some pictures for you.