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Butlins Mineworkers Open Brass Band Festival 2006

Date: Saturday 21st January 
Test piece: A Cavendish Suite, Iain Raynert
Adjudicators: Buckley and Simone Rebello
Venue: Crazy Horse Theatre, Butlins Skyline Resort


For Brian and Simone that was most readily heard in the performances of the winners and runners up, Thoresby Colliery Youth and Waterbeach Brass, and there was little you could disagree with them about their final placings. 

Thoresby benefited greatly from quite excellent direction from their MD, Christine Gent who certainly brought her years of experience in playing in the Championship Section to bear on her very young band.

Thorseby only had three adult players in the ranks, whilst the rest of the band was teenagers and below. Christine chose sensible tempos, balanced ensemble and intelligent dynamics and her charges responded brilliantly. The first movement marked Grandioso' is meant to portray the Grand Hall and there was a need for the bands to play with a sense of pomp and a little swagger. Christine achieved this by ensuring they didn't overblow and making sure the semi quaver work was spaced and not rushed, even when the tempo marking went up a notch or two to 132.

The second movement, A Walk in the Garden' was perhaps musically the most taxing, asking questions of dynamic balance in particular and of the ability of solo lines to play with the marked expression. Again, Christine kept the volume down, the balance tight and allowed her young solo players the chance to shine. Notably her soprano player Shaun Pepper and flugel Joanna Wilmott shone, but so did others, and the cornet section in particular can take a great deal of credit for balancing with the main soprano line in the tricky muted section at rehearsal letter J. Not everyone took a much care about this as they did. 

That just left the final movement, the upbeat The Riding House' marked Allegro 120, but with some nasty technical moments to overcome in the shape of some tricky rhythms (especially the dotted quaver, semi quaver, quaver 6/8 meter) that underpinned the movement's shape.

Again, Christine allowed the music to flow without recourse to ratcheting up the speed, and so by the time the piece came to an end, the overall approach and execution left you with a real sense of understanding of the subject matter. It was not an error free performance by any means, but it was an intelligent and thoughtful one.

Christine was obviously delighted when we spoke to her after the announcement of the results, when she had finally got her hands on the 1200 first prize and the winners trophy. "I can't really believe it," she said. "We are such a young band, with only the three adult players, but everyone has worked so hard and they all deserve the success today. It was a lovely piece to play and the youngsters in particular enjoyed it. We really like coming to Butlins because the band can enjoy themselves, and tonight we will certainly be having a great time."

Iwan Fox