The Spring Brass Band Festival, held at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool (made up of the Senior Trophy, Senior Cup and the Grand Shield Contests), are the qualifying contests for The British Open Brass Band Championship, held at Symphony Hall, Birmingham every September.
The Test Piece for our Contest, the Senior Cup, was Frank Wright's arrangement of 'Diadem of Gold', which was has been used several times for major Finals of the Brass Band world, the last being the British Open in 1977, won by Black Dyke. It is certainly challenging, but perhaps in a different way to the current crop of 'technical' challenges - this is down to band sound and interpretation, and, most important of all - individual players contributions.Having played it before, many of us knew what a test it would be................... and so it proved!
As last year, the preparation time was affected by Easter and the first May Bank Holiday, together with this year, a spate of maladies including chest infections, breathing problems and the inability of some to get their brains 'in gear'!
So it was a challenge for our new Resident Conductor Jonathan Pippen as well.
However, despite all the negativity, the work was put in and gradually, note-by-note, the performance improved.....
After the final rehearsal on Wednesday, everything was set for the trip up to Blackpool on Friday 10th May, in time for our proposed rehearsal at 8.00pm at our usual rehearsal room, in a disco above a Working Mens Club!!!!
The journey to Blackpool, usually so long and tedious in the Band Van, erupted almost literally approaching Preston in the M6 North as suddenly the engine lost power (which at 70mph was a tad alarming!!) and a 'swift' exit from the motorway was needed. Upon coming to a halt, checks were made to the engine bay without finding any errant water leaks, or indeed, anything that could have caused the problem.
So a mystery - so near, yet so far.
Anyway, after a delay of about 10 minutes, the engine temperature fell back to normal and a decision was made to try and make the final 20-odd miles to Blackpool. 'Speeding' along at 50mph down the M55 wasn't going to attract the attention of any speed guns, that's for sure, but with all eyes on the temperature guage, we started to make progress albeit at a snail's pace!
Finally the Tower peaked out of the almost sunny sky and it began to look good for a succesful last slice of the journey.
And so it proved as eventually the van arrived at the Band's home for the weekend, but a different one to our usual abode which was having some 'internals' fixed in it's kitchen........... no further explanation needed here.
The van made it's final trip to the Rehearsal Club without mishap - the Band were ready!
The rehearsal later (with some underfloor sound effects from a 65th Birthday Party) under Resident (of 2) Conductor, Jonathan Pippen went well and soon the Band were tucked 'soundlessly' in bed ready for the challenges the next day.
The sun shone on the Saturday Morning, which in itself was astonishing as the sun rarely shines when the Band is in Blackpool.
Anyhow at 11.00am the Band were again rehearsing, ready for the results of the draw - which turned out to be 17th out of 20 bands and a mid/late afternoon performance beckoned.
Some of the Band went for lunch, others to listen to a performance or 3, but come 3.00pm, we had arrived at the changing room, ready for our challenge.
And that came and went in a flash..................... woosh!
Overall it was a very creditable performance with some very fine playing on show, especially from Sheila Draycott on the fearsome Soprano Cornet part, along with many others too.
Being close to the end of all the band performances, it wasn't long until we were waiting (for ages as it turned out) for the results to be announced....................
The results were:-
The Senior Cup:
Test Piece: Diadem of Gold (G. Bailey arr Frank Wright)
1. Oldham Band (Lees) (John Collins)*
So that was that...............................
Some of the Band sped off home immediately, others to savour the delights of a Blackpool Saturday Night............. but all to ponder their own thoughts about the events of the weekend.
Chairman Shaun Elliott said, 'Well, that was a disappointing weekend and, of course, result, but the main thing is not to dwell but learn on them, both individually and collectively, do things better and move on, ready to make an immediate return next year.
It's always a disappointment to experience a result like this, especially after the brilliant win at the Area Contest earlier in the year, but these things happen - it's what you do to change things that matters from here.
The fact that the adjudicator's comments were both unusually short and singled out one aspect of interpretation was another feature of the disappointment we all felt.
Thanks to everyone who were involved in our performance this year.
There are lessons to be learnt for all the players and collectively the Band, so that we will return next year better and stronger, as we have done before.... to win!!'
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