Sidmouth Town Band took part in the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain in Cheltenham last weekend and were thrilled to be awarded third prize, in a competition involving the best second section bands from England, Wales and Scotland.
The band qualified for the National finals after winning the West of England second section area championship in March. The top two bands in each region are invited to compete in ‘the Nationals’, with each of the 18 qualifiers performing a set piece. Sidmouth last qualified in 2016, where they achieved 5th place, and this time were aiming for another top 6 finish. The test-piece was called “Occasion” by Edward Gregson, a twelve-minute work in four movements, each designed to evoke different moods. Each section of the band was tested in different ways, with exposed solos and tricky technical passages, as well as stretching the dynamic range of every player.
The three adjudicators listen to the bands in a curtained off ‘box’ in the auditorium so they are judging blind, which means a draw needs to be made to decide who plays in what order. Former player, Jasper Dommett, did the draw for Sidmouth, and picked out 11th out of 18 – a perfect position which meant the band could rehearse in the morning, and then have some time to relax before getting themselves ready for the big performance later in the day. The performance really started to click in the morning rehearsal, giving the players a big confidence boost, but the aim was still to at least match the band’s best ever result.
When the time came, the band found an extra level, performing a near-perfect performance which the live online commentary from the brass band media commended, picking up on “a highly organised and musical account from Sidmouth. So well put together and with a natural flow throughout.” Popular band website, 4barsrest.com picked out the brilliant percussion team, which included two young players who had made their way up from the training band, describing them as “stars in the making”.
Later, as the top 6 placings were read out in reverse order, players began to get nervous. The audience and brass media had clearly like it, but what about the men in the box? Finally, cheers were unleashed as it was announced that Sidmouth Town had been awarded 3rd prize. The performance had clearly found favour with the judges, whose written comments included descriptions such as “super playing”, “lush tuba sounds” and “played with passion”. They clearly liked it! The band will start 2020 in the First Section, proud that they have achieved Sidmouth’s highest ever placing at the National Finals.
With a very busy summer season behind them, it was a test to get the test piece ready in time, and Musical Director Adrian Harvey had to push the players to their limit in order to bring out the subtle intricacies of the music. Adrian Harvey said, “I couldn’t be more proud of the players and the effort they have given, after an incredibly tiring summer. The support we have had from our loyal friends and audiences gave us the extra boost we needed to achieve this result.”
For more information on the band and forthcoming appearances watch out in ‘The Herald’ and see www.sidmouthtownband.co.uk