November 2002

Wonder-ful Music

On 24th November 2002 the Band made its annual pilgrimage to the Royal Forest of Dean College for the Gloucestershire Brass Band Association own choice contest. This year was our first outing in the Third Section of this contest and we were hoping to impress the adjudicator, Steve Sykes, and entertain the audience with our best performances of our chosen march and test piece.

After two months of practice it was great to finally take our chosen pieces and perform them to an audience, albeit sadly the small audience present at this contest. We were drawn to play second and took the stage at around 3pm. Our march was the not oft heard "Blencathra" by William Rimmer. We gave a precise and effective performance of this piece with great dynamic variation between the huge ff opening strain and the quieter melodic passages. The section of the march featuring the bass end of the band receiving praise from Steve Sykes in his comments.

Our chosen test piece "Seven Wonders" by the New Zealand composer Dwayne Bloomfield came all the way from Australia. It is a fantastic piece written in seven short movements each describing one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and is a piece that I am sure that we will hear a lot more bands playing in the future. It was a brave choice of piece for this contest due to its lack of familiarity in the UK and the fact that the at some point during the piece every section of the band is exposed to the adjudicator. Our aim on the day was to provide a great entertaining and musical performance for both the adjudicator and the audience alike. I am pleased to say that in our opinion we achieved that. We gave an electric and exciting performance of the piece, full of magical moments which left us satisfied that we had played our best and aptly captured the moods of the movements.

The first movement describes The Statue of Zeus with a huge majestic fanfare from the cornets, supported by enormous chords from the bottom end of the band and complemented by an octave leap figure from the horns. The band gave a well balanced opening with our only weakness being some intonation problems on the high notes from the cornets and horns.
This brief introductory movement leads into The Pyramids which began with the basses playing quiet crochet G's with the timpani to mark the approach from a distance of the slaves transporting the large blocks used to build the pyramids. An air of mystery was beautifully added by the euphonium melody overlaying this which built across the band (baritones and horns) into a majestic triumphant section with the pyramids complete in all their amazing glory. Moving forward in time the blowing of air through the instruments reflects the draughts blowing through the ancient passageways of the pyramids and glockenspiel notes the sarcophagus ringing. This quiet is then disturbed by grave robbers searching for the treasures of the Egyptian Kings, terrifically represented in music by a running quaver sequence initiated by the basses and then building through the low end of the band. A difficult sequence handled well on the day. Shock notes on the side drum and long muted cornet chords disturbing the movement of the grave robbers as they are faced with the threat of being placed under an ancient curse. An effective movement which was well played and built to a very dramatic conclusion.

A bass chord introduces the third wonder, the Mausoleum. A solemn quiet melody reflecting the grief that led the Queen of King Mausolus to build such a magnificent tomb. An expressive performance of this movement was given by the band spoiled only by a few intonation problems. The beautiful melody worked its way around the band well, starting on the euphoniums before progressing to the flugel and repiano, on to the cornets (their section underpinned by wide moving minim chords from the trombones and basses representing one of several earthquakes faced by the mausoleum) and finally on to the trombones and horns. A further earthquake led to a magical moment in the performance. A ten second pause with running phrases from the percussion, horns and cornets underpinned by long chords from the low brass and supplemented by hammer and chisel noises - representing the destruction of the mausoleum ruins for use on other construction projects.
The temple devoted to the goddess of the hunt, Artemis, was represented by a processional movement starting with a lone cornet motif for eight bars, excellently played by Helen Morgan with a great edginess marking the nervous excitement of the hunt. The hunting procession was then joined by the flugel and solo horn before building to a dramatic climax involving the whole Band. Finally the sound of sonorous bronze hunting horns calling an end to the days hunting was heard from the baritones and horns.

The most beautiful movement inevitably represented the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. John Jemmett on solo horn began this movement in a wonderfully expressive fashion and was followed by an equally warm continuation of the theme from Neil Crowe on Soprano, before the whole band joined it with the melody. Finally a chariot rides by this wonderous scene ably represented by the low brass playing counter to the beautiful melody on the cornets and horns.
The euphoniums set the scene well for the sixth wonder with a slow moving repetitive quaver pattern representing the flashing of the lighthouse at Pharos. The basses then had their major moment of glory with 16 slow bars of a deep and wide legato melody which effectively represented the murky fog and broiling rolling seas lapping the rocks near the lighthouse.

Finally the huge statue of the sun god Helios known as the Colossus of Rhodes, was represented by a movement that built in energy around the band into a majestic and furious close.

Overall a great performance from the Band with some great dynamic contrasts and dramatic moments. Sadly our intonation let us down at times and thus influenced Steve Sykes to place us third out of the four bands competing. Our congratulations go to Portishead Town Band who won both the Third Section march and test piece contests from the number one draw.

22 November: The day of reckoning beckons

All the intensive practise the band has put in over the past weeks will hopefully result in a stunning performance this weekend at the Gloucestershire Brass Band Association contest. With a march and a test piece that has stretched the band and will hopefully give the audience some variety in performances, the band is looking forward to reading what adjudicator, Steve Sykes, has got to say. Check back for a full report of how we did next week. 


Sunday 10th Remembrance Day Parade, Tewkesbury [09:15-11:30]
Sunday 24th Gloucestershire Brass Band Association Annual Contest, RFDC, Coleford

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