After a win in Oxfordshire, Saints have been working hard to refine, perfect and ultimately tame The Mermaid of Zennor ready for the Area Contest held in Stevenage on 19 March.
Competing in the second section against some very talented bands, the pressure was on, though you wouldn’t think it looking around at the band on the morning of the Contest. Everyone was calm, focused and in good spirits; you’d think it was just another rehearsal before a concert as the band were smiling and joking.
Drawn to play 13th, I know what you are thinking, ‘unlucky for some’, but our Musical Director Lee Woodward was not phased; It doesn’t matter if you are drawn first, last, or 13th; as long as we play as well as we have been in rehearsal and give them a performance that they’ll remember, we will be placed among the top bands. The other main points of wisdom from our MD were to concentrate, enjoy it and make sure you don’t walk away from the stage thinking that you could have done better! It doesn’t matter what the two men in the box think, as long as we do ourselves proud.
The second section commenced at 10am on Saturday 19 March and was adjudicated by Stephen Roberts and Dave Lancaster, both outstanding musicians. For these guys it’s a tough job to sit in a box and listen to 16 brass bands all playing the same piece of music and having to grade and sort them into places.
Philip Harper’s The Mermaid of Zennor is no easy feat; a piece of music that on first glance seams simple and easy to play, but it is as deceptive as the name suggests; luring musicians onto the rocks of dynamic swells, changes in tempo, rhythm and flow as well as passing tunes around the band and making sure that no member of the band is left without some part that needs to shine out at some stage, before dipping below the musical waves to let the next unsuspecting player be chosen by the Mermaid.
After 12 bands had played, it was finally Saints’ turn, waiting patiently backstage to be called for one final performance. Again the band seemed relaxed; smiling and joking as we waited. The smiling continued on stage, every member knowing that all the hard work was done, the music known inside and out and all that was needed to was to play it.
Under the direction of Lee, the Band took charge of this perilous yet highly enjoyable piece of music and gave the adjudicators something to take notice of, leaving the stage smiling. Lee’s initial reaction to our performance was good and he was immensely proud of every player’s performance, no matter what the end result.
Waiting for the results was definitely more nerve-racking than waiting to play and every band in the theatre was eager to know if they had won.
Firstly the announcements of 4th (Grimsdyke Brass) and 3rd (Soham Comrades) places, followed by the special prizes of which we won the Best Bass section!
Best Bass Section!! We cheered so loudly, the entire band and friends so proud of our boys: Eb Basses: Dave Yates and James Kelloway. Bb Basses: Derrick Curtis and Josh Moorhouse.
Then the room hushed as 2nd place was announced… Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band! The room erupted, the band cheered and stamped as our Contest Secretary Derek Hawkins received the trophy.
In 1st place was Cawston, who also won best Trombone section.
Commentating on the discipline and musicality of the band, the adjudicators were impressed with Lee’s interpretation and the fact that he took musical risks with the dynamics and flow, while keeping the band secure and together. Our fabulous soloists Kevin Barker (Principal Cornet), Rosie Saxton (Euphonium), Sue Fowler (Baritone) and Siân Moorhouse (Solo Horn) played beautifully and the rest of the band really rose to the moment and shone through.
Lee Woodward had the following to say, Our performance yesterday was fantastic. You did everything that I asked; the quality of our sound, dynamics, soloists and our prize winning basses was outstanding. Your discipline and musical quality shone through. As we finished, the emotion of the performance got to me and my initial reaction was: that was damn good. The comments from the adjudicators were great and it was wonderful to have our hard work recognised. We have created history, the highest placing that the band has achieved in its 85 years, take pride in that, I certainly do.
Well done Saints, it’s now onwards to the National Finals, which take place at The Centaur, Cheltenham on 17-18 September 2016.
Full results can be found here: http://www.regional-contest.org.uk/lsc/contest/2016-contest-entry