After the storms and horrific weather of recent weeks, The Marple Band’s day trip to Blackpool seemed calm and relaxing by comparison – apart from the need to perform Spectrum at the contest of course.
The adjudicators’ speeches to the audience before the announcement of the results acknowledged the difficulties with player shortages that many, if not most, bands attending Blackpool were facing but also celebrated the fact that after two years of Covid restrictions brass band contesting was now back on. The adjudicators commented both on the quality and freshness of Gilbert Vinter’s composition, even after more than 50 years since first being offered as a contest piece, that was a true challenge for Championship bands as well as those in the first section. They complimented those bands that had achieved higher positions on the day and encouraged those who were not quite so successful to continue their efforts. They indicated that the higher scoring bands had offered musical interpretations that they felt were more true to the spirit of the piece and the writing in particular sections and transitions between sections.
It is in this context that the Marple Band’s place of 12th out of 15 can be viewed i.e. Spectrum is a Championship quality test piece that has challenged many bands over the last 50 years and was felt by many to be too difficult to play when first offered back in the 1960’s. There is no doubt that Spectrum is technically demanding across the whole range of band parts including some tricky solo and section contributions. The changes of tempo and style at each section are also difficult to get right but comments from people attending suggest that the band did themselves credit in meeting these challenges. But, as the adjudicators rightly said, it was a contest and inevitably some bands did better than others on the day and in the opinion of the judges giving out the marks.
Remarkably for us, and arguably with a much more technically demanding piece, we achieved a better place than two years previously and this is in large part due to the combined efforts of all the band members and very welcome guest players along with the conducting contributions of Steve Curtis, and Steve Sutton when Steve C. was otherwise detained by Covid. Remembering how well we played the piece when first presented to us and comparing this with our performance at Blackpool, there is no doubt that tremendous improvement took place and band members gave their best on the day. In reality, there’s not much more that could be expected and the general tone of the conversation after the results were announced was realistic and measured, tinged with a bit of understandable disappointment, and certainly not down-beat and defeated.
So, a great thanks to Helen, Howard, Ruth and all the other committee members who helped organise us before and during the day, to all the guest players who enabled us to have a band capable of attending the contest, to the two Steve’s and to every band member who attended multiple intensive rehearsals, and clearly put in a lot of practice time outside the rehearsals as well, that allowed us to offer a pretty convincing performance of a Championship level test piece. Not forgetting Paul who dragged himself off his sickbed to play the Euphonium with his usual expertise and then disappeared back home for his Night Nurse, rather than a beer in the bar that many others enjoyed.
For those interested, below is a link to a 4barsrest article about Spectrum and the full results for the 2002 Blackpool regional contest: