Review: “East Coast of Australia” Band Championships and “Festival of the Bands” Entertainment Contest

Waratah Brass shine in the “East Coast of Australia” Band Championships and
“Festival of the Bands” Entertainment Contest Sunday 10 June 2012
Newcastle City Hall

In a day that had been long awaited musicians and supporters traveled long distances from all over New South Wales to come and participate in a contest that was fiercely fought by the largest number of individual bands since 2000.

Waratah Brass - June 2012Waratah knew this was going to be one day they needed to not only be on their toes but simply at their level best if they were going to make any impact in this contest. The band had strong competition from several other groups holding State titles, Entertainment titles and National Awards and understood this wasn’t going to be a day to be taken lightly.

The morning session taking in The East Coast of Australia Band Championships saw the band present a sacred item and own choice test piece for professional adjudication. Points being awarded based on standard of performance consisting of a possible 50 for the sacred item and 100 for the own choice being available.

Waratah chose for their Sacred work “I Know Thou Art Mine” a brilliant challenging composition by the Canadian Leonard Ballentine. Their opening was controlled and soft, quickly rising to a full band crescendo, lovely horn work blending into the first stanza of the melody ‘Unsworth’ from where the words give us the title ‘My Jesus I love thee, I know thou art mine’. Basses- good control blending in sensitively, a wonderful build up to that full band Waratah sound- not over done in its double forte portion. The entire ensemble giving of themselves to make this something to be proud of. This was music at it best, not just notes but an experience. It concluded as it started controlled, great intonation, sensitive and nothing short of excellent.

This was followed by the bands own choice test “Journey into Freedom” a major work originally composed as the 1967 British National Band Championship Test Piece by a doyen of brass the great, Eric Ball. This work depicts the victory of human emotion against the struggle of life’s materialistic existence; with it sub themes running through of violence, protest and love. This is all depicted by Balls amazing use of different sections of the band to bring his message through. This was a work to certainly challenge the band and give the adjudicator plenty to look for grading such complexity.

Waratah started well with the works great forceful flurry of notes, basses working to their absolute peak, nice soprano cornet work of David Wilks in the early portions of the rendition, expressive sensitive cornet of Clarence Leung, good ensemble work from euphonium / baritones with trombones blending well, controlled double fortes, and a percussion sections that are second to none brilliant in adding just what was needed to this performance.

With a work of some 16 minutes duration many things can happen during such a performance of this length and complexity, and as the work came to its climax of ‘The Love Theme’ it was obvious the band had given their best. Conductor Steven English coaxing players to the finale of Balls amazing chording with its intensity of sound, but emotion in scoring – this was a rendition that the band could stand proud of.

Waratah Brass - June 2012The afternoon ‘Festival of the Bands’ is an entertainment contest where all bands present a maximum of 15 minutes of playing time in a concert format to be judged by the mornings adjudicator who is joined by a second judge. Winners are placed from 1 to 3 on a criteria that a band needs to display not only musical ability, but the ability to entertain an audience, keep their interest and as well choose music appropriate to the occasion given the bands standard. This was not going to be easy for Waratah as their 2 main rivals had given excellent performances- ‘CNL Brass’ with its carnival/ circus theme and ‘Toronto Brass’ using a spaghetti western come mexican theme both of whom had played very well with great interest from the audience, and certainly in great form.

Due to the time frame of 15 minutes in total several of the bands items were shortened to take in the concert length ruling, but this did not take anything away from their performance. Commencing with a staggered entry by all the different sections of the band Waratah entered playing “Swiss Air” (arr. C. Davis) without music. Conductor Steven English entered only to conduct the final couple of bars after which he introduced Principal Trombonist Hannah Gibbons to play “Blue Bells of Scotland” (Pryor/ Derek Broadbent) and play she did. This was nothing short of brilliant, both high and low register notes flowing easily and was warmly received by the audience that numbered over 300.

David Kimpton one of the percussionists who had assisted just about every local band during the day was in superb form with his percussion extravaganza work “Russky Percussky” (Goff Richards) which simply thrilled the audience with much laugher, cheering and prolonged applause. The band backing being something to desire as well assisted David as he literally ran from percussion instrument to percussion instrument across the City Hall stage.

To end Waratah’s concert the band chose to use another Goff Richards work that is associated with Elvis Presley and also The American Civil War that of “An American Trilogy”. The work includes the 3 songs of Dixie, Hush Little Baby and Battle Hymn of the Republic in a sensitive moving arrangement. The band played with feeling, wonderful full band sounds that moved the audience and with such an ending showed Waratah Brass were indeed the band to be beaten.

Following a short time for judges to make final decisions, tally scores Hunter Regional Band Association President Mr Allan Shaw proceeded to read out the awarded points for each band and places for the Festival.

Steven English & John TateA day of wonderful music making by many bands but one in which Waratah were worthy winners and shone through with some high level playing. Congratulations!
Points awarded:

Waratah Brass: Section 1 A & B Grade ‘East Coast of Australia Contest’ WINNERS

Sacred item 49/50 highest mark of any band at the contest
Test Piece 96/100 highest mark of any brass band

Division 1 ‘Festival of The Bands’ Entertainment Contest WINNERS

Review: GSM
East Coast of Australia Championships
10 June 2012