Midlands Musical Miscellany 2007 Review

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Firstly, I would like to express thanks on behalf of Christine and I for the invitation from Pauline Ingram, Carl Harris and Dave Brown (and BYBA’s Midlands Region) to attend the Midlands Musical Miscellany. We missed last year, and were pleased to be able to support the 2007 event, which didn’t disappoint.

Whilst the event has an element of “Preview” for the forthcoming competitive summer season, it always manages to include broader performance opportunities for our young people.

On arrival, we were met by Pauline, Dave and his wife, and having bought raffle tickets and got our programme, we headed for the bar to meet up with Tony Patrick, Mary Rayner, and other friends from the BYBA family. Bedworth Civic Hall is a modern building, with a great auditorium, stage area, and dance floor; the latter would be used by a number of the acts during the evening. The programme looked really varied, giving us 5 items before the interval and 6 in the second half, plus a combined ensemble finale. So we were set for a great night of entertainment!

First Half
TSSB Gruve Skool got the evening off with a real swing, playing James Last 4 Medley, Sweet Inspiration, James Last 10 and Rocky. The selection was great, though lacked projection (though these guys may not be used to playing in the marching band). Maybe if they were “mic’d up” this would have helped for such a large theatre. Nevertheless, it was a real crowd pleasing performance with an impromptu disco as two ‘schools’ (TSSB & Lancers) took to the floor to dance, encouraged off course by ‘their’ teacher, Mr. Wright!

In between each “act” allowing for what he referred to as “logistical nightmares”, Dave Brown kept the evening flowing in ‘human computer mode’ covering 2006 contest and caption results for each unit, and tonight’s programme. So, with the next act prepared hidden from view by the stage curtain, we were ready to see what the first ‘competitive’ unit of the night would be bringing to the 2007 arena.

Warwick Girls took us on a journey of the American continent through the music of Barry Manilow. Fielding a much younger unit than recent years, we were entertained with Copacabana, One Voice, Could it be Magic, Theme from American Bandstand, Can’t Smile without You and I Write the Songs. Having heard Warwick over the years, this was a typical Warwick show with logical links from tune to tune. The guard were on form which was a highlight for me, the wind section were competent (including the One Voice solo), though for percussion I’d question the tenor scores throughout, which had an overpowering timpani roll feel.

Donisthorpe Scouts were up next and gave us a rich arrangement and bags of potential to grow through their “X-Men – The Last Stand” production. I feel that in time, this will be a dramatic drum corps-style show, assuming that the youngsters can “max out” on the varied tempos and high points in the musical score – one to watch!

Ibstock Scout Band, an old adversary of mine going back through the years at Pontefract Air Cadets and Magic D&BC, who are enjoying quite a revival. They gave us Pinball Wizard, I want you back, I Believe I can Fly, and Pirates of the Caribbean. This was a polished musical performance, though I’m not sure what the connection is between the chosen pieces. The Wind Section were competent, Battery “you rocked” (a high point for me), though I was disappointed that the show band costumes weren’t being worn in favour of scout uniforms, which for the colour guard looked completely out of character, especially with the volume of dance/body moves where equipment wasn’t been used! That said, I’m sure Ibstock will be challengers for the Division 3 title.

To close the first half, it was left to Phantom Knights (who had provided a full line of pit equipment for all tonight’s units). So, not diminished in size over the winter, but may be in height (some real small kids on horns), we were treated to Backstage, Just Arrived and Regards, plus a guard performance to an energetic Scissor Sisters backing track, though there appeared to be quite a bit of equipment repetition. For 2007, PK appear to be continuing from where they left off in 2006 with a theatrical jazz programme, which I’m sure will be a crowd pleaser, complimented by a creative guard book. It will be interesting to see where PK stack up against their peers moving up from Division 3 and those from 2006’s Division 2 cohort. If I know Carl, we’ll see them holding their own against older competition, and at the end of the day it will be quality of performance and not the age of the performer that will be the deciding factor. Look out Division 2!

Second Half
With interval and Raffle behind us, the latter raising money (like the event as a whole) for distribution to Midlands Region Bands to support their work in 2007, we took our seats for the second half.

Coseley Comets opened the second half with New York New York, Something Stupid and Luck Be a Lady. Anyone who has seen this unit over the years will know they have had some good times and some bad, and whilst this was clearly a Junior Division performance, it had all the components to develop for future years of battery, horns and guard, very young members that can be trained, and a successful recruitment plan now fielding a corps twice the size of 2006! Good Luck Comets.

Atherstone YMB presented to us firstly the newly formed Atherstone YMB Cadets with Home on the Range and a Percussion Feature, followed by an eclectic mix of musicians and singers from Atherstone YMB and supporters, Honest Rate (the new AYMB rock band), Sheppey Boys Brigade & Girls Brigade and the Atherstone Choral Society. Their chosen programme was Earth, Wind & Fire’s September, and the Fratellies Chelsey Dagger which gave AYMB some challenges of bringing together 3 diverse groups. It was enthusiastically performed, though balance was a problem between the different instrumental voices and human voices. A great community concept though, and well done to ‘Mitch’ for pulling it together. This must be a model for others in BYBA to replicate, which can bring dividends in widening our audience appeal, recruiting members and gaining financial support.

Next up, was Stafford Brigades who gave us a polished performance of the A-Team, When will I see you Again, and Greased Lightening, however, from a programming perspective (as per Ibstock), this lacks a concept and appeared to be just a collection of favourite tunes. When Stafford Brigades enter the summer arena though, I’m sure they will hold their own in Division 3 with some very competent brass and percussion players (good work snares).

And now for something completely different…….., as you would expect from Upton YB.

We were treated to a horn line performance from what seemed to be a depleted Upton YB, though band members are also involved in their Electrix WGUK ensemble. Upton Cadets’ April Showers was very well received by the audience. In my opinion, what happened next remains a mystery, as we saw a number of long socked legs appear from beneath the stage curtain, “dancing” to a backing track in almost darkness, with much of the footwork obscured by the pit equipment (unfortunately for Upton) which remained directly in front of the stage. The idea was a good one maybe for a small church hall or with close ups on TV or Video, but in such a large auditorium the idea just did not carry. Sorry, guys.

The penultimate spot was reserved to preview Stafford Lancers return to a full competitive season in BYBA. Recently the Lancers have restricted themselves to DCUK and their own BYBA contest, Brass Explosion. A smaller and possibly younger Stafford Lancers gave us excerpts from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof. In typical drum corps style, this was a challenging musical book at times beyond the ability of performers, but we all know, a competitive season is a long time to perfect the product, and I wish Dave and his team all the best. I’m sure that once movement is matched to music, the richness of sound will grow and the youngsters will make the connection with the nuances of tempo and time signature, then we’ll be treated to what Lancers are capable of, and that is a creative and expressive production as they’ve done in the past with their Russian theme and Les Miserables.

The final individual “act”, was a sub-set of BYBA’s Division 2 National Champions, Trinity School Show Band. The audience was treated to ‘TSSB Concert Band’, under the direction of their arranger and MD, Neil Wright. This was a joy to listen to music played with control and expression, and very reminiscent of their appearance at BYBA’s 2006 National Concert Band Championships, where they achieved a creditable 3rd place. I started my comments saying this was a small group, well, everything is relative with TSSB, as half the marching band, yes just 69 member tonight gave us Spanish Gypsy Dance, We’ve Only Just Begun and Swinging Safari. This was one of a number of highpoints for me during the evening, especially the Carpenters number, which is a favourite of mine, and was played beautifully by the wind ensemble, with some very sympathetic and complimentary drum kit work.

And finally – TSSB were joined on stage by representatives of a number of other units for a combined ensemble Finale, with a specially arranged score by Neil Wright, Somewhere over the Rainbow. This was a fitting climax to a superb night, and through both a standard and syncopated arranged really showed off the talent in BYBA.

Tony Patrick, Association Chairman, on behalf of Council acknowledged what great shape BYBA and the Midlands Region is in, praising both those who had arranged the concert and all tonight’s performers.

Posted by on Monday, March 19th, 2007. Filed under British Youth Band Association.