For a local contest the band can drive over at leisure, if it’s on the South Island we can fly down and ride a coach around. If it’s at the other end of the North Island though we all feel obliged to stay at work as long as possible which leads to lengthy overnight (or early morning) drives.
It’s fair to say that when the solo and party events started on Wednesday there were a few bleary eyes and the odd cheeky yawn. Thankfully this didn’t stop some great playing; our 10(ish!)-piece ensemble performed Suppe’s ‘Poet and Peasant’ to a brilliant 2nd place in the larger ensemble group. Christchurch band Woolston Brass traditionally dominate this event so we were pleased to push them down the placings a little. This was the first time Dalewool entered this event, it won’t be the last. Victory was claimed by a group from our friends at Hamilton Brass led by ex-Dalewool player Sergio Marshall.
Following this most of us retired to the Devon Hotel for a snooze while Ross Gerritsen (solo baritone) fulfilled his duty judging the junior euphonium competition. In a first in brass band competition history, the small ensemble section ran EARLY! Some nifty phone-work from Ross dragged everyone back out of bed (“we’re meant to be on stage now!”) and the euph/bari quartet performed to win a great 3rd place. The judges comments pointed out that the playing was a little tired to start but seemed to come to life as the piece progressed… funny that!
I remember returning to the hotel after and realising that only an hour before I had been there fast asleep.
Thursday featured the senior solo events. The church halls provided an odd acoustic and many of the players from all bands who normally feature highly found themselves ranking lower than usual. We got some great places anyway (John Lewis 2nd, Arsene Latu 3rd, Ross Gerritsen 2nd) but the biggest honour went to Fraser ‘Fritz’ Robertson who was crowned Eb Bass champion.
We all love Fritz, but probably no player in our band gets as much stick from the conductor! I’m sure we’ll never here the end of it from him now.
Fritz went on to ‘respect the uniform’ extremely well in the Champion of Champions that evening and we’re very proud of his achievement. It was a good way to get out of a rehearsal!
Friday is when the show really gets started. The Parade of Bands saw all of the band competing brave the grey/spitty weather to show their marching skills to the locals. We were proud to have Innes Jephson from the Dalewool Pipe Band leading us (thanks also to Allan McDonnell for assisting with training) and we were judged to be the 3rd smartest-looking band. Given how many of us feel about having to march this was quite a shock.
In the evening we performed the first stage full-band event with our hymn ‘As I Am’ and the set work ‘The Promised Land’. Both performances went off well and we left the stage in high spirits. The buzz around the crowd was high – Dalewool is on top form!
On Saturday we performed our own-choice major work, ‘Music of the Spheres’ by Philip Sparke. If a piece was ever written to suit the strengths of our band, this is it. Big and exciting, full of melody and with a finale that requires iron men on euphonium and baritone. The performance started with a brilliant horn solo from our virtuoso Andy Williams and the standard never slipped. The ending was very special and our last note was greeted with cheers and people jumping to their feet. And not just our own supporters!
The American judge Stephen Bulla agreed with the crowd and awarded the band an amazing 148/150. Not a score you will see much! That crown was ours. John Lewis also won ‘best principal cornet’ for his performance which didn’t surprise anybody.
The overal winners (combined from the events Friday and Saturday) were Wellington Brass who many listeners agreed might just pip us to the championship 🙂 Only one point in it and a 2nd place to be proud of for Dalewool Auckland Brass. Our band has always been strong but it feels like we are really on top of the game at the minute… watch out next year!
Following this was the traditional glass of water and early night for all… and we found ourselves on Sunday much like the start of our adventure, ie tired and bleary eyed.
2014 will be see us in beautiful Invercargill, we’ll be thirsty for victory!