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Butlins Mineworkers Festival

Hard Work but Little Reward (this time)The Mineworkers Contest at Butlin’s has been something of a “happy hunting ground” for Milton Keynes Brass in recent years, with the band winning some encouragingly good placings. Sadly, this was not to be repeated at this year’s January excursion to the bracing climate of the Lincolnshire coast. A score with many changes of mood and narrative The test-piece chosen for this year’s first section contest was Symphonic Episodes for Brass Band (by Brian Balmages arr. Mike Kilmartin). The score has (for this writer at least) a very filmic quality, as if to reflect many changes of mood and narrative, and with many strong melodic lines. The band very much enjoyed the intense period of preparing the work for the contest stage, but, come the contest performance in a very large auditorium, perhaps failed to realise the full potential of the work. The rendering was a little nervous and lacked the full dynamic and emotional range which had been achieved in rehearsal, so despite some very welcome positive comment from the adjudication team on the quality of the band’s sound, the band was placed in a disappointing 12th place. Plenty of to do and great performances One of the big plus points of performing in the Mineworkers contest is that there are plenty of distractions: the chance to socialise with your banding colleagues, entertainment from some of the top UK brass bands, the chance to meet up with old friends in other bands and talk about old times, all with a glass of ale to hand to lubricate the conversation. It was even rumoured that some players went running (in the freezing wind and rain) for fun! There were some great performances to treasure over the weekend too. Everyone was talking about the truly stunning, flawless, solo from Soprano Cornet legend Kevin Crockford and some inspirational big-band jazz from the Louis Dowdeswell Big Band but all will have their own favoured moments. Things to learn for all So despite the disappointing contest result it was a great weekend away. Hopefully the band has come away with some collective learnings about the scale and scope of the personal commitment each of us needs to bring to musical preparation for the big concert and contest events in our banding calendar at the higher level to

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