The challenge of the test

Being lucky enough to play in 2 bands here, I have been working on the Area test pieces for both.  In March I’ll actually do the contest with Lindley and just listen to B&R.

The benefits of doing both are many.  Beyond the stretching effects on my playing, I am also able to work with two more excellent conductors and get more band training ideas.

Next week I’ll continue on 4th-man for B&R when David King begins rehearsals (another player will join for the contest). English Heritage by George Lloyd is the championship section test and it is both taxing and technically challenging.  Of course, some of the most demanding playing is in the principal cornet part which has several big solos, and one ending on top Eb. There are some real finger busters in the piece but once they are worked out the piece isn’t actually all that hard.  I only listened to the rehearsals the last time King was here so playing should be interesting.

Lindley has hired guest conductor Paul Andrews to take us to the contest.  Paul is known as a demanding conductor and a proven contest winner.  His work with us this week was excellent and focused on sound and getting our lips “Ready for Purpose”.  For the first section, the test piece is Moorside Suite.  No matter how you slice it, Holst wrote an absolute lip bender.  It is one of those works, where if you are even a little out of shape you will go up in flames.  Kind of like the 2nd movement of the Poulenc Trio for Brass. In addition since the music itself is so simple, all the little things are magnified.  Pitch, note length, dynamics (the range is FFF-ppp), tempo, phrasing, accuracy, musicality, etc.  In English Heritage you can get away with quite a lot, not so for Moorside Suite.   I also think the Holst is better music, though as top test pices go, the Lloyd is quite nice.

For practice, I have resorted to daily afternoon sessions on both pieces in addition to my 60-minutes in the morning and a brief 30-minute check-up just before I leave for the evening rehearsals.  So I’m doing 2 1/2-3 hours of playing before the 2-hour evening rehearsals.  This is quite a lot of demanding work, and has forced me to take a very light day (30-min warm up and then the evening rehearsal, or just a 30-min warm-up) at some point most weeks just to let the face recover.

Today I’m off to listen to the Elland Youth Band’s final rehearsal before their Blackpool contest tomorrow, and then we have a B&R show this evening at Morley Town Hall.  I’m also playing at church on Sunday afternoon for the wedding of our organist and Curate.

Take care and if you are back in the US try to stay warm in all that snow!


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