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National Concert Band Festival

NCBF; a parents perspective

Young people and teachers: both seem to get a bad press these days. So, early one Saturday morning, I began to wonder how I’d managed to allow myself to volunteer, as a parent helper, for a school trip. Surely there are better ways to spend the first full day of a weekend, especially one still in the Easter school holidays. And what was the teacher thinking? Could this be more important than a well-earned rest before term got underway again?

 

The National Concert Band Festival (NCBF) has been running for over 30 years and has grown to include 120 bands representing 5,000 players who all start their journey in five Regional Festivals in England and Scotland. From there the best bands go forwards to the two-day National Festival with almost 2,500 participants and 1,000 supporters in attendance – the largest gathering of wind musicians in the UK.

 

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The Robert Smyth Academy Big Band had reached the 2016 final at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester through the Midlands qualifying Festival in November last year. With such stiff competition from more than 20 schools on the Saturday alone, how would the 17 young musicians fare?

 

After the three-hour coach journey, the band had time to settle in, grab some food and get set up in their practise room. Mind you, snaking our way along corridors, up and down stairs, across food halls with instruments aloft, somehow the line got broken and the two halves of the band ended up in different places!

 

But this band had spirit, grit, determination and high expectations. Directed by the able Helle Petersen, they soon settled into their stride as they worked through their three numbers ahead of their main stage appearance in the early afternoon.

 

In jazz music, so I learnt, the rhythm section is particularly important, providing the rhythmic reference for the rest of the band. So, no pressure then Taylor Burton on keyboard, Jacob Bentley on bass, Jake Cartwright on electric guitar and Lyle Burton and Jonny Nicholson on drums / percussion. The question was how well they ably accompanied the rest of the instrumentalists – with their trumpets, saxophones, trombones and flutes.

 

What made the Festival different this year was the way feedback was provided. After their performances before an appreciative audience, one of the two adjudicators, both distinguished personalities from the world of jazz, got onto the stage. He provided what can only be described as a masterclass, getting the band to re-run one of their numbers and highlighting areas for improvement. At times it bordered on the cruel, but this Festival was about people moving to the top of their musical game, so standards were high.

 

NCBF

By late afternoon the drama moved to the presentation of awards on the Upper Concourse where hordes of students gathered to hear their fate. It was with a mixture of relief and delight that Taylor Burton and Jacob Cartwright collected the Gold Award on behalf of The Robert Smyth Academy Big Band.

 

Throughout the day the students were a credit to their school, their teacher and their parents. They are clearly a talented bunch who will go on to greater things in the field of music – whether as a hobby, to study or a career. If you are a parent reading this, then I’d highly recommend you take time out of your busy schedule to go as a parent helper on any one of the many music trips run from the school. You won’t be disappointed.

 

By Mr. Nicholson

Next Year’s Midlands Regional Festival is on Sunday 27 November 2016 at Nottingham High School

Gold for the Big Band in Nationals

Gold Certificate scan from NCBF Final Big Band 2016

Many congratulations to the RSA Big Band who achieved a Gold Award at the finals of the National Concert Band Festival held at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester during the Easter holidays.  This is an excellent achievement especially considering several of the players were new to the band this term as some regular members couldn’t make the finals.  In their 15-minute programme the band performed three pieces featuring no less than 6 different soloists, all marked with * in the list below.

 

Well done to all the players:

 

  • Andrew Martin* – flute
  • Natalie Crook* and Alice Riches – alto saxes
  • Emily Moore – tenor sax
  • Holly Barnett – baritone sax
  • Molly Sykes*, Maddie Oakland, Josh Watson, Leo Harland – trumpets
  • Joe Horspool* & Tom Jenkins – trombones
  • Taylor Burton* – piano
  • Jake Cartwright* – guitar
  • Jake Bentley – bass guitar
  • Jonny Nicholson – drum kit
  • Lyle Burton – auxiliary percussion

 

Platinum for the Big Band – again!

NCBF platinum

Many congratulations to the RSA Big Band who achieved a Platinum Award at the Midlands regional round of National Concert Band Festival held at Nottingham High School on Sunday 15th November.  This is an outstanding achievement especially considering that more than half of the players are new to the band this term and this was therefore their first public performance with the Big Band.  In their 15-minute programme the band performed three pieces which featuring no less than 7 different soloists, all marked with * in the list below.

 

The two adjudicators, who are both professional jazz musicians themselves, were very impressed with the band – see comments below; for a full adjudication report you can also click on the uploaded files below.

 

As the band achieved the top award they have been invited to the National Festival which takes place at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th April.  Well done to all the players for their fantastic achievement:

 

  • Andrew Martin* – flute
  • Alex McCarthy* & Jane Earland – alto saxes
  • Esme Butler Davies* & Emily Moore – tenor saxes
  • Holly Barnett – baritone sax
  • Molly Sykes*, Maddie Oakland & Josh Watson – trumpets
  • Joe Horspool* & Tom Jenkins – trombones
  • Taylor Burton* – piano
  • Jake Cartwright* – guitar
  • Jake Bentley – bass guitar
  • Jonny Nicholson – drum kit
  • Lyle Burton – auxiliary percussion

 

 

To listen to the performance, please visit our Academy website for the time being  here.

 

  • ‘What Were You Thinking’ by Chris Sharp, featuring Esme Butler Davies (tenor sax) and Joe Horspool (trombone)

 

  • ‘My Funny Valentine’ by Richard Rodgers arr. Mike Smukal, featuring Molly Sykes (trumpet) and Alex McCarthy (alto sax)

 

  • ‘Back to the Basement’ by Erik Morales, featuring Taylor Burton (piano), Andrew Martin (flute) and Jake Cartwright (guitar)

 

 

Adjudicators’ Feedback:

 

“What Were You Thinking”

 

Confident opening. Nice balance and good sound in each section. Good dynamics and intonation.

Nice tenor solo. Great sound. Just be careful backings don’t slightly overpower solo. Good trombone. Nice sound and solo comes across well.

Nice to hear a baritone sax!

Good feel to the rhythm section. Nice feel all the way through. Well played. Good sounding band.

 

“My Funny Valentine”

 

Be careful with intonation in the introduction. Lovely sound from the trumpet. Very nice. Band could maybe play a touch quieter so the solo doesn’t get overpowered. Nice sax solo. I would suggest taking the band (ensemble) dynamics down one notch to play with soloist. Nice feel to bossa nova. Again watch dynamics. Lovely playing all the way through from soloist. Very nice.

 

“Back to the Basement”

Nice start with a good sound. Sax section plays well. Nicely in tune. Good section playing from trumpets of the melody too.

Nice piano solo. Some lovely touches.

Great to have a flute solo!! Good sound, well played.

Nice guitar. Well played all solos. Good build to bring solo section to an end. Great sounds from every section. An exciting and well played performance. Well done everyone.

NCBF Adjudication Comments