Pride, Progress and Postlethwaite- Brass in the Wire 2020
With the announcement of the Guild Hall closing last year, I was worried that Brass at the Guild was going to meet the same fate as the likes of Fleetwood and St Helens and so many other contests that have been lost over the years. I know Brass at the Guild has been met with criticism in the past, and some comments against the contest, I admit, I’ve agreed with, but I still think it’s an incredibly valuable contest. It’s a brilliant opportunity to have a run out of the area test piece in a real contest setting, testing nerves and gaining valuable criticism. Even if you don’t choose the area piece to perform, it’s still a really good chance to ease a band back into the contest mindset instead of being thrown straight into the deep end at the area. When it was announced that the contest was going to be moved to Warrington and to follow the same format as Brass at the Guild, I was relieved and I commend every effort made to relocate this contest. I can’t imagine sourcing venues suitable for a band contest can be easy!
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank and applaud all who were involved in the running of Brass in the Wire. There have been issues with organisation and the contest not running to time at Brass at the Guild and I did worry that these issues might reoccur, especially with this contest being in a completely new location. I know the banding community can be an incredibly critical bunch when we want to be and I feared that if issues arose in Warrington that we wouldn’t give it a chance and the contest would be gone for good. I have to say I was incredibly impressed. I would go as far as to say I prefer the contest being held at Parr Hall and The Pyramid than The Guild Hall! I was sad to hear that a bander had become irate about ticket prices. Unfortunately, the use of venues need to be paid for, you can’t pay for them in washers and I think this is something that needs to be considered before going for the jugular with one of the contest organisers. I appreciated every effort that was made in order for this contest to go ahead and I hope that those involved in the organiation and running of the inaugural Brass in the Wire contest are proud of their efforts.
All of the P’s
It’s worth noting that whilst we have been working on Legacy, myself and the Front Row Cornets have been playing a game where we think of words for every rehearsal mark that is announced by the conductor in rehearsals e.g. ‘let’s go from 4 bars before letter D’- think of words beginning with that letter, the more complicated the better. The themes for these words have changed a few times, from medical terms (given the theme of the piece) to words that were…erm…slightly more adult themed. One particular letter gave me a little grief during preparation on Legacy and that was Letter P. It contains a cornet solo that just didn’t agree with me for some reason. It’s not particularly challenging, but for some reason it was just one of those sections that would, every now and again, not go the way that I wanted it to, which was rather unsettling. So it seemed rather fitting and a little satisfying for my little geeky brain when I was planning this article, that I realised I could sum up my experience of Brass in the Wire using the letter P.
Peaceful, Pants and Panic
So, the morning arrived and I’ve discovered another ritual I need to add into my contest morning routine. Eggy bread. Apart from being an absolutely amazing foodstuff, after what happened in the performance (I will explain later) I don’t think I can ever have a contest morning without it- it is the food of success. After donning my uniform, it was time to set off to Warrington. The Battle Playlist (click here to read if you don’t know what this is) was blasted and there was a competitive fire glowing in my belly. When we got to rehearsal, I sat down in my seat with a very unfamiliar mindset- I wasn’t fretting or nervous like I have been in the past…I was calm, some might say peaceful- it was a wonderful, if slightly unusual to experience. That was until we rehearsed Letter P and the cornet solo was splattered all over the walls of the dance hall we were rehearsing in. I’m sure there are still a few split notes echoing around that hall now. That wonderful calm feeling vanished. At this point it was P for panic, paranoid and pants playing. Oh dear.
I came out of rehearsal unsettled and worried about the contest performance. Something that I had been working on all week to avoid feeling. I quickly noticed that the thoughts that were swirling around my head were the type that contributed to my downfall a couple of years ago, so I put a stop to them and decided that win or lose, the focus of this performance was- proof. Proving to myself that I can do it and enjoy doing it and to throw away any doubt I have about myself, as a player, out of the window, once and for all. None of that could be achieved by focusing on one mistake that was made in rehearsal.
I was surprised to see a picture of Danny Ormondroyd on the wall in the warm up room! Yes, I know it’s because Pete Postlethwaite was from Warrington, but it seemed fitting to have a huge picture of him in a venue for a brass band contest, both for his association with Brassed Off and it fit my Letter P theme quite well!
I will admit I had more than a flutter of nerves as I walked out onto the stage at Parr Hall. I know banding and contesting isn’t life or death but I really wanted this performance to be the one that outweighed any negativity I’ve had towards my playing. The performance began, I can’t tell you much of how I felt during the first page of the piece as I was such a whirl of thoughts and nerves I genuinely can’t remember much of the beginning. As the first note of my solo left my instrument, I could have cried. The nerves had gone, I was breathing correctly and produced exactly what I had been doing in rehearsal. It wasn’t long before my nemesis, Letter P, raised it’s ugly head. Unfortunately for Letter P, that competitive fire that fuelled my performances in days gone by, long before I had my wobble, was back and I have never been so determined and focused on a section of a test piece. How did it go? Well let’s just say, I think I gave the stewards on the door of Parr Hall a fright when I came skipping (I’m not exaggerating, I literally skipped and jumped out of Parr Hall) shouting ‘TAKE THAT, LETTER P!!!!’- ok, I’ll admit that is the PG version, what I actually said is not fit for publishing, but you get the idea. I couldn’t have enjoyed my first official contest with Freckleton Band any more. It gave us a good basis to work on for the area too, which is also great and I was very proud to be a member of Freckleton walking off that stage.
Overall we came 10th in the Championship/1st Section and 5th in the 1st section. Definitely room for improvement but it would be a very boring month if we had nothing to work on between now and the area. However, Sunday’s performance will always be a very important performance in my life. I’ve been known to have quite a stern face on stage, to the point where my Mother gets nervous about watching me playing due to me never looking happy with my performance. Well, for the first time in history, Liv Appleton smiled on stage during a contest performance. Of course there is always room for improvement and I’ll still be working on holding the nerves and perfecting the solo lines, but I’m allowing myself to be just a smidge proud of myself. A lot has changed in the last 12 months with my approach to playing and it’s nice to see that my work towards a more positive attitude to performing has reaped a reward.
The final and most important words that I can use to summarise my feelings about the first Brass in the Wire contest are: Pride and progress.