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The Contest: An Adjudicator's Perspective

Bands often ask what adjudicators are looking for at UniBrass, and how they should best prepare - particularly new musical directors leading a band for the first time.

Sarah Groarke-Booth adjudicated the Shield section at Bangor 2020.

Here she gives her perspective on the contest; what she heard, what she loved, and considerations bands could make in preparing for future contests.

"It was with great pleasure that I accepted the role of adjudicator for the Shield Section, UniBrass 2020. Bangor gave me and my fellow judge, Christopher Bond, a fine welcome and we were well looked after. The venue suited the occasion and there was a warm atmosphere from all the spectators in the hall, with each band given due appreciation."

What caught our eye?

I was impressed by the overall standards of the bands and the level to which everyone had prepared for their performances. The ones that caught our eyes (and ears!) however were those bands who had taken care in collating a programme which, not only allowed the band to demonstrate their strengths, but also aimed to really entertain their audience both musically and visually. Of course, what constitutes entertaining for me may well be different for another adjudicator!

What were we looking for?

For me, it doesn't have to include costumes or dancing or even lots of humour, rather it must contain music that has been chosen because it sits well together (with or without an overriding theme - both work for me) giving a satisfying overall performance; moreover that performance should be presented with confidence both vocally and visually.

It's all about confidence...

If this means that there is room for comedy moments, costume, dance etc then that's great; however these need to be slick, well rehearsed and above all confidently energetic. If a band or presenter on stage oozes confidence and energy, you're bound to get the audience (and adjudicators) on your side.

Is it all about the entertainment?

Of course the technical ability of the band is important too; as are the basics - tuning, rhythmic cohesion, balance, tempo etc. However, if you choose music to suit your ensemble - stretching their ability, but not too much! - then all these factors should be controllable.

What is the most important thing?

It should be fun! Otherwise, what is the point?! Music is a great way to communicate, and belonging to any musical ensemble is a fantastic way to create something good together and have a great time socialising with people while you're doing it.

"From the performances and camaraderie on display at UniBrass 2020, I should say that the future of the brass banding community is very bright indeed!"

Learn more about the 2021 contest here.

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