I seem to remember a thread like this last year so I thought I would try my hand and create one for this year's test pieces. I'll be playing Holst's First Suite at Stevenage and I'm largely unimpressed (as I imagine many 3rd section players/conductors are!) in its selection as a 3rd section test piece. Whilst I believe it is a fine piece of music and that musically speaking it is enough of a challenge for most 3rd section bands - I can see many conductors tearing their hair out over balance, intonation, inconsistent tempos etc. - and whilst I wished it had a bit more technical meatiness to it my real issue is in two places: 1) We are playing a very, very old arrangement. I can't name any off the top of my head but I am sure there are newer arrangements that have been written for modern brass bands with modern, large bore instruments (also where timpani are standard!) 2) This is a big big step down regarding percussion requirements from Darkwood and Napoleon on the Alps. This could lead to players leaving bands (but I'm sure many veteran percussionists expect it!). For example, my old (also 3rd section) band had 4 percussionists at contest time: their 3 regular percussionists and their extra baritone player to keep them involved during contesting season. This was fine for Darkwood and Napoleon on the Alps but in the Holst they'll all end up twiddling their thumbs for four hours a week. Furthermore it may hinder bands looking for extra percussion players - especially when trying to recruit from outside the movement. I can't imagine it's particularly enticing when a prospective percussionist turns up to a rehearsal and is told "here's this year's test piece, we will be spending most rehearsal time on that for the next 10 weeks, oh, and you have to share this part almost playable by one player between the three of you). Finally, on the 2nd Section test piece: I took one of Tilbury's rehearsals in September as an audition for their then vacant MD position and we spent maybe half an hour looking at Rise of the Pheonix. It was meant to be an unseen piece so I was sight-conducting and the band had just received the music so they were sight reading so I can't really make a very solid opinion on it. However, I thought it was musically pretty uninteresting. It works well enough as a test piece but it sounds very pastiche-y the majority of the time. I doubt I will hear it again (3rd section isn't on the same day as the 2nd in Stevenage) so I can only really hold first impressions on it for now.