I'm sure that many Second Section bands were astounded at the announcement of the test pieces for the 2006 regional contest. The 2005 test piece, Vaughn Williams' Variations for Brass, was considered to be a real test for that section and then they announce what appears to be an even harder piece of music for 2006. Certainly, on paper it's a real test for bands at this level but was it too difficult? There were plenty of bands in my area that gave it a good go. There were some decent performances up and down the country but perhaps more slips and blips than we would normally have. It pushed most Second Section bands to their limits, both technically and musically. Perhaps this is what the selection committee was looking for? A test piece that would separate out the good from the bad. They're certainly not afraid to pick out a piece that would frighten some bands in higher sections. Surely this is what test pieces are for - a test! - and so it's understandable that they've tried to push the boundaries a bit. This piece certainly had it's problems even before it was performed. It was originally written for two bands and was condensed, although the original published copies were so full of errors that a substantial errata sheet and entirely new score had to be produced. This really didn't help when bands were struggling to bring the piece together and caused much discussion within the pages of tMP. Many tMPers thought that the piece was just too hard. I can sympathise with that, having spent many months trying to play my own part, however I personally found myself really enjoying the challenge. It pushed my abilities and has probably helped me improve as a player, especially in the upper register. I like it as a piece of music even - the final movement has a really exciting finalé and the second movement is just lovely but there's so much that can, and did, go wrong that it's easy to see why so many people will be happy to see it languish in the back of the band library never to be seen again. I think that it was a brave choice, if unpopular in some quarters. There were rumours that some bands had dropped out of the area because the piece was so hard. Maybe this was the case, but it's more likely that they didn't have enough players to fill all the parts - there's really no way that you can cover much in here, every seat has an important part to play and as there were so many split parts even a couple of missing people would make a significant difference. Some of the people that left the contest were thinking "what a piece!" while others were thinking "what the heck was that?". It's certainly been an interesting choice although I think I'd prefer something with fewer top Cs in for next year please. It was certainly a challenge and one that I enjoyed. I'll be looking forward to next year's contest with anticipation, hoping for another piece that will push the abilities of the players in the Second Section.