4br have commented (again) about the choices of this year's regional set works, notably Variations and Tam O'Shanter's Ride. I sent them a comment disputing this, much as I did when they posted similar comments when the tests were announced in September. On each occasion 4br have not printed my comments. (I sent my first reply twice!) Maybe they think I'm opening myself up to much ridicule and wish to spare me, who knows? Anyway, here is what I sent them this time. If ridicule it be then so be it, but it is, after all, just a personal opinion. Oddly enough, they've included two contributions supporting their view..... 'Lower section bands can't win, can they? A few months ago, 4br bemoaned the low standard of playing at the National Finals in Harrogate (when, between announcement of test pieces and the contest itself, many bands would have had precious little chance to prepare after what, for most bands, would have been the usual round of summer bandstand jobs to work for, you know, the gigs that keeps non-sponsored bands afloat, financially). Now, some of the pieces are percieved as too difficult (when, potentially, bands have had six months to prepare). Look at it perhaps, in one of two possible ways. Tam O'Shanter's Ride and Variations for Brass Band could well improve those bands genuinely wishing to go on to bigger and better things (sure, there'll be some ropey performances. Happens with whatever piece is chosen, certainly at lower section level...) and it might just make the adjudicators' jobs a little easier in making sure the best bands do go through, whereas in previous years, some of the lower section pieces, whilst never being 'easy', have made the adjudicators' jobs a little bit of a lottery. (No criticism of adjudicators intended). You say in your editorial 'Last year, our most eminent judge, David Read stated that there was now a move at the top most level of adjudicating to reward those bands who produce warm, broad and balanced sounds – the essentials of good brass band playing.' That, I would say, equally applies to lower section bands who genuinely want to get better. Tam O'Shanter and particularly Variations will demand that sort of performance to be successful, in my view. It also gives lower section bands a goal to aim for. 'This is what the top bands were playing fifty years ago. Let's see what we can make of it and let's rise to the challenge', is how I, as a conductor would begin my approach in rehearsing any relevant band. I dare say, come the retrospective, 4br will again bemoan the general standard of playing in the lower sections. I say, referring to those bands and conductors who generally wish to improve their lot and are genuinely capable of doing so, they will benefit in the long run, irrespective of what happens on the day itself.' p.s. In case anyone asks, I DO know both pieces from a playing and conducting perspective.