All I know (from one go their players) is that they were playing it during the year before it was the area piece - so 2007. However that's not to say that it was written then, or that they didn't also play it earlier. If I find out, I'll update... I'm not sure I agree - firstly those bands looking to be promoted rather than simply protect their current position will want to push themselves with a tough piece, I'd have thought. Secondly, how often do we hear both players and MDs complain about being given a piece that is "too easy" and therefore uninteresting to rehearse? I think the "safe" choices might be made in those bands trying to avoid a relegation, certainly, but I very much doubt it would happen across the board. Interesting that are two directly contrasting views on this - Dave arguing that (for the Nationals series at least) bands are likely to play it safe in order to protect their grading, while Philip fears that bands would pick excessively difficult pieces in order be rewarded disproportionately for flawed performances. However, I'd give the same answer to both, which is to say that a well balanced marking system is perfectly capable of controlling both factors and in the end the wider adoption of own-choice works for the major contests would simply increase the pressure on an MD to get the piece selection absolutely right. Which is fine by me, actually. A good MD ought to be able to judge what their band could do if pushed, and push them just enough to get there without killing or disillusioning the players (or replacing a third of them with bought in deps). In fact, the more I think about it, that pretty much summarises a brass band conductor's job. In a lot of ways, the set test-piece can occasionally give a poor MD a get-out clause and discourages critical self-analysis ("the band played badly because the piece was too hard" as opposed to "the band played badly because my rehearsal technique on this piece was poor" for example). Having to pick an own choice piece that suits the band from a defined range of music forces a greater awareness of what the band can do, can't do or might do if pushed, and requires MDs to acquire a wide ranging knowledge of the potential repertoire that would suit their band - something I don't feel happens enough currently, which is one reason why we hear the same pieces over and over again. The marking scheme I suggested earlier is just a kind of rough first draft, and could quite easily be tweaked to encourage OR discourage harder selections. In the end though, a band picking a piece that's too hard are going to fail on both musical and technical fronts, weighting notwithstanding. The awarding of a "technical mark" simply makes explicit a process which must happen currently anyway - an adjudicator must pay attention to ensemble, intonation, rhythmic accuracy, etc regardless of whether specific marks are explicitly awarded for these. The main difference that a purely technical mark would make is therefore one of perceived transparency, I reckon. Note also that I absolutely don't suggest weighting the "musical" mark; a wonderfully musical performance of Saddleworth Festival Overture should be marked the same as an equally wonderful rendition of Blitz, Oceans or Spiriti.