The 4BarsRest Awards 2001
OK so its the season for everyone from Smash Hits to
the BBC to hand out a variety of gongs, sculptures and free lunches
to an assortment of the good, great and down right sexy - so we
thought wed better get in on the act and give our own awards
to the very best in the banding world for 2001.
Weve given the four main nominations we think deserve to
win, but there will be an opportunity for you to give your own nomination
is you disagree with us. Weve given our reasons and we stick
by them. Send us your votes and well announce the winners
before Christmas and hopefully well be able to present the
winners with something to recognise their achievements.
As this is such a long article, we suggest you click the green
'bandroom copy' link to your right, print off and read at your leisure
Sunday 16 Dec 2001
Band of the Year:
Its been a fairly great year in terms of individual performances
from the very top bands, but for us there are four main nominations
that stick out as being worthy of taking the award. In alphabetical
order they are:
Black Dyke Band
Six long barren years came to end with Dyke winning the National
Championships at the Royal Albert Hall this year and in doing so
they have reclaimed their reputation as the band to beat
a reputation that was under considerable threat during those years
without a title. 2001 saw them take the Yorkshire Area title, come
runners up at the Open and then win the Nationals with Nicholas
Childs moulding them back to the force they were all those years
ago. It could be a permanent renaissance.
Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag
The standard bearers of all that is good and at times great in European
banding, Eikanger has remained throughout 2001 as the best band
in Norway and one of the best bands in Europe bar none. They
won their National Championships in superb style and went on to
record further contest success at the SIDDIS contest later in the
year. In addition their concert repertoire has remained at the very
cutting edge of brass writing and performing and they are fearless
in their approach to contemporary music. The 2002 European sees
them return to challenge for a crown they so nearly won for a third
time at Birmingham in the Millennium.
The Fodens Band
Even though in title terms 2001 saw the band from Sandbach draw
a blank, 2001 also saw them give a series of contest performances
that were universally regarded as real musical highlights. The bands
association with Bramwell Tovey was a revelation, bringing an orchestral
breadth of style that many though impossible for a brass band to
achieve. They were runners up at the Regional Championships and
were 4th at the Masters, but it was their performances at the Open
(where they came 7th) and the Nationals where they were runners
up that so impressed us. At both venues they were a fine band led
by a conducting maestro and the audiences at both were treated to
Yorkshire Building Society
What a year 2001 was European Champions and British Open
Champions, runners up at the Masters and Yorkshire Area and third
place at the Nationals yet YBS ended it somewhat downcast,
such are their expectations and record of achievement over the past
few years. They were brilliant and different and put their necks
on the line by performing to the very edge of their immense abilities
wherever they contested. The wins at the Open and European were
examples of strength of character that other bands can only envy
and at the Masters they were somewhat cruelly robbed of the title
by dent of a rogue marking from one of the judges. They
remain however, the benchmark band if you can beat them then
you most probably have won the contest
Thats our four nominations but we are open to other suggestions.
The likes of Williams Fairey, BAYV Cory, Trieze Etoiles and Brighouse
all were worthy of a mention as should Grimethorpe, Whitburn, Kirkintilloch
and Leyland. All have been bands on the upward curve and could have
easily made our top four list.
Conductor of the Year:
Four fine talents impressed us the most in 2001, even though we
could have easily put forward a different four or more without a
problem. We took into account the achievements of their bands when
they were directing operations at the helm and the overall standard
they have maintained in their musical approach (regardless of the
result at the contest) when directing their charges. These are our
Youve got to hand it to Nick Childs given the opportunity
to take over at the most demanding and famous brass band in the
world he has moulded them into a force once again on the contest
stage and further enhanced their reputation on the concert platform
and the recording studio. The success in winning the National has
shown the revitalisation of the band has been completed and you
get the feeling that Black Dyke are back and the band to beat
2002 could be an immense year.
There has never been any doubt that Garry Cutt has been one of the
very best band trainers in the business and given the chance to
direct a top class outfit his musicianship has shone like a beacon.
His direction of Grimethorpe and Leyland during 2001 has been a
highlight for us with performances and readings of complex scores
that have been musical gems. Grimethorpe were superb at the Open
and equally as good at Spennymoor, whilst Leyland were outstanding
under his control at the North West Area. 2001 has shown his talents
to the full.
Only two appearances this for the man from Vancouver via Hanwell
and GUS, but what two appearances they were. First was an electric
performance from both him and Fodens at the Open where they were
very unlucky to gain reward (and thats being charitable) and
then there was his inspired reading at the Nationals that so very
nearly saw him grasp the title from Black Dyke and Nicholas Childs.
His readings have been revelations whilst he oozes style and musicianship
we cannot afford to lose him from the banding world.
Never has a conductor put himself on the line so often as David
King and never has a conductor come out so often on top when
the pressure is on. 2001 reminded us yet again of his immense talent
and commitment to his band, whilst his readings are full of nuance
and detail and chock full of music. This means that sometimes the
judges dont agree with his interpretations, but he wows the
audiences wherever he goes. The European and Open successes were
testimony to his character as well as his undoubted talent.
Player of the Year:
Four truly great players all of whom would be worthy winners
of our prize. There have been many a fine contest and concert performance
from any number of top class players this year, but we think these
four have shone out even against some of the best brass players
in world let alone the UK.
Truly great trombone playing all year from the man who now occupies
the top chair at Williams Fairey. His performances on both the contest
and concert stage during 2001 have been immense and his solo spot
during the Best of British post-Open concert was the highlight of
a very long day. It was worth the entry fee alone such was the quality
of the musicianship he displayed.
The Euphonium player of the year has been a rock of consistent brilliance
with Black Dyke throughout the year and has given superb performances
at each major contest and concert he has played. Dyke has a worthy
successor to Robert Childs and a man who could very well be the
finest player of his generation. All this and hes a lovely
bloke as well.
The man who came back to Black Dyke has been the catalyst for their
success during 2001, leading from the front with superb musicianship
- be it on the contest stage or concert platform. His solo playing
is just one facet of his world-class talent and he leads by example
at all times. Dyke has the very best man for the job sitting in
the hot seat.
A man without equal on his chosen instrument. 2001 has seen Peter
Roberts yet again perform at an incredible standard on the contest
and concert platform. At the Open he was simply awesome whilst his
solo playing at the European was something people will talk about
for years to come. He is untouchable.
Contest Performance of the Year
There has been many a fine performance during the year from many
bands at many levels and it has been a difficult choice for us to
narrow it down just to the four we have chosen. However, we think
these four have stood out (and we have not just looked at winning
performances either) and have shown top class bands and top class
conductors at the very peak of their form.
Buy As You View Cory
Montreux Wind Dances European Championships
This was an immensely difficult set test, but Cory was the only
band on the day to give a true performance of its undoubted merits.
The last movement in particular very nearly destroyed others but
Cory were simply outstanding. It was an immense performance from
the Welshmen and Robert Childs in particular and such was its effect
that it drained them just enough to allow YBS to pip them to the
overall title later in the day.
Les Preludes British Open
What a performance but what a result. There were undoubted
slips and blobs and a bit of tuning trouble with the opening, but
no other band on the day for us came close to the overall picture
created by conductor and players alike. At times it was like hearing
an orchestral brass ensemble such was the breadth and style of their
approach to the music. Les Preludes was a great test but not a great
piece of music Fodens and Tovey made it sound the opposite.
Albion National Championships of Great Britain
With immense pressure upon their shoulders, Black Dyke and Nicholas
Childs give one of the most thrilling and compelling contest performances
for many a year on Albion. Such was their complete control from
start to finish that there wasnt a squeak of protest from
any quarter of the hall when they were announced as winners and
the judges confided to us that they were very clear winners. Against
one of the strongest fields at the Nationals for many years, this
was the measure of their performance and achievement.
Yorkshire Building Society
Pageantry All England Masters
Its not strange that weve chosen this performance ahead
of their two title winning performances in 2001, but the Masters
showed YBS at their very best for us (even though one of the judges
didnt agree with us and the majority of the audience). We
placed it ahead of the two others because it revealed YBS as a band
that was in complete mastery of a classic brass band test piece
yet made it sound fresh and vibrant without ever losing any
of its subtlety and nuance. This was what made it so special
CD of the Year
Plenty to choose from here for us and we did look at recordings
that we havent tried to flog you on the site. We think our
choice is eclectic enough, but the thing that made them stand out
for us was that they were undertaken with a very secure knowledge
of what they wanted to achieve thus we have discounted many
that we felt were very good but lacked an identifiable aim of purpose.
These are our four then.
Brighouse and Rastrick
Conducted by David Hirst and Stephen Cobb
Egon Recordings SFZ 101
A superb release of some of the immensely satisfying music of Kenneth
Downie a highly talented and committed man who pieces seek
to clarify his Christian beliefs through beautifully realised melodies.
Brighouse are on top form and the quality of the recording is very
high, but its the music that speaks so clearly and makes the
release such an inspired joy for both those with religious and non-religious
Summon the Heroes
Conducted by Frank Renton
Egon Recordings SFZ 102
Kirkintilloch have had a fine 2001 on the contesting stage and from
the quality of this recording you can see why. An intelligent programme
of music geared to the easy yet informed listener, which
offers repertoire that is musically satisfying and enjoyable. Its
a shining example of how to play to your strengths without ever
losing sight of original aim of entertaining. A bit of a gem.
Eric Ball The Undaunted
Grimethorpe Colliery RJB Band
Conducted by Elgar Howarth
Doyen Recording CD 108
One master paying homage to another. Howarth displays an almost
reverential approach to Eric Balls music without ever cheapening
or reducing the musical integrity of the compositions. Grimethorpe
are on fine form and the production values are very high, but it
is the way in which Howarth uncovers and reveals the hidden layers
of the music that makes this so very special. No one else could
have come close to doing it.
Butterworth The music of Arthur Butterworth
Black Dyke Band
Conducted by Nicholas Childs
Doyen Recording CD 130
A magnificent musical appraisal of a hidden genius of the brass
band world. Butterworth has been almost criminally overlooked in
recent years, but this recording should restore his deserved reputation
as a brass composer of the highest strata. Dyke is on superb form
and the recording values are top class, but once again its
the aims of the CD that have been realised in full. One of the most
important releases for many years we said and we stick by
Lower Section Band of the Year
Oh so many to choose from and we are sure nobody will agree in full
with our four for consideration, but these four for us all had the
hallmarks of bands that are being directed well with players of
quality and musicianship. More importantly for us, they are bands
that have played to their strengths and have not tried to blow the
roof off. Balanced, in tune and together if only many top
section bands could have done the same during the year.
Ian Porthouse and his charges have had a very good year and culminated
their success in winning the French Open Championships. They were
there or thereabouts at every contest we heard them at and displayed
a rounded balanced sound without ever overblowing. The direction
was top notch and the players clearly responded to his wishes on
the stage. They were beaten on a number of occasions but the long
term outlook for them is very rosy.
Peter Hawke Garages Lindley
Neil Jowett and his band won the Senior Cup and Pontins Championships
in 2001 with performances of real merit and style that were beacons
of common sense and musicality in what appeared a sea of overblowing
raucous opposition. The Senior Cup performance on Prometheus Unbound
was superbly balanced and controlled whilst the win at Pontins on
Purcell Variations showed that the band has a very talented group
of players that will do well in the higher section next year.
City of Bristol
Bryn James has quietly worked a minor miracle in the veritable banding
desert of the West of England with City of Bristol, but their form
throughout 2001 in the Second Section has shown that there is plenty
of talent there when it can be harnessed. Some super shows that
revealed a clever musical brain and a band with a lovely rounded
balanced sound saw them come 2nd at the Nationals and 2nd at Pontins,
whilst only last week they were 2nd again only this time
they defeated Flowers band in the process. A fine band and conductor
in the making.
Shirland Welfare Training
One of the highlights of the banding year for us at 4BR was listening
to Marie Smith and her very young band performing Sir Malcolm Arnolds
Attleborough Suite in winning the Fourth Section National
title in Preston. It was such a delight balanced, controlled,
in tune and very musical. If only other players and conductors were
there to listen to it. It came as no surprise that the band also
won the Mineworkers Championship as well for they are a very classy
outfit that benefits immensely from a sensible and sympathetic MD
in Marie Smith at the helm plus she wears the best sparkly
tops in the banding world.
Test Piece of the Year
Plenty of new and old music to consider for this category
not only in the top section but also in the lower sections. The
nicest thing to report is that 2001saw contest organisers making
inspired choices (long may it continue) of music that was not only
challenging for the players but enjoyable for the audience as well.
Full marks to the Regionals, European, Pontins as well as the usual
Majors. Our four then are.
Montreux Wind Dances
A fine piece given an even finer performance by BAYV Cory
Wind Dances was different and challenging but musically satisfying
for players, conductors and audience alike. It should be used again
and again not only in Europe but possibly as a Regional set test
and we should make every effort to encourage Mr Rutti to write more
Jan van der Roost
National Championships of Great Britain
Another piece that was different and challenging for players, conductors
and audience alike (and we just dont mean the choreography).
Albion was a superbly realised piece that harnessed everything that
bands could do very well into a test piece that required a top class
band to be on top class form throughout to make it come off. One
the day there was one superb performance, but nearly all the bands
made it sound exciting and vibrant what more can we ask for?
Liszt transcribed by Bram Gay
A masterly transcription by Bram Gay that had all the traditionalists
whistling the tunes all the way home form the Symphony Hall in September.
In many ways it highlighted how little the movement had progressed
yet also showed that it is the mastery of the basics of brass playing
that leaves the best players and bands still struggling. A superb
achievement that asked as many new questions about the brass band
as a musical entity as it answered.
Sir Malcolm Arnold
Fourth Section National Finals
An absolute gem of a piece. Based on his Second Little Suite for
Orchestra this was a brilliant choice for the Fourth Section. Superbly
crafted and styled with wit and humour throughout, Arnolds
Suite was the highlight of a fine weekends music making in Preston.
It asked so many basic questions of bands that even a top section
outfit would have found it musically challenging. Why cant
all lower section music be as good as this?
Special 4BarsRest Award
No real criteria for this one just an award to the person
we think this year has been a beacon of intelligent thought provoking
musical output. We could have gone for a player, a conductor, administrator
or even adjudicator, but we felt this man had done more than most
to offer constructive and well-informed opinion about the state
of the banding world than anyone else.
His articles have been positive, his criticisms articulate and well
founded and his opinions are based on quality research and musical
integrity and no little experience.
Thus we have given our award to Alan Jenkins of the Brass
Band World Magazine. His article about racial interaction and multi
culturalism in the aftermath of the race riots in northern England
was as good as any we have had the pleasure to read anywhere - let
alone in the banding press, whilst his coverage of the major contests
and reflections on the days competition are trenchant and though
We may not always agree with him, but he remains the best writer
by far and the best advocate for brass bands that we have in the
written press. We spent two days with him at the National Finals
in Preston where he was a delight and such good company. No jealousy,
no protective secrecy and plenty of jokes, waspish humour and detailed
musical insight. It was a masterclass lesson for us.
Alan gets our award and our best wishes. We hope he continues to
write for many years to come.