Whit Marches 2002:
Whit Friday: 4BR at their Whits end
What is Whit Friday? - the greatest free show on earth' is a phrase
that is widely used, and one that can not be argued with. Brass
Bands from far and wide descending on Saddleworth & Tameside
to compete at various venues, playing a quick-step march and for
the public, its great, purely because all you have to do is turn
up and enjoy it!!!
The weather forecast is bleak for the night, but we at 4BarsRest
decided to head for Delph contest in Saddleworth. The village of
Delph was holding its 55th contest and it is easy to see why it
is a popular venue for both bands playing and the listener. Situated
in a side street, the contesting arena is surrounded by a church
hall, a club and houses, which acoustically make it superb. In addition,
apart from the usual facilities such as food and drink, the organisers
produce a 'Whit Friday Magazine' priced at the minimum price of
£1 which is fantastic value. It has stories of banding today, memories
of by-gone Whit Fridays and is well worth purchasing even if you
don't attend the contest.
Unfortunately this year, the Masters at Cambridge fell on the same
week-end, which meant that some of the leading contenders for prizes
(YBS, Faireys) gave it a miss. Regular attendee's, Grimethorpe,
were flying off to Australia, so it gave other bands a chance to
take some of the limelight. We weren't to be deprived however, as
Leyland, Besses, Brighouse & Fodens all took time out from the
rigours of 'Atlantic' to entertain the crowds and hopefully win
the prize money available. Both Oldham & Tameside Council offer
£2,500 for becoming champions in their 'borough', requesting that
they play at a minimum of six contests. It doesn't matter if you
are a sponsored band or not, serious money is on offer, for any
band that plays well.
The structure though of Whit Friday means that it is very much pot
luck as to which bands attend which contest. The advanced planning
by a particular band as to which contest(s) to attend, which route(s)
to take is as much an art-form as playing. Regrettably, Delph missed
out on both Leyland & Fodens (who decided to partake at the
contesting venues in Tameside), but nevertheless, a cracking night
was in store.
Proceedings commenced at 4.30pm with Rowntree's Band under Billy
Rusworth, who blew any cobwebs away with a commendable performance
of 'The President'. One of the great things about the contests is
not only do you know which bands will turn up, but you don't know
what marches they will play either. It is not beyond the realms
of possibility that you will hear five bands on the bounce play
'Ravenswood' (making it like the majority of contests we are familiar
with), but this year (at Delph anyway) we had a wide-and-varied
array of marches.
Old favourites such as Knight Templar and Mephistopheles were played,
but add to that 'The Howitzer', 'Pompous Main', 'Victors Return',
'The Black Knight', too name but a few and what a pleasure it was
to have some variety! The night was progressing well with a steady
flow of bands coming through, and odd (heavy) shower, and then back-to-back
Navigation Brass followed by Brighouse. For many years now, The
Navigation Inn, Dobcross, has assembled a band for Whit Friday from
a variety of sources. In the main, these are players, who have graced
top bands in recent years, and in addition, players who might not
be actively involved at the top level for family/work commitments.
Regardless of the reasons, you tend to ignore the march being played
(briefly) as you gaze round doing some serious spotting as to who
is playing this year. As ever, we were not to be disappointed with
the likes of Philip Chalk, Brian Evans, Stephen Lord, John Clough
(the legendary Brighouse bass player - not the Dyke Euphonium one)
and Gilbert Symes under Alan Lawton rolling back the years with
Senator. A great performance at Delph was mirrored around Saddleworth
as they picked up a handful of prizes - well done boys.
Somehow, you feel a touch cheated if you don't hear Brighouse on
the circuit. The band has a very close relationship with Delph,
players past, present (and no-doubt in the future) playing for the
men in purple. It was not a vintage performance of 'Ravenswood'
under David Hirst, but it was the clear leader at this stage. In
the end, it gave them second at Delph, but they became Saddleworth
Champions for 2002 having competed at the required six venues in
the area, and some much needed money in the bank with trips to the
Open & The Nationals in London looming later in the year.
One of the delights of any Whit Friday is seeing the amount of youth
bands which go on the circuit. Delph witnessed Townley, Wardle High,
Rochdale Youth, Smithills Senior Band, to name but a few, but one
of the highlights of the whole evening was about to happen. Dobcross
Band has always produced many a fine band and many a fine player,
and this was evident from Dobcross Intermediate Band. All these
players are very young, but gifted, and are extremely well trained.
It was interesting to hear the conductor say to them 'concentration
please, concentration' and concentrate they did and Peter Roberts
(and our very own Iwan Fox) eat your heart out. The young soprano
player was simply superb! This person did not over blow, but he
made his presence felt in the very appropriately named march 'Joy
of Youth' with a delightful tone and some wonderful playing.
The philosophy of the contests of course is that a band can play
at a venue if it has 'signed-in' in that time period - at Delph
it was 4.30-10.30pm. This in theory (and as it turned out) reality,
means that the contest can go on well past the finishing time, and
we still hadn't got a winner, as it had gone past 11pm, and CWS
Glasgow arrived to perform 'Mephistopheles'. For us, this should
have been in the frame, but alas, it wasn't to be as last years
winners, Marsden Silver, playing 'Honest Toil' enthralled a large
crowd took the spoils once again. When Bakewell Band played Star
Lake at 11.52pm we were hearing band number 64 of the night - the
legs had gone completely after nearly 8 hours standing and it was
a touch nippy. But never mind, Delph Contest had a great night and
this was mirrored throughout Saddleworth & Tameside.
As mentioned, Brighouse took the honours in Saddleworth, closely
followed by Sunline International Navigation & Marsden Silver.
In Tameside, congratulations should go to Millbrook contest which
celebrated its 50th year, with Fodens claiming one of their five
first prizes on the night under Russell Gray. In addition, they
picked up other prizes in Tameside, which enabled them to take the
title of Tameside Champions with Leyland coming second and Wingates
claiming third prize.
So that was it, another great Whit Friday - regardless of the weather.
Having been in Uppermill the morning to watch the Walks of Witness,
followed by viewing a couple of hours worth of cricket, it had been
a long day by the time the contest had finished, but a very enjoyable
Thank you Delph for a wonderful night. Next year, its Friday 13th
June, and with any luck, it will be a little bit warmer, but it
will be a great night - Whit Friday always is!