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2003 Remembered

John James has a long look back at the year that was 2003 - a year that had plenty of things to remember. Here is the review of January and February. Remember "Prague" anyone?


January 2003

The turn of the year is traditionally a time for optimism. With the passing of the winter solstice and the days getting longer the Spring Festival may not have been right around the corner but across the banding world the optimism for success in the pending Regionals certainly was being felt as the test pieces were beginning to come together.

For the Williams Fairey Band though the turn of the year was to severely test their optimism. It was announced that the 2002 National Champions had lost their sponsorship and with it came real concerns about their ability to compete in the 2003 European Championships.

We at 4BarsRest had announced our annual awards for 2002 and nursing our traditional hangover were making our New Year resolution to try and make the site in 2003 even more comprehensive than before. Even our unquenchable optimism for the movement was a little more guarded than usual as stories reached the movement laced with uncertainties for the future. A Bill, prepared by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, had been introduced to the House of Lords that would see the regulation of facilities providing entertainment and concerns extended around the movement of the damaging effects that it could potentially inflict on concert planning and promotional events.

Kapitol Promotions having been awarded the contract to run the entire National Championship contest programme from July 2004 announced that the venue for the Lower Sections in the September 2004 at the Harrogate International Centre. The Executive Committee of the British Federation of Brass Bands were obviously disappointed at losing the contract to manage the Championships but an announcement that Alan Hope had been appointed as regional co-ordinator to liase with the eight Regional officers and the membership of a new music panel consisting of secretary Alan Hope, Richard Evans, Paul Hindmarsh, C.Brian Buckley and John Maines, responsible for selecting the test pieces for the Regional and National Finals, was very quickly revealed.

The Kapitol announcements coincided with the first rumblings of unease filtering through at the choice of the Judith Bingham piece 'Prague' for the Championship Section and these were to grow stronger as the days passed.

Regional issues seemed to be everywhere as the work of the registry, in issuing computer validated Registration Reports provoked reaction from some of the Regional Committees who chose to issue the old style signature sheets in tandem. The discussions with the Regional Committees that had raised concerns about validity and accuracy of these reports got a touch heated but it all turned out to be a bit of 'storm in a teacup' as the concerns seemed to be dispelled as quickly as they were raised; a testimony to the hard work of Colin Morrison and the registry team.

Early doors in 2003 saw some of the principal cornet chairs in the 'top flight' go on a bit of a merry-go-round. Alan Morrison's move from Travelsphere to Brighouse followed Nick Paynes move from 'Briggus' to Sellers International Band. Matt Baker took up the principal chair with Travelsphere following Alan Morrison's departure which left just an announcement to come from Besses' as to who would replace Alex Thomas on principal following his moved to YBS on repiano cornet.

Having been promised for a while, the 4BR rankings extended to the top 100 and that saw Fodens Richardson sat at the top of the list with Buy as you View Cory, and Black Dyke following them. The highest new entry in the New Year rankings was Swiss outfit Brass Band Fribourg in at 54th whilst the highest new entry from the UK was Kibworth in at number 77. Coincidentally another Midlands band Newstead Welfare had also made a strong climb up the rankings table to 65th.

On the back of these moves and rankings came the announcement from Grimethorpe that they were to miss the British Open Championships in September as they had accepted an offer to appear with the BBC at their Last Night of the Proms in London's Hyde Park.

One could be lulled into a feeling that January 2003 was just a succession of changes and low points but this was far from the truth.

Aldborne began the year in fine style in collaboration with internationally renowned composer David Fanshawe recording 'Fanfare to Planet Earth' and 'The Millennium March', pieces transcribed by Peter Graham from the composer's original orchestral scores.

To be administered by the NYBB council, it was announced that a National Children's Brass Band of Great Britain (NCBB) was to be launched and this news came as Gwent Youth Band Festival, the oldest Youth Band contest in the world took place on the 25th January. In Section 3 Ebbw Vale Junior & Herefordshire Youth were highly commended while Glynneath Silver and Abergavenny took Sections 1 and 2 respectively.

The Rochdale Brass Band Festival opened the contest year in the North West where, continuing with the winning ways they had left off in 2002, Moston & Beswick (Manchester) took the spoils in the Championship/1st Section whilst Haslingden & Helmshore, Boarshurst Silver & Wardle & District Anderson Brass took the lower sections prizes.

On the eastern side of the country the postponed 2002 Wansbeck Entertainment Contest was finally held and Ever Ready took the top place with Felling and Ellington Colliery captured the other section trophies.

Camborne Town Band Solo and Quartet Contest was again a big success attracting players from the Cory Youth Band as well as the top young Cornish players and Porthleven Band did themselves proud taking both the 14 & under and the Open Quartet prizes. In the Besson Youth Solo and Quartet Championships, Campbeltown Brass must have felt it was well worth the three-hour drive to Glasgow when they lifted seven prizes at that contest.

Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band announced a three year sponsorship deal with Yorkshire company 'Ben Bailey Holmes' and with one of its former players at the helm, William Rushworth together with Kirsty Abbots on principal cornet they began to strengthen their playing staff and looked forward to 2003 with a relish and true optimism.

They were not the only band to have a 'toasty' January as another Yorkshire band 2nd Section Strata Brass (formerly The Weaver Group Band) also announced a three year extension to their sponsorship deal and JAG Mount Charles confirmed a further 12 months sponsorship agreement for themselves.

In a bold and most optimistic style January closed out with an announcement from the Scottish Brass Band Association of a major new Championship Contest. Christened the Scottish Open Brass Band Championships its inauguration was set to take place in Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall on 30th November 2003 when the top 6 bands from the Scottish Regionals would compete with 10 invited bands from the rest of the U.K. This contest would be complimented with a Scottish Youth Brass Band Championships to be held on the same day in the nearby Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama. In confident style they also gave the announcement they were looking to give a major face-lift to its Solo and Ensemble Championships.


February 2003

The early days in February were very much the domain of the Youth Bands.

The Action Research Youth Entertainment Championships were held in Blackpool where Eric Landon guided Rochdale Borough Brass Band in a most convincing performance to take the title and the National Youth Championships of Great Britain closely followed this.

A busy Royal Northern College of Music was witness to some outstanding playing as Rochdale were runners-up on this occasion to West Lothian Schools Brass Band. This Premier Section was just one of five sections that went to; Schools Section - Tapton Schools Brass Band; County Section - Stockport Schools Brass Band; Community Section - JAG Mount Charles Youth Band & St.Helens Youth Training Band completing the prize list in the Junior Section.

Continuing the Youth theme Chris Wormald encouraged his young charges in the Smithills Schools Senior Band as they took part in a 10-hour sponsored rehearsal in raising money for a planned tour to New Zealand, whilst on the senior front Desford took up their cases and completed a successful tour of Holland.

As the dust was settling on the details of Kapitol's National contract news was released from the British Federation of Brass Bands that Robert Morgan, having become acting Chairman following the retirement of David Stanley, would be standing for the substantive position at the forthcoming AGM. This news was offset though by the announcement that General Secretary of the BFBB Norman Jones would be stepping down however it was understood that he would continue to help up to and through the National Finals in Dundee.

In a news month dominated with the Middle East situation in Iraq and the Fire Service unrest the Registry also took the decision to allow borrowed players at the forthcoming Regionals in a move to help bands with service personnel in their ranks.

The memory of Eric Ball was beginning to have a major impact on contest management as many musical advisors were beginning to choose works by this celebrated figure it being the Centenary Year of his birth. A Centenary Concert, in his memory, was also announced to be held in the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham close to his birth date at which Black Dyke and the international Staff Band of the Salvation Army would jointly celebrate his life in music.

Fairey Band were still looking for sponsorship and they were not the only band that had a problem with attendance at the European Championships as Swedish Band Gothenburg withdrew finding the high cost of attending the Finals prohibitive.

Whilst the problems for Phil Spector, being involved in a murder inquiry as a woman was found shot at the music legends home hit the music headlines another high profile music name hit the financial news. Boosey & Hawkes Instrument Division was acquired by Rutland Fund Management who set up a new company 'The Music Group Limited' to oversee this venture including a new facility for brass bands called Besson Band-Aid. Headed up by Robert and Nicholas Childs, the service was seen as a way of providing anyone involved in a brass band the opportunity to seek expert advice on any banding issues or problems.

This change to B&H was not the only one, as the business restructure also brought not only speculation as to the future of the famous company but also discussion as to their rights over the Welsh Brass Band Registry. It turned out that B&H had no rights at all having never owned any part of this body and therefore the Welsh Registry would continue to exist and be managed as an autonomous body.

The concerns over the amendment to the Licensing Bill reached the ears of the Secretary of State who went on record to allay worries regarding the consequences of the Bill assuring the movement that in no way did they wish to introduce Legislation that would compromise the brass band movement.

The longevity of our bands was highlighted at both ends of the spectrum. Jeremy Wise closed down First City Brass as commitment issues and dwindling player numbers became unmanageable yet on the other hand Linthwaite Band were making preparations to celebrate their 150 years in existence. A new band was formed following the idea planted from last years Whit Marches. Comprising 29 members mainly drawn from Kettering, Leicester & Derby SA Bands, Salvo Brass planned to give their inaugural concert the following month and whilst proud of it's SA standing it was not identified as such to avoid any conflict of interest.

As the month unfolded attention was focused with much interest on the City of Exeter where an Industrial Tribunal decided to rule in favour of the band, when a case sighting wrongful dismissal was brought by conductor Philip Bailey against the Yeovil Band.

To round out the month in general and in the push to try and make the site in 2003 even more comprehensive we launched our innovative "Classified Ads" section for bands and players.

It was a busy time on the contesting front.

Flowers took the prestigious Yeovil Entertainment Contest with JAG Mount Charles in 2nd place and Jeremy Wise had a better time with a groundbreaking entertainment contest. The results of this inaugural Milton Keynes Entertainment Contest was Section A; Stansted Silver (Scratch band) and Section B; Moulton 77. The Coleford Entertainment Contest that was taken by City of Bristol also complimented the entertainment contest arena.

The bands competing in the N.E. Midlands Contest really announced their presence in 2003; United Co-op Crewe, Silk Brass Carlton Brass and Bakewell Silver all taking early wins.

Brass at the Guild saw Lynda Nicholson adjudicate at her first contest awarding the developing Nelson Brass the title in Section D. Meanwhile in the rest of the contest Wire Brass maintained their strong platform in Section B, Wingates won a strong Section A and Greenfield captured Section C.

The Oxfordshire & District Brass Band Association Winter Contest (Test Piece and March) saw pots taken by Wantage Silver, Swindon Pegasus, Syston, Jubilee Brass, Marsh Gibbon & Yarnton.

In the North East, Fishburn, Cockerton Silver, Ferryhill Town and the strong 2002 outfit Lockwood Brass all picked up early wins at the Durham BBA Grading Contest.

The Dutch National Champions, Brass Band Groningen won the first important contest of the year in the Netherlands repeating last years win at the Friesland Festival entertainment contest. In the rest of the division the prizes went with - Section B Soli Deo Gloria, Section C De Nije Bazun, Section D Brassband Haarlem.

The Besson Scottish Solo & Ensemble Championships were completed at Howden Park Centre, Livingston. This first Scottish Ensemble Championships commenced by Johnstone Band, who had the distinction of being the first to take the stage in this new contest, gave a good performance that was followed by Whitburn who were in absolutely superb form to take the trophy. Gregor Stewart (Trombone, Scottish Co-op) took the solo award.

In North Wales a large entry took part in the Association’s Annual Solos & Quartets Contest and this was reflected in the 110th SCABA Quartet/Ensemble Contest where thirteen bands were represented. The North of Ireland Brass Band League Entertainments, Solo and Quartet Contests were competed as was the well established Rivington and Adlington Band Slow Melody and Junior Quartet Contest. Porthleven Town Band Solo and Quartet Contest and the newly implemented slow melody contest held by Haydock Band completed a number of contests of this nature in February.

After all the early contests were compiled Ever Ready were the only top 20 band to make notable progress in the rankings, however, the Norwegian Championships had a considerable influence with Stavanger, Manger and Sandefjord all making giant leaps up the table. In the elite division Stavanger Brass Band and David King took the Norwegian Crown with Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag (Nicholas J. Childs), Sandefjord Brass Symposium (Garry Cutt) & Manger Musikklag (Allan Withington) taking the other places. Fodens Richardson having just returned from a successful and enjoyable trip to Armagh, Northern Ireland, sat at the very top of the list with Buy as you View Cory, and Black Dyke retaining the other top three spots in the overall rankings.

To complete the Norwegian Championships Division 1 was taken by Tertnes Brass (John Hinckley) Division 2 - Brøttum Musikkforening (Thorbjørn Lunde), Division 3 Fræna Musikkorps (Jens Kr. Mordal) and Division 4 Tertnes Amatørkorps conducted by International euphonium soloist Tormod R. Flaten.


John James
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