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2003 Remembered

John James continues his look back at 2003. March and April was Regionals time and the highs and lows of trying to get to London and Dundee.


March 2003

The trend in test piece selection favouring Eric Ball continued with the announcement that the music for the National Finals would all be music composed or arranged by him. The test pieces for the lower sections being; A Kensington Concerto, Sunset Rhapsody, Four Preludes and the lesser-known Call of the Sea. It was however the choice of an arrangement of Theme & Variations from the Enigma (Elgar) that caused some disquiet in some circles questioning whether it was perhaps the best choice of test-piece for the Albert Hall Finals.

The loss of the Band's long-term sponsorship coupled with the expense of travelling to Norway forced the decision, as anticipated, that Williams Fairey Band would not be attending the European Brass Band Championship in Bergen. On top of that came the news that Northern Ireland Bands Association Champions, the 1st Old Boys (SeaCat) Silver Band had also been forced to withdraw from the forthcoming EBBA Championships again due to financial issues.

Following Fairey’s pulling out of the contest the organisers tried to invite firstly Black Dyke and then Fodens Richardson to fill their place but they were unable to do so. These two bands had filled the immediate English places behind Faireys at the Albert Hall. Brighouse who came 5th were the next band in line that meant that Brighouse would make a return to the contest for the first time since May 1999 when they were reigning champions.

The European Brass Band Association (EBBA) and the Norwegian Band Federation announced that the test piece for the European Championships as a new work by Torstein Aagaard–Nilsen, “Aubade” Dawn Songs of the Fabulous Birds and we don’t think anyone was prepared for the sheer diversity in composition and instrumentation that this composition would adopt.

Three young musicians from Wales together with four talented English players were invited to make the trip to the European Championships being chosen to represent their countries ensuring that our shores were well represented in the European Youth Brass Band.

Back with our own Federation, as expected, Robert Morgan was elected to the position of Chairman of the BFBB and the reshuffle in the executive committee also saw Greta Russell (Secretary West Midlands BB Assoc’) voted into the position of General Secretary. Soon after these appointments news reached us that Hayley Granger had resigned from her post as Development Officer so a number of changes were undertaken that needed consolidation before the Dundee Finals.

Over a number of months players looking for a city based band within Norwich prompted professional conductor Alan Broadbent, operating in conjunction with the School of Music University of East Anglia where Alan is a teacher of the Trumpet, to create Norwich City Brass. The formation of this band coincided with anniversaries of some of our more established units The National Youth Band of Wales reached the tender age of 20 years whilst Nestle Rowntree reached its Centenary and Wingates who began life a mere 130 years ago.

Both the Fodens Richardson Band and Brett Baker with the Longridge Band announced the launch of the inaugural Awards for composition/arrangement. The awards being open competitions for composers and arrangers of all ages and levels of experience came as Elland Silver Band informed the news desk that one of our most prestigious composers Dr Philip Wilby took over the baton in their bandroom.

The 4BR website was continuing to push forward and bands that had signed up to the classifieds section were able log into their accounts and begin adding their concerts to the database.

The Regional Qualifiers really dominated the month and even up to the last moment 'Prague' with controversy over the number of errata sheets that seemed to appear in epidemic proportions fuelling the debate. This then turned to further discussion, as results in the Championship Sections did not always go according to plan with some of the pre-contest favourites being ousted on the day by the underdogs, none more so than in the Yorkshire & North West. In fact Judith Bingham, the composer of the Championship test piece "Prague" wrote to 4BR to let us know what she has thought of the reaction to her work. It seems she was taken aback by a few of the comments but made the point that she has found it all rather stimulating - good and bad.


The bands provisionally qualifying for the renamed ‘Besson’ National Finals were therefore

Yorkshire
Championship Section - Brighouse & Rastrick, Asda Stocksbridge & Black Dyke (pre qualified)
1st Section - Knottingley Silver, Hade Edge (J&E Dickinson)
2nd Section - Old Silkstone, Hatfield Coal Power
3rd Section - Hebden Bridge (Walkley's Clogs), Stanley Newmarket Colliery
4th Section - Dinnington Colliery, Grange Moor

North West
Championship Section - Fodens Richardson (pre qualified), Williams Fairey (pre qualified), Haydock & Leyland
1st Section - United Co-op (Crewe), Norwest Co-op Milnrow
2nd Section - Bollington, Manx Concert Brass
3rd Section - Diggle, Boarshurst, Hoover (Bolton)
4th Section - Trinity Girls, Wardle & District Anderson Brass, Nelson Brass (who confirmed the appointment of John North as their Musical Director following their continuing successes.)

Midlands
Championship Section – Desford Colliery, Ransome Band
1st Section - Kibworth, Riddings
2nd Section - Shirley Band, Darley Dale
3rd Section - Daventry Brass, Carlton Brass, Audley Brass
4th Section – Phoenix West Midlands Brass, Long Eaton Silver, Bakewell Silver

Scotland
Championship Section – CWS (Glasgow) Band, Kirkintilloch Band,
1st Section - Bathgate Band, Bon-Accord Silver Band
2nd Section - Newmills and Galston, Arbroath Instrumental Band
3rd Section - Lochgelly, St Ronnan’s Silver Band
4th Section – Dumfries Town Band, Peebles

Wales
Championship Section - Buy as you View Cory, Tredegar, Burry Port
1st Section - Treherbert & District, Abergavenny Borough
2nd Section - Llanrug, Penclawdd
3rd Section - Newbridge Celynen, Conwy Town
4th Section - Harlech, Ogmore Valley

North of England
Championship Section - Ever Ready, East Yorkshire Motor Services
1st Section - BHK (UK) Ltd Horden, Barrow Shipyard,
2nd Section - Langbaurgh Brass, Houghton Brass
3rd Section - Wansbeck's Ashington, Stape Silver
4th Section - Lockwood Brass, Ripon City

London & Southern Counties
Championship Section - Redbridge Brass, Alliance Brass
1st Section - Friary Guildford, Zone One Brass
2nd Section - Wantage Silver, Broseley Brass, Brighton Silver
3rd Section - Ware Brass, Fulbourn & Teversham RBL, Sandhurst Silver
4th Section - Thundersley Brass Band, Great Yarmouth Brass, Woodbridge Excelsior Band

Unfortunately Thundersley Band was later disqualified from their winners place in the Fourth Section due to a player infringement and the title awarded to Great Yarmouth Brass instead. The 4th placed band, Hilgay Silver was therefore asked to represent the Region at the Finals.

In competition outside of the Regionals the Cornwall Association Contest held in Truro which was taken by
JAG Mount Charles. In the other section prizes were awarded to Helston (S1), St.Dennis (S2), St Stythians(S3), Camborne 'B'(S4), St Dennis Youth(Youth Sec’) & Camborne Junior (Junior Sec’).

Huddersfield Town Hall hosted the Pogson Bray Trust 17th Annual Brass Band Contest that proved successful for Skelmanthorpe who went on to have a most rewarding 2003. Section B went to Oughtibridge and Horbury Victoria Youth took their section.

At the solo competition held in Newcastle, members of the Lions Youth Brass Band did themselves proud taking a number of trophies back to the bandroom and a number of new trophies were awarded at the inaugural Bill Shaw Memorial Slow Melody Contest in Lochgelly. Whilst this contest was in its infancy the Dalmellington Cecil Oughton Slow Melody reached its successful 58th year.


April 2003

The West of England Regionals were held in the Riviera International Conference Centre, Torquay and these completed the line-up for the Nationals Finals. Camborne Town and a resurgent Flowers qualified from the Championship section so taking the places up for grabs to complete the Finals were -

Championship Section - Camborne Town, Flowers
1st Section - City of Bristol, Test Valley Brass,
2nd Section - Lanner & District Silver, Lympstone South West Telecom
3rd Section - Michelmersh Silver, St Dennis, Filton Concert Brass,
4th Section - Hayle Town and Downton

Yorkshire band Skelmanthorpe was quickly emerging as a true contender for Band of the Year as they once again took a first prize winning the 7th Tameside Open Brass Band Contest Championship Section from Ashton-under-Lyne. Whilst Skelmanthorpe themselves were riding high this contest also gave opportunity for some other bands to lay down early markers as top bands as well. Second Section outfit Old Silkstone with Norman Law set out their stall again leading Blackpool Brass in the trophy stakes. The third section went to a most impressive Diggle followed closely by Boarshurst Silver who once again would be in the hunt all through the year. The fourth section saw Nelson Brass and Lockwood Brass in the top places. Here we certainly had some of the real cream of the country on show all of whom could, by the end of the year, be in the reckoning for our annual award.

The rankings which followed the Regionals proved most interesting and there was no doubt about it the round of regional contests had produced the biggest shake-up in rankings history with thirteen new entries into the top 100. Eleven bands climbed ten or more places but Black Dyke, YBS, Grimethorpe and Whitburn were licking their wounds following disappointing results.

The fact that a good few bands in Yorkshire were in sparkling form it was disappointing that the Area Brass Band Association Contest had to be cancelled after a 44 year history due to a lack of entries when only nine bands applied which left the event just not viable.

Further down the country the SCABA Contest in Hove had a successful visitor from abroad when Brass Band Des Pays De La Loire (Jean Claude Baulin) took second prize in the Second Section behind Sussex Brass (Hastings). Across the other sections the Youth/Third Section went to Godalming, First Section - BAE Systems and Championship Section to Broseley Brass.

On the International front the final details for the forthcoming European Championships in Bergen, just around the corner, were announced. The judges had some familiar faces amongst them as well as one or two that had less familiar ring to them. The Set Test Piece Section of the Championship and 1st Sections were to be judged by Torgny Hanson of Sweden, Goff Richards of England and Jan Van der Roost of Belgium with the Own Choice Section then judged by Jens T. Larsen of Norway, Isabelle Ruf of Switzerland and Thomas Wyss of England. The European Conductors competition was to be judged by Jappie Dijkstra of the Netherlands, Isabelle Ruf of Switzerland and Karl Ole Mitbo of Norway with Derek Bourgois of England joining the panel for the Grand Final.

On the subject of adjudication David Read, William Relton and Geoffrey Whitham were also nominated as the three men who would be charged with picking the winners at the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall in October.

Moving to the Youth Section it again came in for some interesting developments.

Following on from the news that both the Welsh and English would be sending youngsters to represent their country at the 2nd European Youth Brass Band in Bergen, the Scots informed everyone that they too would have three representatives there as well. Congratulations went to the players assigned as Principals for the NYBBGB namely, Philip Cobb - Cornet & Leader, Rebecca Crawshaw & Billy Parkinson - (Co-Soprano), Alison Tinsley - Flugel Horn, Christopher Pannell - Tenor Horn, Katrina Marzella – Baritone, Ryan Gray – Euphonium, Steven Haynes - Tenor Trombone, Louise Godfrey - Bass Trombone, Wilfred Driscoll - Eb Bass, Nicholas Hurst - Bb Bass & Russell Abraham – Percussion.

The 56 strong award-winning Smithills School Senior Brass Band, led by conductor Chris Wormald, flew back safely into Manchester Airport from Singapore after touring, to much-acclaim, the North Island of New Zealand. They were to learn with the rest of us almost simultaneously that Pontins Brass Band Committee would be supporting a new and Youth Festival in 2004 to take place at the Brean Sands Holiday Centre in Somerset probably in the July.

The continuing strength of our younger players was epitomized, in particular, when Pennine Brass announced that the talented “JJ Lees” (age 16) had been appointed to the band’s principal cornet position and in the Leicestershire Solo and Quartet Results when once again the talents nurtured in the Shirland Training Band were most successful. This was not the only Slow Melody, Aire Varie, Duet and Quartet Competition held as the North West Counties Brass Band Association Annual Slow Melody + Stan Winter Music Scholarships, Standish Brass Band Slow Melody Contest and Northop Festival Competition all attracted good entries with quality young players.

A "Royal Welsh College Of Music & Drama Brass Band" weekend of music making for players of all ages & ability typified the strong educational themes adopted by the Cornwall Brass Band Association. With the support of the Trevada Music and the Cornwall Music Service the development of banding in the South West continued to impress. An educational bias was again noted in Southern Counties as a joint British Trombone Society and Clifton & Lightcliffe Band ‘Trombone Day’ including masterclass, workshops and concerts also took place in May and speaking of trombones congratulations went to Don Lusher received an OBE from the Queen for his life-long service to music.

Knowledge of a different kind though was evident ‘Up North’ when a quiz, with questions wholly on brass bands, was revived by the Diggle Band. Held regularly in the past at the Navigation (Dobcross) this time it was by Fairey's who became "Brains of Brass 2004”.

The North of Ireland Brass Band Spring Festival was completed and The National Championships of the Irish Association for Brass and Concert Bands was held in the Wesley College, Dublin as further away the Swiss solo and quartet contest was held in Eglisau and results from Norway, Australia and North America reached our pages.

The Grenland Brass Festival in Norway contested over 4 sections saw wins for Elite Section - Eikanger-Bjørsvik, Oslofjord Brass, First Section - Askøy Brass Band, Oster Brass, Second Division - Laksevåg Musikkforening, Krapfoss Hornorkester & Third Section - Fagernes Musikkorps.

Waitakere City "Trusts" Brass directed by Andy Snell became the 2003 Australian National Champions ahead of second placed Waratah Brass whilst on the other continent Stavanger Brass Band, the Norwegian Champion band won the North American Brass Band Association (NABBA) Championships held in Little Rock, Arkansas during a tour that took in 6 states and over 2000 miles in just over a week.

The results of the North American Brass Band Association (NABBA) Championships were
Championship Section - Stavanger Brass Band (David King), Honors Section - Cincinnati Brass Band, Challenge Section - Spires Brass Band & Open Section - James Madison University Brass Band

Back home the Liverpool Playhouse and Birmingham Rep presented a stage version of the mining drama ‘Brassed Off’ in a production that featured bands from the North West and Midlands areas. Another Midlands band Newstead Welfare Band won over audiences with a weekend visit to Northern France playing in Lille designated the European capital of culture for 2004.

On a business front SP&S Ltd, home of the Doyen, Egon and SP&S recording labels announced a 'change of management' as Managing Director Lieut-Colonel Michael Williams was succeeded by Trevor Caffull, who for the past 4 years had headed up SP&S's marketing activity. Easter 2003 also saw the visit of Blackburn Salvation Army Band and Songsters (choir) to Berlin, the band's 5th venture overseas but the songsters' first

As the year was progressing so the 4BarsRest site again saw further development as shopping service expanded and many took the opportunity to get a bargain when we offered our first and successful CD promotion.

We conclude the month North of the Border with the Scottish Borders Brass Band Association who organised a Brass and Percussion Workshop for school-aged children where the players were organized into three bands and tutored by a team of experienced teachers, including Archie Hutchison, one of Scotland's top cornet players and conductors

This though was just the first in a series of events building to 2004. A message from Alan P. McLaren (President Scottish Brass Band Association) extended an invitation to visit Scotland and attend the 2004 European Brass Band Championships. In addition to staging the Championships themselves their aim, he explained, is to arrange an extensive programme of fringe events in Glasgow and perhaps also in other parts of Scotland with something to offer bands of all grades with opportunities for visiting bands which are not taking part in the Championships themselves to link up with Scottish bands and play a part in the fringe programme.


John James
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