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2004 Yorkshire Regional Championships - Retrospective

The Championship Section:
Sunday 7th March

Adjudicators: David Read and Roy Roe
Test Piece: Tristan Encounters - Martin Ellerby

Malcolm Wood was there to see YBS set new standards in the qualification stakes at Bradford.


Audio:

Audio David King's thoughts [WAV 1.02mb]
Audio Adjudicator - David Read [WAV 1.21mb]

At the end of Sunday’s Championship Section, composer, Martin Ellerby informed the audience that he thought the standard of playing of his composition was extremely high, with many committed performances. Without doubt, the standard was just that, with four performances really standing out from the rest of the field.

Within those four, two were strong contenders to win, whilst one of them will consider themselves extremely unlucky not to have won, due to the monumental interpretation given by the reigning European & British Open Champions, Yorkshire Building Society Band, conducted by Professor David King.

YBS didn’t just win the contest on Sunday evening; they blew their opposition away in convincing style. The points difference of three between themselves and second placed Black Dyke could quite easily have been greater; such was the band's performance. Afterwards, adjudicator David Read told 4BR that the YBS performance was ‘…out of this world, and was worthy of a three point gap on the day’s performance’.

Over the past decade, the YBS/King partnership has produced some terrific contesting performances. The band has patented the definitive performance of Bourgeois’ Concerto Grosso, and you can now add to that list, a second winning performance of Tristian Encounters by Martin Ellerby. The band’s thirst for success never wavers, and as Sunday night proved, when YBS is on the top of its game, no other band can really touch them.

The draw of fourteen was kind to YBS, as the rest of their potential rivals had played earlier in the contest. Grimethorpe and Sellers received draws in the first third, with Black Dyke and Brighouse being drawn close by in the middle, leaving a sizeable gap before YBS took the stage. These five bands were the people’s favourites to do well, and whilst no one knew it at the time, the real scrap was for second, third and fourth prizes.

Carlton Main had the honour of getting the contest underway, and they put on a real good show. The band seems to have come through its uncertain times with a steely determination to do well - and it showed. William Rushworth got from his band what he wanted and it was pretty much a good steady show, without the band taking any risks. The performance had slips and some of the ensemble playing could have been better, but Kirsty Abbott on cornet was excellent along with Ian Wright (euphonium), and the band should be pleased with its continuing improvement. Eighth place was a good result.

Grimethorpe were the first of the big hitters to take the stage having been drawn number two. Frank Renton was back at the helm of Grimey and much was expected of them. Mr Renton’s demeanour as he walked on stage was certainly determined. The early draw didn’t suit them though and too many players had an off day. The MD was up for the challenge of bringing out a real performance from the band that would be hard to beat, but it just did not happen.

The start was certainly bold and aggressive but the performance never really kicked on, which was a real disappointment. Every now and again, we heard glimpses of real quality Grimethorpe, but it wasn’t consistent throughout. The end of the performance was exciting stuff, but you knew it wouldn’t be enough to win. Come the end, the faces of the players and conductor were etched with disappointment, as if aware that it was not one of their best performances.

Stocksbridge under Derek Renshaw took to the stage looking to emulate last year’s performance. The band looked confident, and they started well, but you sensed that the Ellerby composition was a real test for the band, and so it proved. The solo playing wasn’t the best, and the ensemble playing could have been tighter, but the band worked like Trojans to put in a performance of real merit. We were only three bands in, but it was evident that any band that would do exceptionally well on this piece would have to give a a complete all round show.

Sellers International under Phillip McCann were the first band to really put in a performance that would taking some removing from the mix come results time. The new Principal Cornet of Faireys let the music speak for itself and let the players shine. Nick Payne on Principal Cornet had a great day, and was backed up on soprano by Kay Mackenzie. In addition, the newly named Natalie Atwell was terrific on flugel, and Mark Bousie on euphonium, was the first euphonium player to really stand out.

The band kept things very tight, the tempos were sensible without going over the top, and a symphonic sound was in evidence. The chromatic scales that appear in the first transfiguration were the first to come across as crisp and clean, and the performance just grew. By the time the muted passage appeared at transfiguration IX, you wondered just how good the performance was going to be. The slips were minimal and certainly didn’t detract from a super show. At last, a real marker for bands to beat.

Come results time though, they discovered they had missed qualifying for the second time by the smallest of margins. Recent showings from the band have shown that they are an ensemble on the up, and they can take great heart from the performance as they look to Blackpool and the Grand Shield.

Four down, eleven to go then with Sellers setting the mark for the rest with Grimethorpe also in the frame for us. The next two bands were making their debut in the Championship Section, Knottingly Silver and Chapeltown Silver.

If they didn’t know it before hand, Knottingley Silver now knows just how tough the Championship section is. Drawn number five, the band will have learned a tremendous amount about themselves from the contest. It was hard going for them, but experience is only gained through contesting at this level, and although they might be a touch disappointed to have been placed fourteenth overall, they shouldn’t be too downcast. The step up from the First Section is tough, and it’s a big learning curve.

The same can be said for Chapeltown. The band has waited a long time to get into the top flight, and they clearly relished the challenge as they walked on stage. Yes, the performance had that nervous feel about it, but it was not a bad performance. All bands had slips, some more than others did, and at this level, slips are costly. The standard of the Yorkshire area is so good that it must have felt like climbing Mount Everest for them on Sunday. One thing for sure though is Knottingley and Chapeltown will come back stronger for the experience of Tristan.

Black Dyke under Dr Nicholas Childs were the next band to take to the stage. Pre-qualification for London counted for nothing as the band were determined to put right the previous year's result in Bradford. The large crowd was certainly not disappointed though, as Dyke certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons with its performance. Black Dyke does the classical stuff well, and this was no different. The start was bold and assertive, and confident, although some of the chromatic work could have been cleaner.

Roger Webster and John Doyle shared a lovely exchange in the early part of the second transfiguration, and you sensed something magical. The performance grew and all the principals were having a great day. Michelle Ibbotson, Lesley Howie, David Thornton, Brett Baker - everybody was doing their bit, and the MD was crafting something that would be tough to beat. The nine bar muted passage in transfiguration IX was terrific, with the players using practice mutes to create the ppp effect. The final couple of transfigurations were top notch and the performance finished in grand style. Black Dyke had nipped into first place for us, but it was close on the half waypoint of the competition, and yes, it was a winning performance that would need something very special to knock it off number one.

Lindley Band drew eight, and struggled to be honest. It was not there best day at the office. Plenty of errors, and not as together as it could have been, it was hard work for the band. Tristan was proving a real test for everyone on stage, and some found it harder than others. Neil Jowett gave it his best shot but as we predicted in our preview, the band found it really tough going in the top section second time around. They will be disappointed with twelfth but a few less slips would have perhaps seen then finish higher. When it was over, we had them thirteenth.

Defending Champions, Brighouse took to the stage under new MD, James Gourlay, and could not have done anymore than they did to retain their title. The band’s performance was very much like a Kevin Keegan football team. Passionate, committed, very attacking and great entertainment, but as Manchester City fans will testify at present, Keegan’s teams have a tendency to make the odd slip which proves costly, and this was Brighouse on Sunday. James Gourlay is a master of the classical score, and Sunday was no different. B & R was perhaps the only band to have a real classical brass band sound from start to finish.

The start was absolutely stunning, and had the audience pinned back in their seats. It was so clean, tight, with a bit more flair than had been heard all day. The tempos were at a fair pace but it was not detracting from a compelling performance. James Gourlay clearly loved every minute and the band was responding to his enthusiasm. Alan Hobbins on soprano again showed what a real class player he is, and some of the ensemble work from within the middle of the band was top draw. All the principal players had good days, from the experienced Alan Morrison, Steve Miles on euphonium, James Stockdale on trombone and Melvyn Bathgate (horn), no player let the side down; but credit goes to James Gourlay for masterminding a terrific interpretation.

Come the final bars, you knew the audience would erupt and they did. Alan Hobbins was so drained, he had to be encouraged to take a bow from James Gourlay. For us, this had gone in front of Black Dyke. It was extremely classical in the interpretation and the band excelled in the ‘Wagner Quotes’ with just a touch more clarity than anyone else. At this point people were wondering how YBS or any other band for that matter would match B & R, but the judges decreed third place on the day, and the West Riding men can consider themselves unfortunate not to have come second. If this performance is anything to go by though, they will be champing at the bit for the Masters.

Pennine Brass under Ian Porthouse will be really chuffed with their performance. It is never easy going onto a stage after a band has just thrown in a corker of a performance, but you sensed that Ian and his troops had become inspired. It was a good all round show, nothing flashy, sensible tempos, and some fine clean playing. ‘JJ’ Lees on Principal Cornet is a player to look out for, and he had a great day, and clearly benefits from playing under such a distinguished cornet player. Ian was sensible; he never asked anything of his band that they could not give him, and those that went out after Brighouse missed a fine show. This is a young band, but a fine one. A below-par performance would have been a disappointment, but this is a band too keep a watchful eye out for in the future. We thought they had just sneaked into sixth position but Messrs Read and Roe decided seventh.

Two thirds through then, and Brighouse, Black Dyke and Sellers for us in that order with the likes of Yorkshire Imps and YBS still to come.

Hepworth under Mark Bentham didn’t really do the business for us on the day. Our ‘gut-feeling’ beforehand was that they could take sixth place, but it just didn’t gel together enough to be convincing. Mark Bentham’s flamboyant conducting style produces energy, but the band on this occasion just could not respond enough. Finishing in eleventh last year, they improved to ninth this time round, but perhaps will be disappointed, not to have made more of a mark.

Those who went out for a quick breather before the final furlong missed a really good show from Rothwell. Under David Roberts, they put on a show that was consistent with the past two years. Fourth in 2003, and seventh in 2002, the band put in a performance that was solid without any major thrills. The ensemble and solo playing was good and the MD had the sense to let the music breathe. The principal cornet, sop and flugel players had good days and sixth overall was well deserved, although we had them seventh.

The most disappointing show of the whole contest was Yorkshire Imps. It’s a touch difficult what to make of this band at the moment. They have the players and the know-how to do the business on the contest platform, but being placed thirteenth might have shocked them a bit. The soloists didn’t have the best of days, and come the finish we had them tenth. It had that feel of ‘still in the rehearsal room’ about it, and the draw was such that they had the opportunity to make an impact, but sadly didn’t take it.

It was gone 8.30pm when YBS took to the stage, and many people were tired, but the wait to see what the band would do was worth it. It was a performance that had everything. The opening was sensational, and for the second time in the day, we just sat back and enjoyed the performance and forgot about any notes (the other being Brighouse). Peter Roberts hit his top D with consummate ease, and the tempos were effective. It was typical Professor King; everything was precise, no clips, magical ensemble playing the like that had not been heard all day, and the audience was spellbound listening to a terrific performance.

If the standard continued, this was the winner without a doubt, and it had that potential to become not just the winning performance, but one of the finest contest performances YBS have produced in recent times (and considering what they have done, that gives you some idea how good it was). Overall, it had the odd blip, but these were so minute it never affected the performance. All the players were focussed, and every single principal played out of their skin. Professor King milked the muted passage in transfiguration IX for all it was worth with Iwan Williams performing out of this world. It was clear that the YBS/King partnership wanted to get back to London for a crack at the one title yet to have their name on it, and three clear points from Black Dyke really didn’t do it justice.

The detail that was pulled out from the score was incredible. Many bands struggled with the fast-accelerated passages when it came to clarity, but not YBS. Professor King knows what his band is capable off and once again they produced the goods. Robert Blackburn on baritone, Sheona White on tenor horn, Gavin Saynor on bass, Chris Jeans (trombone) all had faultless days - the sort of days that every player dreams of. The end was stunning and whilst Professor King did take a few liberties, and it had the flair and charisma that you associate with a YBS performance. The roof in St George’s Hall has been repainted recently, but it probably needs another coating as the audience took the roof off with its reception for the band. As long as the judges liked it, then ten years after YBS won the Yorkshire title (ironically by three points with Black Dyke second on Partita), it was another title in the bag.

The last band of the day was Skelmanthorpe and you felt for them coming on to stage after a performance from YBS. It was not the best performance that was on offer, but it was certainly not the worst either and the band finished in a credible tenth position.

So that was that. A contest that had kicked off at around 3.45pm had finished at gone 9pm. Fifteen bands were too many, and it is a long haul, but it was sensible to have two judges in the box.

Whilst the delegates and dignitaries made their way onto stage, we had time to ponder our top six and look at our pre-contest predictions. First we had YBS; second, Brighouse, followed by Black Dyke, Sellers, Grimethorpe and Pennine. Our crystal ball had suggested, YBS, Black Dyke, Grimethorpe, Brighouse, Sellers, Hepworth with Yorkshire Imps as the dark horses.

Composer Martin Ellerby made a presentation on behalf of the Worshipful Company of Musicians to Sellers stalwart, David Johnson, which is well deserved, whilst even the Mayor gave his observations. Peggy Tomlinson and her team received thanks for their sterling work that they do all year round culminating with a full weekends contesting.

The judges David Read and Roy Roe emerged from the box to explain that they were comfortable that they had the bands in the right order. Roy Roe commented that they had heard some great playing, and commented that the solo playing was at times disappointing, but those soloists who did shine, really did well.

Peter Roberts was awarded the Eddie Noble MBE, Memorial Trophy. Sheona White claimed the Best Soloist award from Kirklees Music. Rothwell came out in sixth place, followed by Grimethorpe in fifth. Sellers were two points in front of Grimethorpe (191) in fourth place. Brighouse were given third, and for a split second, you wondered if as last year, a twist was yet to come. Black Dyke second, and when it was announced that the winning band had been awarded 197 points, you could hear most people take a sharp intake of breath. It was only going to be YBS - and it was YBS.

Everybody loved the music and it proved a real winner for the bands and audience. Unfortunately for Black Dyke, Brighouse and Sellers though, it was not their day, and quite frankly, they couldn’t really complain. The 2004 Yorkshire Regional Championship was all about a truly magical interpretation of Tristan Encounters from Professor King and his wonderful band.

Malcolm Wood

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