2004 Spennymoor Brass in Concert - Retrospective

23-Nov-2004

Support by Amicus, TUC, World of Brass
Spennymoor Leisure Centre
Sunday 21st November 2004


Audio interview

Audio Interview with Winning MD - Richard Evans [WAV 1.09Mb]


In the world of football, debate has been rife for some time as to how anyone in the English Premiership can stop Arsenal's dominance.  The ability to go out and perform to a standard that leaves supporters and the opposition bemused and beaten have been key factors in their success and, (I speak as a frustrated Manchester United fan here) it does cross the mind how long their supremacy will continue for?

The same could be said for all the other competing bands at the 'Brass in Concert' Contest here is Spennymoor.  Just how can Grimethorpe be beaten?  The answer, like Arsenal, is with difficulty, because the South Yorkshire based band demonstrated why on Sunday they play to packed houses, week in, week out, as they once more produced a winning blend of high quality music making with great entertainment thrown in that leaves you bemused and entertained - and just wanting more. 

In addition, they never settle for second best and are always looking to improve on what they have done before.  This year, the change of MD fronting the band left people wondering whether it would make any difference, but what Richard Evans doesn't know about entertainment contests, isn't worth knowing.  If anything, that true 'Yorkshire grit' was out in force as the band wanted to show that even after the successful era of Garry Cutt, they can still do the business when it matters.  Winning this contest is about having the right blend of quality of performance and entertainment, and Grimethorpe did that to such an extent, that Sellers and Whitburn, finishing second and third respectively, can have no complaints at all, (even though the Quality Performance Award was announced prior to positions two and one being announced, and for a minute, left Sellers thinking they had won) as despite the winning margin on paper being two and a half points, in reality, it was more than a touch wider.

Grimethorpe and Richard Evans, put a balanced programme together, heavily influenced by the arranging talents of Sandy Smith.  The 'Opener' was 'Los Harminos de Bop'; a jazz inspired number that hit you between the eyes complete with mellophoniums, whilst the traditional Scottish folk song, 'The Bonnie Briar Bush' was simply delightful; great warm sounds from within the band giving a marvellous balance and timbre that filled the hall without it ever been forced. 

Richard Marshall demonstrated that it doesn't matter whether you put a cornet or a trumpet to his lips, you still get the same effect: class.  Performing the Kenny Baker classic, 'Virtuosity', the young man brought the house down and took the solo prize with it.  It was phenomenal playing and certainly the solo highlight of the day.

Thereafter the talented Sandy Smith arranged all the rest of the programme.  JS Bach's, 'Little Fugue in G Minor' is one of those delicate little pieces that isn't easy to bring off, but Grimethorpe and Richard Evans made it sound so compact and effortless and made you realise that of all the great orchestral composers, Bach really does suit a brass band - although it must as good as this one.

The Cole Porter classic, 'I've Got You Under My Skin' was a wonderful change of style and tempo, before the blockbuster finale, 'PDQ Bach's '1712 Overture'.  If you've ever wondered why Grimethorpe have won four titles on the trot and perform to packed halls, week in, week out, here was one of the answers.  This Overture is a spoof on the original '1812 Overture' and has musical references within to 'Yankee Doodle, 'Pop Goes the Weasel', Jack Benny's 'Violin Exercise', Dvorak's 'New World Symphony' and Bach's 'Toccata in D Minor'.  The level of performance was phenomenal and complete with touches of humour from Richard Evans which complemented the arrangement. This was clever musical slapstick, which didn't insult the intelligence of the listener or the integrity of the music it was making a pastiche of, and the ovation at the end said it all; it was a programme that was nigh on unbeatable. 

Richard Evans was of course in his element: he loves the stage and he loves fronting a brass band.  Afterwards, Richard (who even wore his trademark cravat once more) spoke so warmly about his proud association with the band afterwards to 4BR, and his hunger and enthusiasm is just like it was now when he built Leyland Vehicles Band up from the late 1970s onwards.   This was Richard's first triumph with the band and he was so proud, and with the four won with Leyland, his five wins puts him only one behind Garry Cutt and Howard Snell (6 wins) in the number of victories by an MD at the contest.

For the other competitors, the frightening thought is that it won't be too long before consideration is given to the band's 2005 programme.  To do what Grimethorpe do, you have to start early, and just to show that even the best are always striving for more they (for the first time apparently) took the award for the 'Neatest Presented Scores' as well.

Sellers International (Phillip McCann) really made a mark at this event last year, and has been on a roll ever since.  Impressive performances at the Scottish Open, Yorkshire Area, winning the Grand Shield and fifth at The Open; the band has quietly gone about its business in 2004 and they don't appear to be too far away from winning major silverware now. 

For the second year in a row, the band took home the prize for the best march with a sparkling rendition of 'Jubilee' by Paul Drury.  From with the Salvation Army repertoire, the march is extremely quick tempo wise and has the songsters out front with tambourines bringing colour to the occasion.  In this instance, it was Richard Charles who played his part as a member of the percussion team that picked up the 'Best Percussion Award' from the whole day.

The band were deducted ˝ a point for going over the twenty seven minutes of music, and whilst Natalie Atwell put a strong performance of 'Children of Sanchez', in hindsight, perhaps a shorter solo, might have fitted the bill better. 

Stephen Bradman's arrangement of 'When the Saints go Marching In' gave the band the opportunity to introduce their vocal chords, but the real star of the show with the 'piccolo obligato' solos was Kevin Crockford, who was a touch unfortunate not to take home the 'Best Soprano' award to that eventually went to Kirkintilloch's Stephen Stuart.

'Mexican Hat Dance' appeared as a percussion feature with a cocktail of tunes within it and featured some fine euphonium playing by Mark Bousie, who along with Kevin Crockford, were the two soloists who really did shine throughout for the band.

Sellers have just released a CD entitled 'Somewhere in Time' and on it is music from Karl Jenkins.  'Benedictus - The Armed Man as a Mass for Peace' was beautifully performed in a reflective way and with plenty of feeling.

To finish, the Andrew Duncan arrangement of Sir Malcolm Arnold's 'Peterloo Overture'.  The band really went for it, and occasionally, the tempos were perhaps a bit too quick as not all the detail was evident, but it didn't detract from an outstanding show, and they full deserved second place.  Having drawn number five, they were the clear winners at this stage and with two runners-up spots on the bounce, they have demonstrated that they can put together a programme for this even that has within it all the necessary ingredients.

Whitburn (Andrew Duncan) like Sellers will be cursing Grimethope; but they will arrive at the Scottish Open this weekend in good heart after an impressive display that could quite easily have earned them second place.

The band was only two points behind Grimethorpe (194) on their overall quality of performance and this was evident right from the opening bars of 'Entry of the Gladiators'; performed with real authority and purpose.  If you have BBC Radio 2's 'Young Brass Soloist of the Year' in your ranks, you'd be a fool not to use them, and Katrina Marzella (along with Kirsty Abbotts of Carlton Main) pushed Richard Marshall so close for the solo award with Howard Snell's arrangement of 'The Swan'.  If you'd never heard this talented musician, then you'd soon discover why she picked up her title with a wonderful tone and sense of serene composure coming through.

Andy Duncan's arrangement of Shostakovich's 'Scherzo' was followed by another fine solo performance with Jim Chamberlain on flugel in 'I've Got You Under My Skin' which was a fine bit of playing.  The remaining three items from the band were all from the pen of the MD with firstly, a bit of fun for the basses, in the Beach Boys hit, 'Good Vibrations'.   Graham Fraser, Robert Fraser, Alan Gourlay and Neil McAllister, donned beach wear for the fun and games that was fine musically, but didn't really excel in entertainment.  (Being from North of the Border they were not exactly Californian tanned - more Glasgow blue as Billy Connelly used to say).

Back to reality though and compere Frank Renton spoke warmly about Robin Norman, from the Travelsphere Holidays Band whose son, James went through a tough time as a baby (all is well now apparently) and during this period, Robin used to sing to James to comfort him. 

One particualr tune stuck in Robin's mind, and he passed it on to Andy Duncan who composed 'Lullaby for James' .  This was performed with real tenderness and thoughtfulness and for a few minutes at least everyone's thoughts were not just on the music, but Frank's story beforehand, with Evelyn Bradley on euphonium, performing with real eloquence.

Andrew Duncan is a master at new compositions and winning awards (more often than not for other bands) and to finish, a real 'up and at them' performance of 'A Witches Sabbath' from 'Symphonie Fantastique' by Berlioz.  It was the kind of finish required in a contest like this, and the band deserved their just third place overall, but also their second place in the 'Overall Quality of Performance' category.  As has been said, they will be a force to be reckoned with in Glasgow for sure.

Reg Vardy (Ever Ready) and Ray Farr will be a touch disappointed not to have done better.  They finished fourth overall, and they provided only fleeting glimpses of the quality (from a musical perspective) that has seen them notch up impressive performances at the Masters, The Open and latterly the Nationals this year. 

They started confidently enough with 'Agincourt Song', but the performance wasn't consistent enough throughout, whilst they featured Joanne Winspear and Nicola Williamson both on flugel in 'Mr Jums' which never really came alive, whilst Paul Robinson performed Robert Redhead's 'Euphony' with a touch of class but with lumpy and uneven accompaniment.  'Comedians Galop' seemed to be a little too fast and a new arrangement by Ray Farr of 'Mexican Hat Dance' for Bryan Tait, Bert Lovell and Les Palmer, was a throw back to the late 70s and 80s of the Granada contest and looked and sounded a bit aged.  The finale (Roman Festivals) again suffered; a bit too frenetic at times and it rounded off a performance that promised much but failed really to deliver.  They are the only band to have competed at every single contest and they will put the day down to not one of their best at the office and look forward to Gateshead, 2005.

Leyland (Garry Cutt) were 5 ˝ points behind Reg Vardy and the dreaded number one draw just didn't suit them on the day.  For once, they never got going, and having started with a rather timid 'Four Rennaisance Dances', they followed it with Lucy Murphy's fine performance of a new arrangement of 'Pieu Jesu' from Faure's Requiem by Bram Gay.

It was only when they performed the march 'Arnhem' that the ensemble really got themselves into gear.  Daniel Powell demonstrated what a fine exponent of the horn he is in 'Episode', but having performed 'Crimond', 'Gee Officer Krupe' and 'Marche Slave', Leyland looked quite happy to get off stage.  They came fourth in the music category and ninth in entertainment and presentation; a reflection that this was a touch bland and something that is most unlike Leyland Band past and the present - playing up for the crowds at 9.30am in the morning is not something any band would really wish to do.

With an arranger of the quality of Philip Harper at the helm of Flowers Band, it shouldn't come as a surprise that all of the music performed had his stamp upon its musical hide. 

Finishing sixth overall as they did last year, they returned back to the West Country having come seventh in both the music and entertainment categories.  Chris Howley (Sop); Richard Selvidge (Cornet); Julia Telling (Flugel); Andy Hicks (Euphonium); Steve Sykes (Bass) and Steve Jones (Percussion) became 'The Magnificent Seven' front of stage that perhaps didn't have the impact it could have done, before Richard Knight (Horn) played a neat rendition of  'Swingy Thing'.  A nice change of mood was brought about in 'Hymn to St Barnabas', before the band performed 'Mais Que Nada' - used by 'Nike' for their recent television advert.  'One Thousand and One Nights' was one of those pieces that was a plethora of tunes, classical or otherwise, before the band wrapped up with 'Hawaii 5 - 0'.  Principal Euphonium, Andy Hicks, had the satisfaction of taking home the 'Best Principal Euphonium' award for a fine show overall, against some quality opposition such as Michael Dodd (Grimethorpe) and Mark Bousie (Sellers), but even though it was an interesting choice of programme, the musical slips proved costly for them on the day.

Kirkintilloch and Steve Bastable were another band that struggled to find a formula that worked in both music and entertainment.  They finished sixth in the music category, but took the wooden spoon for the entertainment factor that was definitely lacking. 

They commenced with 'Intrada' that was followed by the march 'Washington DC' by Bryan Kelly.  The highlight of Kirky's programme was that which gave them the 'New Arrangement Prize' - 'The Lark In The Clear Air' by Stephen Roberts, performed with understated class on the tenor horn by stalwart, Allan Wardrope. 'Malaguena' and 'Only Just Begun' featuring David Prentice didn't do anything for the audience or judges (except perhaps to cover the eardrums, as volume certainly was an over-riding and damaging factor.)  'Alladale' and 'Dundonnell' both from 'Hymn of the Highlands' rounded off the band's performance that certainly could have done with some creativity in the entertainment stakes.  The consolation for the band was Stephen Stewart taking the 'Best Soprano' prize, proving that on his day, he is a force to be reckoned with - and the sole bit of visual entertainment in their programme.

Ransome, Carlton Main and Mount Charles all finished with 136 points, but the quality of performance was the deciding factor in them finishing eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.

Ransome (Graham O'Connor) had more points in terms of music (185) but had fewer entertainment points than Carlton Main and Mount Charles (51). Three weeks earlier they had done well at Pontins, but concentrating on music as opposed to entertainment didn't really come off this time.  Reid Gilje's 'Accidental Mambo' was nicely linked into the march 'New Colonial' before David Belshaw performed one of Hartman's warhorses, 'Fatherland' on euphonium.  The highlight of the programme was Leonard Ballantine's 'I Know Thou Art Mine', played with real feeling, but  Barry Forgie's 'Chicago' was a bit of a throw away number that never quite caught the required mood, before the band concluded with Brehton Broadstock's 'Born to Battle'  that didn't really come off for them.

Carlton Main had an early draw and the star of their show was without question Principal Cornet, Kirsty Abbotts.  Under Brian Grant, the band opened up with 'Softly, Softly', before Kirsty performed one of the highlights of the day with 'Meditation' from Thais.  This was sublime stuff and up until Richard Marshall stood forward in his solo slot, Kirsty was the clear leader for the prestigious solo prize.

Having come second at the British Open Solo Championships two weeks earlier, Kirsty demonstrated why is she is one of the finest cornet players around and the ovation at the end was one of the warmest and most appreciative of the whole day.  Kirsty's consolation though was to be named as the best 'Principal Cornet' of the competition - and she was worthy of that alright.  The march 'Jubilee' could have done with some of the passion and enthusiasm from the players that was in evidence by the MD whilst 'Moondance' featured a neat bit of playing from bass trombone player, Phil Spencer. The hymn tune 'Nicaea' was nicely shaped, but tiredness and a great deal of scrappy playing in the ensemble lines detracted in their finale - 'Scherzo' from Shostakovich's Symphony No 10.

In 2003, Mount Charles made a real startling impression at Brass in Concert when they came in fourth place.  This year, under the Norwegian Morten E Hansen, the Stavanger Band MD, they were once again innovative in approach; performing the whole of its programme stood up and without music.

Fair enough, it gained points in entertainment and presentation for its inventiveness, but the music side never came off.  Performing in two sets of three, the band started with 'Mardi Gras in New Orleans', 'Lokkeslaton' and 'Tanga', featuring John Small on trumpet, before finishing off with 'Letter From Home', 'Breaking Up is Hard to Do' (featuring the basses front of stage) and 'Reel Music'.  At the end of the programme, you were left wondering what the judges would think - and they voted with their feet. 

Playing without music - especially continuous music for anyone is a tough ask, and it just didn't work for the band at all on this occasion. There were too many players who just didn't know their parts (or possibly found remembering them on stage very difficult) and there wasn't the slickness that Stavanger themselves bring to this type of entertainment. Mount Charles are a very decent band, but on this outing they seem to have bitten off more than they could chew and it was too ragged and untidy in the ensemble from start to finish. A lesson learnt one suspects.

One of the few disappointments of the whole day was echoed from the stage by judge, John Berryman; the lack of real marches performed.  A prize is on offer for the best march, and if that prize was withdrawn, a few grumbles would no doubt be heard. Thought is given to programmes, and the bands are in the business of entertaining the audience, but it was still a surprise that Flowers, Grimethorpe, Mount Charles and Reg Vardy gave it a miss. A great march, brilliantly played can be just as entertaining as any amount of slapstick comedy.  

Another point worth noting is the age of the audience here.  The young people in attendance seemed to be very much in the minority and most of the youngsters present were performing on stage.  It is a bit of a concern that even for an event of this magnitude, there is a worrying trend that it is not possibly attracting a younger clientele.

After nineteen years at Spennymoor Leisure Centre, the contest will move a few miles north to The Sage Centre in Gateshead, the UK's newest international home for music.  It sounds like it could become a popular venue for bands to be heard at, and the good news is it seats many more than the Leisure Centre does and has the types of amenities (cafés, bars and better food etc) that younger people may also enjoy.  Spennymoor has served this contest well over the years, but it was certainly showing its age this weekend. 

This retrospective would not be complete without acknowledging a number of people.  The sponsors, Amicus, TUC and World of Brass, whose financial support the event would be far the poorer without; Dr Roy Newsome who continues to act as the Musical Advisor to the event and Paul and Jacqueline Beere who both deserve medals of honour from the banding movement for their contribution to the continued success of the event.  Along with a big team of helpers, nothing is left to chance, and for those of us who report on the event, we are provided with a list of all the music played and principal players.  It really is appreciated because it makes our lives a lot easier.

Finally, the judges, John Berryman, Alan Fernie, John Maines, Alan Morrison and Dr Goff Richards who have the hardest job of all, and really, finally, the man who controls everything that goes on, front of stage, Frank Renton.  4BR informed you on its return from the US Championships how much input is added by him and having seen him in action at Brass in Concert, the US organisers knew he was the obvious choice for their competition. He really is the brass band movement's version of Des Lynan (with better jokes though).

From the first note to the last, Frank links everything so easily, reacting to unforeseen instances, adding so much information to the music played, the bands and anything else that takes his fancy, that he is as much a part of the event as the bands themselves.  Dr Roy Newsome, spoke so warmly about Frank and those who have attended the event (or any event he comperes) know just how much he brings to the proceedings.  Frank's response to Dr Newsome's comment was just typical of the man: 'If only he'd be as complimentary when commenting on one of my band's performances when in the box'.

Frank Renton though, along with everybody present will remember how Grimethorpe made it four in a row, as under the direction of Richard Evans, they retained their crown in truly magnificent style.  All Arsenal have to do now is the same.

Malcolm Wood


Brass in Concert Programme of Music 2004

Grimethorpe (Colliery) UK Coal Band (Richard Evans)

Los Harminos de Bop, Mark Taylor, arr Sandy Smith
The Bonnie Briar Bush arr Elgar Howarth
Virtuosity, Richard Marshall (Trumpet), Kenny Baker arr J Peseeoy
The Little Fugue in G Minor, JS Bach, arr Sandy Smith
I've Got You Under My Skin, Cole Porter, arr Sandy Smith
1712 Overture, PDQ Bach, arr Sandy Smith

Sellers International (Phillip McCann)

Jubilee, Paul Drury
The Children of Sanchez, Natalie Atwell (Flugel), Chuck Mangione arr Reid Gilje
When the Saints go Marching In, John Rutter, arr Stephen Bradman
Mexican Hat Dance, Bernard Ebbinghouse - Percussion Feature
Benedictus, Karl Jenkins - The Armed Man as A Mass For Peace, arr Stephen Bradman
Overture Peterloo, Sir Malcolm Arnold, arr Andrew Duncan

Whitburn (Andrew Duncan)

Entry of the Gladiators, Julius Fucik
The Swan, Katrina Marzella (Baritone), Saints-Saens, arr Howard Snell
Scherzo, Shostakovich, arr Andrew Duncan
I've Got You Under My Skin, Jim Chamberlain (Flugel), Cole Porter, arr Mark Freeh
The Bass Boys, Bass Section Feature, Brian Wilson, arr Andrew Duncan
Lullaby for James, Andrew Duncan (First Performance)
A Witches' Sabbath, Andrew Duncan (First Performance)

Reg Vardy (Ever Ready) (Ray Farr)

Agincourt Song, Trad arr Elgar Howarth & Ray Farr
Comedians Galop, Dimitri Kabalevsky, arr Howard Snell
Mr Jums, Chris Hazel, arr Alan Catherall featuring Flugels Joanne Winspear & Nicola Williamson
Euphony, Paul Robinson (Euphonium), Robert Redhead
Mexican Hat Dance, Featuring Cornets Bryan Tait, Bert Lovell and Les Palmer arr Ray Farr
Roman Festivals, Ottorino Respighi, arr Ray Farr

Leyland (Garry Cutt)

Four Rennaisance Dances, Praetorius, arr Anthum
Pieu Jesu from Faure's Requiem, Lucy Murphy (Flugel), arr Bram Gay
Arneham, A E Kelly
Crimond arr Dr Goff Richards
Episode, Daniel Powell (Tenor Horn)
Gee Officer Krupe, Bernstein, arr Simon Kerwin
Marche Slave, Tchaikovsky, arr Davis

Flowers (Philip Harper)

The Magnificent Seven: Chris Howley (Soprano)
    Richard Selvidge (Cornet)
    Julia Telling (Flugel)
    Andy Hicks (Euphonium)
    Steve Sykes (Bass)
Steve Jones (Percussion), Elmer Bernstein arr Philip Harper
Swingy Thing, Richard Knight (Tenor Horn), Philip Harper
Hynm to St Barnabus, Philip Harper
Mais Que Nada, Jorge Ben, arr Philip Harper
One Thousand and One Nights, Rimsky-Korsakov, arr Philip Harper
Hawaii 5 0, Lala Shifrin, arr Philip Harper

Kirkintilloch (Steve Bastable)

Intrada, Alan Dugud
Washington D C, Bryan Kelly, Scored by Frank Bryce
The Lark in the Clear Air, Allan Wardrope (Tenor Horn), Irish Traditional arr Stephen Roberts
Malaguena, Lecliona/Holman arr Bill Holman, transcribed by Sandy Smith
Only Just Begun, David Prentice (Cornet/Trumpet), Williams/Nicholls are Bill Geldard
Alladale & Dundonnell (Hymn of the Highlands) Philip Sparke

Ransome (Graham O'Connor)

Accidental Mambo, Reid Gilje
New Colonial, R B Hall
Fatherland, David Belshaw (Euphonium) arr K R Johnson
I Know Thou Art Mine, Leonard Ballantine
Chicago, arr Barry Forgie
Born to Battle, Brehton Broadstock

Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Brian Grant)

Softly, Softly, Bridget Fry, arr Ray Farr
Meditation from Thais, Kirsty Abbotts, (Cornet), Massenet, arr Alan Fernie
Jubilee, Paul Drury
Moondance, Phil Spencer (Bass Trombone), Van Morrison, arr A Ralphson
Nicaea, William Himes
Scherzo from Symphony Number 10, Shostakovich, arr, P Smalley

Mount Charles (Morten Hansen)

Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Lokkeslaton
Tanga, Jon Small (Trumpet)
Letter From Home
Breaking Up is Hard To Do, Bass Feature
Reel Music

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