2006 Yorkshire Regional Championships - Introduction

28-Feb-2006

Yorkshire may be the beating heart of the brass band movement in the UK, but is it in a healthy state. This weekend may tell if it is or not.


Yorkshire can justifiably claim to be the heartland of the British Brass Band movement - but is it a healthy heart? The Championship Section should be a corker, but are things as good in the other sections?

Yorkshire has a proud boast that it is the very heartland of the brass band movement, and although there may be people from over the Pennines who disagree with that, at the top level over the past decade or more at the National Finals, Yorkshire can claim that the facts support their argument – to a point.

Championship Section:

Since 1993, a Yorkshire band has won the National title on no less than 6 occasions, 6 runners up and 4 third places. However, those 6 wins have been shared by just two bands, Black Dyke with 4 victories and Brighouse with a brace and you have to go back to 1992 and Grimethorpe to find a third Yorkshire name gracing the old trophy and 1978 and Yorkshire Imps, to find a fourth.

The Area is undoubtedly very strong, but that strength isn't always a guarantee of Albert Hall success for the qualifiers. Still – they do take some beating. Last year at the Albert Hall the three qualifiers came 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th – pretty good indeed, and it means that four bands will be present in Kensington in October.
14 potential top section qualifiers is 4 too many for us (although there were 15 last year) – and it also can lead to the odd result. It also means that the standard at times isn't as high as the good Yorkshire folk may lead you to believe either.

There are undoubtedly some brilliant bands here, but there are also some mediocre ones as well. It should still make for one heck of a contest though and the organisers have taken the failsafe option of employing two adjudicators this year once more to possibly ensure that the best bands make it through.

First Section:

The First Section will provide the audience at St. George's Hall with one of the most intriguing contests of the whole weekend. There are a number, of very good bands here and the judges, Colin Hardy and Denis Wilby may have their work cut out, as the test piece is a difficult one and there may be more than a few slips in every performance.

As with the Championship Section, this one has too many bands competing here – and the standard over the past couple of years hasn't been as good as many would have you believe. However, when the bands do qualify they do tend to put in decent accounts come the Finals, and last year the qualifiers, Hatfield and Yorkshire Imperial came back in 6th and as winners respectively.

Second Section:

Yorkshire though has a very good record of producing bands that have gone on and actually won the National title in the Second Section, although last year Hebden Bridge and West Yorkshire Police could only manage 9th and 14th respectively. Hatfield did win in 2003 and prior to that Hade Edge won in 2002, Holme in 1999 and Chapletown in 1994. In fact for the first time since 1998, neither Yorkshire band came in the top four, so whoever gets through this time will be hoping to bring things back on track. Ian Brownbill and Chris Wormald are the two men in the box the bands will have to impress, and that may be hard with a set work that is difficult to say the least.

Third Section:

In the Third Section there are lots of solid bands on display from Armthorpe right through to Maltby Miners Welfare, so picking a winner will be a difficult task for Chris Houlding and Barry Thompson– as well as 4BR! An exceptionally difficult set work will be a stern test indeed, and the standard may suffer because of it – no fault of the bands, but ‘Entertainments' is a hard piece.
 
It could well come down to a close fight between three or four bands with the talent to go with their ambitions and those who have mastered the basics required in a test piece that will stretch the bands to the full. Should be well worth taking the time listening to then.

The Third Section has over the past 10 years been a breeding ground for bands that have had high ambitions and plenty of talent to go all the way. Past winners here have included four bands that have gone onto the Championship Section – Skelmanthorpe, Rothwell, Todmorden and Marsden, so could the 2005 winner be plotting the same path we wonder.

Not to brilliant a record for the qualifiers though when it comes to the finals, with Skelmanthorpe the last National winners way back in 1993, and before that Drighlington in 1987. Old Silkstone got 3rd in 1999 and Horbury Victoria came runners up in 2001, whilst last year, Grange Moor and Slaithwaite could only manage 10th and 15th respectively.

Fourth Section:

It is nice to report that there is a healthy turn out of bands in Fourth Section with 12 bands making it to St. Georges Hall (1 down from last year). There were just 8 in 2004, but in 1983 there were 31, so Peggy Tomlinson is getting things moving back in the right direction.

Success at the Finals themselves has been a little harder to come by of late with the last Yorkshire winners being Todmorden Old in 1995. Since then the closest a band has come to winning the title was in 1999, when Yorkshire Traction Honley came runners up, but last year saw a real renaissance with Garforth Brass and Gawthorpe Brass coming 2nd and 3rd respectively.

It should be a great two days of contesting in Bradford once more – and 4BR will be there to cover it all. Yorkshire has continued to employ two adjudicators in the box for each section – which is a very sensible and constructive way forward. Peggy Tomlinson meanwhile continues to do a fantastic job here in keeping the very best bands happy as well as nurturing and developing lesser and new bands into the bargain.  With someone like that at the helm, you can see why Yorkshire people think so much about their bands and how good they are.

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