2006 Brass in Concert Championship - Postcard

22-Nov-2006

Newcastle and Gateshead are two of the most vibrant places in Europe - an ideal place then for a rejuvenated Brass in Concert Championships to put up the 'Full House 'signs'.


Newcastle is a wonderful old place that has been totally revamped in recent years to become one of the most vibrant cities in Europe.  In that respect then it is the perfect place to hold a brass band contest that in just two short years has also been transformed beyond all recognition.

Cornet girl
Blown away by it all: One of the many youngsters who enjoyed the chance to play an instrument with the Sahw Trust at the weekend.

Even though the contest does take place on the Gateshead side of the River Tyne, the sense that you are in the heart of Geordieland is only further emphasised by the fact that you can see Newcastle United's football ground from The Sage itself whilst the toilets in the hall are even decked out in black and white.  It must be an awful place to come to if you are a Middlesborough fan.

The move from Spennymoor here was felt by some to be a bit of a risky venture, but after the encouraging signs of last year this year was nothing short of spectacular. It was of course the 30th anniversary celebrations of the contest and whereby there was a fair bit of looking back, the overwhelming sense of the contest weekend was one of building for the future.

The organisers have made this into a real ‘event' now and this year there was a full day of ancillary attractions aimed at anyone between the ages of 7 and 77. The brass and percussion workshops were great fun and even featured Nigel Boddice at one point playing as part of a free form ensemble on the concourse, whilst fellow adjudicator Geoff Whitham imparted all his wisdom (and we are sure a great deal of good old humour) to young players in one of the excellent smaller halls and rehearsal facilities that are dotted about brilliant Sage building.

Even as we made our way out of the hall there were kids honing their percussion talents sat in a circle by the cafeteria and others having their first blow of a brass instrument under the watchful eye of members of the Shaw Trust, which helps people with disabilities to gain access to work and vocational past times. It was wonderful to see and hear.

Dr Roy Newsome gave an excellent talk about the history of the Brass in Concert Championships that in its way told us just as much about the development of the brass band movement in the latter part of the 20th century as it did the development of the contest.  It was amazing to think that Rothman's only really thought it was a good idea for a one off in 1977!

The Gala Concert was a real treat. A near capacity hall (and that was around 1600 people) really did have their money's worth and more from Grimethorpe and Brass Band of Central Florida, both of whom delivered programmes that enthralled at times. Where Grimethorpe displayed all their traditional virtues in the first half, Florida produced something that took the breath away in the second.

Presentation
Everyone smile! Trevor Caffull and Roy Newsome lead the presentations
Picture: John Stirzaker


The difference between the standard of playing was marked of course, but what the Americans lacked in depth and ensemble balance was more than made up for in sheer vibrant exhibitionism. The applause at the end was heartfelt and genuine from the hall. 

If that was a treat for the audience then more awaited them at the contest itself.

Frank Renton was on excellent form – including a couple of the best jokes we have heard for some time. It is safe to say that without him, Bras in Concert would lose something of its appeal – he keeps a long day ticking over with just the right mix of chat, information and wit.

Florida
Florida entertain: Brass Band of Central Florida give it a whack at the Gala Concert
Picture: John Stirzaker


The audience had certainly come prepared – there were more packed lunches on display at the halfway break than could be seen on a school trip to Longleat Safari Park. They were also well catered for at the reasonably priced cafeteria (which also made a fine lemon sponge) and by the use of the overhead multi media coverage from TimeLine Vision both during and between the performances of the bands. This really does work and work well and in no way detracts form the music making. Other contests should take note.

The judges were also on good form, although it was a pity that the talents of Martin Winter were not used more in the decision making process other than to choose the best soloist on the day. Would having three music judges upset the applecart too much?

The prize giving ceremony made sure just about everyone went home with something and the Brighouse boys certainly knew how to celebrate their win.

It all rounded off a great weekend and one that shows that Brass in Concert is now an event of immense stature. The organisers have plans to make it even more attractive next year and the decision to invite the Floridians was inspired. If they do come back in a couple of years time then watch out for them for they were not too precious as not to take the time to sit in the hall and listen and learn from their rivals.

So what about the likes of Eikanger, Stavanger, Brass Band Oberosterreich or even Black Dyke? Each of the first three could be real possibilities and would enhance the contest even more, whilst Black Dyke may be asking a bit much even for BiC, even though there were in fact 7 members of the Queensbury outfit on show with different bands on the day!

Well done to the organisers and especially Jacqueline and Paul Beere, the sponsors and everyone associated with Brass in Concert this year. Brass in Concert used to be the brass band contesting pride of the North East – now it is quite simply the brass band contesting pride of the UK.

Iwan Fox.

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