2008 National Youth Band Championships - Introduction

8-Apr-2008

The cream of youth banding in the UK will do battle at the RNCM this weekend. The numbers may be down but hopefully the quality remains just as high.


RNCMSo after everyone has just about got their breath back from the marathon month of March and the various regional championships, the next major contest in the UK is upon us - the National Youth Brass Band Championships - the British Federation of Brass Bands’ flagship youth event. 

Once again, Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music will host the event this Sunday, with the venue ticking all the right boxes from an organizational point of view (including costs).

Whilst the date of this contest does fluctuate, the RNCM provides everybody with everything they need. And whilst some bands travel further than others, staff at the RNCM are old hands at being able to accommodate such large numbers of people without any problems.

Catch the eye

When looking ahead to this contest though, there are a few things that caught our eye.

Firstly there are only 34 bands in attendance this year (there were 40 last year) with a couple of the sections having very sparse competitive attendances.  West Lothian for example are the only band in the Premier Section so they will be declared the 2008 Champion by default on Sunday afternoon, whilst there are only two bands in the Schools Section this year, down one on the limited turn out in 2007.

Counter that though with the Community Section that has a whopping seventeen bands and promises to be a nine hour marathon for judges James Scott and Simone Rebello. 

Great news

This is great news for the organizers with so many keen to take part, but perhaps the time has now come where they will have to look at either limiting the numbers (which won’t be a popular decision) or reduce the amount of playing time and ask them just to play a test piece. 

It’s a nice problem to have of course and with the Junior and County Sections maintaining a healthy attendance, it’s the Premier and Schools Sections where the organisers will be scratching their heads a little bit, wondering what more they can do to attract the bands.

Two years ago the Premier Section contained two bands, whilst five competed last year and it’s down to one on this occasion.  It’s a bit of a conundrum.

Variable dates

Surely the variable dates of the Easter Holidays have impacted on the attendance (although we can hear people saying ‘it’s not affected our band’) and you can have sympathy with the organisers and West Lothian in particular who’ll surely give a great account of themselves in what should have been the showcase contest of the event. 

Numbers aside, 4BR highlighted concerns last year that within the Schools Section the bands can invite former players to compete who are not older than 19, as long as the organizers have been informed in advance. 

That particular rule continues to undermine the ethos of the event and hardly makes for a level playing field. Can you imagine a youth football team inviting Theo Walcott back to play with them because he fits into the criteria of the rules of the league even though he now plays with Arsenal and England. The other teams would go ballistic even if they did enjoy his skills! 

Rethink?

Is it time for a re-think and some re-structuring of the sections?  Finding the solutions isn’t easy and bands that move to different sections are perfectly within their rights to do so, but the whole question of criteria for these (and other youth championships) needs sorting out once and for all. It’s become a hotch-potch of misplaced good intentions. 

Whilst highlighting a few points for concern, there is still plenty to celebrate about these championships.

The playing format of the day is certainly enjoyable. Bands are required to play a set work and an own choice programme in four of the sections, and the decisions will be made by some of our leading adjudicators.

CoopFriendly rivalry

The atmosphere as always is full of friendly rivalry mixed with a sense of fun, support and enjoyment too.  The scenes in the Haden Freeman Concert Hall and the Bruntwood Theatre prior to the announcement of the results are a joy to behold (if a bit of a Health and Safety nightmare for the stewards with so many crammed in) and its all part of what makes the day it is.

More good news comes in the form of continued sponsorship from The Co-operative (formerly United Co-operatives but they’ve re-branded) and this is great for the BFBB and for the sponsor who are extremely keen to back this contest and show their continued commitment to the brass band cause.  (As they say, you don’t see too many brass bands sponsored by ’every little helps’ do you now)

Best news

Perhaps the best news of all though is the bands competing here for the first time.  Carnoustie and District, City of Leeds, Dalmellington Junior, Shirland Youth and Worcestershire Intermediate all join the fun this year, so make sure you give them a big round of applause at the conclusion of their efforts.

4BR also openly encouraged the BFBB to appoint some younger judges to the event and this was done last year and is repeated again this time with Sheona White, Brett Baker, David Hirst, Alan Morrison, Simone Rebello and Mark Wilkinson joining the ever youthful Major Peter Parkes and James Scott.

There are quite a few familiar names that will be leading the bands as well.  Richard Evans, Mark Bousie, Chris Jeans, Lee Rigg and Chris Wormald will all be in pursuit of glory on Sunday and those elusive National titles, whilst Wardle, Hampshire Youth and Camborne return to defend the Schools, County and Community titles they won last year.

Positive approach

With the positive approach of open adjudication in all sections, we’re able to publicise the bands in the order they’ll compete in their contests. That means you can plan your day well in advance – get a cup of tea and a cake and still not miss anyone you’ve come a long way to listen to.

It all starts off at 9.30am on Sunday in the Haden Freeman Concert Hall and the four contests there should be completed by around 6.30pm. The Community Section starts at 9.45am with all the awards sorted by around 7.30pm.

Without fuss

The army of volunteers under the watchful eye of Gary Walczak and Arnold Tattersfield (who put in so much work before hand behind the scenes) will make sure everything will run according to plan and if there are any unforeseen hiccups they’re dealt with without fuss. 

Ticket prices are £8 for Adults; Young Persons/Concessions: £4.00; Under 11’s £2 and a transfer fee to other sections will cost £1 (surely it would be easier to charge one fee within the categories and allow people to come and go as they please without having to go back to the Box Office?) with the programmes on sale at £3.

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