2009 London & Southern Counties Regional Championship - Postcard from Stevenage

26-Mar-2009

A little bit of brass band history was made in all five sections at Stevenage on the weekend.



The London and Southern Counties Committee can always be relied upon to run a slick, well organised affair at the Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre, right down to the computer printed results sheets that are always available backstage immediately after the announcement of the prizes; a huge boon when we are trying to get the full results onto 4BR as they happen.

Touch of reorganisation

With the weekend sun shining on Stevenage, this year also saw a touch of reorganisation with four of the five sections now taking place in the Gordon Craig Theatre, an excellent hall for the event and giving the Third Section bands a chance to experience the auditorium that has hitherto been the domain of the upper three sections.

Style

For Redbridge it could be said that it was business as usual as the band capitalised in style on its Butlin’s title to sweep to victory, making it seven out of eight since 2002; an impressive record by any standards, while for the band’s solo trombone player Jayne Murrill, there was cause for a double celebration as she also conducted East London Brass to Second Section victory in emphatic fashion.

As good as a win

For Zone One Brass, qualification for the Royal Albert Hall would have felt as good as a win, with the band’s runner up position being richly deserved in a Championship Section contest that highlighted a sharply divided field between the three front runners and the remaining competitors. It’s been a little while in coming but it was always going to happen some day and Zone One will be the source of considerable interest when the band takes to the Albert Hall stage in October.

Cut out

Paul Cosh had his work cut out for him in the First Section as Norfolk Brass and David Stowell stormed to victory leaving an almighty scrap for second place in its wake. 

As with other Regional First Sections around the country, Graham Cole’s taxing yet exciting Pentacle pushed many bands to the limits. A handful of bands that couldn’t quite match the consistency of Norfolk did however turn in convincing challenges, with Sandhurst Silver coming through to join Norfolk Brass in Harrogate.   

Three qualification places were up for grabs in the Second Section with Jayne Murrill’s East London Brass emerging in every bit as convincing a fashion as Redbridge to book its final place alongside Yiewsley and West Drayton and Fairlop Brass. 

For all three bands it was a huge turn around of last year’s Regional fortunes as the top three moved up the table from ninth, seventh and twelfth respectively last year, a great effort for which all three band are to be congratulated.  

Winner

Dan Price’s New World Sketches was once again one of the winners, in a contest that saw a more consistent standard amongst the bands than any other at Stevenage this year.

On the subject of winning test pieces, Andrew Baker’s The Once and Future King received a resounding endorsement from the Third Section bands as St. Sebastian Wokingham and Hungerford Town took the qualification places, with Wokingham yet another clear winner. Hungerford was another band that reversed a twelfth place last year, with the majority bands coping well with the rhythmic challenges of the music.

Different challenge

Frank Hughes’ The Talisman posed a rather different challenge in the Fourth Section as bands of substantially varying abilities found themselves in the same boat as they tried to overcome the technical challenges of a piece that has justifiably proved to be the most controversial amongst this year’s area tests.

Extra spot

As with the Second Section, there was an extra spot in Harrogate up for grabs here as Battle Town, Wantage Silver “B” and Jubilee Brass (Oxford) all duly impressed Roy Roe to book their tickets. 

Battle was another band that improved substantially from ninth last year. Wantage on the other hand just missed out last year with a fourth place finish and Danny Dulforce will have been a happy man on Sunday night as the remarkable training organisation at Wantage saw its considerable efforts rewarded.

History made

As the Championship Sections bands at Stevenage became the last of all the regions to know their fate on Sunday evening then, a little history was made, as Redbridge became the region’s most successful band of all time with twelve titles to its name and Zone One Brass booked its Royal Albert Hall debut.

With Redbridge on the kind of form we have heard so far this year, we reckon the band will have its sights firmly set on beating its previous finals best of seventh in 2006 and we won’t be betting against it.

Christopher Thomas 

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