2009 National Youth Championships - Introduction and preview

30-Mar-2009

Malcolm Wood looks forward to the battles for the five titles at the revamped National Youth Championships this weekend.


RNCM
Ready and waiting: The RNCM hosts the National Youth Championships this weekend
Picture: Ian Clowes


With the dust barely settled on the Regionals, the contesting merry-go-round continues, as all eyes are focused on the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester for the National Youth Brass Band Championships.

Whilst the date of the event does fluctuate, the venue stays the same, and the RNCM remains an organizational hub of frenetic activity that ticks all the right boxes.  

As always, some bands have to travel further than others, but with plenty of staff on hand and the British Federation of Brass Bands (BFBB) helpers all doing a great job, everything usually runs smoothly.

That means that lots of players and supporters will be able to stay and listen once they've performed, but those who are involved with the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain will be racing to get away in time for the start of their Easter Course.

Talking points

A number of changes have been implemented for this event since last year – and long overdue they were too.

The biggest talking point has been the restructuring of the Sections.  Over the last few years, the existing set up had become increasingly disjointed and lacked age related progression. The overall event had lost focus, and readjustment was necessary.   

The five sections now have a much more focused, progressive look to them, from the new Training Section, through the Junior, Intermediate, Advanced and Premier levels.   

Encouragingly that has seen an increase in numbers in the Premier Section (only 1 band competed last year) to six contenders, although defending Champion, West Lothian are absent. 

The Advanced Section also contains six fine bands, although the Intermediate Section (with a couple of exceptions) contains many of the bands that competed in the Community Section a year ago. It’s popularity means that it will go on for well over 7 hours, whilst the Junior Section has a touch of familiarity about it too.

Training launch

The major initiative though is the launch of the Training Section, with the four competing bands.   From little acorns they say, and this has the real potential to grow into something significant given the right support and organisational nurturing.

School concerns

Meanwhile, the demise of the Schools Section perhaps reflects the desire of those in the education sector to seek recognition for their musical efforts at the National Music for Youth Festival in the summer, rather than here. 

The reasons are varied of course, but it would be a great pity if dialogue were not initiated by the BFBB to try and bring this vitally important sector of the brass playing community back into the fold.

Fine tuning

The BFBB has to be applauded for making the changes that they have, but only on Sunday night will they know if they've got it right.  Further consultation and amendments may be needed to set these championships up to cater for the musical aspirations of our youth over the next decade or so.

PLC heads for the Sky

The Advanced Section this year will perform a new commission from the increasingly busy pen of Paul Lovatt-Cooper, called ‘Skylines’, with funds provided from Lancashire Contests. 

The inspiration comes from the variety of music heard across Lancashire and the North West, and is composed in an upbeat, accessible style, to allow the bands the opportunity to show off their array of soloists. 

Interestingly there are four, 8-bar solos, which at the conductor’s discretion must be performed by a chosen player at the front of the band before returning to their seat.  The choices are not prescribed (this is where the discretion comes in), so watch out for some interesting combinations.

Playing format

Elsewhere in three of the sections, the competing bands are required to play a set work and an own choice programme in what promises to be a friendly, but competitive rivalry that makes for a fabulous day’s entertainment.

Numbers on a par

Two years ago, 40 bands appeared at this event, and whilst last year there was a drop to 34, this year there are 35 bands on show. There are some notable absentees, but that could be temporary if the new format is seen to be a success.

Familiar names

As is the case at an event such as this, you'll be able to see some of banding's most familiar names fronting competitors.  Mark Bousie, Lee Rigg, Chris Jeans and Chris Wormald regularly lead their bands here, Richard Evans will be fronting the challenge of Carnoustie & District Youth (so look out for the kilt) and Ian Porthouse is making a first appearance with Gloucestershire Youth.

Other debutants this year include Smithy Bridge from Lancashire (who are regular attendees at the Great Northern in September).

Young judges

The BFBB have to be congratulated for engaging the services of fresh adjudication ears.  John Doyle, Michelle Ibbotson and Katrina Marzella will join the experienced quintet of Major Peter Parkes, Ray Farr, David Horsfield, Philip Harper and Simone Rebello, and with the positive approach of open adjudication, they will all be able to appreciate the musical endeavours of the talented performers to the full.

Co-op Support

For the third year in a row, the event is supported by The Co-operative organization.  Despite the turbulent economic climate, they are maintaining a visible public image (particularly in the North of England) by supporting events that have a community based inspiration behind them. Each player who participates will receive a Fair Trade 'goody bag' as well - so the brass band movement will be doing its bit to save the planet.

9am start

It all starts off just after 9.00am on Sunday in the RNCM Concert Hall and the three contests there should be completed by around 7.00pm.

The Junior Section starts at 9.25am starts in the Bruntwood Theatre followed by the Intermediate Section that should be done by 8pm.

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.

Tickets

Ticket prices are £8 for Adults; Young Persons/Concessions: £4.00; Under 11’s £2 4BR will once again be present on Sunday to experience the 11 hours of competition.

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