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2012 British Open Championship — Five things we got to know from the Open

4BR looks at five things that came to light at the end of the 160th British Open in Birmingham on the weekend.

Black Dyke in action at Symphony Hall

More brilliant British Open images from Goldy Solutions can be found at:
http://www.pbase.com/troonly/2012_british_open

1. Black Dyke is not unbeatable.

Despite the resurgent 2012 form, the addition of Robert Childs to the back room staff, the players, the budgets, the profile and the desire to create banding history with the biggest ‘Grand Slam’ of all time, the Queensbury band was still beaten – although only by the narrowest of margins.

That will certainly renew the confidence of the optimists in rival camps – none more so than at Foden’s and Brighouse & Rastrick, who will be looking to create their own ‘Double’ and ‘Hat trick’ entries in the record book at London.

Renewed hope too at Cory, Leyland and Fairey – all of whom will take something out of their performances at Symphony Hall.

The problem they may all face though is Black Dyke’s own determination not to end the year with a second successive defeat.

The National Finals have become unmissable.


Allan Withington

2. Allan Withington deserves his place amongst the greats.
 

It may have taken him 23 attempts to finally win a British Open Mortimer Maestro Trophy, but in doing do the Norwegian based Englishman has finally secured his place amongst the pantheon of the greatest brass band conductors of the modern era.

The classiest of class acts of the banding world, he is an inventive, innovative musician blessed with a talent to bring out the very best from the bands he has under his command.

Now look at his record. 

It’s living proof that nice guys deserve all the good fortune that comes their way.


Tubas

3. The standard of BBb tuba playing is not as good as many people may have thought.

It’s not often that both BBb tubas in a brass band contest at this level get the opportunity to showcase their musical talents – and after the weekend you could hear why.

Leviathan sized instruments can make even the very best players sound like Louis Armstrong with a throat infection – dull toned beasts of burden, yoked to the bridle of high volume grunt, bowel shifting torque and very little else.

What ever happened to full bodied, plump sounding well rounded sounds? 

The cadenzas were not that difficult, but some bands (including podium finishers) had to help their foundation layers out by employing poorly camouflaged Eb tuba help.
 
Time for the big lads to do a bit more practice then?


British Open audience 

4. Full house signs

We are told by those with the rosiest of rose tinted spectacles that the British Open is always sold out and that any empty seats are either down to women wanting to go shopping or players being refused entry to the hall to listen to rival bands.

That is patently not true anymore – unless the local branch of M&S was having ‘All you can buy for a £1’ sale, or the Symphony Hall bar was starting their ‘Happy Hour’ drinks promotion at 10.30am.

Times have changed, listening habits have changed, and those people paying good money to come to the British Open have changed too.

Time then to perhaps look at a different approach: from marketing and contest rules, to the number and nationality of the bands taking part in the contest itself.

The Open is starting to have the feel of a contest that could be slowly losing audience support. It would be a sad day when it would be more appropriate to start advertising ‘Half Full’ outside the doors to Symphony Hall.


Martin Ellerby 

5. The return of shorter test pieces

Could we be entering a period when less is more from composers of major test pieces?

‘Electra’ brought plenty of pre-contest opprobrium from some competing bands – but come contest day, the 13 or so minutes it took to perform Martin Ellerby’s work seemed to find favour with the vast majority of players, conductors and listeners alike.

In recent years we have become accustomed to overblown test pieces that could do with losing a few pounds of misplaced musical blubber from their waistlines. 

Musical obesity has become the norm at major brass band contests.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Martin Ellerby (above) cuts a sprightly figure – and his ‘Electra’ was a well toned, well proportioned work that managed to contain all the right ingredients in its sized 13 minute time frame. 

Perhaps future contest composers would like to take note. 

Their efforts would certainly be greatly appreciated by health conscious listeners.



Foden's Band - Matt Ford - Lichfield Cathedral

Friday 24 November • 19A The Close, Lichfield WS13 7LD


Enfield Citadel Band -

Saturday 25 November • The Salvation Army. 42 Clarence Road. Southend. SS1 1AN SS1 1AN


Contest: Swiss National Championships

Saturday 25 November • Stravinski Hall, Montreaux. Claude-Nobs 5, 1820 Montreaux, Switzerland 1820


Newstead Brass -

Saturday 25 November • John Godber Centre. Ogle Street. Hucknall. Nottingham NG15 7FQ


Lofthouse Brass Band - Lofthouse Christmas Fair

Saturday 25 November • Lofthouse Methodist Church, Leeds Road, Lofthouse, Wakefield WF3 3NE


Hitchin Band

November 21 • Due to a re-shuffle in our cornet section we are now looking for a REPIANO or FRONT ROW cornet player. We are a busy band currently at the top of the 1st section in the London and Southern Counties area. We rehearse Mon + Thurs - 7.45-9.45pm.


Blidworth Welfare Band

November 21 • The Blidworth Welfare band, Midlands Championship section, require a 2nd cornet player to join our friendly but ambitious and hardworking band. A good programme of concerts, recordings and contests will provide an enjoyable challenge.


Blidworth Welfare Band

November 21 • The Blidworth Welfare band, Midlands Championship section, require a principal cornet player to join our friendly but ambitious and hardworking band. . A good programme of concerts, recordings and contests will provide an enjoyable challenge.


James Chamberlain

BMus (Hons) PGCE
Conductor, Teacher