facebook twitter rss vimeo

*
banner

2017 National Championships of Great Britain
Championship Section preview & prediction

4BR Editor Iwan Fox looks forward to a battle of musical intellect and artistry on Howard Snell's masterfully hung 'Gallery' of portraits at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday.

Howard Snell
Self portrait: Howard Snell

Following Eikanger’s success at the European Championship and Valaisia winning the Open in Birmingham last month, British brass band Brexiteers will have been looking forward to the ‘Sceptred Isle’ contesting haven that will be provided at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday.

They will arrive at Kensington Gore with wry smiles - especially as EBBA has got itself embroiled in the type of damaging in-house squabble that could well see Nigel Farage seek to replace Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ with ‘Slaidburn’ as the EU’s unofficial anthem. They may even conveniently ignore the fact that there is an ex-pat Englishman, a Scot and a Belgian in the box too. 

The analogous echoes of Palanga won’t go away though (especially given the acoustic of the Albert Hall), with the highest placed English band now knowing they will have to dig deep in their pockets to head to Montreux in 2019. 

Given the current state of EU negotiations over post-brexit air flights, whoever wins may need to start looking at next May’s Eurostar train schedules.

British occassion

To their credit Kapitol Promotions have certainly given the event a sense of British occasion once more. 

Audience numbers maintain a slow but marked growth, despite the increased costs of tickets, the pre-results entertainment (this year given by Tubular Brass) is now engaging rather than distracting, and the announcement of the results is heralded by a fanfare team from the Prince of Wales Division.  

Reflections
Reflections of all styles and variety will be on show at the Royal Albert Hall

Bitten the dust

All that, and the contest’s historic hat-trick convention has finally bitten the dust.  

Given that it was rather like explaining the need for the Chiltern Hundreds to an EU Commissioner or the intricacies of the LBW law to any Lithuanian representatives who might now be looking to host a test match in Palanga instead of the Europeans, it’s been an anomaly that has long passed its relevance.  It also brings us into line with one EU banding law that not even Boris Johnson could argue a case against. 

Given that it was rather like explaining the need for the Chiltern Hundreds to an EU Commissioner or the intricacies of the LBW law to any Lithuanian representatives who might now be looking to host a test match in Palanga instead of the Europeans

Masterpiece

Neither could anyone quibble for that matter with the choice of test piece. 

Even though time constraints mean we won’t hear the moving ‘The March back to Camp’ portrait, Howard Snell’s ‘Gallery’ still presents performers and listeners alike with a masterpiece of eclectic craftsmanship to explore, consider and enjoy.

It is cerebral music with a resonant, emotive heartbeat. 

Any clumsy camouflage work or part swapping will be instantly identified by the experts in the box as easily as restoration work carried out by a local cut-price Glasgow decorator on the ‘Skating Minister’. 

However, conductors who fiddle around with it could well need a defibrillator.  Too many changes to the seating pattern and the expertly considered sound structure will be knocked out of kilter.

Any clumsy camouflage work or part swapping will be instantly identified by the experts in the box as easily as restoration work carried out by a local cut-price Glasgow decorator on the ‘Skating Minister’. 

The Skater
Anyone trying a bit of clumsy redecoration will come a cropper...

No hiding place

There is no hiding place, no easy-option recourse to sugar coated sentimentality. Tasteful rubato and characterisation, playful wit and bi-tonal harmonies, subtlety as well as majesty play off against each other with such a provenance of authenticity that a performance cannot succeed by imitation or artifice.

Players and conductors alike have found it to be a fearsome delight. Everyone will gain benefit for either performing or hearing it this weekend. 

Tasteful rubato and characterisation, playful wit and bi-tonal harmonies, subtlety as well as majesty play off against each other with such a provenance of authenticity that a performance cannot succeed by imitation or artifice.

4BR will be there to bring you the action as it unfolds, with the first band due to take to the stage at 10.00am. 

And with added security measures in place, people are being advised to make sure they arrive in plenty of time to get to their seats after weaving their way through the usual foyer scrum to pick up a programme and a study score.  

Cory
Will history repeat itself for Cory?

So who will triumph after their journey through such a wonderfully curated musical gallery? 

Cory history?

The defending champion will be determined to create their own piece of Royal Albert Hall history.

Cory has been almost untouchable here in the past two years, and if they can resist the temptation of wanting to showcase every single aspect of their remarkable talents in one gallery showing (as the judges felt they did at times at the British Open) then you would be hard pressed to bet against them.  

Philip Harper can hang a musical picture higher than just about anyone else in the banding world (physically as well as metaphorically) - and he may well be about to do it again.

Philip Harper can hang a musical picture higher than just about anyone else in the banding world (physically as well as metaphorically) - and he may well be about to do it again.

Cory
Philip Harper could have history in the palm of his hand on Saturday

Challengers

The list of challengers out to stop it becoming a Cory hat-trick exhibition is long though - led by a contrasting trio of Brighouse & Rastrick, Foden’s and Black Dyke.

Brighouse were not at their very best at Birmingham, but you still get the feeling that Prof David King could be about to unveil a musical portrait that could take the breath away here. 

If it all comes off, he could even turn the audience into a sea of Edvard Munch screams of feral delight.

King
Can David King grasp another National title with Brighouse & Rastrick?

Interpretive genius

So too Foden’s, who were also close to their musical best at Symphony Hall. Presented with such an inviting canvas of musical possibilities, Bram Tovey could deliver a masterpiece of his own interpretive genius, although his players will have to ensure they do not tarnish the picture with one too many little brushwork errors (as there were on ‘Fraternity’).

Black Dyke being Black Dyke, could cast off the memories of the British Open with a victory that would resonate around the banding world.  

It’s worth remembering that Prof Nicholas Childs has already won on this piece (at the Scottish Open with Whitburn), and no band will come more determined to prove a point of contesting principle than his.  

It’s worth remembering that Prof Nicholas Childs has already won on this piece (at the Scottish Open with Whitburn), and no band will come more determined to prove a point of contesting principle than his.Track records

Track Record

Given that the National Finals doesn’t usually spring the type of surprise result we have seen occasionally at the British Open (you can hear a sigh of relief from those banding Brexiteers) - and you have to go back to 2007 for the last time one of these four didn’t win the title - the chances are that a victory from another source will come from a band with a proven Albert Hall track record.

Fairey head that particular pack, and could be a good each-way bet to secure their first success since 2003, especially if they play as well as they did last year (last bar or so not withstanding), whilst Tredegar, with four top-six finishes in the last six years could also be in with a shout if they can build on the form shown at the Europeans and Symphony Hall. 

Whitburn
Can Michael Fowles inspire the in-form Whitburn to title success?

Form of their lives

Dark horses abound, but none more so than Whitburn. 

They were outstanding at the British Open, are enjoying the best form of their lives, and crucially, have won on this piece before. Although the Albert Hall hasn’t been the luckiest of hunting grounds, they are now a very high class band.

If they can maintain that level of contesting confidence for another furlong or two here under Michael Fowles, you never know.  And how would that go down in Holyrood?

Dark horses abound, but none more so than Whitburn. 

Expertly characterised music

Others may have a thing or two to say about that though - especially an in-form Reg Vardy led by Russell Gray, who could revel in this expertly characterised music, a bolstered Woodfalls, a rather capricious Virtuosi GUS, and a confident Milnrow, who were a tad unlucky to lose their Open status.             

It may sound a little harsh to even suggest that the rest of the field could find it very difficult to secure a mention off the stage come the results - although it is certainly not beyond any of them to produce the type of performance that captures the specific imagination of the three men in the box.

The Yorkshire duo of Hammonds Saltaire and City of Bradford are on a steep upward curve of top flight progress, whilst the same can also be said of Friary Guildford and Filton Concert. All four brim with confidence nowadays, even against high class fields such as this. 

Co-operative Funeralcare and Tongwynlais Temperance may be going through a bit of a rebuilding process, but both have done well here in the past, whilst Redbridge Brass, NASUWT Riverside and Thoresby Colliery shouldn’t be discounted by any means from gaining a foothold in the top-ten gallery door.

Iwan Fox


As for a winner?

Perhaps not as clear cut as you might think - even in the absence of our European neighbours.  

Cory remain the band to beat - although beaten they have been this year. A very specific entry in the history books awaits though, and you can’t just help thinking that they may do it in a manner that brokers little argument.

Any hint of a slip and Brighouse could pounce by delivering a gallery of musical treats not even Cory can match. 

The same goes for Foden’s or Black Dyke at their very best, whilst Fairey, Tredegar and the form band of 2017, Whitburn, could push the very best all the way to the announcement of the new champion. 

4BR Prediction:

1. Cory
2. Brighouse & Rastrick
3. Foden’s
4. Black Dyke
5. Fairey
6. Tredegar

Dark Horse: Whitburn

Potential top 10 finishers: Woodfalls, Reg Vardy, Virtuosi GUS



Rhyl Silver Band - Rhyl Silver Band and Cor Clwyd

Saturday 21 October • Town Hall. RHYL LL18


Black Dyke Band - Denby Dale Ladies Choir

Saturday 21 October • Huddersfield Town Hall, Corporation St, Huddersfield, HD1 2TA


Concert - Grimethorpe Colliery: Beck Theatre

Sunday 22 October • Grange Rd, Hayes UB3 2UE


Black Dyke Band - Skipton

Thursday 26 October • High St, Gargrave, Skipton BD23 1AH


The Hepworth Band - Frank Renton & Isobel Daws

Friday 27 October • Yeadon Town Hall


The Tilbury Band

October 21 • Tilbury Brass Band (Essex) have the following vacancies. . Cornet (position negotiable). Bass (position negotiable). Principal Euph . Percussion (Kit and Tuned). . We rehearse in our own Band Hall in Tilbury on Wednesdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7.30pm


Hungerford Town Band

October 21 • Having recruited a top class principal trombone, Hungerford Town Band require a Bb Bass player to complete the section. We have hard but fun rehearsals and work together as a close nit team.


Strata Brass

October 21 • Bb BASS in this Yorkshire Championship Band (1st Section 2018)- MD Jonathan Bates(Solo Horn - Fodens Band).. Rehearsals SUN/WED,bandroom 5 mins from J35/36 M1 (Hoyland).. Currently preparing new concert programme and for Butlins/Area 2018..


Martin Heartfield

GGSM, ARCM, PGCE
Conductor, Adjudicator, Educationalist