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2017 Brass in Concert Championships
Preview & Prediction

The best showbiz bands in the world are back in Gateshead to showcase their brands of free of artistic restriction entertainment.

Champions
Can Cory produce yet more magic to retain their Brass in Concert title?

The entertainers are back in town. A dozen of the banding world’s finest in fact - and featuring more award winners than can be found outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles come Oscar time.

There is plenty of artistic honour as well as cash at stake at Sage Gateshead on Sunday, although unlike Hollywood, the spotlight here will certainly be focused on all that is good about what goes on behind this particular proscenium curtain of award seeking competition. The family orientated ethos of the festival weekend is something not even Disney could better. 

The organisers of the Brass in Concert Championships have certainly played their part in that - instigating open, transparent dialogue with the twelve competing nominees, including informal discussions on matters as far reaching as the event’s mission statement and marking structure, to programme content and presentation. 

The organisers of the Brass in Concert Championships have certainly played their part in that - instigating open, transparent dialogue with the twelve competing nominees, including informal discussions on matters as far reaching as the event’s mission statement and marking structure, to programme content and presentation. 

It is an ongoing process - but after the crassly handled events of 2015 that led to a number of withdrawals from the contest, the renewed sense of co-operation between the producers and the stars bodes well for the future of the premier brass band entertainment contest on the planet.  

Audience interaction

This year there is even a bold attempt to get the ever supportive audience involved, with an interactive voting process (using mobile phones) to pick the band they think (completely independent of the official results) has provided their ‘favourite performance’.  
 
In response, the bands have hopefully played their part too - by forgoing the rather earnest attempts to provide what were becoming rather badly researched forms of Open University historical musical lectures (complete with slide show theatrics) with something that has a much lighter touch of innovation, thematic accuracy and freedom of artistic restriction.  

There is a great deal a band can pack into their 23 minute spotlight sets, especially if they are designed to intelligently tickle, rather than dumbly browbeat the eclectic senses.

There is a great deal a band can pack into their 23 minute spotlight sets, especially if they are designed to intelligently tickle, rather than dumbly browbeat the eclectic senses.

A sneak preview of the programmes on offer this year suggests they have also played their part - with much less death and destruction and more upbeat joyful fayre on offer.  The brass band equivalent to the ‘Best Film’ Oscar will hopefully go to something more akin to ‘La La Land’ than ‘Apocalypse Now’.

Heavyweight performers

And there should be plenty to enjoy from these genuine heavyweight performers - led by defending champion Cory.

Since the contest changed its marking structure Philip Harper and his band have led the way; staying one or even two steps ahead of the pack by cleverly tapping into a fertile vein of inventive audience friendly entertainment that has combined slick presentation with brilliantly executed playing.  

Cory
Cory's polish and presentation zonked out rivals last year

Last year’s overwhelming Roald Dahl inspired victory (coming top with four of the five judges) summed up their approach almost perfectly. Every adjudication box was fully understood and ticked off.  Rivals ended up like the characters in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory - zapped, zonked and sent packing like gift wrapped ever-lasting gobstoppers.  

It was if as Philip Harper was creating a programme in cinemascope colour whilst rivals laboured in black and white film. 

How they can perhaps repeat (or find yet another new direction) this year will be interesting, especially as they are up against returnees and rivals who may also have a new award-winning approach of their own to appeal to the critics. 

It was if as Philip Harper was creating a programme in cinemascope colour whilst rivals laboured in black and white film. 

Stimulating

Chief amongst them will surely be Eikanger Bjorsvik - fresh from retaining the Norwegian equivalent of Brass in Concert at the Siddis Entertainment contest in Stavanger.

The National and European title holder has a renowned reputation for producing creative, intellectually stimulating concert programmes - although they will be aware that Nordic ‘entertainment’ hasn’t always captured the imagination of audiences and judges alike here over the years.  It will be intriguing to hear in more ways than one, just what they bring across the North Sea with them under the direction of Reid Gilje.

Eikanger
The Norwegian, Siddis and European champions head across the North Sea this year...

The same certainly applies to the other ‘overseas’ stars in Paris Brass Band and Fountain City.  

 The Americans make a welcome return. Their last trip was in 2009 when they also stayed on to win the Scottish Open (something they hope to do again this year), and they have since developed a fine reputation for inventive entertainment under MD Joseph Parisi. 

Bonjour

Meanwhile, Gateshead says a first ever ‘Bonjour’ to Paris Brass Band.  

If MD Florent Didier decides to compere their programme then the female share of the audience prize vote will be theirs for certain (his voice is a mix of Charles Aznavour and David Ginola), although if his band plays to the same level of artistic brilliance as that pair, then they could well pack a few more awards into their flight luggage back to Charles de Gaulle airport on Monday morning.  

Florent Didier
Getting the accent just right may be the key to Florent Didier's success with Paris Brass Band

Some former champions though will surely have something to say about that - with Grimethorpe, being Grimethorpe, joining forces, literally in this case with conductor Sam Hairsine, Director of Music of the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, CTCRM to regain the title as the brass band world’s undisputed premier entertainers.

It would be one heck of a way to round off their 100th anniversary celebrations.  Being Grimey, you can never tell just what they may have in store. 

It would be one heck of a way to round off their 100th anniversary celebrations.  Being Grimey, you can never tell just what they may have in store. 

Foden’s and Tredegar (both returning for the first time since 2014) will also want to make their mark on the proceedings - and with reputations as two of the most creative entertainment thinkers in the business, the current Brass in Concert format may well suit their innovative approaches more than most.

Perennial favourites

Bob Childs stole a march on rivals with Cory in 2008 and again with Grimethorpe in 2014 as he seeks to emulate Richard Evans in winning the title with three separate bands, whilst Ian Porthouse and his in-form Welsh ensemble has a well-earned reputation for engaging audiences and judges alike here with their imaginative approach.

Brighouse
Brighouse & Rastrick can always be relied upon to bring something a bit different to the contest stage

Former winners in perennial audience favourites Leyland and a resurgent Brighouse & Rastrick should be well worth listening out for headed by Thomas Wyss and David Thornton. 

Two clever MDs with fertile imaginations both have come up with programmes that have appealed to the heart as well as the mind in the past, and this year there is promise of more of the same. 

Plenty to enjoy

Twelve bands does make for a long day even for the most ardent brass band lover, but there should be plenty to enjoy from Flowers as the first band to take to the stage at 9.30am under David Childs - who will have travelled up through the night to Gateshead after performing in Cardiff on Saturday evening. 

So too with Butlins Mineworkers Champions Virtuosi GUS and Carlton Main Frickley Colliery, both of whom can be guaranteed to bring something a little different to the event under their perceptive MDs Adam Cooke and Erik Janssen.    

Virtuosi GUS
Butlins Mineworkers champion Virtuosi GUS will look to showcase their title winning aspirations

Although there remains debate over the somewhat prescriptive BiC marking system, the organisers have sought opinion and viewpoints on how it currently works and how it may even be amended in the future.  

The entertainers at Brass in Concert are being encouraged to break free of traditional artistic confines. Now the stars of the stage need to show they really understand how to do it.

And at a time when bands increasingly have to become ever more inventive in reaching out to new as well as existing brass band audiences, that co-operative openness should be congratulated whole heartedly.

The entertainers at Brass in Concert are being encouraged to break free of traditional artistic confines. Now the stars of the stage need to show they really understand how to do it.

As for a winner?

Any one of these fine bands could walk away with the £4,000 first prize, plus extra cash goodies and prizes, if they capture critical analytic opinions as well as the subjective imaginations of the panel of judges.

Lito Fontana
The great Lito Fontana is one of the judges that will need to be impressed at Sage Gateshead

The great Argentine trombonist Lito Fontana and the highly respected composer Jan Van der Roost will need to be impressed in terms of quality of performance, whilst the one and only Richard Evans and renowned Royal Northern Sinfonia horn player Peter Francomb will be the entertainment and presentation specialists.   Principal Director of Music of HM Royal Marines, Nick Grace is charged with programme content.

If the form book is anything to go by then Cory and Eikanger seem to be the front runners, but with the likes of Brighouse & Rastrick, Grimethorpe, Foden’s and Tredegar all primed to steal the spotlight and winner’s acceptance speech limelight if things just go their way.

Paris could be a bit of a real dark horse, whilst anyone of Leyland, Flowers, Carlton Main, Virtuosi GUS and Fountain City could make an impression on the top-six. 

4BR Prediction:

1. Cory
2. Eikanger Bjorsvik
3. Brighouse & Rastrick
4. Tredegar
5. Foden’s
6. Grimethorpe

Dark Horse: Paris Brass Band 



Strata Brass -

Wednesday 13 December • Rockingham Centre,Sheffield Road,Hoyland Common,Nr Barnsley S74 1DQ


South London Fellowship Band -

Wednesday 13 December • John Lewis Department Store. Bluewater. Kent DA9 9SA


Black Dyke Band - Queensbury Parish Church

Thursday 14 December • Queensbury Parish Church Halifax Road Queensbury BD13


Regent Hall Concerts - Royal Greenwich Brass Band

Thursday 14 December • St Alfege Church. Greenwich Church Street. London. SE10 9BJ SE10 9BJ


Concert - Grimethorpe Colliery: Emmanual Church

Thursday 14 December • Huddersfield Rd, Barnsley S75 1DT


Rhyl Silver Band

December 12 • We have vacancies in our training band who have engagements in their own right.. We would welcome cornets, horn and basses.. Just check us out.


Rhyl Silver Band

December 12 • A friendly North Wales Band based has various vacancies due to a rebuild under our new MD Mr Alan Milnes.. We require front row cornets, back row cornets, solo horn, 2nd trombone and bass.. Come on give us a call.


Garforth Brass

December 12 • Really URGENT final call for anyone who can help us out for the Regional competition at Huddersfield on Saturday, 3rd March! As entries need to be in by the end of the year we need a strong Bb bass player to give us a fighting chance in the World Tour!


Martin Heartfield

GGSM, ARCM, PGCE
Conductor, Adjudicator, Educationalist