If there would have been an additional award made for sheer dedication in pursuit of a winning cause in the First Section at Durham, it surely would have gone to Shepherd Group Band flugel horn player Paul Stamp.
With a potential 10.00am start on the cards, he got up at 6.00am to ensure his lip was in fine trim, as the prospect of a testing time on Philip Sparke's 'The Land of the Long White Cloud' loomed ahead.
Thankfully, by mid Saturday afternoon, all he was left hoping for was that he had enough stamina in the tank to enjoy a long night of celebration, as his band claimed the title in considerable style under the baton of 'Best Conductor' award winner Richard Wilton.
Little wonder then the MD was thrilled that such a show of dedication — and not just from his early-bird flugel, had paid off, as adjudicators Richard Marshall and Roger Webster praised their show of precise rhythmic structure, dynamic contrast and solid soloist contributions to secure their first victory and Cheltenham qualification since 2012.
"That performance was something special," Richard later told 4BR after collecting the trophy. "The band is full of people like Paul who are prepared to give something extra. All the band was superb today — and it's given us a huge boost for the rest of the year."
In fact Richard Marshall praised both Shepherd Group and runner-up Westoe Brass under Lee Morris for the intelligent way they had approached what proved to be a very troublesome test of musical character for the competing bands, whilst Roger Webster made a special mention of the bass trombonists, with Alistair Brown of Shepherd Group taking the 'Best Trombone' award.
Elsewhere, the appearance of the former Black Dyke star Dave Nesbitt to anchor the Westoe tuba section also paid rich dividends — not only with their second qualification success in three years, but as it inspired the slightly 'older' solo heads of Dave Petherick (soprano) and the euphoniums of Steve Kyle and Ray Canham, to bring an assuredness to the central lyrical section that Roger Webster felt few others had done on the day.
Not to be outdone though their fine percussion team took the 'Best Percussion' award.
And in a contest that from the start improved in incremental steps towards the title, it was GT Group Peterlee (with ex-Black Dyke star Joseph Cook in their tuba ranks) who opened with a solidly portrayed account under Ian Langthorne to end third.
They were immediately followed by Westoe and Shepherd Group, whilst last year's Third Section champions Dunston Silver conducted by an ebullient (and vociferous) Aidan Hodgson was visibly ecstatic to eventually come a very creditable fourth.
Meanwhile, Harrogate, Ripon City and Cockerton battled for the remaining places with performances that at times just wavered too much in terms of execution to have come higher in the opinion of the men in the box.
However, with an appearance at the forthcoming Senior Trophy to look forward to, the new champion will hope that they won't have too early a draw to enable their flugel player to wake up the late night Blackpool revellers.
The band is full of people like Paul who are prepared to give something extra. All the band was superb today — and it's given us a huge boost for the rest of the yearMD, Richard Wilton
Test Piece: 'Land of the Long White Cloud' (Philip Sparke)
Adjudicators: Dr Roger Webster and Richard Marshall
1. Shepherd Group Band (Richard Wilton)*
2. Westoe Brass (Lee Morris)*
3. GT Group Peterlee (Trevor Langthorne)
4. Dunston Silver (Aiden Hodgson)
5. Harrogate (Dean Jones)
6. Ripon City (Martin Hall)
7. Cockerton Band (Michael Hardman)
Winning conductor: Richard Wilton
Best Trombone: Alistair Brown (Shepherd Group)
Best Bass Section: Westoe Brass
Best Percussion: Westoe Brass
*Top two bands qualify for National Final at Cheltenham