Whereas Dean Goffin's war time rhapsody proved to be a very difficult test in the Second Section, Dan Price's rather less demanding, but equally engaging historical portrait of a suburban Manchester town gave the nine competing rivals in the Third Section, ample opportunity to shine.
So much so that it was hard to find an overwhelming consensus from speaking to supporters and neutral listeners in the hall prior to the results to who they thought would eventually claim the title in what was a highly entertaining contest full of well-directed and colourfully executed performances.
Well worked renditions
In the end though, and for the only two listeners who really counted in John Doyle and Andrew Warriner in the box, it was the well-worked renditions from Barton Community under Gary Oglesby and Kingsway Printers Cleethorpes led by Brian Harper, that for them at least, had just done enough to pip their rivals.
The two judges gave a detailed analysis in their pre-results speeches, with Andrew highlighting the tempo and stylistic markings of the opening movement, 'The Boggart', as a point of immediate reference, whilst John, in what was his usual sharp-witted delivery, ensured that the travails of the soprano players, 'who had a stinker of a part' was also noted.
Style and uniformity
However, both also clearly focussed on the need for the bands to perform with a degree of 'style and uniformity' — to bring the character of the music to life on a solid foundation of good tuning and ensemble balance.
It may have been light-hearted in approach, but the serious message it made also went a considerable way to explaining the final results.
Barton Community and Kingsway Printers Cleethorpes certainly balanced their accounts with colour and character allied to solid banding basics, with EYMS horn player Garry Oglesby with the winners in particular, also bringing a sense of dark wit, lyricism and joyfulness to their account.
It was a splendid performance that will bode well for the band that only made their contest debuts at this event in 2012 and which has come on in solid, incremental steps under their inspirational MD. Their first Area title could well be just the start of many more to come.
For Kingsway Printers meanwhile, their first National Final appearance since 2012 also came courtesy of a neatly delivered rendition that although having a few moments of anxiety, was also full of character.
Just missing out in a contest that showed the emerging strength in depth at this level came a vibrant Ferryhill Town under Andrew Hall, whilst the excellent cornet playing of Lisa Maxwell helped Murton Colliery into fourth and deservedly won her the 'Best Cornet' prize.
And although there were more noticeable inconsistencies on show from the likes of North Skelton and Swinton & District Excelsior in fifth and sixth, and with the bands that finished behind them, each gave performances of considerable merit in a contest which put a smile o the face, before, during and after each band had played.
The biggest smile of all though was reserved for the delighted winners of Barton Community.
It may have been light-hearted in approach, but the serious message it made also went a considerable way to explaining the final results4BR
Test Piece: 'Darkwood' (Dan Price)
Adjudicators: John Doyle and Andrew Warriner
1. Barton Community (Gary Oglesby)*
2. Kingsway Printers Cleethorpes (Brian Harper)*
3. Ferryhill Town (Andrew Hall)
4. Murton Colliery (Richie Wallace)
5. North Skelton (Lewis Wilkinson)
6. Swinton & District Excelsior (Robin Rutter)
7. Backworth Colliery (Colin Harris)
8. Billingham Silver (Vaughn Evans)
9. Marske Band (Alun Prest)
*Top two bands qualify bands for National Final at Cheltenham
Winning Conductor: Gary Oglesby
Best Percussion Trophy: Barton Community
Best Cornet Trophy: Lynne Maxwell (Murton Colliery)