Yorkshire Area champion Stannington certainly 'nailed' its Second Section National title winning credentials to the winning post in the minds of the adjudicators at Cheltenham on the weekend, as they claimed victory in emphatic fashion under the direction of MD Derek Renshaw.
Such was the commanding fashion in which they delivered Stephen Bulla's evocative 'Images for Brass' that Alan Fernie and Steve Sykes later revealed they felt they were the only band to have really brought to life the evocative musical retelling of the Pacific battle of Iwo Jima with the essential sense of cinematic character.
'You really nailed it!', Steve wrote at the end of his remarks, whilst Alan added: 'What a fine band. So much positive and musical thought from MD — excellently executed too. Very enjoyable! Well done.'
And with Stannington being the last to perform of the 16 contenders, those crucial opinions held the greatest resonance as they overcame the bold challenge of eventual runner-up City of Bristol, who in turn had earlier led into the final furlong from Boarshurst Silver.
The judge's thoughts were revealed before the announcement of the results, with Alan stating: "All the bands played it very well and no one struggled, with 16 fantastic interpretations. The winning band brought us the cinematic effect of the big screen — played in such contrasting style."
Steve also confirmed to 4BR after the prizes were presented, that the winners '...were a clear margin ahead of the rest of the field'.
Just behind the podium finishers came another North-West/West of England duo in Haydock and Sidmouth Town, whilst the final top-six place went to London & Southern Counties Area champion Cawston.
Postponed wedding anniversary
Despite the clear margin of the commanding victory it still came as a bit of a surprise to Stannington Band Secretary Christine Wilson — although her decision to postpone her 50th wedding anniversary holiday to come to Cheltenham had proven well worth it!
"Derek has done a wonderful job," she said. "I'm still a bit shocked, but as we drew last at the Area and won and then drew last here and did it again on a test-piece with a lovely hymn tune in it, perhaps I should have known the omens.
It still hasn't quite sunk in. I'm more concerned about the excitement this will have on our three pregnant players!"
Third MD title
Christine needn't have worried, as the percussion, trombone and horn trio seemed more than happy at this particular end result, whilst Derek added to his impressive CV of National Finals achievements by claiming his third title following his First Section successes with ASDA Stocsbridge and Unite the Union in 2001 and 2012 respectively.
"It's his approach to rehearsals that makes us tick," Christine added. "He's so supportive and encouraging. He makes it very clear to the players what is required and they simply do their best for him. It's been great for the band."
Time for a pint
That was also something the winning MD picked up on as well, despite missing out on the stage celebrations as he opted for a quick pint instead!
"I didn't realise the time to tell you the truth," Derek told 4BR. "But it was great to hear that they had such a brilliant time. They are a wonderful bunch, so close knit and supportive of each other.
It's been a fantastic 10 months since coming here, even though I literally live on the doorstep in the village. Everyone associated with the band deserves the success."
Derek also revealed that the band will show their thanks to the support they receive from the village just outside Sheffield in their forthcoming annual concert. "We rehearse in the local church, and people are always asking about the band, so that concert the day before we take part at the Bolsover contest will be our way to show our thanks."
Despite its rather sombre historical inspiration, Stephen Bulla's work, with its readily identifiable themes and motifs (from the Navy Hymn 'Melita' to a touch of Spielberg 'Jurassic Park') brought out plenty of entertaining playing from each of the challengers.
The opening 'Prologue' established intent and precision, whilst the 'Approach by Sea' and 'Chorale Prayer' that followed offered the chance to showcase contrasting emotions and style. The final 'Engagement', full of growing tension and drama, eventually blossomed into a warmly triumphant close.
The early marker was provided by Haydock as Mark Quinn's band delivered an effective rendition from the number 3 draw which held its own until Boarshurst led by James Garlick upped the ante with a confident showing just before the mid-point break.
Sidmouth Town's purposeful approach under Adrian Harvey then gave the judge's something to think about as they returned after their cup of tea, with Cawston led by Leigh Sharpe also providing a substantive account that resonated in the box.
However, it was City of Bristol that seemed to have planted one hand on the National trophy by producing a high-quality performance under Bryn James (who was sporting a bit of a self-inflicted shaving war wound on himself).
A fine all round account aided by their excellent 'Best Instrumentalist' percussion team (who combined neat precision with colour and texture) put them in the clear with many listeners in the hall, but with the finishing tape in sight they were overcome by their unstoppable Yorkshire rivals.
Although not flawless (no performance was on the day) Stannington's rendition certainly engaged the senses with excellent lead lines and a flexible, robust ensemble which responded to the MDs controlled direction.
They also left in their wake a well-beaten field of rivals — with few having cause for complaint about their eventual placing from the judges.
Ibstock Brick Brass delivered an admirably solid performance off the number 1 draw at 9.30am to eventually finish seventh, whilst unknown to them at the time, a frustratingly minor error-strewn Dunaskin Doon became the highest placed Scottish band of the whole weekend in eighth.
The remaining midfield and lower places were filled by bands that in the opinion the judges found it hard to deliver with consistency (and nerves certainly played a part with sweaty hands leading to a clattering amount of dropped mutes), although Glossop Old and Houghton Brass may wonder if it was perhaps more a question of musical taste with their brace of colourful, exciting accounts.
As Alan Fernie stated in his pre-results remarks, the role of the adjudicator was to help bands improve, although on this occasion the test-piece certainly did that too. That will come in handy for many, as an even sterner challenge awaits with 'Land of the Long White Cloud' in the First Section next March.
However, for Stannington and Derek Renshaw, promotion to Section One as National Champion is surely something they will relish.
Although there was no planting of the Yorkshire flag on a nearby mountain top, the musical assault on the Second Section summit in Cheltenham had proven to be a mission accomplished in triumph.
'You really nailed it!', Steve wrote at the end of his remarks, whilst Alan added: 'What a fine band. So much positive and musical thought from MD — excellently executed too. Very enjoyable! Well done.'4BR
Test Piece: Images for Brass (Stephen Bulla)
Adjudicators: Alan Fernie and Steve Sykes
1. Stannington (Derek Renshaw)
2. City of Bristol (Bryn James)
3. Boarshurst Silver (James Garlick)
4. Haydock (Mark Quinn)
5. Sidmouth Town (Adrian Harvey)
6. Cawston (Leigh Sharpe)
7. Ibstock Brick Brass (Simon Willis)
8. Dunaskin Doon (Chris Bradley)
9. St Sebastian Wokingham (Lee Woodward)
10. Thomas Coaches Mid Rhondda (Alan Gibbs)
11. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion Jones)
12. Coalburn Silver (Gareth Bowman)
13. Old Silkstone (Sam Fisher)
14. Glossop Old (Les Webb)
15. Cheshire Constabulary (David Wollam)
16. Houghton Brass (Tom Gibson)
Best Instrumentalist: Percussion Section (City of Bristol)