The first Yorkshire title to be secured on the Sunday in Huddersfield came in the Second Section, where Dean Goffin's 'Rhapsody in Brass' provided the demanding qualification challenge for the eleven hard working bands.
In the end it was a contest that saw the contenders playing last and first that eventually took the honours, as Wakefield Metropolitan and Worsbrough Brass headed to Cheltenham.
For the winners it was a long awaited return to major contest success, as following victory at the 2012 Senior Trophy and competing in the Championship Section in 2013, they had dropped down the sections. However, under the baton of former principal cornet player Richard Larder they can now look forward to a great future — with immediate ambitions focussed on the famous race course in September.
"We've had a few difficult years, but the spirit of the band is remarkable," Richard admitted to 4BR. "We have totally regrouped and now have a full band of committed players which have a great time in rehearsals. It's a nice way to celebrate our 40th anniversary. We aim to go to Cheltenham and win."
Richard also revealed that the secret to the success was playing to what he called his 'game plan'. "I remember playing this piece many years ago under Alan Morrison and he spoke of the need to create time and space to be able to capture the musical style. That was the game plan I followed, so I think I finally owe him a pint!"
What the judges wanted
Thankfully for Wakefield, that approach, with detail and balance, solid soloists and a sense of musical confidence was exactly what the judges Leigh Baker and David Roberts were looking for in the box, as they later spoke of the dynamic and tempo problems that arose in other performances that lacked the same level of consistency in both style and execution.
For them, the opening sense of anxious optimism, the deeply melancholic central interlude and the vibrant finale certainly reflected the personal feelings the composer must have felt in writing when faced by the prospect of battle with Rommel's Afrika Korps.
"It's a wonderful, but really difficult piece at this level," David told 4BR. "The quiet playing caused problems, especially at the end of the second movement, where many were still playing forte.
The first three bands stood out. The winners produced the cleanest and most musical account, whilst second was also very good. The third placed band just made too many mistakes to qualify, and some bands tried simply to blow their way through."
Leigh (who enjoyed a rousing rendition of 'Happy Birthday' sung to him by the audience) agreed. "This is great music that will have helped all the bands and conductors develop.
We went for consistency in approach and delivery — and the top two certainly had that. It was summed up for us with the end of the second movement and the start of the third, which very few got right. The best band though was the most consistent."
Joining Wakefield in Cheltenham will be Worsbrough, who produced a super maker off the number 1 draw that very nearly held its grip on the Area Trophy all the way to the finishing line — only to be pipped by their rivals at the post.
After winning the Fourth Section in 2010, they will now make a welcome return to the Finals after producing a performance of musical merit under the baton of John Hopkinson.
Just missing out in a contest that certainly showed the need for bands to perform more music of this cultured refinement in a contest environment, went to 2016 Third Section National Champion Crofton.
They certainly showed that they had made the step up in contesting class with confidence (with euphonium player Matthew Reasbeck taking the 'Best Soloist' award), as they finished ahead of a refined, but rather more fragile rendition from Skelmanthorpe Prospect.
Meanwhile, Meltham & Meltham Mills, Horbury Victoria and seventh placed Slaithwaite certainly found favour in the hall with their more robust approaches, but not in the box, as the judges opted instead for what they felt were more considered approaches to Goffin's concise suite, full of stylish melody and precise technique.
And with that in the judge's thoughts, none did it better than Wakefield Metropolitan, as they rounded off the contest with the type of consistency of approach and execution that would have had Rommel, let alone their 10 rivals on the day, admitting defeat.
We have totally regrouped and now have a full band of committed players which have a great time in rehearsals. It's a nice way to celebrate our 40th anniversary. We aim to go to Cheltenham and winWakefield Metropolitan MD, Richard Larder
Test Piece: 'Rhapsody in Brass' (Dean Goffin)
Adjudicators: Leigh Baker and David Roberts
1. Wakefield Metropolitan (Richard Larder)*
2. Worsbrough Brass (John Hopkinson)*
3. Crofton Silver (Dean Jones)
4. Skelmanthorpe Prospect (Philip Garlick)
5. Meltham & Meltham Mills (Tim Sidwell)
6. Horbury Victoria (Duncan Beckley)
7. Slaithwaite (Rob Westacott)
8. Kippax (Ian Knapton)
9. Clifton & Lightcliffe (John Clay)
10. Emley (Garry Hallas)
11. Frickley/South Elmsall (James Hobbins)
*Top two bands qualify for National Final in Cheltenham
Best Soloist: Matthew Reasbeck (euphonium) — Crofton Silver
Youngest Player: Harry Moulson (aged 10 ) — Worsbrough Brass