Virtuosi GUS returned to formidable contesting winning form on the weekend as they regained the Midlands Area title for the first time since 2011 with a resounding victory on ‘St Magnus’.
Something to spare
Directed by Adam Cooke, there seemed little doubt that the famous GUS name would be engraved on the ornate Area trophy for a 22nd time, as a persuasive interpretation that combined lyrical musicality with precise technical security saw them head to London with a little something to spare.
Coming of age
It was also a performance that saw the coming of age of their young MD, as Adam Cooke’s authoritative direction banished any lingering doubts over his leadership credentials following the disappointment of their Butlins title defence earlier in the year.
With adjudicator Brett Baker (who was joined by David Horsfield) remarking that the top three bands, ‘clearly fell into place’, it was Desford who join them at the Albert Hall, after they did enough under Russell Gray to repel the strong challenge of an inspired Derwent Brass.
No Jag repeat
There was to be no repeat victory for reigning champion Jaguar Land Rover as their performance didn’t find the type of favour in the box as many in the main Civic Hall auditorium thought.
In the end they ended a lowly ninth, with the remaining top six places going to Spal Automotive Sovereign Brass, Thoresby Colliery and Newstead Brass.
Although there were a few eyebrows raised at some placings, the judges were resolutely clear in their thoughts, with Brett later stating that the top two bands were ‘clear’, with GUS ‘superb’, whilst Derwent was also ‘impressive’ in their approach to claim the final podium spot.
The winning MD was still taking calls of congratulations from Virtuosi GUS supporters late on Monday night when 4BR finally caught up with him.
"Perhaps you don’t realise just how big a band Virtuosi GUS is until you win a title like this," Adam said.
"Congratulations have come from all over the world, and it’s down to the players who have worked so hard. The last few months have been about building together and growing our musical partnership.
Now it’s starting to really gel and I could feel the confidence on stage. There is still a great deal of work to do, but this has been a hugely encouraging boost and testament to the honour it is to conduct such a great band."
Band Chairman Nigel Love agreed. "We knew this was coming and it was equally encouraging to read the adjudicator’s remarks that made the point about the musicality of the performance.
We are moulding a very good partnership here with Adam, who impresses with each rehearsal. With other exciting projects to come in the next few months, such as new CD recording we are growing together in a very focussed way."
There were a number of high class performances to enjoy in a highly competitive First Section as Enderby, directed by Simon Jones, overcame the imposing challenge of rivals Staffordshire and Blidworth Welfare to claim the title.
The Bedworth Civic Hall may not inspire great thoughts of Alpine conquest, but it certainly resounded to the sound of a host of competitors trying to create dramatic, colourful accounts of Howard Lorriman’s ‘Cry of the Mountain’.
Both Ewan Easton and David Lancaster gave thoughtful, detailed appreciations of their adjudication thought processes, emphasising the need for bands ‘to find the musical shape’ of the work, and ‘to create atmosphere’ through the deliberately constructed score.
Ewan spoke for over 15 minutes in fact — comprehensively leaving no one in any doubt to why the duo made the decision they did.
That meant ‘three impressive accounts’ stood out for them, with the remaining top six places going to solid renditions from Bilton Silver (Rugby), Leicestershire Co-op and home favourites Bedworth Brass.
Elsewhere, bands could not complain that the judges were nothing if not consistent with their approach, as more robust accounts failed to find favour with the experienced duo.
Not surprisingly the winning MD was delighted when he spoke to 4BR on Monday evening, especially by the way his band had worked so hard after a disappointing result at Butlins.
"We enjoyed working on the piece and towards a contest I knew we could make a mark," he said. "I’ve been with the band since last July and we’ve made great progress together.
I wanted to bring out the atmosphere and try and tell the unfolding story from the score, and it was an approach that was certainly appreciated in the box according to the remarks we received."
Enderby now has a new target to aim for, with Simon enjoying every minute of his time directing his committed band.
"It’s a remarkable organisation, and I enjoy the ethos of developing from within. They want to ‘grow their own’ here and that was shown with this band, which are already ready to compete at the next local contest, as well as Whit Friday and Bolsover!
It’s a pleasure to conduct them and now we have Cheltenham to look forward to, where I’m sure we can do well."
The most keenly fought contest of the weekend certainly came in the Second Section, where a number of well directed performances gave adjudicators Stephen Roberts and Ian Brownbill the most enjoyable of headaches.
In fact, a quick straw poll of the audience found almost as many candidates for a winner’s nomination as could be seen at the recent Oscars, as at least six bands left an indelible musical impression with their interpretations of Michael Ball’s elegant ‘Chaucer’s Tunes’.
In the end a finely shaped account from Daventry Brass conducted by Bob Stradling was revealed as the 2014 champion, with Ireland Colliery Chesterfield joining them on the September trip to Cheltenham.
With such an enjoyable standard of playing on show, any disappointment will have been tinged with a great deal of musical satisfaction for the likes of Avonbank (Evesham), Tinwistle, Bakewell and Brackley & District who just missed out on this occasion.
Both judges spoke of the need to ‘find the character of the music’ and to ‘engage’ with the musical portraits of each movement- something that the majority of bands strove to do. The top six in particular would have been worthy qualifiers on another contest day.
However, there could only be one winner, and Daventry MD Bob Stradling was still bursting with pride when he talked to 4BR on Monday evening.
"I’m extremely proud of my band. They played with so much courage on stage,” he said.
"I asked them to take pride in their performance and they did just that. I also wanted them to inject controlled energy and match it with warm musicality to bring out the contrasts in each of the movements — and it seems we did just that!"
Bob also revealed that he also took inspiration for his contest preparation from another Bob — one he has known well for over 40 years.
"I remember Bob Childs telling me not to leave any stone unturned when working through a score — and I did just that on this occasion. I must have driven the players mad at times, but the end result has made all their brilliant commitment and dedication well worthwhile."
Meanwhile, he also revealed that it had also turned out to be a pretty memorable family weekend with his partner Linda playing with Virtuosi GUS, her niece enjoying success with Enderby and Bob making it a hat trick with Daventry.
There was a bit of a headache of another kind at Chamberlaine Technology College on Saturday as the Third Section saw a number of fancied bands fail to find favour with judges Stephen Roberts and Ian Brownbill in the box.
The announcement of the results saw the faces of some band reps sporting puzzled grimaces as they found out their fates, although they were left in little doubt of the specific musical characteristics the judges were looking for.
In the end their requirements were best met by the impressive Rushden Town, conducted by John Hudson, who claimed the title just after their mid-point comfort break with a performance described as ‘excellent’ by both judges.
Joining them at Cheltenham will be the delighted duo of Foss Dyke and Newhall, whilst just missing out on this occasion was Resdev Market Rasen, Towcester Studio and Burbage (Buxton).
There was to be no finals berth for the likes of Stamford Brass and the University of Warwick, both of who found a warm response to their performances in the hall, but not in the tent as they ended 10th and 15th respectively.
In contrast, Rushden Band Secretary Sally Kneale was still on cloud nine on Monday night.
"It was a superb result," she said. "The band has been working so hard over the past year or so and we came here after winning at Leicester and coming runner-up at Butlins, so we knew we could do well."
Sally also paid tribute to MD John Hudson who comes in to direct the band at contests.
"John is such a busy man, but he gives us everything when he conducts.
The preparation he put in with the band for this contest was brilliant and as a result we left the stage knowing that we couldn’t have played any better."
There was little doubt that there was only one ‘Number 1 band’ at the Midlands Championships all weekend.
Fairfield (Buxton) claimed the Fourth Section title in fine style off the dreaded Kelly’s Eye draw, as 19 rivals failed to match their outstanding performance of Alan Fernie’s ‘Three Spanish Impressions’.
It was a wonderful achievement, especially as their pole position came under almost immediate attack from high class rivals such as fellow qualifiers and Butlins champion Ifton Colliery and third placed Stourport on Severn — both of who produced excellent accounts to head to Cheltenham.
In a contest that did vary somewhat in quality, the remaining top six places went to well executed accounts from Bestwood Welfare Black Diamonds, Audley Brass and Skegness Silver.
Taking it all in#
No wonder their vastly experienced MD Charles Kitchen, who has been with the band for 68 years and has been MD for almost 40, was still taking it all in when 4BR caught up with him on Monday evening.
"I’m so delighted we were able to win off the number 1 draw!" he said.
"It always makes you a bit apprehensive, and we had to get up early, rehearse and then make our way to the hall. It can make players a bit despondent, but mine felt it was a great challenge and they certainly made the most of the opportunity."
Charles also revealed that he was pleased to find out that the adjudicator’s remarks from both David Lancaster and Ewan Easton emphasised the musicality of his approach to the score.
"The piece grew on me the more I worked on it, but to find out that both judges felt we brought the character out of the music was a real bonus. That is what I have always aimed to do, so to get that appreciation in their remarks was very gratifying."
The band now heads to the National Finals for the fourth time under his baton. "We were at Harrogate in 2009 and at London in 1992 and 1993, so it’s great to be back again. We are all looking forward to it."
Perhaps you don’t realise just how big a band Virtuosi GUS is until you win a title like thisMD, Adam Cooke
Test Piece: 'St Magnus' — Kenneth Downie
Adjudicators: Brett Baker & David Horsfield
1. Virtuosi GUS (Adam Cooke)*
2. Desford Colliery (Russell Gray)*
3. Derwent Brass (Keith Leonard)
4. Spal Automotive Sovereign Brass (David Maplestone)
5. Thoresby Colliery (Brian Grant)
6. Newstead Brass (Duncan Beckley)
7. Ratby Co-operative (Michael Fowles)
8. Foresters Brass 2000 (Peter Collins)
9. Jaguar Land Rover (Dave Lea)
10. Jackfield (Elcock Reisen) (Nigel Seaman)
11. Hathern (David Newman)
* Top 2 bands qualify for the National Final
Test Piece: 'Cry of the Mountain' — Howard Lorriman
Adjudicators: David Lancaster & Ewan Easton
1. Enderby (Simon Jones)*
2. Staffordshire (Leigh Baker)*
3. Blidworth Welfare (Martin Heartfield)*
4. Bilton Silver (Rugby) (David Stowell)
5. Leicestershire Co-op (Graham Jacklin)
6. Bedworth Brass (Jason Glynn)
7. Wigston (Garry Sleath)
8. Langley (Cliff Parker)
9. Shirley (Dave Bishop Roe)
10. Gresley Colliery (Simon Jones)
11. City of Coventry (Stephen Cooper
12. Oddfellows Brass (Robert Boulter)
13. Harborough (Chris Groom)
14. Kibworth (Iain Rayner)
15. Shirebrook MW Unison (Mark Wilcockson)
16. Raunds Temperance (Robin Norman)
17. Carlton Brass (Paul Watson)
*Top 3 qualify for National Final
Test Piece: 'Chaucer's Tunes' — Dr Michael Ball
Adjudicators: Stephen Roberts & Ian Brownbill
1. Daventry Brass (Bob Stradling)*
2. Ireland Colliery Chesterfield (Ian Knapton)*
3. Avonbank (Evesham) (Warren Belshaw)
4. Tintwistle (Sarah Groake Booth)
5. Bakewell Silver (Roland Spencer)
6. Brackley and District (Alex Webb)
7. Amington (Kevin Steward)
8. Shirland Welfare (Lynden Cooper)
9. Ibstock Brick Brass (Huw Thomas)
10. Matlock (Andrew Dennis)
11. Shipston Town (Howard Gibbs)
12. Long Eaton Silver Prize (Sharon Stansfield)
13. Arrow Valley (Paul White)
* Top 2 bands qualify for National Final
Test Piece: 'Partita for Band'(Postcards from Home)- Prof Philip Wilby
Adjudicators: Stephen Roberts & Ian Brownbill
1. Rushden Town (John Hudson)*
2. Foss Dyke (Gareth Westwood)*
3. Newhall (Kevin Holdgate)*
4. Resdev Market Rasen (David Dernley)
5. Towcester Studio (Bob Stradling)
6. Burbage (Buxton) (Steve Critchlow)
7. Wellington (Telford) (Fiona Rolfe)
8. Trentham Brass (Mike Caveny)
9. Hucknall and Linby MC Brass (Paul Whyley)
10. Stamford Brass (Bob Prew)
11. Melton (Graham Sutton)
12. Moulton 77 (Roger Stevens)
13. Rolls Royce (Derby) (Graham Cardwell)
14. Cleobury Mortimer Concert Brass (Saphran Ali)
15. University of Warwick (Simon Hogg)
16. City of Birmingham (Barry Pope)
Withdrawn: Porthywaen Silver (Mark Parry)
*Top 3 bands qualify for National Final
Test Piece: 'Three Spanish Impressions for Brass Band' — Alan Fernie
Adjudicators: David Lancaster & Ewan Easton
1. Fairfield (Buxton) (Charles Kitchen)*
2. Ifton Colliery (Wayne Ruston)*
3. Stourport-on-Severn (Oliver Wilson)*
4. Bestwood Welfare Black Diamonds (Colin Hartley)
5. Audley Brass (Ian Turner)
6. Skegness Silver (Steve Walker)
7. Croft Silver (Ian Needham)
8. Kirkby Colliery Welfare (Neville Buxton)
9. Pleasley Colliery Welfare (Keith Buxton)
10. Sherwood Forest Brass (Christine Lippeatt)
11. Corby Silver (Cathy Fountain)
12. Cubbington Silver (Gary Smallwood)
13. Black Country Brass (Alwyn Manley)
14. Malvern Hills District (Chris License)
15. Whitwell Brass (Bob Woffinden)
16. Ilkeston Brass (Dave Jones)
17. Ratby Co-operative Mid (Geoff Newman)
18. Coleshill Town (Stephen Fagg)
19. WEM Jubilee (Roger Thorne)
20. Syston (Dennis Powell)
* Top 3 bands qualify for National Finals