On a weekend when defending a title proved to be beyond the reigning champion in the top section, on the first rung of the National Finals ladder it was a different story, as Jayess Newbiggin under Andrew Griffiths repelled seven keen challengers to head back to Cheltenham as a proud North of England champion.
Alan Fernie's 'St Andrew's Variations' proved to be a popular choice of test-piece, with players, conductors and audience members alike telling 4BR how much they enjoyed its familiar musical themes and challenges.
Best of all though it enabled every band to produce a performance of musical merit — something which the judges John Doyle and Leigh Baker pointed out in their equally enjoyable pre-results remarks.
The comedic duo held the audience spellbound as they went into the 'do's and don'ts', as well as, rather bizarrely, their north east heritage (John's father came from Ashington whilst Leigh's father 'had a friend' from the area!)
However, behind the repartee came the clear analysis and accurate observations, with John stating that 'two performances were consistent from start to finish', before adding that on this occasion solo performers could have perhaps 'taken more risks' instead of going 'through the motions'.
Youth and experience
One player who certainly didn't was Jayess Newbiggin principal cornet player Dennis Todd, who produced a personal performance of warm assuredness and tasteful phrasing that was as good as any he had given at this contest at all levels over the past 40 years or more.
It was great to see the band also contain the youngest player of the day in 15 year old Georgia Stones, who will hopefully enjoy 40 years or more of future participation at the contest.
The winning rendition was one that was also based on consistent, coherent playing that was so compact and cohesive that you almost forget it came from a band that was a few players short (with only two tubas — one of which was the indefatigable Regional Secretary Tony Griffiths). Under the excellent Andrew Griffiths, they really are a band that plays to the mantra of quality over quantity.
That said, compact quality was also shown by runner-up, Trimdon Concert Brass, as they returned to the National Final for the first time since 2013.
Led with determination and a smile for every payer by Riverside cornet star Tina Mortimer, who was making her conducting debut at the event, theirs was a performance rich in tonality, and also aided by the splendid 'Best cornet' playing of Lynsey Garraghan.
And despite the disappointment of missing out on a trip down to Cheltenham, there were fine accounts to enjoy from Lanchester under well known trombone player Gareth Sykes in third, who were neat and musically stylish, and the top-six finishers of Knaresborough Silver, Craghead Colliery (with Kimberley Daley claiming the 'Best Euphonium' prize for her lovely playing) and Burneside.
Penrith Town and Spennymoor Town also left knowing they produced performances that held a great deal of encouragement for the future.
And that was certainly the feeling for the winners too — as Jayess Newbiggin now plan for a return to Cheltenham with a great deal of confidence. They could well be a band to watch out for.
The winning rendition was one that was also based on consistent, coherent playing that was so compact and cohesive that you almost forget it came from a band that was a few players short4BR
Test Piece: 'St Andrews Variations' (Alan Fernie)
Adjudicators: Leigh Baker and John Doyle
1. Jayess Newbiggin Band (Andrew Griffiths)*
2. Trimdon Concert Brass (Tina Mortimer)*
3. Lanchester (Gareth Sykes)
4. Knaresborough Silver (Steve Morland)
5. Craghead Colliery (Jack Dodds)
6. Burneside (Laurie Johnston)
7. Penrith Town (Mark Wilkinson)
8. Spennymoor Town (Neil Davis)
*Top two bands qualify for National Final at Cheltenham
Best Principal Cornet: Lynsey Garraghan (Trimdon Concert Brass)
Best Euphonium: Kimberley Dale (Craghead Colliery)
Youngest Player: Georgia Stones (aged 15) (Jayess Newbiggin)