For only the second time in their history, the NASUWT Riverside Band became North of England Regional Champion, following a closely fought 'Pageantry' battle in Durham.
It was their first success since 2013, as under the baton of David Roberts they repelled the challenge of defending champion Reg Vardy and East Yorkshire Motor Services. All three produced exciting performances that certainly captured the more visceral aspects of Howells' score, even if, as the judges pointed out, they all had their occasional moments of fragility.
Supporters could genuinely put forward persuasive arguments for a deserved victory for their own favourites, but in the end it was down to the cornet duo of Richard Marshall and Roger Webster to make the ultimate decision — one that brokered little fevered debate after they revealed the reasons behind their findings.
For them it was a question of interpretation — as they stated that they were very much of the 'traditionalist' school of thought on a work that they felt showed that it had lost none of its 'brilliance or beauty' despite its age.
That tipped the balance in favour of Dave Roberts and his band, as the Rothwell Temperance MD brought a clear sense of revered understanding to his reading that was equally projected by his players.
"I deliberately took it steady and didn't overdo the markings in terms of tempo or dynamics," he later explained to 4BR after the much more high-paced and high-pitched celebrations had died down on stage.
"It was the approach I used at the Yorkshire Area with Rothwell and I repeated it here. The players understood what we needed to do and worked so hard to bring it off. I was delighted by the way they played: They are a band with so much potential."
With Jamie Beeston taking home the 'Best Euphonium' prize and the thrilling Ida Alvilda-Larsen claiming the 'Best Soprano' award, there was also soloistic brilliance to go with the ensemble solidity, as the culmination of an intense rehearsal schedule paid off in style.
"The band worked incredibly hard for this contest," Band Chairman Tony Thompson later said. "It was a real challenge in terms of style, control, intonation and stamina, but Dave brought such a clear interpretation of the score that we knew exactly what we needed to do on the day. He's been great and we now hope he can take us at the Albert Hall."
Beaten but unbowed was defending champion Reg Vardy, as they gave a fine account under Russell Gray that was certainly full of character (especially in a lyrical 'Cortege'), but which also contained moments of unease.
Not so with Graeme Tindall however, as he took the 'Best Cornet' award thanks to a superb personal contribution that was fully appreciated by his peers in the box, whist the cultured percussion team, which added tasteful effect and colour, took the 'Best Percussion' prize.
The talking point performance of the contest certainly came from East Yorkshire Motor Services, with a highly personal interpretation from Stig Maersk that eventually ended third.
On this occasion, the rather risky latitude taken with tempos, rubato and dynamics didn't quite find favour in the box as it did in the hall, with Roger Webster later telling 4BR that the judges felt it had strayed just too far off the traditional 'Pageantry' path. The consolation prize of missing out on a return to the Albert Hall was the 'Best Basses' award.
Behind them, in a contest that did show the Area's different levels of top section excellence very clearly, came bands who on this occasion were never entirely at ease with Howells' masterpiece. Over-reached rallentandos, robust dynamics and curious tempo choices left the listener with a rather bleak, black and white portrait instead of the full technicolor glories of the score.
It meant Fishburn missed out again in fourth, with a performance that just needed a great sense of character (although they took the 'Best Trombones Section' accolade), whilst Easington Colliery ended fifth after giving a solid marker from the number 1 draw. A pacy rendition from Kirbymoorside was sixth ahead of Lockwood and York Railway Institute.
For the winners however, a long awaited victory had been achieved in splendid fashion.
It was the approach I used at the Yorkshire Area with Rothwell and I repeated it here. The players understood what we needed to do and worked so hard to bring it offWinning MD, Dave Roberts
Test Piece: 'Pageantry' (Herbert Howells)
Adjudicators: Dr Roger Webster and Richard Marshall
1. NASUWT Riverside (Dave Roberts)*
2. Reg Vardy (Russell Gray)*
3. East Yorkshire Motor Services (Stig Maersk)
4. Fishburn (Joseph Cook)
5. Easington Colliery (Ian Robin
6. Kirkbymoorside Town (John Woodward)
7. Lockwood Brass (John Roberts)
8. York Railway Institute (Dr David Lancaster)
Best Soprano Cornet: NASUWT Riverside
Best Principal Cornet: Reg Vardy
Best Euphonium: NASUWT Riverside
Best Trombone: Fishburn
Best Bass Section: East Yorkshire Motor Services
Best Percussion Section:Reg Vardy
* Top two bands qualify for National Final at the Royal Albert Hall