The first National title to be decided on the Cheltenham weekend saw a deserved victory claimed by North West representatives Boarshurst Silver, conducted by James Garlick.
In a contest where the set-work brought out the best musical characteristics of each of the 18 contenders, the band formed in 1849 secured the National Challenge Trophy and £1,000 first prize against a trio of other 'stand-out performances' from Glossop Old, Dalkeith & Monktonhall and Delph. Behind them, came the solid top-six finishers of Otterbourne Brass and Worsbrough.
Heart warming success
Boarshurst's was a heartwarming success story inspired by untimely loss as well as a touch of serendipitous good fortune — as an emotional band later revealed that they'd dedicated their performance of Stephen Ponsford's engaging 'Music for a Legacy' to long-serving Band Secretary Janet Payne, who had died earlier in the year.
Despite the tears, there were a few wry smiles on the faces too, as they also recalled the moment in March when they were announced in fourth place at the North West Area contest in Blackpool.
Initial disappointment at missing out on qualification was later replaced by fortuitous amazement as it was found that as third placed Cheshire Constabulary was already committed to a long-standing tour of Germany, they would take their place instead.
And so at Cheltenham, every player wore a rose in their lapel in Janet's memory and gave a little 'thank-you' to their local boys in blue as they took to the stage to claim the title with an account described by judges Paul Holland and Tom Davoren as; '…a very enjoyable performance with many musical high points', and '…a very convincing and musical picture'.
"It's been incredible," MD James Garlick told 4BR as he headed outside the hall to have his picture taken with the trophy against the backdrop of the famous racecourse.
"We've all dedicated the victory to Janet. Her commitment to the band was amazing over so many years, and she would have been so proud today. Wearing those roses meant we felt she was with us on stage."
James was also full of praise for his players. "The way in which they pushed themselves for this contest was amazing. If I wanted an extra rehearsal we had one, and the players took it upon themselves to organise sectionals. We were so focused.
The piece really suited us and as soon as we started to play I could feel the confidence running through the band. I couldn't have asked for anything more."
However, he did add a little extra 'thank-you'. "I hope the Cheshire Constabulary Band have a brilliant time on their tour," he added. "Without them this wouldn't have happened either, so we'll have a drink and a cheer for them as well in the bar tonight."
Trio of excellence
The celebrations will surely have lasted well into the night as Boarshurst overcome that 'stand-out' trio of excellence displayed by their Midland, Scottish and North West rivals of Glossop Old, Dalkeith & Monktonhall and Delph.
Led by Black Dyke tuba star Phil Goodwin, Delph produced a classy marker off the number 2 draw, which was immediately followed by a fine effort by Otterbourne led by Melvin White, and Boarshurst's inspired performance.
After the comfort break, Dalkeith produced the type of rendition that was something of a clarion-call to their fellow Scottish bands under James Chamberlain, on what turned out to be a memorable weekend for the nation, whilst Duncan Beckley brought all his experience to bear to lead Glossop Old into third — aided by their 'Old Boy', returning sop star Nigel Fielding, who took the 'Best Instrumentalist' award.
With Otterbourne holding onto a fine fifth, it was a delighted Yorkshire qualifier Worsbrough who produced a late surge under John Hopkinson to end sixth, just ahead of admirably coherent accounts from top-ten finishers Amersham, Flixton, Bodmin and Wakefield Metropolitan.
Behind them it was the timeless problems caused by consistency, or increasing lack of it, according to the judges, that separated the best from the rest — although as Tom Davoren accurately noted in his pre-results remarks; "…every band brought something to the table."
That was certainly true, as the neatly constructed challenges of 'Music for a Legacy', with its snippets of Heaton, Bearcroft, Goffin and Steadman-Allen, based around the hymn tune 'Lord for the Years', was pitched at a level that enabled MDs to draw out discerning levels of musicality without being worried by over-bearing hurdles of needless technique.
It was noticeable that even in performances which eventually ended in the midfield and below, MDs were able to draw out the texture and colour from the score, aided by solo lines played with confidence and percussion writing that was within the capabilities of the youngest and most inexperienced of players.
Paul Holland (who was part of the Kapitol Music Panel who also deserved congratulations for the choice) felt that the bands able to add that extra level of musicality, aided by what he called 'mature sounds', were able to separated themselves, and the winners in particular, from the rest.
"The piece was chosen because we felt it enabled bands to express their musicality," he later told 4BR. "It rewarded the basics of good brass band playing — especially those able to play with warm, mature sounds.
Conductors able to get the band tuning and balance right and play with that extra level of confidence made the music flow and engage. There were some very impressive performances at the top end of the results and every band came away with a great deal of credit."
Those impressions were certainly highlighted by Tom Davoren in his pre-results address. "It was a brilliant test-piece, and each band brought something to the table. Consistency was a key element — and we were impressed from the very first bar with the best bands that came in the first seven or eight. Everyone gave us something to enjoy though."
And whilst there may have been some disappointments lower down the results table, every band will certainly have benefited from their National Finals performance experience this year — especially the newly crowned champion.
A victory inspired by an untimely personal loss as well as a timely bit of contesting luck has provided Boarshurst Silver with a musical legacy few of them will ever forget.
We've all dedicated the victory to Janet. Her commitment to the band was amazing over so many years, and she would have been so proud today. Wearing those roses meant we felt she was with us on stageJames Garlick
Test Piece: Music of a Legacy (Steven Ponsford)
Adjudicators: Tom Davoren and Paul Holland
1. Boarshurst Silver (James Garlick)
2. Glossop Old (Duncan Beckley)
3. Dalkeith & Monktonhall (James Chamberlain)
4. Delph (Philip Goodwin)
5. Otterbourne Brass (Melvin White)
6. Worsbrough (John Hopkinson)
7. Amersham (Paul Fisher)
8. Flixton (Ian Brownbill)
9. Bodmin Town (John Maines)
10. Wakefield Metropolitan (Richard Larder)
11. Foss Dyke (Michael Howley)
12. Helston Town (John Berryman)
13. Grimsdyke (Sarah Broughall)
14. Houghton Brass (Neil Gibson)
15. Arbroath Instrumental (Micahel Robertson)
16. Abergavenny Borough (Sean O'Neill)
17. Penclawdd (Tony Small BEM)
18. Ashington Colliery (David Kendall)
Best Instrumentalist: Nigel Fielding (soprano): Glossop Old