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Report & Results: 2017 National Championships of Great Britain: Fourth Section

Mary Shelley may well be inspired by the title winning story of Newmains & District as they claimed the first Scottish Fourth Section title successes since 1973 under Mike Marzella.

Cheltenham
  Newmains & District (Michael Marzella) take a bow and the Section Four title.

If ever a modern day Mary Shelley seeks inspiration to write a story about resurrecting life from a moribund body long since buried in the graveyard of Scottish banding, then they ought to quickly take up a publishing option on the tale of Newmains & District.

A headstone that once read: Born 1898: Interred 1995, now comes with the added appendices: Resurrected 2015: Fourth Section Champion Band of Great Britain 2017.

Not even Lazarus could top it for rising from the dead. Burke and Hare could soon be back in business north of the border.

Resurgam

It was a fantastic victory for a band, defunct for 20 years, which only returned to the contesting scene in 2016 thanks to the indefatigable commitment of some former players determined to perform their own bit of 'Resurgam' work.

After their initial awakening they qualified for Cheltenham in March under MD Mike Marzella, and on the weekend became the first Scottish band to claim a National title since the year 2000 — drawing a line under a 44 year long obituary list of the nation's Fourth Section representatives that have tried and failed to return home with the title since RNR Dundee won in 1973.

You suspect the celebrations lasted well into the wee hours of Sunday morning and beyond.

Splendid contest

It was also a victory gained against a field of rivals in what was a splendid contest — aided by music that had also been expertly resurrected from the archive ossuary by the Kapitol Music Panel.

Eric Ball's 'Petite Suite de Ballet' proved an excellent test of musicianship, both of players and conductors alike; with judges Stan Lippeatt and Mark Wilkinson full of praise for the efforts of all 20 competitors, and the top two in particular.

"There was plenty of terrific playing from all the bands today," Stan said in his witty pre-results remarks. "The piece is only about 8 minutes long, and there were a couple a bit quicker, but it was good to hear so much good playing. The top two stood out for us, but we enjoyed every performance."

Impressive standard

Those well-received observations echoed what Mark Wilkinson also noted. "It was a fantastic test," he said. "Bands had to be melodic and meticulous, show dynamic contrast and adhere to the markings and the stylistic approach. The best made the detail come through in the right 'light' style."

He added: "We could have done with some more risks perhaps being taken with the dynamics, but well done to all the conductors and to the euphonium players in particular. It was a very impressive standard, especially with the prize-winners."

Those thoughts were certainly shown in their remarks for Newmains, with Stan calling it '…a fine performance — just the odd blip. Well done euph and MD. Bravo Band.' Mark was equally impressed, summing up by writing; 'A very musical performance with lots of detail and good balance.'

Cracking performances

And whilst the best for them came with the Scots, they were certainly pushed all the way to finishing line by cracking performances dotted throughout the draw.

Impressive early markers came from Brindle and City of Norwich before Newmains took to the stage drawn number six, as well as a lyrical Seindorf Arian yr Oakeley just before the mid-point break and a bold pairing of Jayess Newbiggin and Hatherleigh at the end.

Each performed with a great deal of maturity and control, with City of Norwich eventually ending runner-up ahead of their Welsh rivals, with Jayess, Brindle and Hatherleigh just behind.

And whilst there were occasional trips and mistakes from the other contenders, all emerged with a great deal of credit for their balletic experiences.

Musical intelligence

There wasn't one poor performance, with MDs using a great deal of musical intelligence to bring out the playful militarist feel of the opening 'Parade', the solitary melancholy of the 'Pas Seul' and delicacy of the 'Menuet', as well as the collective pomp and awakening curtain call jolt of the 'Ensemble' finale.

Those filling the midfield placings were not far behind the top-six; little moments of unease and dynamic variance just undermining their chances of success, whilst those towards the bottom of the results table still produced performances of character just marred by more noticeable error counts.

Dream come true

Little wonder then the winning band looked delighted as they returned to the stage for a long overdue Scottish celebratory curtain call — led by MD Mike Marzella.

"This is a dream come true," said their 'Best Instrumentalist' award winner, euphonium player John Stirling with a neat illusory link to Eric Ball's nocturnal ballet of the imagination. "So many people have worked so hard to bring the band back to life, so this is the reward for all their hard work and dedication."

That was certainly something Mike also paid tribute to. "I was asked to take the band at the Scottish Championships and found the band's enthusiasm and sheer joy of making music once again after 20 years of nothingness such an uplifting experience."

He added: "They are such a great bunch of people wanting to perform for all the right reasons. To think they have achieved this in less than two years is remarkable. I'm delighted for every one of them."

Inclusion

Also included in the celebrations, even though she missed the winning performance, was 20 year old repiano cornet player Megan Monkhouse, who on the morning of the contest had been rushed to hospital due to flare-up of her illness.

However, Mike was able to employ some neat part sharing amongst his cornet players, whilst there was further good news for the Scots as a phone call revealed that Megan was well enough to travel back at the hotel in time to join in the celebrations.

The only bodies in need of resurrection on Sunday morning would have been those nursing fantastic headaches…

Iwan Fox

This is a dream come true. So many people have worked so hard to bring the band back to life, so this is the reward for all their hard work and dedicationBest Instrumentalist winner John Stirling

Fourth Section:

Test Piece: Petite Suite de Ballet (Eric Ball)
Adjudicators: Stan Lippeatt and Mark Wilkinson

Results:

1. Newmains & District (Michael Marzella)
2. City of Norwich (Andrew Craze)
3. Seindorf Arian yr Oakeley (John Jones)
4. Jayess Newbiggin (Andrew Griffiths)
5. Brindle (Keith Richmond)
6. Hatherleigh Silver (Matthew Green)
7. Dysart Colliery (Ross Brotherston)
8. Clifton & Lightcliffe B (John Clay)
9. Regent Community (Chris Bearman)
10. Allerton (Adam Taylor)
11. Thornton Cleveleys (Stephen Craig)
12. Saltash Town (Robert Julian)
13. RAF St Athan Voluntary (Alan Bourne)
14. Huddersfield & Ripponden (Adam Bell)
15. Shanklin Town (Malcolm Lewis)
16. Watford (Ian Graves)
17. Corby Silver (Catherine Fountain)
18. Cleobury Mortimer Concert (Saphran Ali)
19. Fairfield (Buxton) (Charles Kitchen)
20. Trimdon Concert (Tina Mortimer)

Best Instrumentalist: John Stirling (euphonium): Newmains & District
Youngest Player: Cornet Player: Matthew Earley (Saltash Town)



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