The clearest victory of the Cheltenham weekend came in the Third Section, where Yorkshire's BD1 Brass took the title with a compelling performance of the set-work 'Hinemoa' under direction of Lee Skipsey.
It was a remarkable sibling triumph — just six years after he had led City of Bradford Band to victory here, and less than three years since BD1 was formed as a community addition to what has since become a burgeoning musical organisation in the heart of the famous banding city.
Behind them came well beaten rivals — not just by BD1 themselves, but in part by Gareth Wood's test-piece, which unlike the others expertly chosen by the Kapitol Music Panel for these Finals, sounded just a little too difficult for the vast majority of the competitors.
Second place went to a delighted Trinity Girls from the North West, with the final podium slot claimed by the Welsh representatives Abertillery & District. The remaining top-six places were claimed by Castleton Brass, Shirland Welfare and Newport Borough.
As a result, the majority of the 19 competitors had to battle their way through the colourful Maori legend of love lost and love regained. By the time Hinemoa finally fell into the arms of Tutanekai, many only had the energy left for a reviving cup of tea let alone a post swim rumble on the connubial couch.
It was a great pity, as with MDs using all their experience and musical invention there were a host of bands who came close to producing performances of engaging merit, only to find the stamina waning demands of the richly textured score taking their toll on intonation and technical security.
Very clear winner
Not so with BD1 Brass — 'a very clear winner' according to the judges Mark Wilkinson and Glyn Williams, thanks to a performance that they summed up in their written remarks as being; '...well structured…well directed with secure soloists' with 'detail and dynamic contrasts'. They also added that it was '… a fantastic performance' that '...that had everything! Drama, atmosphere, purpose, musicality!'
"It was a demanding test," Glyn told the audience in his detailed pocket-analysis before the announcement of the results.
"On paper it looked easy, but the slow sections caught bands out, as did the faster speeds and the balances. It was a bit iffy to say the least at times.
We had some great percussion to open, but the ensemble triplet and quintuplet rhythms were not accurate and letter J was so exposed."
He later told 4BR: "The bands at the top got the basics right, but we really wanted the notes to spring off the page to tell the story. The best band gave us that little extra as well. They were clear winners."
Mark agreed. "It's a very enjoyable, but demanding piece. Both Glyn and I worked through it in detail and knew how difficult it would be, so our congratulations go to the conductors for also working their way through the problems, and to all the bands for their efforts. The best brought out extra detail and the winners that additional touch of quality."
Lee Skipsey certainly wrapped his loving arms around the National Trophy as his band savoured the aftermath of their success.
However, he also told 4BR that his years of personal contesting experience also meant that even though he knew he couldn't have asked for anything more from his players, and that so many people had come up to him to say they were clear winners, he was still shaking with nerves the moment before the name of the winning band was announced.
"We have missed out a few times of late when people have told me we were going to win," he said. "So even though our brilliant solo horn player Alex Crisp had won the 'Best Instrumentalist' award, I was still worried we would miss out. Then our name was announced and I was submerged by my players. It was a brilliant moment."
And whilst Lee modestly heaped praise on every one of them plus his band of supporters, they in turn returned the compliments.
"He's an amazing conductor — a real inspirational to us all," Contest Secretary, Judith Hales said.
"Now we have to prepare for the Second Section and to support Lee and all our friends in the senior City of Bradford Band as prepare for their Albert Hall appearance. We hope this result has given them an extra boost of confidence."
Two other bands that will have certainly been boosted by their results under emerging conducting talent will have been Trinity Girls and Abertillery & District.
Led by Brighouse & Rastrick trombone star Ryan Watkins, the north-west qualifiers gave a vibrant display late in the day to push past their Welsh counterparts who played just before them.
They in turn gave a solid, purposeful account under MD Joshua Ruck to edge out the early contest marker that came from a confident Castleton led by Peter Ryan.
The much fancied Shirland Welfare under Lynden Cooper ended fifth, pipping Welsh champion Newport Borough, who picked up their second successive top-six finish at the Finals under Robin Hackett after coming fifth last year in the Fourth Section.
Behind them 'Hinemoa' increasingly just got the better of hard working bands — although it was good to hear plenty of splendid percussion work that didn't overpower the ensemble playing in what is a very dead acoustic, and soloists who were encouraged and confident enough to express themselves.
In the end though, the well directed midfield finishers and below found 'Hinemoa' to have been a bit of handful to say the least — like finding Jonah Lomu emerging out of the waters with a glint in his eye rather than the ravishing Maori beauty.
With that in mind, a special mention goes to Kevin Wadsworth, MD of West Yorkshire Police, who conducted with torn tendons in both his shoulders. Perhaps he had met up with the New Zealand giant before the contest began…
However, right down the result list from Ifton Colliery in seventh to Corsham in nineteenth, the bands gave of their all and emerged with a great deal of credit — and hopefully stronger for further tests to come.
As for the winners? BD1 Brass took to the stage with 25 players with a further 15 waiting in the ranks, whilst rehearsals have already begun with 'First Blast', their latest addition to their musical family.
Who knows — in a few years time they could well emulate their elders and become a National Champion too.
even though our brilliant solo horn player Alex Crisp had won the 'Best Instrumentalist' award, I was still worried we would miss out. Then our name was announced and I was submerged by my players. It was a brilliant momentLe Skipsey
Test Piece: Hinemoa (Gareth Wood)
Adjudicators: Mark Wilkinson and Glyn Williams
1. BD1 (Lee Skipsey)
2. Trinity Girls (Ryan Watkins)
3. Abertillery & District (Joshua Ruck)
4. Castleton Brass (Peter Ryan)
5. Shirland Welfare (Lynden Cooper)
6. Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)
7. Ifton Colliery (Scott Lloyd)
8. Rolls Royce (Derby) (Graham Cardwell)
9. St David's Brass (John Dickson)
10. Irvine & Dreghorn (Helen Douthwaite-Teesdale)
11. Rivington & Adlington (Matthew Whitfield)
12. Oxford Cherwell (Terry Brotherhood)
13. Formby (Louise Hough MBE)
14. Cheltenham Silver (Nigel Galliott)
15. Midsomer Norton & Radstock Silver (Joanne Sykes)
16. Barton Community (Garry Oglesby)
17. West Yorkshire Police (Kevin Wadsworth)
18. Kingsway Printers (Cleethorpes) (Brian Harper)
19. Corsham (Colin Hogg)
Best Instrumentalist: Alex Crisp (Solo Horn): BD1 Brass