If ever a band contest lived up to the pre match hype, then the 2001 Yorkshire Area Championships was surely the one. Twelve bands were all out to get the two precious qualifying places on offer for the trip to the Royal Albert Hall in November, and the chance to become the 2001 Champion Band of Great Britain.
Rumours and gossip had suggested that it was going to be a fight between Dyke, YBS, Grimethorpe and Brighouse—and for once the pundits were to be proved right. 4BarsRest had even got in on the act with our prediction of a YBS, Dyke, Grimethorpe 1,2,3. Brighouse were already assured of a Albert Hall place due to their fourth place at last years National Finals, so some pressure was off the men from West Ridings. Even so, one band from the “big three” was going to be going home very disappointed.
First up were Sellers International under Alan Exley, and they gave adjudicator Steve Sykes some food for thought. A workmanlike performance that never quite reached the heights but none the less was very assured found little response from the man in the box and he gave them 180 pts and as it happened, last place. This was a little unfortunate as although the soloists didn’t quite play to their best, the overall band playing was still good. Perhaps it was the draw, but they were a pretty unlucky band.
Grimethorpe RJB next up, with conductor Garry Cutt in a suit that looks good only on men over six foot tall with well developed abdominal muscles. Thankfully, although Mr Cutt isn’t quite in that shape, his conducting skills are very much top drawer and he directed a smooth and slick account that gave time for the soloists to shine and the music to make sense. It was classy stuff from conductor and band. Richard Marshall was on very good form on solo cornet as was Sandy Smith on horn, and although a couple of dodgy bass entries may have cost them a few points at the beginning it was a performance that made people take notice. Good stuff—especially as they played with a baritone missing—we wondered if Mr Sykes noticed. 188 pts seemed to be a bit low though for what was a top class show.
Rothwell were our choice as dark horses to cause an upset, but right from the start things didn’t quite take off. Soloists seemed nervous—apart from the little wizard on solo trombone who played like a man twice his age and size! The direction from Dave Roberts was secure, but the band didn’t seem to get fully to grips with the piece. 8th place and 184 pts was about right for us.
The 1999 area champions were next on stage, and although they never looked like repeating that triumph they still made a good stab at the piece. Over blowing was the main problem however, and for us the syle in the swing section was a little staid and square. However, they are a band who have maintained the progress of the last couple of years and so they shouldn't have been too disappointed with their placing — we weren't.
Black Dyke were on a mission and didn’t disappoint. A brilliant start — with Dave Thornton giving the best euph gliss of the day and Roger Webster simply breathtaking on the Eddie Calvert cornet solo. The adjudicator remarked from the stage that there was one outstanding cornet player amongst some very fine cornet soloists, and that was Roger Webster. Sheer class. Nick Childs directed without ever intruding—which gave the music time and space whilst all his players performed to expectation. Although never really making the hair on the back of your neck stand on end it was still awe inspiring playing. A bit like the England rugby team as a wag in front of us remarked. 193pts and top spot.
Yorkshire Co-operative up next and played to a near empty hall. Pity that because they put up a good account of themselves. Although not in the same league as many of the bands on show, conductor John Roberts made sure they got through it. Well done—181 pts and a place ahead of the unfortunate Sellers.
Yorkshire Building Society were simply awesome. Resplendent in new modern uniforms and with David King directing with a mature brilliance, they seemed to be coasting to victory. Stylish and clean, we couldn’t seem to want to find fault—Iwan Williams on flugal was the best of the day, and Sheona White, Morgan Griffiths and Simon Cowen were outstanding soloists. However, there were some minor quibbles, with Peter Roberts having tuning problems in his muted playing and a hint of untidiness towards the end from the band. It took a brave man to separate them below Dyke, and Steve Sykes talked about style — and YBS were very stylish. Perhaps as he said, it was the cornet playing that made his mind up. Pity that, as Stuart Lingard on top man had a very good day on his debut. Our winners—but not Mr Sykes. 192 pts and second place.
Brighouse played as only Brighouse can. At times they were as loud as anything you are likely to hear, but they also displayed a lot of control and a laid back approach to the piece that saw them play in a tempo much slower than any of their rivals. They also played with a fairly square rhythmic approach that didn’t quite swing, but overall it was still very good playing. Graham McCulloch on solo cornet was top class, as was the direction from Alan Withington, but they left you with the impression that they had already done the hard work at last year in the Finals and so the pressure was off. 190 pts for a fairly perfunctory show for us—it could have been so much better if the pressure was really on them.
DUT Yorkshire Imperial Rothwell under Thomas Wyss have certainly worked hard over the past few months, but it wasn’t enough to get them near the prizes on the day. At times it was overblown, which lost much of the detail, but it was a something or nothing performance that really didn’t get us, the audience or the adjudicator very excited. 185 pts and a victory of sorts above their rivals Rothwell Temperance.
Hepworth had a real bonus in the shape of their Musical Director, Andy Duncan, who gave one of the most assured conducting performances of the day. The band weren’t quite up to his performance though and although they played well in places, they tailed off badly to the end a little short of stamina. A man to look out for though. 183 pts—we gave them a couple more for the stick work though.
Todmorden Old have had a meteoric rise to the top section over past couple of years, but on this showing they need to curb some of the excesses of over blowing and brassy quality of sound if they are to flourish against top quality opposition. By all accounts they had a storming pre match pep talk from conductor Dennis Hadfield and for the most part it came off on stage. Perhaps they are still a bit green around the gills—a little more brains and a bit less brawn could have meant a better day. 185 pts and sixth place—about right for us.
Final band were ntl Skelmanthorpe, who gave a very tidy showing under the baton of Kevin Wadsworth. The great James Shepherd gave a calming influence over the band as he appeared on the solo cornet bench and the band as a whole played to their strengths. Not the biggest sound, but nice and round and little sign of overblowing. Good stuff—we gave them 5th place as well. It was worth it to see Jimmy Shepherd playing.
So that was it. It was YBS, Dyke and Grimey for us—you can’t say we are nothing but predictable—but Mr Sykes saw it different and put Dyke in the top spot to win their first Yorkshire Area crown since 1998. Dyke are back, but YBS have never gone away.