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Wilkinson Northern Open Contest

Plenty of bands in St. Helens for the Northern Open this weekend. We have the details and our tips for the prizes.


Northern Open Brass Band Championship
Sunday 18th November
Theatre Royal, St. Helens.

Just in case you may have thought that there was only one contest going on in the North of England on the weekend, the Theatre Royal St. Helens hosts the Wilkinson Northern Open Brass Band Championships on Sunday 18th, with a line up of 40 bands hoping to take away the prizes on offer.

The Top Section sees 15 bands of either championship or first section status battling it out on Gilbert Vinter’s “Variations on a Ninth”—a traditional graveyard for any bands soloists if ever there was one and a test piece that needs careful and detailed rehearsal if it is to come off. Never mind the triple tonguing to start the piece, any band that can get through the first variation without the cornets and trombones imploding will have doe well. It’s a tricky rather than immensely difficult piece that has plenty to recommend it. It’s not often baritone players have to work their first finger quite as quick in their cadenza, and the sop and horn solos are bum clenchers.

Of the bands, some stand out rather more than others and the likes of BT under Michael Fowles will be in high spirits after their recent 3rd place at Pontins and should be pre match favourites for many. Hepworth also performed well there to come home 8th and will travel in high hopes (especially if they play as well as they did in the Areas) whilst Longridge will be hoping to come higher than their last placing at the same contest.

Seindorf Beaumaris make the trip from North Wales and have been in fine form of late both at the National Finals at Preston where they came 3rd and in South Wales where they tool many a notable scalp in coming runners up to Tredegar at the recent Miners Eisteddfod.

Others hoping to do well are the first section challengers of Pemberton Old Wigan who came 9th in the First Section in Pontins, Haydock Ogden Travel who performed so well under the baton of Ian Brownbill to come 3rd and Blackburn and Darwen who came 5th. Nottingham City Transport came 16th there so will be travelling in the hope of something a bit better, whilst Nestle Rowntree come to the contest on the back of their recent 3rd place at the Marsden Contest.

Freckleton are a good hard working band and showed this in coming 4th at the Lancashire Regional Contest against some top class bands, and should therefore be one to listen out for here whilst Vernon Building Society Poynton will be hoping to improve on their 10th placing at Pontins in the First Section. Duncan Beckley can always be relied upon to get Holme Silver well prepared, whilst Craig Roberts will be taking Eagley and hoping for improvement from the 9th place at the Area. Battle starts at around 4.15pm.

4BR Prediction:

Got to go with the form guide this time around—and that says a close run contest between the likes of BT, Freckleton, Hepworth and Seindorf Beuamaris with Blackburn and Darwen and Haydock making up the top 6. Dark horses could well be Poynton.

Other Sections:

The other sections promise a bit of keen contesting as well and Section B features bands of the calibre of BMP Europe Goodshaw, Delph, Greenhalls, Meltham and Meltham Mills and Mostyn and Beswick—all of whom failed somewhat to make a mark in Pontins, but who will be keen to make amends here. Too close to call for us, but we think it may just go to Delph with Goodshaw and Mostyn close behind.

Section C has a good line up as well, with Peter Graham’s “Shine As A Light” a good stiff test. Blackley arrive here as one of the favourites for us, fresh from their 2nd place at Pontins, but they will be up against bands from a higher section in Timperley who should go well and have just come off 8th place at Pontins, Whaley Bridge who came 16th, Eatons Farnsworth who came 10th and Friendly Band who came 19th. Another close call, but we go for Timperley with Eatons and Balckley making up the top three.

Section D starts things off at 8.45am and there has been a pre draw for the four bands up for the top prize of £200. Pemberton Old Wigan B have been playing well in the contests we have heard them (Nationals and Pontins) and we think should do enough to beat of the challenge of Trinity Girls, St. Helens Brass and Burneside Brass in that order.

Hope everyone has a great day, and we will try to get the full results to everyone as soon as the carrier pigeon has flown down from Cheshire to South Wales.

For further details of the contest—go to news desk and our contest information details.

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Ian Holmes

BA (hons), PGDip (RCM), ARCM, ALCM
Conductor, piano accompanist and educator