2007 Wilkinson Northern Open - retrospective


There was a fine turn out of bands at the Wilkinson's Northern Open this weekend and plenty of playing to match too.

The Wilkinson Northern Open is a good contest of that there is no doubt. With the generous support from the Wilkinson Retail Group providing the platform for the contest committee, Phil Upton and his team can concentrate on ensuring that the contest runs like a well oil wheel. 

Also lending their weight is the experienced team from the NWABBA team led by Frank Hodges and Derek Atkinson together with comperé Bob Kerwick. It makes for an impressive backroom team any contest would be proud to call their own.

Bands seem to like it here as a result and there is now a really healthy line up of contenders are trying to take away with them the generous prize money on offer. 36 bands this year subscribed to the contest that has now settled on an 'own choice' format. The adjudicators were John Maines and James Scott who were seated in the box in the circle of the Theatre Royal where the acoustic and clarity of sound was about as god as it could get.

Section D:

Romans 1 - One Way System 0: Newstead navigate their way to victory 

Precisely on time on a very murky morning the contest opened with a pre-drawn D Section for bands graded 4th Section.

With Peter Ashley in charge Farnworth & Walkden Band opened the contest playing 'A Cambrian Suite' in very steady style. Delivering a fairly safe performance that was well tuned and complimented by a fine show from their horn section it just lacked balance and cohesion in the outer movements, but still caught the ear providing a fine marker that eventually took 3rd place and the Printers Pot Cup.

Travelling up from the Midlands, Newstead got themselves caught in the local one-way system but managed to free themselves in time to play the lower section final piece 'Roman Tryptych'. With Paul Whyley at the helm they took the Wesley Family Trophy presented to the conductor of the winning band after they delivered a gladiatorial performance that really captured the mood with the splendid dynamic contrast in particular.

The whole piece was impressively complimented by a worthy euphonium display, taking the solo award and also some substantive bass trombone playing.  An early draw and a few jitters getting to the stage but in the end a most winning performance resulting with the capture of the Wilkinson Northern Open Trophy & £400

Darwen were drawn third and they too delivered an assured a bright and confident performance of 'Dimensions' by Peter Graham. The euphonium and baritone team had a particularly good day and they were very close to capturing a prize eventually coming home in fourth place.

Gillian Bould MD of the Tarleton Band certainly impressed and her judgement and attention to detail was undeniable in 'A Royal Mile Suite' by Alan Fernie which was well presented and not very far off the prizes. Fifth place, yes, but certainly not a criticism, just a reflection of the very strong set of performances that finished ahead.

Winners of this contest in 2005 and the current National 4th Section champion, Formby Band now took the stage where they reprised the lower section final piece 'Roman Tryptych'. This was a classy show presenting a detailed musical picture and once again their euphonium soloist Michael Jackson stepped up and demonstrated his ability as well. Mention too to the percussion team who played with assurance real assurance.

Overall it was not quite enough to overtake Newstead but a deserved runners-up place and true reinforcement of their prize winning qualities securing the Best Property Centre Cup & £200.

Choosing to play 'Chorale and Tocatta' by Stephen Bulla, C.W. Kitchen led the Fairfield (Buxton) Band. Their performance took time to settle with their most rewarding playing emerging in the ‘Tocatta’. The challenging ‘Chorale’ didn't quite have the same assurance but the solo horn delivered with style and sixth place was about right.

Mathew Bailey took Littleborough through 'A Malvern Suite' by Philip Sparke. Although nicely shaped by the MD the journey was a little troubled. Unsettled in ensemble the solo cornet however led with the solo lines well, but on the day it was not enough to take it higher finishing 8th in order of merit.

Brindle has a fine contesting history and has slowly been re-establishing themselves in the contest arena. They too played 'A Malvern Suite' and they too took time in the piece to truly show their qualities.  The solo cornet lead was noted but overall their 7th place was not unexpected.

Section C:

Oceans of smiley teeth! Dodworth take the top prize in Section C

Section C was also adjudicated by John Maines and opened with Kevin Gibbs leading his BMP (Europe) Goodshaw Band to second place and the Graham Williams Memorial Trophy & £200.

The quality of tone delivered in their performance of 'Northern Landscapes' was noteworthy and overall they took their recent contest performances to another level. Despite ploughing a lonely furrow the Eb Bass player give 100% and his contribution was truly complimentary. We had them in third place but it was well worth a podium place.

The Graham Williams Memorial Trophy is presented in memory of an ex-Parr player and it would have been nice to see Parr (Richardson Ltd) St.Helens play with enough ability to take this trophy - but it was never to be. Their delivery of 'The Seasons' by Philip Wilby was continually troubled and despite a sterling effort on soprano cornet it could not elevate this performance from last place in this section.

Winners by a healthy margin, taking the Wilkinson Northern Open Trophy & £400 were Dodworth Colliery. The William Lyon Memorial Trophy presented to the conductor of the winning band, Eliot Darwin was richly deserved as both MD and band excelled in a performance of 'Oceans' by Goff Richards, with the Caribbean section a joy.

Both the Bill Sherwood Memorial Trophy presented to the best cornet player and the certificate presented to the best soloist in this section were deserved with their winning status never under any real threat.

Rivington & Adlington conducted by D.Mort produced a decent show but the blemishes in the performance were in critical moments in the piece. An errant snare entry to open didn't help in gaining final fifth place with 'Music for a Festival' where the middle slow movement had much to admire with a fine contribution in the solo euphonium line.

Alan Widdop had a difficult choice to make in the selection of music to play for this contest. They took the Pontins Championships recently with 'A Cambrian Suite' but Uppermill chose to play 'Roman Tryptych' the piece they played very well at the Lower Section National Finals.

Although the solo cornet player gave a sterling performance the opening movement was a little loose and that must have proved costly come the results and they could have no complaints with fourth place, just out of the prizes.

In seventh place were Gawthorpe Brass '85' conducted by John Edward playing 'Triptych' by Philip Sparke. Given some of the loose moments that were apparent just a bit too often this was not unsurprising, however the stand out performer was sat in the flugel chair who played throughout with a real air of confidence.

'Music from Kantara' by Kenneth Downie was presented by the Nelson Band conducted by the experienced John Roberts. The band was a little light on personnel but despite this disadvantage they presented a decent show with a lovely shape to the thematic lines. It was in the bridges between those lines that the difficulties surfaced leading to a sixth place in the order of merit.

Les Webb, MD of the Eccles Band, is a fine trombonist with tons of championship experience and his skills in this department were obviously implanted on the principal trombone of the band. The Tom Wall Junior Trophy was presented to the best trombone player of the day here and it was absolutely deserved.

Their performance of 'Triptych' was enhanced by the trombone section but this was not the only contributing factor to a quite classy full band show. We had them in runners-up place but the all important detail was that they finished in the frame coming third and taking with them the E R Ratcliffe Builders Ltd Cup & £100.

Dave Roughley a founder member of the Rainford Band retired as comperé for this contest this year and it was he who presented the prizes in section C & D as well as receiving a certificate for loyal service himself.

Section B:

The Delph oracle: Delph's representative picks up the winnings

James Scott took over the adjudicating duties from John Maines for the rest of the day and he started out by listening to the B Section.

Pemberton Old Wigan JJB B with Peter Ashley taking his second band of the day was first up. They delivered 'Northern Landscapes', and it was their ensemble sound that showcased their qualities. With the soprano cornet in fine form they finished in the mid order in 6th place.

Peter Christian must be proud of his Bollington Band with their performance of 'Rhapsody in Brass' by Dean Goffin. This was confident stuff with a nice performance from the principal cornet just offset by an unsettled opening to the exposed second movement being the only shortfall in earning them second place, taking the Lancashire Contests Cup & £200.

It was a touch surprising to see Flixton quite as low in the order at 8th. Ian McKnight and the band had a very good show at Pontins and once again here the overall ensemble was warm in tone.

The choice of 'Prisms' by Peter Graham was a challenging work so one must conclude that it was in the bridging phrases that points were deducted. A nice performance from the principal euphonium chair featured but it was a disappointing result for a band so recently in the prizes.

David Chadwick has a feel for, and often chooses, music for Valley Brass (Haydock) from a similar genre. 'My Strength My Tower', 'Kingdom Triumphant' and on this occasion ‘Resurgam’ have all featured in their recent contest appearances.

It would have to be issues related to phrasing and clips during important thematic material that cost this time, as the ensemble sounds were warm and direct with a rich euphonium tone especially pleasing to the ear. They came fifth just outside the prizes.

York Railway Institute under Derek Warley had similar fortunes to Valley Brass, perhaps just a touch more accentuated.  Some fine individual playing was noted in 'Renaissance' by Peter Graham, but it was a tough test and they came 9th in the final results table.

Just outside the prizes in fourth came Greenalls directed by John Ludden. They revisited 'Chorale' (Ray Steadman-Allen) following the Pontins contest. Although the opening sections worked quite well the ‘finale’ was very quickly taken and became a little too hurried. No denying the contribution of the basses though and they were awarded the William Singleton Memorial Trophy as best basses for their effort.

It was Delph under Phil Goodwin who received the Fairfield Trophy presented to the conductor of the winning band. They grew in stature as the performance of 'Kaleidoscope' (Philip Sparke) unfolded. His own MD from Black Dyke, Nicholas Childs sat in and heard his own player's charges deliver with a real sense of purpose.

We had them in second place but the all important decision and the certificate presented to the best soloist in this section went to Keith Palmer on euphonium who truly helped this winning show that took the Wilkinson Northern Open Trophy & £400.

Old Hall Brass, although finishing seventh in the field of eight, did take the performance of 'Chorale' up a notch from their recent Pontins outing, but in this company it was just not enough to be placed higher.

The challenging soprano part was well executed but again the tempo of the finale set by MD Trevor Halliwell asked a few too many questions of his players perhaps.

'Triptych' by Philip Sparke received a cracking performance from Holywell under Gareth Thomas. We felt they have been unlucky on two occasions now, both Pontins and here at St.Helens, but it can't be long before this band gets the nod and wins a contest outright.

They were our winners on the day here but nevertheless it was rewarded with a place in the prizes by James Scott and took home with them the Geoff Pye Cup & £100. A band on the up we feel.

Section A:

Funds for a home: Timperley take the top honours in the Championship Section

Section A for bands graded Championship and First Section resulted in a tremendous battle for the honours. A mixed standard in technical terms given the split in grading but a section that passed very quickly and most enjoyably.

Eleven bands competed, with Blackpool Brass under Andrew Warriner opening proceedings with 'Carnival Romain'. The famous euphonium opening was well handled but overall it lacked security and precision in the ensemble and ended up in 11th place.

Broughton Brass also picked a demanding work in 'Connotations' by Edward Gregson. The demanding soprano line was well described but the blemishes in the overall show meant it also figured down the prizes.

The bar was raised with the next performance as Pemberton Old Wigan JJB revisited 'Partita' by Philip Sparke, the piece they had played recently at Pontins. This was a well described performance of top section stature. The solo cornet line was nicely handled but the real nugget was the 'pizzicato' brass interlude with delivery of real quality. The Rainford Parish Council Cup & £200 runners-up award was their return for a fine effort.

Jeff Sparkes and United Co-op Band (Crewe) finished in fifth place playing 'Sounds' by John Golland. This was a concentrated effort that was just robbed at times with some less than precise ensemble, but a trombone soloist certainly on the mark and some interesting moments helped lift it up the final order.

Just behind United Co-op Band (Crewe) in 6th place came Blackburn and Darwen with Nick Sheppard. They chose the classic test piece 'Life Divine' by Cyril Jenkins and they delivered a sterling effort with the demanding baritone lines especially well played.

The Timperley representative took the awards from Mark Allen representing the sponsors Wilkinson for the Delph Band, Section B winners, who had to leave after playing. Little did he realise though that he would be stepping forward moments later to take the Wilkinson Northern Open Trophy & £400 for his own band as they became the 2007 Wilkinson Northern Open Champions.

Their performance of 'New Jerusalem' by Philip Wilby received a very bold and committed reading and was very well delivered. The band has been living out a suitcase recently but they pulled out the stops with a soprano cornet on a mission and deservedly winning the Stan Cook Commemorative Trophy presented to the best soprano player.

Paul Oldfield told us at Pontins that Skelmanthorpe were a band on a mission to retain their 2006 winners trophy and they came so close to doing just that. Their performance was enhanced with some great trombone playing. This was our winner on the day and a prize winner in the judge’s estimation as well as 'The Year of the Dragon' gained them the J E Cook Butchers Ltd Trophy & £100 and so nearly the top spot again.

'On Alderley Edge' was the choice of Duncan Beckley and Newstead Brass. They came very close to matching their junior counterparts in the end finishing in 4th place just outside the band prizes.

The performance had moments of real quality but there were troubles along the way in some of the thematic lines. Some excellent euphonium solo work was rewarded though with Lyndan Cooper in commanding form taking the Taylor Transformers Trophy presented to the best euphonium player and the certificate presented to the overall best soloist.

The 2005 Wilkinson champions were Longridge and they came here keen to repeat that success. They too chose 'The Year of the Dragon' and although it didn't quite deliver on the day the ensemble certainly had a nice balance and warmth. The featured trombone solo was quite nicely executed and overall the 8th place was not unreasonable.

Shepherds Group Brass with Tim Oldroyd selected 'Purcell Variations' as their selected work and 9th place was not a bad return. The solo cornet gave a concentrated performance and the band in the main handled the technical hurdles well, but just lacked a touch of time and space in the overall analysis we thought.

Haslingden & Helmshore conducted by David Hall also chose a piece from the Pontins set works 'Sinfonietta' by James Curnow. This performance was hallmarked with some nice flugel work and achieved its best in the opening movement but faded a little as it went on. seventh place was the fair result.

With the prizes awarded and the weather closing in the 2007 contest drew to a close. Congratulations to the organisers once more and a mention to all the bands that seem to pull out all the stops in performance value at this contest year on year.

Congratulations to Timperley Band with a wish that that 2008 sees them settled in a permanent bandroom.

We are sure that the gauntlet will be thrown down again in November 2008 by many of the bands here this weekend.  

John James


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