2008 Lower Section National Finals: Third Section - Introduction & Predictions


Malcolm Wood casts his eye over the 19 bands trying to win a National title by adding a new string or two to their brass bows.

HarrogateTest Piece – Suite for Brass - John Rutter, arranged Sandy Smith
Adjudicators: Stan Lippeatt and Kevin Wadsworth
Saturday 28th September
Commences after the Fourth Section

Brass bands playing string music then?  This is certainly going to be an interesting contest to listen to isn’t it now?

Sandy Smith is one of the cleverest arrangers around and he has had to be at the very top of his game with this one. By all accounts from the feedback we have been receiving at 4BR he's pulled a corker one out of the bag with his arrangement of Suite for Strings (now becoming Suite for Brass) by John Rutter .

Socks off

It sounds like the 19 bands have had to work their socks off and although there will be some relieved musicians when Sunday afternoon arrives and their work is done, it would appear that the challenge has been both enjoyable and beneficial. If only all test pieces were like it then.

People will be familiar with Rutter's music particularly his Christmas music but he's also written quite a bit of orchestral stuff as well and Suite for Strings dates back to 1973. 

The music is based on a number of well known English folksongs that make up each of the four movements, and there is more than enough in each of them to give adjudicators Stan Lippeatt and Kevin Wadsworth plenty to ponder over.

A couple of years ago Kevin gave perhaps one of the best post contest analysis here we have heard for years, and we hope he does the same again this time around. He pinpointed all the essentials and made sure all the bands knew just exactly why the judges had placed them where they did. There should be no complaints we feel about the result come Saturday night then. 

There is a strong old line up of contenders here this year from all corners of the country, so both Stan and Kevin will have plenty to enjoy too.

North West

Two of the most eye catching bands hail from the North West, where champions Oldham (Lees) and their fellow qualifiers, Eagley and Pemberton Old JJB will be looking to keep the National title in the region after Middleton’s success last year.

John Collins and Oldham are old hands at this game now (despite their average age) but have still to taste victory despite claiming two podium finishes in the last two years, coming third here last year.  Pemberton are another fine outfit with plenty of experience and decent 2008 form to build on, whilst Eagley from Bolton are a band very much on the up under Gareth Westwood.


Yorkshire will also be keen to ensure that the National title doesn’t leave the boundaries of the White Rose county and in their champions, Rockingham and qualifiers Garforth they possess two bands more than capable of achieving that ambition.

Rockingham continue to prosper under the experienced baton of Frank Hoyland and were good value for their clear three point win at Bradford in March, whilst Garforth continue to head for the stars and have made amazing progress in just under four years. You sense both bands are ambitious and hungry for success here on the weekend. 


You have to go back to the early 1990s for the last time Wales returned home from this contest with the spoils of war under their arms, but hope springs eternal in the Principality that champions Blaenavon Town and City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) may come back with something to show for their efforts.

Both bands have been built improving year on year under their conductors and may well surprise a few people here – hopefully Stan and Kevin in the box being two of them.


The Scots last tasted success here at the Millennium championships, so another victory is starting to be overdue.

Champions Dalkeith and Monktonhall Colliery and qualifiers Annan Town (APD) were good value for their top spots in March. Whitburn’s flugel horn player Jim Chamberlain is crafting a very solid outfit at Dalkeith, whilst after a decade of trying Annan return to the finals – testament to the solid long term improvement shown in recent times under Dave Shanks.

London & Southern Counties

Three bands fly the flag for London & Southern Counties and all three qualifiers will be confident of doing well this weekend after they battled through a qualification contest in Stevenage that had plenty of high class playing on show.

Champions Littleport Brass, Hangleton and Brighton & Hove City Brass are all enjoying runs of good form of late and are all keen to repeat Jersey Premier’s 2005 title.  There is a bit of a renaissance in banding at this level in the region, so watch out.


As always the Midlands will be sending three strong contenders in the shape of champions Matlock and fellow qualifiers Wellington (Telford) and University of Warwick.

Both Matlock and Wellington (Telford) have plenty of experience here in recent years and know just what is expected to push for a podium place or better, whilst the students of University of Warwick will just have had enough time to reacquaint themselves with their study books and the Students Union bar before they have had to head off for this contest. If they do well then the celebrations may be something to savour.

North East

The two bands from the North East will head south quietly confident after a qualification contest in Darlington that featured plenty of quality playing.

Champions Flookburgh took the honours in fine style under John Iveson with a real touch of class on the day and of they can repeat that form they will certainly be in with a shout, whilst Billingham Silver could well be a bit of a dark horse contender. North East banding at this level is on the up and could receive a real boost this weekend.

West of England

The West of England always produces strong contenders for honours at this contest, although surprisingly you have to go back to 1996 for the last time the title headed back to the region.

That could well change this year if champions Verwood Concert Brass and Bath Spa have anything to do with it, and the strong duo should be bands to listen out for, especially as both have been enjoying long term success of late.

4BR Prediction:

Plenty of well matched bands here to enjoy, but it could well come down to that extra factor of interpretation on this one, and which of the conductors really knows how to get his brass players fiddling like Nigel Kennedy.

Lots of bands with good recent form too, but we think it could well be Oldham (Lees) day if they really hit top form under John Collins, although they should be pushed all the way to the finishing line by the likes of Pemberton Old JJB and Matlock.

Eagley, Verwood and Wellington (Telford) should have enough about them to push into the top six with Rockingham our dark horse from Yorkshire.

1. Oldham (Lees)
2. Pemberton Old JJB
3. Matlock
4. Eagley
5. Verwood
6. Wellington (Telford)

Dark Horses:  Rockingham


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