4BR Time Team - 2009 six month report


4BR looks back at the first part of the 2009 season. Lots to enjoy and lots to wonder about too...

Believe it or not, England’s defeat in the UEFA Under 21s tournament on 29th June brought to an end the 2008/09 football season in Europe.  

Unbelievably, the first games of the 2009/10 season took place 24 hours later with the opening battles in qualifying rounds for the Champions League.

No respite

There is no respite in football and not much respite in the banding world either. It’s been an action packed six months all around the globe – and there is more, much more, to come, with just enough time for a quick breather and rejuvenating half time orange.

Talking Points

2009 has already been a year of talking points - from the shock departures of some big names at Grimethorpe, to the first real signs of a banding credit crunch. 

Brighouse & Rastrick announced they’d secured the services of Professor David King, whilst Cory sent a message to their rivals that they have now become the new ‘Kings’ of Europe.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian’s have dumped the adjudicator’s box, the English have still to sort out their long term approach to the Europeans, and there have been some very interesting choices of test pieces (some more than others).

All this against the familiar backdrop of falling numbers of competing bands in the UK as the financial realities of contesting life become ever more stringent.  

Catching the eye

So far, the year has seen a number of bands catch the eye, but it’s not necessarily the one’s everyone expected. 

Cory, Black Dyke and Fodens continue to set the bar some way ahead of the rest, but it has been highly encouraging to see the likes of Hepworth, Redbridge and Rothwell stamping their mark on the UK contesting scene.

Over in Norway, Eikanger has continued to remind everybody of their Nordic brilliance, whilst the European Championship showed once again that the continent is catching up the Brits fast – very fast. The rest of the world meanwhile carried on its own way, paying little heed to the travails of the UK movement. 

Jeremy Wise
Redbridge and Jermey Wise take Butlins by storm


The 4BR/World of Brass rankings now show that there is a clear distinction between the varying strata of top class banding in the world.

Cory, Foden’s, Grimethorpe and Black Dyke remain a class apart, as they have already shown this year.

If one of this quartet really hits form, then major titles end up in their laps – from the World Championships, Europeans, to the Masters, English Nationals to the bunfight of bunce that is Whit Friday.

Others have pushed them hard in the first six months of the year, but the major titles have ended up in familiar hands nonetheless. 

Rothwell claim the Yorkshire Area title


Those other hands trying to wrestle away that silverware have come from the likes of Rothwell, Hepworth and Redbridge, and whilst the Londoners haven’t quite been able to maintain their early season form the Yorkshire pair look set to possibly add further money to their piggy banks by the year’s end.

Redbridge won Butlins and their Area but have since rather run out of contesting steam, whilst Hepworth has been like a groom’s mistress at a wedding – frustrated at not bagging the main prize, but still delighted to be in close proximity.  

Rothwell on the other hand has won the lot – from a glorious win at Bradford to an equally impressive victory at the Grand Shield. That may have knackered them out, but it was well worth it.


Others have enjoyed themselves too – Desford, EYMS, Camborne and Scottish Funeral Care picking up regional titles, Virtuosi GUS getting back to the Grand Shield, Marsden and Milnrow capturing the minor Spring Festival trophies. 

Those who haven’t included a few who came unstuck in March on the Regional merry-go-round, including Brighouse and Grimethorpe, Whitburn, Aveley & Newham and Leyland – all of whom were left in varying degrees of bewilderment at their regional fates. 


Meanwhile, youth banding was well served by an enjoyable Action Research contest and National Youth Championship, whilst there was another real highlight at the RNCM with the 2009 Festival of Brass, which featured some cracking performances (although not necessarily of Gilbert Vinter’s works) – the pick of which was Foden’s and Bram Tovey on electrifying form.

Grimethorpe and Allan Withington also showed what could be achieved with a bit of inventiveness with two superb concerts featuring the story of Maria von Trapp, whilst Black Dyke opened new academic doors with their Festival of Brass at Leeds Metropolitan University. 

The National Youth Band also upped their artistic ante too with a series of notable concert performances – especially at the Masters where Simon Dobson’s fine conducting, as well as compositional talents were on full display.


Away from perfidious Albion, our friends in the banding Dominions saw Woolston regain their national crown in New Zealand, Gunnedah take a historic Australian win and Fountain City show their class in the USA.

Cory retain their European title
Picture: Ian Clowes

Beach ball

The European was a hugely enjoyable success in the unlikely setting of Ostend (the freebies handed out included a beach ball) and showed once again that the appetite (and the money) to hold the contest now resides very much on the other side of the English Channel. 

Meanwhile in the UK, the Spring Festival and the Masters had enough talking points to keep banding optimists and pessimists in business for the rest of the year, whilst the English National was a microcosm of all that is both right and wrong with the current desire to contest ourselves to extinction.

Whale song

Paul Lovatt –Cooper’s ‘Whale Song’ inspired test piece was a hit (as was his cracking work at the National Youth Championships), but the whole event still seemed all slightly irrelevant.

Talking of musical highlights – the regional test pieces were the now customary mix of the good, bad and the downright unfit for purpose, whilst the Masters and Spring Festival opted for fine works that did their job – no more, no less. The European’s once again showed just what could be achieved – from the fine set work to some mind boggling own choice selections. 

Wonderful news

To round the mid point of the season off though, some wonderful news with the announcement of David Read’s MBE, Wycliffe Gordon setting Cardiff ablaze at the Cory 125th year bash, and Simon Dobson’s composition ‘Penlee’ stirring the deepest of emotions at the RNCM and Masters Gala Concert.  

4BR highlights

So having been at all points of the UK, Norway and Ostend in the first six months of the year, what has caught the eyes and ears of the 4BR team in the UK?

Well, in no particular order:  The sheer brilliance of Fodens with Bram Tovey and violinist Mark Fewer at the RNCM in January (who would have thought such musical theatre could be so exhilarating); the playing of Brass Band Oberosterreich’s soprano player Christian Hollensteiner at the Europeans – and his band; Cory’s stunning level of consistent excellence in taking the European title; Grimethorpe and Dyke setting out on new concert roads and Wycliffe Gordon bringing the house down in Cardiff.   

All that is now in the past. What will the next six months bring?

Malcolm Wood & Iwan Fox


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