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2012 British Open Championship — Introduction to the 160th contest

There has been plenty to talk about before a note has been blown in anger this year — and the action promises to be even tastier...

160th British Open Championship
Saturday 1st September

Symphony Hall
Birmingham

Commencing: 10.30am


British Open
The golden gifts of the British Open await the winners...

Amid the bubbling turmoil that is currently engulfing the banding movement in the UK, the British Open Championship stands as a totemic reminder of the traditional values of excellence – the bedrock on which brass band contesting has been built on at the highest level since 1853.

Yet even the Open’s calcified strata of 160 years of paternal conservatism are slowly but surely being eroded away by the drip feed progress of 21st century reality.

Thoughtful

Led by Martin and Karyn Mortimer, and backed by a team of organisers such as contest controller Frank Hodges, change has been implemented thoughtfully and incrementally.

For instance, this year a new partnership with North West Photography will see each performance recorded in vision as well as sound, with added interviews with conductors and players available to be purchased as a download after the event.

Profits and problems

Any profits made will go back into the British Open, enabling the contest to expand its media reach to the banding world in the years to come.

Meanwhile, the problems associated with the British Brass Band Registry, has enabled the contest to successfully take player registration matters into their own hands, even if the ‘one borrowed player’ rule for a competition of this magnitude still appears nonsensical.

Martin Ellerby
Electra composer Martin Ellerby

As ever, there is sure to be a great deal of debate over the choice of test piece – although any lingering doubts players may have had when they first set eyes on Martin Ellerby’s cleverly constructed score to 'Electra' will surely have been dispelled by the time they set foot on the stage of Symphony Hall.

Based loosely on a murderous Greek tragedy (and we are not talking about the Hellenic economy here), the composer has given the conductors enough interpretive rope to hang themselves by the neck if they think only they can rewrite a composition he refers to as a ‘miniature ballet’.

Wihout restriction

Ellerby says it is a piece that can be ‘looked into’ by all concerned ‘without rigid restrictions’– and he isn’t wrong – although some could still be left peering into a black hole. 

The organisers may need Albert Pierrepoint to help cut down the criminally self indulgent MDs who will be left dangling from the rafters of Symphony Hall like early Christmas decorations.

Fascinating

It should make for a fascinating contest – 17 top notch bands (will the drip feed of evolution finally incorporate the best Europe has to offer?), a fine set work, and all with the added bonus of rivals either battling for glory or ending up in the funfair of broken dreams that is the Spring Festival in Blackpool next May.  

And if you really want to make a weekend of it, why not hang around an extra 24 hours to hear the bands at the British Open Sunday Gala Concerts on Sunday afternoon. 

You may even get to hear the newly crowned 2012 British Open champions for a second time too.
 
It all kicks off on the stroke of 10.30am, with 4BR and Goldy Solutions there in force to bring you our comprehensive contest coverage with our video previews and analysis, live comments, tracker feed updates, twitter feed, post contest interviews and retrospectives.



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Ian Porthouse


Cornet soloist, clinician, conductor and adjudicator