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2018 National Championship of Great Britain
Fourth Section preview & prediction

4BR Editor Iwan Fox takes a closer look at the test awaiting the 18 competitors in the Fourth Section this weekend — and wonders which band will come out on top to join the Cheltenham hall of fame...

Fourth Section: 

Saturday 15th September
Draw: 1.00pm
Commence: at the conclusion of Second Section
Test Piece: Divertimento for Brass (Darrol Barry)

Newmains
2017 Champion: Newmains & District

Saturday afternoon’s action comes in the Fourth Section - and it promises to be a great battle between the contenders on Darrol Barry’s ‘Divertimento for Brass’.

It’s a fine tribute paid by the contest organisers to a much respected composer who died in June this year, and who always had the knack of producing tuneful, transparent works – right from ‘Skyline’ his earliest when he was aged just 16.

‘Divertimento’ was used as the Third Section set-work at the 1990 Regional Championships, although it was written over a decade before.

It has surfaced occasionally since, but it’s a well overdue reprise. It’s dedicated to the West Glamorgan Youth Band – a real force in youth banding at the time and is therefore carefully technically calibrated (the percussion writing is interesting in its use of effect and colour and the main solos are testing but not over reaching)  

As the name suggests it is a light and considered composition (around 11 minutes in length) in three, compact movements - ‘Festival’, ‘Romance’ and ‘March’. 

Barry
A much missed and respected composer: Darrol Barry

Impact can be made on the judges (Sarah Groarke-Booth, Gary Davies, John Maines) right from the start; marked Allegro brioso e molto ritmico - a bold indication of prize winning intent for a confident band if ever there was one. 

MDs will have to be careful to keep a rein on the dynamics and tempi throughout (the opening is crica crotchet = 144) as the cavernous expanse of the Centaur auditorium can quickly become a little disorientating.

In a recent article in Brass Band World magazine (July/August 2018), adjudicator Gary Davies spoke about the ‘oscillating’ rhythmic pulse of the 4/4 and 8/8 which contrasts with the languid approach of the later Meno Mosso. It’s a sharp eyed observation and a difficult skill to pull off successfully before its back to the strict sounds of the Ma Agitato to close.  

MDs will have to be careful to keep a rein on the dynamics and tempi throughout (the opening is crica crotchet = 144) as the cavernous expanse of the Centaur auditorium can quickly become a little disorientating.

All that will take a fair bit of doing in just 4 minutes – although do it well and a band could be on its way to a possible National title.

What may decide the best from the rest though is the central ‘Romance’.

It’s marked Andante espressivo and cries out for a touch of well placed rubato from all the featured solo lines. As Romances go it’s a bit short and sugar sweet, but that’s not a bad thing, as it doesn’t require the MD to go into full blown x-rated passion mode to get things nicely to the boil. 

Played well it will sound balanced, touching and very effective.

As Romances go it’s a bit short and sugar sweet, but that’s not a bad thing, as it doesn’t require the MD to go into full blown x-rated passion mode to get things nicely to the boil. 

It’s all rounded off with a mini march that should not be approached in the manner of a Richard Evans swagger! 

This is playing ‘with spirit’ - joyful as well as triumphant, although being marked around the circa crotchet = 144, it should mirror the opening in brightly controlled rhythmic intent. 

By the time the big tune finale comes a band may have already made its mark on the judges, so it still needs care not to sound overblown and harsh. 

The contenders:

Last year’s victors were the impressive Newmains & District, who ended 44 years of Scottish hurt by taking the title back over Hadrian’s Wall.

Spennymoor
Spennymoor won in fine style in Durham

Scotland and North East

This year the task of holding onto the honours falls to champion Highland Brass and Whitburn Heartlands, led by Mark Bell and Andy Bell respectively.  Both have made excellent progress in the short time they have been competing (first taking to the contest stage in 2014), and with Scottish grass roots banding very much on the up they could be dark horses to watch out for. (NB. We have been informed this week that Whitburn Heartlands are not competing)

The North East also sends a couple of contenders well worth a bob or two at the William Hill stand in the bar, with champion Spennymoor Town (who won in Durham in comprehensive fashion under Fiona Casewell and have been in good form since) and Tewit Silver led by the experienced Martin Hall (who have been very solid on recent contest travels). 

Another brace that could well feature then?

Yorkshire and North West

Yorkshire pride comes in the form of champion Gawthorpe ’85 and fellow qualifier Garforth, who battled against strong opposition and the terrible weather in Huddersfield earlier in the year to get through. Both return to the Finals for the first time in a while, but with the experienced MDs of John Edward and John Thompson at their helms they will be keen to make a mark.

Lostock were classy and confident (as they were in winning at Brass at the Guild Hall) - hallmarks that should pay dividends here, whilst Sale could be a band to watch out for if they have built on their fine early season podium finishing form at Butlins and Blackpool.

If they show the type of form that they did in qualifying at Blackpool, the North West’s representatives of champion Lostock Hall Memorial and Sale Brass could be with a real shout of honours.  

Lostock were classy and confident (as they were in winning at Brass at the Guild Hall) - hallmarks that should pay dividends here, whilst Sale could be a band to watch out for if they have built on their fine early season podium finishing form at Butlins and Blackpool.

Gosport
Gosport claimed a fine success in Torquay

West and London & Southern Counties

Although there wasn’t the usual quantity of numbers in Torquay this year, the quality certainly was, with Gosport Solent Brass and Pendeen Silver eventually coming through after a keenly fought contest.  

Gosport will be looking to build on that impressive early season form (which included victory at the Oxfordshire BBA contest), whilst Pendeen’s consistency (aided by the experience of Leonard Adams with the baton) should hold them in good stead.

There looks like being a trio of solid contenders from London & Southern Counties, with champion Bradwell Silver joined by Regent Community Brass and Great Yarmouth Brass.  What a story it would be if Brian Keech (who has been at the helm since 1991) could lead Bradwell to success.

Meanwhile, Regent could make history themselves by becoming both a British and French champion in the same year after their Amboise success in June, whilst Great Yarmouth is on an upward curve of contesting improvement after a fine fourth place finish at Butlins was followed by their regional qualification. 

Meanwhile, Regent could make history themselves by becoming both a British and French champion in the same year after their Amboise success in June, whilst Great Yarmouth is on an upward curve of contesting improvement after a fine fourth place finish at Butlins was followed by their regional qualification. 

Bradwell
Bradwell Silver were triumphant in Stevenage

Wales and Midlands

Welsh hopes of a fifth win in sixth years rest with champion Upper Rhondda and Cwmtawe Youth. Upper Rhondda has already claimed a National title after its Eisteddfod win in Cardiff last month, whilst Cwmtawe is a super young band maturing fast. 

That leaves perhaps the pre-contest favourites in Butlins and Midlands champion Stamford Brass under Julian Bright, who are on the crest of a contesting wave at present, City of Birmingham who rebounded back from their 2017 relegation to the Fourth Section in impressive fashion at Bedworth, and Croft Silver who makes its first National appearance in a decade.


Who will win?

Such a difficult one to call, and there is every possibility of a Foinavon coming through to win as a long odds outsider.

Stamford Brass has been the stand out competitor this year at this level and could well be the band to beat, whilst Lostock Hall Memorial and Sale Brass form the North West look like potential podium finishers if they play to form.

Gosport Solent Brass, Spennymoor and Bradwell Silver may just sneak into the frame whilst our dark horses are the celtic duo of City of Birmingham and Upper Rhondda.    

4BR Prediction:

1. Stamford Brass
2. Lostock Hall Memorial
3. Sale Brass
4. Gosport Solent Brass
5. Spennymoor 
6. Bradwell Silver

Dark Horses: Upper Rhondda, City of Birmingham



Regent Hall Concerts - Royal Greenwich Brass Band

Sunday 18 November • St Alfege Church. 3 Greenwich Church Street. London SE10 9BJ


Contest: Brass in Concert

Sunday 18 November • St Mary's Square, Gateshead Quays NE8 2JR


Meltham and Meltham Mills Brass Band - Atlantic Brass - No1 Brass Band from the USA!

Tuesday 20 November • Huddersfield Parish Church Office, Byram Street, Huddersfield, HD1 1BU. HD1 1BU


Black Dyke Band - Worsley Parish Church

Thursday 22 November • St Marks, Worsley Brow Worsley, Manchester M28 2YA


Roberts Bakery Band - Spirit of Christmas

Friday 23 November • Chester Cathedral, St Werburgh St, Chester CH1 2DY


Freckleton Band

November 17 • Freckleton Band have vacancies on Principal Cornet and Soprano Cornet, due to an upcoming retirement. The band will be promoted to the Championship section in 2019 and have a balanced concert and contest programme.


Cleobury Mortimer Concert Brass

November 16 • Cleobury Mortimer Concert Brass (3rd section) require a bass trombone, Eb bass, Euphonium (seat negotiable to the right player) and solo cornet player, but we welcome all players.


The Cobham Band

November 16 • Vacancies for Flugel, Baritone, Bass Trombone and Assistant Percussion exist in this friendly band. We have a good programme of band stand and concert engagements. The band contests in SCABA events and welcomes players of all standards and experience.


Derek Renshaw

ABBA Member
Conductor, Band Trainer and Adjudicator.