facebook twitter rss vimeo shop label

*
banner

2018 National Championship of Great Britain
Championship Section preview & prediction

20 bands line-up at the Royal Albert Hall all looking to become National Champion — but only one will be able to hold the iconic trophy aloft by its Handel...

Handel

Saturday 6th October
Test Piece: Handel in the Band (Dr Kenneth Downie)
Commence: 10.00am
Adjudicators: Paul Holland, Alan Morrison, Luc Vertommen

There has been an air of revived expectation permeating through 20 bandrooms the length and breadth of the country in the last few weeks.

After the imposing technicalities and sapping emotional demands of ‘A Brussels Requiem’ at the British Open, come the rather more capricious refinements of Kenneth Downie’s ‘Handel in the Band’ at the Albert Hall. It’s been a refreshing stimulant sniffed up the musical nostrils of conductors and players alike.

However, despite its reinvigorating qualities, it cannot be taken lightly:

The composer may well reference the Australian composer Percy Grainger for its sense of connected musical humour (from hints of Fred Quimby ‘Tom & Jerry’ cartoon ‘Brahms’ to ‘St Magnus’) but he was also a rather troubled, and troubling man of unorthodox persuasions.  

He had a dark side as black as pitch tar.  

The composer may well reference the Australian composer Percy Grainger for its sense of connected musical humour but he was also a rather troubled, and troubling man of unorthodox persuasions.  He had a dark side as black as pitch tar.  

Flint-edged sharpness

‘Handel in the Band’ is therefore built on a thick seam of intellectual substance. The playful dialogue may have a dry, flint-edged sharpness that can scarify concrete, but it also contrasts starkly with the simple underlying treatment of the famous ‘Sarabande’ phrase for keyboard ‘Suite in D minor’ on which it is based.

This is a serious piece to perform with a smile on its face. 

The action kicks off at 10.00am with three experienced musicians in the box in Paul Holland, Alan Morrison and Luc Vertommen tasked with what could be a difficult decision.  

At around 15 minutes a shot, it should also be a compact and enjoyable contest day for your hard earned money (tickets cost anything between £31.00 to over £51.00) - with the percussion requirements rather constrained by modern day standards.  

With a bit of luck, and with the results due around 7.30pm, (with an interval after band number 10) everyone should be able to enjoy the pre-results concert provided by the Royal Air Force Squadronaires and be back at the hotel for a bite to eat and swift half or two before bed.

Brighouse
The defending champion: Brighouse & Rastrick

Big blowing suspects

As has been the case over the last decade and more, who will also be filling up the National Trophy with celebratory sparkling prosecco (London beer prices let alone real champers would just about obliterate the £2,000 first prize cheque) tends to come down to the usual big blowing suspects at the Albert.

The National is invariably a contest that favours the heavyweight sounding contenders: Finesse, artistry and refinement will of course be required (and the very best bands also have those elements in spades), but if none of it can be heard in the vast expanse of the auditorium, then it serves little purpose.

Even the smallest moment of character must make the biggest of impressions.

Just look at the recent results and you won’t see a cruiserweight amongst the leviathan knockout specialists. It’s Brighouse, Cory, Black Dyke, Foden’s, Fairey and Grimethorpe who have won the title in the last 20 years (and Leyland in 2005 was no lightweight either).

Given that all these return once more gives you a decent indication of where the title may well end up. It’s hard to think of the last ‘lucky punch’ winner.

Just look at the recent results and you won’t see a cruiserweight amongst the leviathan knockout specialists. It’s Brighouse, Cory, Black Dyke, Foden’s, Fairey and Grimethorpe who have won the title in the last 20 years (and Leyland in 2005 was no lightweight either).

Favourites

The role of pre-contest favourites surely lays between defending champion Brighouse & Rastrick and British Open winner Cory.

As can be seen by the respective records at the contest since 2010 (and even further back for Cory), they rarely fail to produce here when it matters most.

Led by outstanding conductors able to draw musical inspiration from the driest of compositional wells, if they both play to the top of their form it could be a private battle to see who claims the trophy. 

Cory
Can Cory secure a  memorable double?

In contrast, many critics thought that Black Dyke missed a potential Grand Shield bullet at Symphony Hall, but that fifth place finish may just be the catalyst Prof Nicholas Childs has been waiting for to reignite his Queensbury band as a major contesting winning force. 

This may well be the moment when they come out swinging once more. If they do, (and are able to contain the emotion that coursed through a few veins last year) they could knock everyone else out.

The same applies to Foden’s - although the sweet science of musicality that is the trademark of Russell Gray could well prove the key to a first success since 2012.

There or thereabouts in the last two years, they should be confident of being in with a major shout once more.

The same applies to Foden’s - although the sweet science of musicality that is the trademark of Russell Gray could well prove the key to a first success since 2012. 

Grimethorpe tweaks

Grimethorpe returns for the first time since 2015 amid a youthful redevelopment plan under Allan Withington.

The signs were there at the British Open that it was beginning to come together. A few more tweaks have since been made, and even if it may be a surprise if they claim their first title since 2007, you wouldn’t bet against it.

Two contenders with fine records at this contest of late will be keen to make amends for disappointing returns at Symphony Hall, with last year’s runner-up Tredegar and Fairey (who came 4th) always good each-way bets for a mention in the top-six or better.

Fairey
Can Fairey make their mark on the top-six once again?

Ian Porthouse and Garry Cutt have plenty of experience at their disposal, and if they can just rid themselves of their occasional fallibilities they could well be mentioned off the stage once more.   

Whitburn also fits into that category after a fine 6th place finish last year, but a sobering return at Birmingham.  

The French connection with Florent Didier is one that can sparkle like Veuve Clicquot champagne, and this could be a piece that sees them bubble towards the prizes with confidence. A bit of a ‘cheval noir’ for certain.

The French connection with Florent Didier is one that can sparkle like Veuve Clicquot champagne, and this could be a piece that sees them bubble towards the prizes with confidence. A bit of a ‘cheval noir’ for certain

Upswing of form

Two bands on the upswing of form are Leyland (who were excellent in coming sixth at the British Open) and Desford (who were a tad unlucky to finish 11th) – both led by experienced MDs in Thomas Wyss and Michael Fowles with plenty of nous to go with their talents .  

Leyland returns for the first time since 2013 and Desford 2015, so both will be keen to show that their powers of contesting rejuvenation extend south of the Watford Gap. One or both could well feature in and around the top-six. 

Virtuosi GUS will want to give their talented MD Adam Cooke a fine send off as they look to get in the top-six for the first since 2010.

On their day the partnership can mix it with the very best and this might just by a piece that suits their warm tonality, the MDs musical approach and classy main soloists.

Adam Cooke
Looking for a good senf off: Virtuosi GUS MD Adam Cooke 

The solid looking Friary Guildford has already given ‘Handel’ an outing on the contest stage and sounded well prepared at the scaba contest, so Chris King should be confident of carrying on their upward journey in the results table over the last few years to post a potential top-10 finish. 

The encouraging signs of solid long term rebuilding were shown by Flowers at the British Open, and whilst they may not quite be back to the level that saw them post three consecutive top-six finishes on their last appearances, they should more than hold their own under the considered baton of Steve Sykes.

So too Woodfalls, who have shown that in their last four outings here and will surely benefit from the type of forensic approach that has always hallmarked the approach of Bob Childs. 

And whilst we have said that it’s difficult for cruiserweight contenders to make a mark at the top end of this contest, the refinement of the writing in ‘Handel in the Band’ levels the playing field out for those who cannot quite open up the volume funnels like a docking QE2. 

Volume funnels

And whilst we have said that it’s difficult for cruiserweight contenders to make a mark at the top end of this contest, the refinement of the writing in ‘Handel in the Band’ levels the playing field out for those who cannot quite open up the volume funnels like a docking QE2. 

Exciting possibilities then for the likes of the solid looking north-east duo of NASUWT Riverside and Fishburn, Co-operative Funeralcare (who will surely be in better shape given the extra time they will have had with Frans Violet than at Symphony Hall), Tongwynlais Temperance, and debutants City of Cardiff (Melingriffth) (in this incarnation at least) and Thundersley.

Iwan Fox


Who will win?

It’s hard to see past the peak condition juggernauts of Brighouse & Rastrick and Cory. It could be nip and tuck if they both get a favourable draw.

Russell Gray could draw something very special from Foden’s on this piece, whilst a determined, focussed and on-form Black Dyke should not be discounted. 

A resurgent Grimethorpe and a bold Tredegar may well be sniffing around the podium places, whilst our dark horses of Whitburn and Fairey have the quality to end high up the results table too.

4BR Prediction:

1. Brighouse & Rastrick
2. Cory
3. Foden’s
4. Black Dyke
5. Grimethorpe
6. Tredegar

Dark Horses: Whitburn, Fairey 

Top 10 contenders: Desford, Leyland



Black Dyke Band - Elsecar Heritage Centre Barnsley

Saturday 20 October • Elsecar Heritage Centre Wath Road Elsecar Barnsley S74 8HJ


St Albans City Band - Parmiters School

Saturday 20 October • Dagnall Street Baptist Church, 1 Cross Street, St Albans AL3 5EE


Watford Band - Watford Brass Band present Last Night of the Proms

Saturday 20 October • . St Paul's Church, Blandford Rd, St Albans AL14JPT AL14JPT


Woodfalls Band - Hampshire Cricket Board and Wellstead Community Ch

Saturday 20 October • Chandlers Ford Methodist Church. Winchester Rd, SO53 2GJ Chandler's Ford SO53 2GJ


South London Fellowship Band -

Saturday 20 October • The Salvation Army. Conway Street. Hove BN3 3LA


Johnstone Band

October 20 • Johnstone Band has vacancies for front and back row cornets, position negotiable depending on experience and fit.. An innovative, ambitious Championship Section band, we have a healthy programme of contests, workshops and concerts planned for 2018/19.


Amersham Band

October 19 • We have a vacancy for an experienced solo horn player, due to a work relocation. The band has recently secured 4th placing at the National Finals 1st Section and has a well-balanced diary of concerts, contests and other projects throughout the year.


Bedford Town Band

October 19 • Bedford Town Band (London and SC) has a vacancy for Percussionist. We are a friendly and ambitious and sociable band with a good diary of concerts and contests planned over the year.


Mark Wilkinson


Cornet Soloist, Teacher, Adjudicator, Conductor