2018 National Championship of Great Britain
Championship Section - As it happened

All the action from the 2018 National Championship of Great Britain Championship Section — As it happened.

Tuesday 9, 12:27:08

Foden's in Focus

Foden's take the applause after their winning performance

On Stage Celebrations in the Albert Hall

Prinicipal Cornet Mark Wilkinson gets his hands on the Trophy

Heading for Home — Foden's about to board the coach

The chilly night but a warm trophy glow with Russell Gray

Monday 8, 18:27:52


1st. Foden's (Russell Gray)

2nd. Cory (Philip Harper)

3rd. Brighouse & Rastrick (Prof David King)

4th. Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas Childs)

5th. Fairey (Garry Cutt)

Trevor Caffull receives the Iles Medal

Gwyn Evans receives the Mortimer Medal

Saturday 6, 20:51:29

Winners in Focus

Saturday 6, 19:05:00


Test Piece: Handel in the Band (Dr Kenneth Downie)
Adjudicators: Paul Holland, Alan Morrison, Luc Vertommen

1. Foden's (Russell Gray)**
2. Cory (Philip Harper)*
3. Brighouse & Rastrick (Prof David King)*
4. Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas Childs)*
5. Fairey (Garry Cutt)
6. Grimethorpe Colliery (Allan Withington)
7. Flowers (Steve Sykes)
8. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)
9. Whitburn (Florent Didier)
10. Woodfalls (Dr Robert Childs)
11. Friary Guildford (Chris King)
12. Co-operative Funeralcare (Frans Violet)
13. Virtuosi Gus (Adam Cooke)
14. NASUWT Riverside (David Roberts)
15. Desford Colliery (Michael Fowles)
16. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)
17. Thundersley (Nigel Taken)
18. City of Cardiff (Mellingriffith) (Nigel Seaman)
19. Tongwynlais Temperance (Andreas Kratz)
20. RMT Fishburn (David Hirst)

Best Instrumentalist: Chris Thomas (trombone) — Cory

* Top 4 pre-qualified for 2019 National Final
** Denotes Qualification for 2020 European Brass Band Championships as highest placed English representative

Saturday 6, 18:29:46

Critics' prediction

Well, what a day it has been in the Royal Albert Hall!

Kenneth Downie's engaging set of variations on the familiar theme of Handel has provided more than enough for the bands to handle in terms of both its musical and technical challenges.

The fugue at the end has proved to be a devil of a fugue indeed whilst we have heard a plethora of different approaches to the deeply moving Grave that sits at the central heart of the work.

No band has merged totally blemish free but a handful of performances have captured both our own imaginations and those of the audience judging by the generous applause than rang around the Albert Hall rafters.

Chris Thomas goes for a top six:

1. Cory
2. Brighouse and Rastrick
3. Tredegar
4. Foden's
5. Black Dyke
6. Fairey

Dark Horses: Grimethorpe, Leyland and Whitburn

After an enjoyable day of high quality contesting, we finally come to the sticky question over who will win. 'Handel in the Band' may look easy enough on paper, but as has been proved today, it is a 'test' piece worthy of the name.

The best bands today have both projected the detail and found the emotional core of the music. Interestingly, the highest placed bands have all come out with very different interpretations, so much will depend on the taste of the men in the box... nothing is set in stone.

Thomas Dunne goes for a top 6 of:

1. Cory
2. Brighouse
3. Tredegar
4. Foden's
5. Fairey
6. Whitburn

Dark Horses: Black Dyke, Grimethorpe

Saturday 6, 18:12:33

20. Virtuosi GUS (Adam Cooke)

On Stage: Adam Cooke with Virtuosi GUS

A solid opening from GUS and this is strong confident playing from the Midlanders. Good detail with just the odd lapses in ensemble as the M.D. shapes the music with skill.

The Allegro con fuoco progresses with good levels of detail once again and this has good presence and spirit about it. The Vivo is just a touch heavy handed at times but the careful attention to balance is once again allowing the detail to be heard with clarity.

The opening of the Grave is not without a handful of minor clips but there are moments of beauty as the M.D. takes the dynamic levels down and allows the music to flow naturally.

The fugue gets a touch scrappy at times and the instrumental voices are somewhat heavy for the dynamic level but the energy levels are maintained to the end.

Overall: A quality show from GUS. Not a challenger for the prize winners maybe but this should see the Midlanders well up the results table today.

Christopher Thomas

Virtuosi GUS (Adam Cooke)

In Performance: Adam Cooke with Virtuosi GUS

A positive, detailed opening from GUS leads on to a driving Allegro. As we proceed into the 'jazzy' section, the music has a delightful light feel, and both the flugel and trombone really stand out with excellent solo contributions.

The Vivo travels along excitedly, before the MD draws some sweeping, expressive lines from the score in the Grave section.

The level of control impresses.

An utterly confident flugel and euphonium begin the fugue that proceeds well towards a bold finale.

While not without incident, GUS give a well-shaped performance with some excellent solo playing to close the day.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 20: Adam Cooke with Virtuosi GUS

Saturday 6, 17:47:52

19. Thundersley (Nigel Taken)

On Stage: Nigel Taken with Thundersley

The London and Southern Counties team take to the RAH stage for the first time and get off to a creditable start that proceeds without major incident.

There's a good spirit about much of what follows but the ensemble is often untidy as the players struggle to get to grips with the demands and level of detail required.

The Grave opens well again we sense the musicality of what the band is trying to achieve but with that error count continuing to mount.

The fugue is scrappy yet there is so much spirit about it leading to an ebullient, perhaps even defiant, final flourish.

Overall: So much to commend for effort from Thundersley but ultimately the demands proved too much.

Christopher Thomas

Thundersley (Nigel Taken)

On Stage: Thundersley (Nigel Taken)

A convincing start from Royal Albert Hall debutantes Thundersley, just a slight bump or two along the way. The Allegro is powerful in approach, impressive, though we could take more drive. The soloists give commendable contributions as the style changes, before a driving Vivo.

The Grave starts broadly, but some of the moving lines don't quite match up as we proceed. Much momentum is present in the final push for the finish, and though some lines don't project as cleanly as we might wish, it is an enjoyable effort.

Thundersley have certainly done themselves proud at their debut at the contest. Yes, it wasn't perfect, but the cheers from their supporters and the smiles on faces says it

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 19: Thundersley (Nigel Taken)

Saturday 6, 17:25:25

18. Friary Guildford (Chris King)

On Stage: Chris King with Friary Guildford

Opens well with style and good levels of detail. There are the odd skewed solo entries that ruffle the surface but the approach is of carefully considered musicality from the M.D.

The Allegro con fuoco is a touch frenzied and again there are odd niggles and slips that detract from what is otherwise a convincing musical picture.

The Grave sets off at the perfect tempo and this is very nicely done with sonorous trombones and a potent sense of emotion. Yet again, there are clips that detract.

The precision and level of detail is not quite there in the fugue but the M.D. convinces in his approach to the end.

Overall: Such a strong interpretation and musical approach from Friary Guildford but one that was ultimately undone by a mounting error count.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Friary Guildford (Chris King)

A secure, confident start from Friary Guildford makes a promising first impression. The Allegro to follow is strong through the full depth of the band, just a slight uncomfortable moment as it winds down. The 'jazzy' section is smooth and controlled with classy shaping from the MD.

More solid playing follows in the Vivo, while the Grave is broad and expressive. We gradually build through the final sections, which prove engaging, if a touch scrappy at times.

A solid performance from Friary Guildford. The commitment to the MD's quite excellent interpretation was admirable indeed. Just those scrappy moments...

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 18: Friary Guildford (Chris King)

Saturday 6, 17:00:55

17. Grimethorpe Colliery (Allan Withington)

On Stage: Allan Withington with Grimethorpe Colliery

Grimethorpe set the musical scene in telling fashion as the opening has both detail and presence. The dynamics are possibly a little heavy at times but the Allegro con fuoco certainly has fire in its belly as it hurtles onward.

The Adagio con moto is beautifully done although there are just one or two fleeting intonation issues at times. Lovely playing from Kathleen Gaspoz on her competitive Grimethorpe debut although there are also little slips including solo trombone.

Fine sounds from trombones to open the Grave and much of this is superbly done though once again there are some surprisingly uncomfortable moments in terms of tuning, particularly in the cornet section.

The fugue feels a touch frenetic at times and the detail is not always as clear as the best of the performances we have heard today. It's a spirited final flourish but this wasn't vintage Grimethorpe.

Overall: A performance of contrasts from Grimethorpe. When it was good it was very good but there were also some uncomfortable moments that were all too noticeable.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Grimethorpe Colliery (Allan Withington)

A strong, committed opening from Grimethorpe proves highly effective, and imediately contrasts excellently with the expressive theme. Lively, driving lines in an Allegro full of shape leads the music towards a well executed 'jazzy' theme (the soloists sometimes get lost in the texture slightly).

The Vivo drives powerfully forward into the Grave, in which the MD finds the drama in the score — though not without the odd uncomfortable intonation issue. The different characters of the Vivo emerge effectively and the Fugue dances sprightly along.

An enjoyable show from Grimethorpe, featuring both expressive and highly detailed technical playing. The few issues here and there may well cost in a field of bands this strong however.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 17: Grimethorpe Colliery (Allan Withington)

Saturday 6, 16:37:37

16. Cory (Philip Harper)

On Stage: Philip Harper with Cory

A magnificent opening and there's a stormy, almost ominous feel about the chromatic figures in the cornets which are so carefully balanced.

The Allegro con fuoco flies and the dynamic changes are stunning in their impact. This is so effortless in its accuracy and clarity. The little jazzy inflections coloured with wit and delicacy and there's a generosity of spirit and warmth about this that is so engaging.

Gorgeous sounds from the middle of the band what a solo trombone! My goodness that was so beautifully and sensitively done.

The Vivo is just stunning. What detail! And it knits together so seamlessly as we move into the Grave. This is slow...very slow...but what gravitas is drawn from the music. It's so emotionally involving in its pathos and the climax is simply magnificent.

The tempo cranks up and we motor on towards the fugue which is delivered with the precision of a neurosurgeon. What incredible individual contributions and the pacing in the latter stages is brilliantly done.

A beautiful feeling of repose as the theme is reprised and the dash to the concluding flourish is magnificent.

Overall: A reading of breathless energy and radiant warmth and emotion from Cory. This simply captured everything.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Cory (Philip Harper)

A measured opening from Cory makes a bold statement of intent, with MD Philip Harper using plenty of rubato to shape the theme. The Allegro is brisk and engaging, with dramatic swells in dynamic holding the attention of the ear. The solo passages are superbly executed, capturing the 'jazzy' feel so effectively (the control of the solo trombone is remarkable).

The Vivo holds back in dynamic, only opening up at the crucial moments for maximum effect! The Grave is sublimely controlled, unleashing a magic musical moment at the climax — slower than most today though. Masterfully delivered, you just sit back and admire the playing in the final Vivo and Fugue.

Another very different performance to add to the mix from Cory. World class playing from start to finish!

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 16: Cory (Philip Harper)

Saturday 6, 16:11:38

15. Brighouse and Rastrick (Prof David King)

On Stage: Prof David King with Brighouse and Rastrick

Brighouse adopts a formation with the cornets split and standing to either side of the band. The opening is so brimming with character and there is so much pathos and presence about the atmosphere created.

David King shapes the music with such elegance and the effect is heart warming in its effect.

The dynamics are utilised to brilliant effect in the Allegro con fuoco but it is the little inflections that the M.D. brings to the reading that really make this special, especially the bluesy nuances that re just so beautifully and delicately done.

The Grave is gloriously sonorous and there is such elegance about this...a stately, emotionally involving aura that draws us into the deepest recesses of the music's emotional heart. It's fabulous stuff.

And now as the tempo increases we also hear fully the clarity of the textures the band creates. The fugue is effortless and nothing is forced with the dynamics kept on a very tight leash.

The emotion is once again palpable in the reprise of the theme and the ending fizzes to a joyous, tumultuous conclusion.

Overall: Stunning playing from Brighouse. Amazingly delicate in its execution and an interpretation that radiated warmth and emotion.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Brighouse and Rastrick (Prof David King)

A striking start from the defending champions, with the shapes being projected oozing musicality. The Allegro is relentless in its drive, with the finer effects and details of the score being projected out into the hall so effectively. The 'jazzy' section solo lines interlock to create one seamless musical picture.

The Vivo tells a similar story — as about as tight in ensemble as you could wish, and oh so engaging! MD David King gauges the Grave so effectively, restrained and sombre in atmosphere, the band finally unleashes an almighty climax — emotionally driven stuff indeed.

The ride to home sees the final Vivo and Fugue dancing nimbly along quite brilliantly — you can sense the enjoyment onstage... The finale sends the audience into thunderous applause!

One feels Brighouse could have done no more to defend their title today — simply brilliant playing with real emotional gravitas. Will it be enough? It could very well be!

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 15: Brighouse and Rastrick (Prof David King)

Saturday 6, 15:50:07

14. RMT Fishburn (David Hirst)

On Stage: David Hirst with RMT Fishburn

The opening lacks confidence and immediately there are slips that have a knock on effect throughout the band. We can sense the players giving it their all but this is already proving an immense challenge.

There are multiple individual errors and wrong notes in the Allegro con fuoco and this never quite settles with the ensemble failing to consistently knit together.

The Grave opens well and this is better although tuning issues cause problems at times.

The fugue is untidy throughout with individual instrumental voices not always clear and solo entries sometimes inaccurate leading to a tired ending.

Overall: A tough test for Fishburn as the band struggles to find any technical consistency throughout the performance. This pushed the band to its limits.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: RMT Fishburn (David Hirst)

Strong sounds from Fishburn to open, which progresses into a confident, if a touch steady, Allegro. The 'jazzy' section doesn't quite hang together as we might wish, with a slightly precarious feel about it, with unforced errors beginning to creep in.

The Vivo is a lot more assured, and the Grave is performed well, yet could do more to engage emotionally. The following Vivo ticks along well enough, and the fugue maintains momentum, despite being a somewhat unclear in terms of detail at times.

An inconsistent day at the office for Fishburn — the effort and commitment was there in spades, but the blemishes took the edge off overall.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 14: RMT Fishburn (David Hirst)

Saturday 6, 15:26:22

13. Co-operative Funeralcare (Frans Violet)

On Stage: Frans Violet with Co-operative Funeralcare

The opening is effective if not the most cohesive today but this is immediately setting so much better a picture than the band's performance in Birmingham some weeks ago.

Detail is not always clear in the Allegro con fuoco but it drives on well despite ensemble not always being completely precise.

The Grave is not always totally comfortable as individual entries are occasionally scuffed and the atmosphere fails to settle as a result.

Missed entries in the percussion in the Vivo and this suddenly feels very insecure. It regains its composure to some degree in the closing paragraphs but this has been an inconsistent show from the Scots.

Overall: Another difficult day for Co-operative Funeralcare. Good in parts but fragile in others.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Co-operative Funeralcare (Frans Violet)

A somewhat scrappy opening from Co-op, yet the nerves gradually settle as the theme emerges with rich sounds. The Allegro drives along nicely to start, though some momentum is lost as the section progresses. The soloists largely perform well, though the band do not initially allow the soloists to project.

This improves considerably as we move towards the Vivo, which proves engaging, if a little 'fuzzy' in detail at times. The MD shapes the Grave section so musically, and we enjoy some expressive playing (though not without the odd balance discrepancy).

Flugel and euphonium both do well to begin the Fugue, which progresses with a growing confidence, though tiredness begins to creep in towards the finish.

An inconsistent one from Co-op despite some pleasant moments, with a few too many issues and blemishes to make an impact today.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 13: Co-operative Funeralcare (Frans Violet)

Saturday 6, 14:58:32

12. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)

On Stage: Ian Porthouse with Tredegar

A fine opening indeed from Tredegar. This has so much musical presence allied with a robust band sound and wide ranging dynamics. Yet the clarity is highly impressive as individual entries are despatched with accuracy, confidence and clarity.

Such lovely touches from solo cornet in the slower sections and the warmth of sound that emanates from the middle and lower band glows in its resonance. There's just the odd uncomfortable moment but otherwise this has so much majesty about it.

The Grave commences well and the tempo is perfect as the music never languishes. And what fabulous dynamics...at its quietest we strain to hear it but it's so effective in what is a cavernous auditorium.

The fugue is amongst the best of the day. There are a couple of moments when we lose the individual voices but only fleetingly and the momentum never falters.

The reprise of the theme is hauntingly done and the approach to the final flourish measured to perfection.

Overall: So much to admire from Tredegar. Playing of such musical insight and atmosphere. It wasn't entirely flawless but my goodness it certainly got to the heart of the music.

Christopher Thomas

Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)

In Performance: Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)

Tredegar make an immediate impact with bold sweeping statements and monumental dynamic contrasts — this really captures the attention! The Allegro is driving and intense, making for gripping listening, before the style changes utterly with deliciously rich chords in the transition into the 'jazzy' section.

The languid music flows along with ease with fine solo contributions around the band (solo trombone excels!). A sonorous bass end transitions effectively into a thrilling Vivo, weighty in approach, yet full of detail. Arguably the most moving Grave section of the day so far, the MD finds the drama in the score with great effect from the passionate fortissimos to the quietest controlled pianissimos.

The ensuing Vivo and Fugue are equally gripping and delivered with the utmost confidence, before building to a monumental finale.

A performance of the highest quality from Tredegar, with an interpretation as yet unmatched today. The odd minor blemish matters little when the playing is this good — a very strong contender indeed today!

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 12: Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)

Saturday 6, 14:39:44

11. Woodfalls (Dr Robert Childs)

On Stage: Dr Robert Childs with Woodfalls

Opens well and we hear the chromatic cornet figurations with clarity as the theme is announced.

Excellent use of the dynamics in the Allegro con fuoco and although it's not the most exciting playing we have heard so far, there is a solidity and security about this that impresses.

As we approach the Grave not all of the inner detail is heard with complete clarity. The Grave itself is safe but possibly a touch perfunctory in its style but again, there is security in the playing that keeps the musical picture intact at all times with the soloists delivering their individual parts with impressive consistency.

The Vivo is impressively controlled with the lid kept on the dynamics and the fugue is again not the most exciting, but executed with technical deftness leading to an effective concluding flourish.

Overall: A performance of solid workmanship from Woodfalls.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Woodfalls (Dr Robert Childs)

Woodfalls open the second half of the contest with a confident opening strong in contrasting dynamic effects, a theme which continues into the Allegro section. An excellent solo cornet leads the band into the 'jazzy' section which flows elegantly without restricting the soloists, who deliver strong contributions around the band.

The Vivo is accurate, and bubbles along enjoyable. Perhaps a touch heavy in dynamic at times, the atmosphere of the Grave suffers occasionally as a result. Further clarity is unveiled in the ensuing Vivo and Fugue, and despite losing the edge of excitement for the odd moment, the piece builds to a powerfully driven finale.

Excellently crafted from the MD from start to finish, Woodfalls give a rounded, confident rendition. Despite some small moments, this may give the judges something to ponder.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 11: Woodfalls (Dr Robert Childs)

Saturday 6, 13:57:00

Half time round-up

It's been an enjoyable morning on an engaging and musically engaging test piece in the Royal Albert. Anyone that thought the music to be lacking in its challenges will have been sharply corrected as a good number of the bands have struggled to project the extreme detail of the faster music and in particular the fugue, with clarity.

The second half of the draw is going to be very interesting indeed but in the meantime, here's my half time top three.

1. Foden's
2. Black Dyke
3. Fairey

Christopher Thomas

It has certainly been an interesting first half, with bands providing both balance and clarity proving the most successful.

For me, Foden's have produced the most rounded, musical performance so far, with Fairey also providing a superbly gauged performance.

Whitburn's bold contrasts may well pay dividends after this.

While not quite to my personal taste, the musical extremes of Black Dyke and the technical clarity of Flowers may appeal to the adjudicators, though the contest is far from over yet...

1. Foden's
2. Fairey
3. Whitburn

Dark Horses: Black Dyke, Flowers

Thomas Dunne

Saturday 6, 13:47:04

10. NASUWT Riverside (David Roberts)

On Stage: David Roberts with NASUWT Riverside

The opening is generally secure and although there are one or two minor insecurities, it progresses well as the theme is stated with pathos.

The quieter more exposed passages reveal a few slips and clips that unsettle the musical picture, whilst the Grave is a touch solid for piano and could be a little more seamless in its delivery.

The fugue becomes very scrappy as it progresses with the individual voices often masked within the textures and the performance begins to feel that its losing its way here.

The reprise of the theme towards the close is so much better but as we approach the final flourish there is a scrambled feel about the playing with little detail audible as a result.

Overall: A creditable and committed performance from Riverside but a lack of consistency in execution will surely play its part in the final outcome today.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: NASUWT Riverside (David Roberts)

A strong opening with much to appreciate from Riverside, some detail does get lost in the hall. This is also evident in the Allegro, with some of the crispness of the technique not filling the hall, though the style is certainly engaging. Soloists generally do well as the piece progresses through the jazz motifs.

The Grave is somewhat heavy for the 'piano' dynamic, and the atmosphere suffers as a result. The following Vivo is generally accurate, though does feel as though it loses some of its initial momentum. Though this picks up and builds in excitement as we enter the Fugue, clarity once again gets lost at times in the expanse of the hall, before an impassioned finale brings the performance to a close.

Overall, a well shaped reading not lacking in commitment or enthusiasm. Just the lack of clarity and the need for a broader dynamic spectrum may cost today.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 10: NASUWT Riverside (David Roberts)

Saturday 6, 13:25:08

9. Flowers (Steve Sykes)

On Stage: Steve Sykes with Flowers

A secure opening but one that also has a somewhat muscular feeling about it. We need to sense the atmosphere a little more but there is a bold confidence about the playing without a doubt.

The Grave gets off to a sonorous start and again there is security in the playing but occasionally at the expense of subtlety.

The fugue is solid in its execution but somehow this has the feeling of a study about it...a technical exercise that is delivered with extreme precision but with a touch of style and panache missing.

The ending builds up quite a head of steam though and the its a breathlessly exciting final flourish.

Overall: A very creditable technical account of the test piece by Flowers but one that also left us strangely cold on an emotional level.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Flowers (Steve Sykes)

An opening strong in dynamic variation from Flowers that seizes the attention, though not all the detail carries across. The Allegro continues along this vein, before a well handled transition into the 'jazzy' section. This is deftly handled with much to appreciate in the solo playing around the band, its just a shame the accompaniment lines occasionally dominate.

The Vivo cpatures plenty of excitement, while the Grave acts as a sombre contrast. The following Vivo finds some crisp detail projected, though as we reach the Fugue the musical line seems to lose focus slightly. The control returns with the dynamic as we reach the close.

Flowers deliver a solid performance with moments of real quality, especially in terms of technique and clarity. The occasional balance issue and a lack of passionate expressiveness at times may be something for the adjudicators to ponder.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 9: Flowers (Steve Sykes)

Saturday 6, 13:03:59

8. Foden's (Russell Gray)

On Stage: Russell Gray with Foden's

With Russell Gray at the helm, Foden's immediately stamps its musical authority on the test piece and the opening has so much clarity and character about it.

There's a sense of security about this and the Con fuoco is brilliantly despatched. Detailed, balanced and projected with clarity and precision.

What a glorious sounding trombone section in the Grave. There's an Elizabethan dignity to this and it is all so well controlled from the middle as Russell Gray lends the performance his own sense of space and architecture. There are one or two tiny intonation issues but it would be churlish to overstate them.

A great start to the Vivo and solo euphonium excels in the fugue. It isn't quite 100% even in its execution but boy does it fizz with energy and panache. There's a glorious atmosphere about the restatement of the theme as we approach the majestic apotheosis ahead of a

Overall: A cracker from Foden's. So much character and detail. The most fleeting insecurities but so much style and character about this.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Foden's (Russell Gray)

A rounded opening from Foden's sees no extremes, just solid, well-gauged band playing. The excitement is immediately captured in the Allegro, with the ensemble working as one to bring out an impressive amount of detail. The 'jazzy' soloists are given plenty of space to let the languid lines sing, with the trombone and flugel delivering the goods aplenty over a sympathetic band. This is expertly constructed by the MD.

The detailed technical flourishes Vivo are almost transparent in quality. The Grave holds the ear with a fine balance, perhaps with the slightest hint of intonation here and there as it progresses. The second Vivo and Fugue flow nicely, with the band working hard to project the finer details into the hall, before a thrilling finish.

Such a fine performance from Foden's rich in detail, dynamic excitement, with excellent soloists. An excellent reading, admittedly not 100% perfect, but a very strong contender indeed thus far!

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 8: Foden's (Russell Gray)

Saturday 6, 12:37:05

7. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)

On Stage: Thomas Wyss with Leyland

There's a powerful aura of pathos about the opening of Leyland's performance and the theme is enunciated with style by the trombones.

As it progresses we hear the detail projected with impressive clarity and there's a confidence about this that imposes itself on us in spades. The balance is carefully created and as with the best performances so far, the M.D. is knitting the variations into a highly convincing whole.

There's a stillness about the Grave that is so dignified and stately and this doesn't descend into a dirge. Just the odd uncomfortable moments but they are fleeting and don't detract from the overall atmosphere.

The Vivo sets off at a fine pace and this is really flying. All voices are heard with clarity in the fugue and as the theme returns there is again a sense of dignified majesty about the playing.

It's capped with an ebullient final flourish.

Overall: An impressive performance from Leyland. Confident and musically convincing despite a few minor slips.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Leyland (Thomas Wyss)

Muscular band sounds greet the hall as Leyland begin the piece. This makes for an engaging opening, and continues into the Allegro, though some momentum gets lost as this progresses. Soloists largely do well, and we enjoy some expressive band sounds as we progress through the jazzy motifs.

The Vivo gets off to a slightly shaky start, though does recover quickly. Intonation issues (and a rather strong dynamic) plague the opening of the Grave, and we don't quite get the passion we wish to hear. A lot more control is evident in the second Vivo and fugue, with a pleasing balance, consistent tempo, and attention to detail capturing the effects well towards an engaging close.

An inconsistent account from Leyland today that grew considerably in quality towards the finale. Their forceful approach resulted in a few too many errors creeping in to make a real impact today we feel.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 7: Leyland (Thomas Wyss)

Saturday 6, 12:19:07

6. Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas J. Childs)

On Stage: Prof Nicholas J. Childs with Black Dyke

The opening has immediate presence and nothing is overstated here. Wonderfully rounded sounds and there is warmth and musical empathy heard.

The detail of the Allegro con fuoco that follows is projected with clarity and carefully balanced by the M.D. This is imposing playing and the character of the music is brought to the surface with insight.

The Grave opens well but a nasty clip in the trombones unsettles the aura of dignity.

Again the balance is carefully found in the music that follows but the fugue is not 100% convincing with solo euphonium and trombone standing to project there parts when the objective is evenness between the various instrumental voices. As a result the fugue feels a touch frenetic at times.

The final flourish is brilliantly done and it's an exciting end but this was a performance of mixed fortunes from Dyke.

Overall: So much quality from Black Dyke but also a degree of unevenness that will not have gone unnoticed.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas J. Childs)

The striking dynamic contrasts of the opening command the attention of the ear, before the theme emerges with the background detail projecting effectively. The spectrum of effects in the Allegro are delivered with aplomb — some might argue a touch overdone occasionally, but this certainly makes an impact! The laid back jazz style is captured nicely, and the soloists complete the music picture.

A sombre start to the Grave is just upset by an uncomfortable moment, but progresses passionately, though not without the odd intonation problem. The Vivo goes off like a rocket! While it does feel like some parts of the section need a little more space to let the music speak and the detail come across (particularly in the Fugue), this is exciting, edge-of-the-seat stuff as we reach an adrenaline fueled finish.

Well well, the audience seemed to love that. Whether the adjudicators will remains to be seen — the frenetic finale will definitely be a 'marmite' moment, and inconsistencies crept in, despite some magnificent playing around the stand.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 6: Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas J. Childs)

Saturday 6, 11:53:43

5. Tongwynlais Temperance (Andreas Kratz)

On Stage: Andreas Kratz with Tongwynlais Temperance

Tongwynlais call on the talents of Andreas Kratz to direct a performance that opens a touch unconvincingly. As we reach the theme this isn't making a powerful musical impression on us despite broadly secure playing.

As we continue however slips and individual errors start to mount and by the end of the Adagio con moto it is all starting to feel a touch fragile.

The Grave moves along well and there are flowing sounds heard but that fragility continues with the error count continuing to increase.

The tempo of the Fugue isn't always consistent as individual entries pull in different directions. This is feeling very scrappy now and nothing is quite sitting comfortably as the ensemble lacks rigidity.

The ending is again lacking in detail and caps an underwhelming account from the Welsh team.

Overall: An inconsistent account from Tongwynlais that started well but fell prone to an increasing error count as it progressed.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Tongwynlais Temperance (Andreas Kratz)

Just a slight moment of discomfort to start, but the band quickly recovers to deliver a balanced opening section. The Allegro perhaps lacks some of the necessary drive to truly capture the excitement of the section, and some intonation gremlins creep in as the movement winds down. The jazz moments are more convincing, and the soloists largely do well, with the beautiful shaping of the trombone and flugel being a particular highlight.

The following Vivo ticks along nicely, though some sections of detail travel into the hall more effectively than others. The Grave begins well, before just a few intonation moments take the edge off. Some tiredness begins to creep in as we reach a slightly under-powered finale.

In all, a performance that delivered some very enjoyable moments, but a few too many errors were evident throughout to allow the piece to really shine.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 5: Tongwynlais Temperance (Andreas Kratz)

Saturday 6, 11:32:10

4. Whitburn (Florent Didier)

On Stage: Florent Didier with Whitburn

What a fine opening! This imposes itself on us immediately and as the theme is heard, so is the detail with the chromatic runs so carefully balanced and audible against the theme.

As the Allegro con fuoco kicks in, this is the second performance where attention to balance is once again proving crucial. We are hearing all parts here and Florent Didier is lending the music a Gallic elegance that knits the variations so well together.

There are one or two little inconsistencies that start to appear as we progress through the Adagio con Moto but hat early sense of energy and spirit remains in tact throughout.

Sonorous trombone sounds in the Grave and this has a haunting, distant atmosphere that is beguiling in its own way.

The Vivo opens well and again there is so much rhythmic vigour about this. Just the odd lapse in precision here and there but fugue is carefully balanced with the individual voices heard with clarity.

The ending is just a touch underwhelming but there has been so much to enjoy here.

Overall: Another demonstration of what a fine band Whitburn has together at the present time with Florent Didier also making his mark in a performance of impressive atmosphere and detail. Not without the odd blemish but this was so engaging.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Whitburn (Florent Didier)

A commanding opening from Whitburn certainly captures the attention, with just a slight blur in the quaver lines. The Allegro is muscular in approach, which provides an effective contrast to languid jazzy lines to follow. This is superbly constructed by the MD, with plenty of space to let the soloists shine.

The following Vivo is again bold, with a good deal of crisp detail coming across. The Grave is finely balanced, with no shortage of passion on show in the contrasting dynamic sections. The transition into and around the fugue is somewhat less convincing, with not absolutely everything lining up. Recovering well however, we reach an exciting conclusion.

A very different performance to the previous band, with gripping, intense sounds, yet still admirably controlled and expressive in the quieter passages overall. Whether or not this will pay off will be down to the adjudicators!

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 4: Whitburn (Florent Didier)

Saturday 6, 11:07:00

3. Fairey (Garry Cutt)

On Stage: Garry Cutt with Fairey

A fine opening and there is a dignity and presence about this that immediately grabs the attention.

The detail is the clearest we have heard so far and the dynamics are used so intelligently to play to the acoustic of the Hall...but then Garry Cutt has been here a few times before!

One of the noticeable things about this is the sense of shape that the M.D. is bringing to the music. It flows beautifully and the transitions between the variations fuse so seamlessly. The detail off ensemble is impressive with great work from the trombone section.

Such sonorous sounds in the Grave and the Vivo simply flies with so much energy and onward momentum. The devilish fugue is despatched with confidence and individual entries are convincing. The detail is occasionally blurred but only momentarily and the approach to the closing bars is breathlessly exciting leading to a superb final flourish.

Overall: Playing of both intelligence and musical conviction from Fairey. This was so well constructed with some striking individual work on display.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Fairey (Garry Cutt)

Fairey take to the stage with a controlled opening with nothing overdone, which flows along nicely. Bubbling with excitement, the first Vivo reveals some previously unheard detail so far today. The jazz solo motifs interlock stylishly as the music progresses, with more fine technical work evident in the second Vivo, yet still so balanced.

As we progress through the Grave, we enjoy a gloriously sonorous band tone. The fugue again proves excellently measured (just the odd moment of untidiness perhaps?), before the band finely opens up to full power in a gripping final statement.

'Control' proved the key word of Fairey's performance today — and it paid off splendidly! Finely gauged technical work combined with deliciously rich expressiveness made for a very enjoyable performance.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No 3: Fairey (Garry Cutt)

Saturday 6, 10:46:39

2. City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) M1 (Nigel Seaman)

On Stage: Nigel Seaman with City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) M1

The opening paragraphs are not always quite comfortable and as we progress through the Con fuoco we miss the clarity of detail that is so crucial. There's a great spirit about this though and the debutantes are giving us so much commitment and energy.

The Vivo progresses well and the M.D. doesn't allow the Grave to become a dirge. Occasional intonation issue in the upper cornets but this moves on well despite one or two slightly uncomfortable entries.

The tempo wavers in the later Vivo as the band desperately tries to get the flying entries in with the results sometimes appearing loose and scrambled. This is edge of the seat stuff for the band.

The ending is good and there was so much energy about this but the intricacy of the writing sometimes took its toll.

Overall: A creditable debut for City of Cardiff. We were missing the detail and clarity at times and it did become progressively looser in the latter stages but so much sprit on display.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) M1 (Nigel Seaman)

City of Cardiff begin with intent, and we appreciate the effort to bring out the dynamic contrasts as we enter the Allegro. Soloists do well overall, with some enjoyable playing on show, though the jazz motifs could perhaps be allowed more freedom to capture.

The Vivo proves exciting in it's drive with plenty of commitment, though some detail doesn't carry. Some small intonation moments creep in during the Grave, though the sustained sounds are rich in tone.

The following Vivo and fugue drives forward well in general, though once again some inner detail again does not project, and the ensemble is not always secure. Some adrenaline builds towards an exciting close, if one that slightly ran away from the band

In all, a performance that City of Cardiff will be proud of. The big picture was well shaped, and the band played with true commitment. Just a few untidy moments took the sheen off.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No2: City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) M1 (Nigel Seaman)

Saturday 6, 10:22:57

1. Desford Colliery (Michael Fowles)

On Stage: Michael Fowles with Desford Colliery

A controlled and musically imposing opening but one that already highlights the difficulty of projecting the detail in the cavernous space of the Royal Albert Hall. Lovely sonorous sounds in the theme and the Allegro con fuoco professes with a driving sense of urgency.

There are one or two unsettled moments in the Adagio but it finds its way again even though the detail is not always totally clear.

There's a fine sense of presence about the Grave...this is beautifully sonorous and stately.

The Vivo sets off at a cracking pace and this is impressive stuff. Holy moley the ensuing solos are taxing and it doesn't all quite dovetail to perfection but the ending builds up fine momentum and energy.

Overall: A quality opening marker from Desford although one that has also highlighted the many pitfalls of what is a deceptively challenging test piece.

Christopher Thomas

In Performance: Desford Colliery (Michael Fowles)

Desford begin with intent, as bold, balanced sounds begin to emerge. The Adagio con moto flows well, and the jazzy motifs in the beautifully performed solo lines coming across well (if a touch quickly perhaps), with the trombone solo being a particular highlight. The Vivo section proves nimble and confident, though perhaps some of the finer detail gets lost in the acoustic slightly. As we move to the Grave, rich sustained sounds are evident, with engaging dynamic contrasts capturing the drama of the score. The fugue reveals fine technical work, though some detail again gets lost in the cavernous hall. Rich sounds bring the performance to a thrilling close.

In all, some admirable playing from Desford with a fine band sound, and will provide a solid opening marker. Just the occasional untidy moment proved unforgiving in this space.

Thomas Dunne

Draw No1: Desford Colliery (Michael Fowles)

Saturday 6, 09:59:31

Draw: 2018 National Championships of Great Britain

The draw for the 2018 National Championships of Great Britain has taken place at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Saturday 6th October
Test Piece: 'Handel in the Band' — Dr Kenneth Downie
Draw: 8.30am
Commence: 10.00am

Adjudicators: Paul Holland, Alan Morrison, Luc Vertommen

1. Desford Colliery (Michael Fowles)
2. City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) M1 (Nigel Seaman)
3. Fairey (Garry Cutt)
4. Whitburn (Florent Didier)
5. Tongwynlais Temperance (Andreas Kratz)
6. Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas J. Childs)
7. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)
8. Foden's (Russell Gray)
9. Flowers (Steve Sykes)
10. NASUWT Riverside (David Roberts)
11. Woodfalls (Dr Robert Childs)
12. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)
13. Co-operative Funeralcare (Frans Violet)
14. RMT Fishburn (David Hirst)
15. Brighouse and Rastrick (Prof David King)
16. Cory (Philip Harper)
17. Grimethorpe Colliery (Allan Withington)
18. Friary Guildford (Chris King)
19. Thundersley (Nigel Taken)
20. Virtuosi GUS (Adam Cooke)

Saturday 6, 07:33:03

This is London calling...

It's an early morning wake up call in the heart of the capital — and not just for the 4BR team. Players and conductors of 20 bands will be wiping the sleep for their eyes to prepare for a quick bite to eat and a warm up for the contest day ahead.

Someone will have to play early today — but who will it be?

Lots to look forward to with a fine test-piece that will trouble bands not at the top of their game — with an added bit of pressure on the flugel, solo trombone and solo cornet especially.

The draw takes place around 8.30am with the first band taking to the stage with the National Anthem tucked under their arms at 10.00am.

Now — where are those red hymn books...?

Friday 5, 15:33:49

Contest previews:

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