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2019 North of England Regional Championships
Previews & Predictions

4BR's Steve Jack looks forward to the qualification battles for London and Cheltenham at Durham's Gala Theatre this weekend.

Gala Theatre

When these championships moved from Darlington’s utilitarian Dolphin Centre to the more acoustically pleasing surroundings of Durham City’s Gala Theatre five years ago, you could almost hear the cheers from Lindisfarne to the Humber Bridge.

It signalled that the North of England was entering a new era; gaining a home that was worthy of one of the most historic brass band regions of the country. It was also long overdue - although there weren’t too many major brass band events where you could play and then go for a swim within minutes of coming off stage.

The move has given the event a huge boost - as has the way in which the regional committee led by secretary Tony Griffiths and his hard working team have also pushed things ahead – from new trophies, programmes and acoustic help, to the warm welcome offered to visitors and the press. 

Excellent facilities

With excellent facilities (warm up rooms included) the region now has a base that it can welcome the world without feeling embarrassed, whilst the 500 seat auditorium is just the right size for a banding movement that is battling hard to prosper.

The North of England may be the smallest region in terms of numbers, but it is holding up well. 

40 bands will compete this year (in 2018 the terrible weather conditions saw 38 brave the elements), whilst there were 40 in 2017 and 39 in 2016. 

The move has given the event a huge boost - as has the way in which the regional committee led by secretary Tony Griffiths and his hard working team have also pushed things ahead – from new trophies, programmes and acoustic help, to the warm welcome offered to visitors and the press. 

The local contest scene is picking up (headed by the lucrative Doctor Martin Wainstone Cup) and National success is also becoming much more encouraging - although the Albert Hall continues to be a long journey for little return. 

2018 saw Tewit Silver produced an excellent performance to come runner-up in the Fourth Section at Cheltenham, with North Skelton claiming third in the Second and Barton Community coming fifth in the Third. 

That was a fine return and continues to reflect the progress being made in bandrooms around the region with a number of talented younger conductors also starting to come through.


nasuwt
Hoping for a hat-trick: 2018 Champion NASUWT Riverside

Championship Section:
Test Piece: Seascapes (Ray Steadman-Allen)
Sunday 17th March

Adjudicators: Dr Brett Baker & Alan Morrison
Draw: 12.00pm
Commences: 1.30pm approx, following the Second Section

Easington Colliery (Daniel Brooks)
East Yorkshire Motor Services (Stig Maersk)
Fishburn (Paul Lovatt Cooper)
Harrogate (Leigh Baker)
NASUWT Riverside (David Roberts)
Reg Vardy (Russell Gray)
Shepherd Building Group (Richard Wilton)
York Railway Institute (David Lancaster)
Westoe (Jason Smith)

Depending on how febrile your poetic imagination, the final movement of Ray Steadman-Allen’s ‘Seascapes’ can evoke a homely North-East connection. 

John Masefield’s poem ‘Cargoes’ refers to a dirty British coaster, ‘...butting through the Channel in the mad March days, with a cargo of Tyne coal, road-rails, pig-lead, firewood, iron-ware and cheap tin trays’.

The coal industry may have long gone in these parts, but the ‘mad March days’ haven’t - with a fevered atmosphere sure to be found as nine bands take try to claim the Regional title and one of the two Albert Hall qualification places. 

It’s sure to be a keen battle, with Brett Baker joined in the box by one of the region’s most respected musicians in Alan Morrison who has played, conducted and adjudicated here in the past.  Both have an extensive knowledge of the complex score and will know just where bands can excel as well as come up short. 

The finals have not been a happy hunting ground of late for qualifiers, with Reg Vardy’s fifth place finish in 2009 the last time a representative got a mention from the stage. 

John Masefield’s poem ‘Cargoes’ refers to a dirty British coaster, ‘...butting through the Channel in the mad March days, with a cargo of Tyne coal, road-rails, pig-lead, firewood, iron-ware and cheap tin trays’.

4BR Prediction

The shock waves that would be felt in these parts if either defending champion NASUWT Riverside or perennial favourites Reg Vardy were not to win would be like the earthquake of Theresa May getting her Brexit deal through Parliament with a huge majority.

That said, there were plenty of tremors last year after Reg Vardy was disqualified for a registration infringement. That burbled along with little hope of being successfully overturned like a back bencher’s Article 50 amendment until it was eventually confirmed and Fishburn took their place at the Albert Hall.

Plenty of determination then to put the record straight for the former winners, although they will be up against a confident defending champion in NASUWT Riverside. 

It will be fascinating to compare the interpretations of Russell Gray and David Roberts; the former hoping to bag a 2018 hat-trick of wins following success in Blackpool and Scotland, the latter looking to help create a bit of three in a row history with his band.  

There are however at least a couple of contenders that can upset things - especially East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS) who are building up an excellent musical relationship with Stig Maersk.  Their last win was a decade ago, so another success is long overdue. 

You have to go back to 2001 for the last time Fishburn was crowned champion, but they have also been making steady progress of late, whilst fresh from impressing many with Elland in Yorkshire, Danny Brooks will head Easington’s attempt to qualify.

Shepherd Building Group is now a band more than capable of latching onto the coat tails of the best here, whilst our dark horse is Harrogate. 

1. Reg Vardy
2. NASUWT Riverside
3. EYMS
4. Fishburn
5. Shepherd Building Group
6. Easington Colliery

Dark Horse: Harrogate



2018 Champion: Harrogate

First Section:
Test Piece: Symphony of Marches (Gilbert Vinter)
Saturday 16th March

Adjudicators: Stan Lippeatt & Alan Fernie
Draw: 3.00pm 
Commences: 4.30pm approx, following the Third Section

Ashington Colliery (Nigel Steadman)
GT Group Peterlee (Ian Langthorne)
Houghton Brass (Tom Gibson)
J36 Brass (Andrew Warriner)
Kirkbymoorside Town (Sarah Woodward)
Ripon City (Mark Sidwell)

Based on what we’ve already heard, ‘Symphony of Marches’ has proved to be an immensely difficult test of First Section realities as well as potential Championship Section ambitions.

It has shone a pretty uncomfortable light on conductors - with many seemingly hell bent on trying to re-invent a score that is almost a perfect example of compositional construction.

Those that have shown it respect (and it can be tweaked with a subtle touch) have been rewarded. Those who haven’t have had their backsides spanked.

You wonder what the experienced duo of Stan Lippeatt and Alan Fernie make of it all in the box after listening to the six performances. Stan’s take on it in winning at the Yorkshire Area with Hatfield & Askern Colliery was one of admirable musical common sense. 

He opened his score, took note of the tempo and dynamic markings and let the music speak for itself. 

It may not be a bad option for those wishing to get to Cheltenham in what looks like a small but well matched group of rivals.

4BR Prediction:

It’s hard to look no further than Houghton Brass for the title honours. A super band moving with purpose through the sections, the 2015 Third Section National Champion continues to improve on each contest outing. A remarkable fifth successive trip to Cheltenham looks on the cards if they play to form. 

J36 Brass has also made fine progress since its formation in 2016 and has started to find its feet at this level. If they have built on their foundation laying performance at Brass at the Guild they could also head back down the M5 in September for a third time.  

Relegated Kirkbymoorside Town may just be in the mood to create a little bit of an upset and repeat their victory of 2015, whilst Ripon will also want to show that they have built on their Brass at the Guild outing.  

GT Group Peterlee has been a consistent contender in the last few years, while our dark horse of Ashington Colliery welcomes back Nigel Steadman to the podium after a ‘short’ break of ten years!

1. Houghton Brass
2. Kirkbymoorside Town
3. J36 Brass 
4. GT Group Peterlee
5. Ripon City

Dark Horse: Ashington Colliery


Skelton
2018 Champion: North Skelton

Second Section:
Test Piece: Rise of the Phoenix (Darrol Barry)
Sunday 17th March

Adjudicators: Alan Fernie & Anne Crookston 
Draw: 9.00am
Commences:10.30am prompt

Barton Community (Gary Oglesby)
Cockerton (Andrew Hunter)
Durham Miners Association (Stuart Gray)
Dunston Silver (Dean Jones)
East Riding of Yorkshire (Gary Hallas)
Ferryhill Town (Gareth Sykes)
Felling (Jason Smith)
NASUWT Concert Brass (Andrew Hall)
North Skelton (Lewis Wilkinson)

The late Darrol Barry’s ‘Rise of the Phoenix’ has been the undoubted hit of the qualifying series - proving what a huge loss he was to the brass band movement.

The work, with its obvious but clever references to his namesake John Barry, is crammed full of great tunes, pulsating energy and percussive drive, as well as lyrical solos for flugel and cornet (not forgetting a tasty little bass trom part), all put together in his inimitable style.

With last year’s qualifiers (North Skelton and J36 Brass) finishing a great third and commendable tenth at Cheltenham, there will be high hopes that this year’s representatives will do even better.

And looking at the calibre on show, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

Alan Fernie and Anne Crookston should enjoy a great time of it in the box as they sort out what looks like nine well matched contenders. It should be a cracker.

The work, with its obvious but clever references to his namesake John Barry, is crammed full of great tunes, pulsating energy and percussive drive, as well as lyrical solos for flugel and cornet (not forgetting a tasty little bass trom part), all put together in his inimitable style.

4BR Prediction

Last year North Skelton took the title by storm and followed it up with an excellent podium finish at Cheltenham. If have built on that they should be the short-priced favourites to retain their crown. 

However the other eight contenders will have a real say in it.

Barton Community was only formed in 2012 but after winning two consecutive Third Section Area titles they now have their chance to flex their competitive muscles in the Second Section under MD Gary Oglesby. They won’t be out of place after that fine fifth place finish at Cheltenham last year.  

Cockerton can trace their history back to 1863, but they have also been making significant progress under Andrew Hunter as they seek their first finals appearances since 2011.

Durham Miners will have been boosted by their runner-up finish at the Durham League contest in February, whilst Ferryhill Town has also been in consistent form under Gareth Sykes.

Dunston Silver has linked up with Dean Jones from Crofton to spearhead their challenge whilst East Riding of Yorkshire makes its annual contest appearance hoping to emerge as a dark horse under the baton of Garry Hallas. 

In contrast, NASUWT Riverside Concert Brass has already dipped its toes into the competitive waters this season coming a solid eighth at Butlins, whilst its good to see Felling back after withdrawing for the contest last year. 

1. North Skelton
2. Cockerton
3. Durham Miners Association
4. Barton Community
5. Ferryhill
6. Dunston

Dark Horse: East Riding of Yorkshire


Barton
2018 Champion: Barton Community

Third Section:
Test Piece: First Suite in Eb (Gustav Holst)
Saturday 16th March

Adjudicators: Dr Brett Baker & Stan Lippeatt
Draw: 12.30pm
Commences: 1.35pm approx, following the Fourth Section

Bearpark & Esh Colliery (Phillip Tait)
Billingham Silver (Vaughan Evans)
Cleethorpes (Brian Harper)
Ellington Colliery (Claire Winter)
Jayess Newbiggin (Andrew Griffiths)
Knaresborough Silver (Nick Garrett)
Swinton & District Excelsior (Robin Rutter)
Trimdon Concert Brass (William Harrison)

It may not be as familiar to some as his ‘Second Suite in F’, but Holst’s ‘First Suite in Eb’ is also a work that hides its treachery beneath its beauty.

It may look easy, but as has been shown up and down the country so far, it is anything but - the three movements of brass banding basics wrapped up like a Kinder Egg with an alligator in side to snap off fiddling fingers. 

Good, solid bands led by good solid conductors with a lack of ego to think they know better than the composer have done well on it.

It’s not rocket science, but too many performances have blown up on the launch pad of the opening eight bars of the ‘Chaconne’.    

Thereafter it asks questions of players in all sections - as well as the MD; with the light touch of the ‘Intermezzo’ and the brio of the final ‘March’.  

Heavy handedness in terms of dynamics and tempi robs the musical picture, whilst those who can evoke a little bit of Edwardian nobility in the playing may just gain reward.

It’s not rocket science, but too many performances have blown up on the launch pad of the opening eight bars of the ‘Chaconne’.    

4BR Prediction:

This could be a close contest with at least five bands vying for the two qualification places.

Jayess Newbiggin is packed with experience and has continued to produce solid performances as they build under Andrew Griffiths following their promotion from the Fourth Section last year. 

Knaresborough Silver will be looking to return to Cheltenham to continue their encouraging development under Nick Garrett, whilst Ellington Colliery put in a fine performance in coming sixth at Butlins earlier this season. 

Cleethorpes had an early season run-out at the NEMBBA Contest so will be keen to show they have built on that (and will hope that the weather doesn’t stop their bus picking them up) whilst Trimdon could be a bit of a dark horse.

Bearpark & Esh took the honours at the Durham League event earlier in the season, whilst Billingham and Swinton & District Excelsior will be looking for a competitive boost.  
 
1. Knaresborough Silver
2. Ellington Colliery
3. Jayess Newbiggin
4. Cleethorpes
5. Bearpark & Esh Colliery
6. Billingham Silver

Dark Horse: Trimdon


Spennymorr
2018 Champion: Spennymoor Town

Fourth Section:
Test Piece: Stantonbury Festival (Ray Steadman-Allan)
Saturday 16th March

Adjudicators: Benjamin Richeton & Anne Crookston
Draw: 9.30am
Commences: 11.00am prompt

Backworth Colliery (Daniel Laverick)
Burneside Brass (Laurie Johnston)
Craghead Colliery (Stephen Goddard)
Lanchester (John Weirs)
Marske (James Chisholm)
Penrith Town Band (Ian Butterworth)
Spennymoor Town (Fiona Casewell)
Tewit Silver Band (Martin Hall)

Reports from the bandrooms around the region indicate that bands have enjoyed rehearsing ‘Stantonbury Festival’.

Packed with interest both technically and musically it is a tricky ask at this level - crafted so that the best bands can shine. 

It is measured, considered writing (the cornets rarely venture above the stave), the dynamics set in context with the percussion requirements within the scope of two nimble players. 

Each of the three movements ask questions of contrast and style - the opening marked ‘Andante’ but with an underlying rhythmic pulse set from the opening bars. 

The central ‘Moderato’ opens decisively with a hint of ‘kilted’ inspiration intertwined in its structure before closing tenderly, whilst the third, marked ‘Allegro’, is bells and bluster to open before heading with a touch of bombast and clashing verve to its close.  

Anne Crookston and Benjamin Richeton will be keenly listening for all of this and more then.

The central ‘Moderato’ opens decisively with a hint of ‘kilted’ inspiration intertwined in its structure before closing tenderly, whilst the third, marked ‘Allegro’, is bells and bluster to open before heading with a touch of bombast and clashing verve to its close.  

4BR Prediction

If there was anything like a racing certainty in contesting then based on recent form your money would go straight on Tewit Silver. 

Since making their debut last year they’ve claimed three wins and a trio of runner-up spots, including victory at Butlins in January. A super ensemble led by a super conductor, they will surely be the band to beat. 

However, as with any horse race (and just look what has happened at Cheltenham this week) favourites can come a cropper, so plenty to play for, with the likes of Spennymoor Town keen to make their mark once again and join their rivals back at the finals.

Burneside Brass has been a consistent outfit whilst Lanchester will look to build on their recent appearance at the Durham League contest alongside Craghead Colliery.  

Backworth came a very encouraging fifth there, whilst there are dark horse possibilities in the likes of Marske who would love to get back to the National Final for the first time since 1997, and Penrith who make their annual pilgrimage to the Area contest. 

1. Tewit Silver
2. Spennymoor Town
3. Lanchester
4. Burneside Brass
5. Backworth Colliery
6. Craghead Colliery

Dark Horses: Marske Brass and Penrith

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Grimethorpe Colliery Band -

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Grimethorpe Colliery Band -

Sunday 24 March • Kettering Lighthouse Theatre. Thurston Drive, Kettering NN15 6PB


Milton Keynes Brass

March 23 • We are seeking a First Baritone player to complete our happy band. We rehearse on Tuesday evenings in Loughton, MK (just off A5) with other rehearsals arranged in the run up to contests.


Lydbrook Band

March 22 • Championship Section Lydbrook Band have vacancies for a 2nd Baritone and Kit player to join our friendly band. We have a great set of future concerts, contests and tour to Poland. Under the musical directorship of Ian Holmes and Glyn William


Tingley Brass Band

March 21 • Tingley Band are looking to recruit 3 solo cornet players to complete our front row.. In addition we have vacancies for a euphonium and solo trombone.. We rehearse on Tuesday & Thursday from 19.30 to 21.00


Stephen Tighe

ARCM, LDBBA, (Dip)PFS.
Adjudicator / Music Director / Arranger