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2019 National Championship of Great Britain
Section 2 - Preview & prediction

4BR Editor Iwan Fox looks at the amalgam of demands hidden in plain sight from Edward Gregson that will test the bands hoping to lift the Second Section title on Sunday afternoon.

Champers
One band will be popping the celebrations champers for a special Occasion this weekend

Section 2:
Sunday 15th September
Draw: tbc
Commence: At the conclusion of Section 3

Test Piece: Occasion (Edward Gregson)
Adjudicators: Nicholas Garman, John Maines, Steve Sykes

Bedford Town (Craig Patterson)
Besses Boys (James Holt) 
Bollington (Peter Christian)
Chapeltown Silver Prize (Sam Fisher)
Coalburn Silver (Gareth Bowman)
Cockerton Prize Silver (Andy Hunter) 
Epsom & Ewell Silver (Paul Graham)  
Farnworth & Walkden (Luke Pallister)
Gresley Colliery (Craig Stevens) 
Newmains & District (Michael Marzella) 
Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)
North Skelton (Lewis Wilkinson)
Rolls Royce (Derby) (Graham Cardwell)
Royal Buckley Town (Keith Jones)
Sidmouth Town (Adrian Harvey)
South Yorkshire Police (Leigh Baker) 
Tendring (Antony Sanders)
Weston Brass (Carl Whiteoak)

Middleton
2018 Champion Middleton

With the announcement that Edward Gregson has been commissioned to write the test-piece for the 2020 British Open Championship, it seems appropriate that the Second Section bands have the opportunity to perform a work he also wrote for a contest event over 30 years ago.

‘Occasion’ was first performed at the 1986 National Youth Championships of Great Britain and is a cleverly realised trio of earlier inspiration linked to what was a new second movement. 

Instead of a toaster?

The opening 'Fanfare' was written for the 1981 wedding of Gregson's friend and fellow composer Paul Patterson. 

Many have done the same thing over the years - perhaps because it’s cheaper than buying the happy couple a toaster, although some have turned out to be more successful than others.

The ‘Bridal Chorus’ from Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin’ for instance acts as a saturnine prelude to the doomed love tryst of Elsa and the titular hero, although on a happier note there are the dislocated rhythms (deliberately so) of Derek Bourgeois’ ‘Serenade’, used (although it has since become something of an urban myth) to accompany him and his wife, (who had a broken ankle) down the aisle. 

Many have done the same thing over the years - perhaps because it’s cheaper than buying the happy couple a toaster, although some have turned out to be more successful than others.

Patterson was still a champion of contemporary music at the time of his nuptials (‘Chromascope’ and ‘Cataclysm’), so the traditional sounding ‘Fanfares’ (with echoes of Gregson’s earlier ‘Prelude for an Occasion’) must have come as a bit of a shock; steady but vigourous in pace, bold yet crisply defined in dynamic.   

Gregson
The composer Edward Gregson     

‘Festivities’ that follows was the new addendum; as if the happy couple are being whisked off to the wedding reception by a rather enthusiastic chauffeur.  Marked ‘With vigour’, it’s nearly twice as fast, but light and flowing with urgency, the music playfully passed around the ensemble and main soloists.  

‘Elegy’ is music for a completely different sort of occasion; a memorial remembrance perhaps with its muted timbres (literally to start) and melancholic falls in lead lines like knowing sighs of sadness.  

The flugel and solo cornet evoke with tenderness, building to a majestic climax full of sonority before falling away to an icy close (marked non vibr.) and one last warm memory recalled on the flugel and trombone. 

Plain sight

The finale is a joyful ‘Dance’ - full of life, as if guests take to the floor at a wedding reception, hitching up skirts and lowering levels of embarrassment.  

It’s lively and extrovert, although the meter changes at times catch the unwary.  Everyone contributes to the overall gaiety of the music, pulsating with energy all the way to the close.

‘Elegy’ is music for a completely different sort of occasion; a memorial remembrance perhaps with its muted timbres (literally to start) and melancholic falls in lead lines like knowing sighs of sadness.  

The work was used at the Third Section National Finals work in 1989, so it may have surprised some that it is being revived at a higher level here.

However, Gregson’s innate ability to hide testing demands in plain sight will mean that there will be plenty for Nicholas Garman, John Maines and Steve Sykes to consider in the box.

Boliington
Bollington claimed the North West Area title

North West

Last year’s winner Middleton led a strong challenge from the region, so hopes will be high that the trio of Area champion, Bollington, Besses Boys and Farnworth & Walkden will do well again. 

The experienced Peter Christian leads Bollington, and after coming fourth last year they will be confident of reaching the higher echelons of the results table once more. 

Besses Boys return to Cheltenham for the first time since 2012 having shown solid form under James Holt’s baton at both Butlins and Buxton, whilst Farnworth & Walkden will be keen to make an impression under Luke Pallister. 

Last weekend he was tackling the challenges on stage as a player at the British Open with Leyland off number 1. He won’t want that again.

Yorkshire

The White Rose county last tasted success in 2016 and sends a competitive duo south in the shape of Area champion South Yorkshire Police and Chapeltown Silver.

The constabulary representatives were fine value for their win at Huddersfield, and with the crafty musical qualities of Leigh Baker able to pick a pocket or two to gain extra points from the judges, they will be confident of improving on last year’s seventh place finish.

Sam Fisher is also a conductor gaining valuable experience on the contest stage with Chapeltown (as well as in the judge’s tent) and with a solid showing at the NEBBA contest earlier this year they could be a good each-way bet for a top-six finish.

Sidmouth
It will be a fifth Cheltenham appearance for Sidmouth under MD Adrian Harvey 

West of England

West of England hopes of claiming a first National title since 2011 rest with the impressive pair of Sidmouth Town and Weston Brass.

It’s Sidmouth’s fifth Finals appearance under MD Adrian Harvey after they qualified in fine style at Torquay, whilst you have to go back to 1989 for the last time Weston’s name was featured in the programme. 

They have been on their travels this year with appearances at Oxford and Hebden Bridge, but all their focus will be on this particular ‘Occasion’ on the weekend.

London & Southern Counties 

A trio of solid looking contenders qualified at Stevenage - led by Epsom & Ewell Silver conducted by Paul Graham, brother of composer Peter (wonder if he wrote him a wedding march?). 

They return to Cheltenham for the first time since 2013 bolstered by a good showing at the scaba contest.

A trio of solid looking contenders qualified at Stevenage - led by Epsom & Ewell Silver conducted by Paul Graham, brother of composer Peter (wonder if he wrote him a wedding march?).  

The winners there were Tendring, a band that has usually just made an annual contest appearance at Stevenage. 

However, they’ve now won two out of the last three contests they’ve entered, so who knows what they may achieve as they return under the baton of Antony Sanders for the first time since 2016.

Another band making a welcome return is Bedford Town under Craig Patterson, who built on their early season outing to Butlins to secure their Cheltenham spot for the first time since 2011.


More celebrations for Newmains as they cliamed the Scottish title

Scotland

Not a great result last year for the Scottish representatives (11th & 16th), although the two bands making the long trip south this weekend come with form and ambition as they seek to take the trophy back over Hadrian’s Wall for the first time since 1997. 

Champions Newmains & District are making their third consecutive appearance - and won the Fourth Section in 2017. Since then they’ve continued to build under Mike Marzella’s expert direction, winning consecutive Scottish Championship titles and coming fourth in the Third Section last year. The dark horse of the field perhaps?

Since then they’ve continued to build under Mike Marzella’s expert direction, winning consecutive Scottish Championship titles and coming fourth in the Third Section last year. The dark horse of the field perhaps?

Another runner worth a bob or two is Coalburn Silver, a great organisation that loves an away trip (they played in the European Championship Challenge Contest in 2017). 

Gareth Bowman continues to develop a never ending supply of talented youngsters to replenish his ranks - and all are sure to be keen to make their mark here.

North of England

One of the form bands to watch out for may well be North Skelton. They came third last year and return an even stronger outfit under MD Lewis Wilkinson, having won on their last three contest outings, including Buxton and Durham.

They are joined by Cockerton, who also enjoyed encouraging outings at Buxton, where they were runner-up, as well as at the Picnic in Park and Durham events.

They return for the first time since 2011 under the direction of Andy Hunter.


A confident Welsh champion Newport Borough heads to Cheltenham

Wales

Welsh banding enjoyed a purple patch of complete dominance here from 2007 to 2010 and also won again in 2013 and 2015, so a proud history to maintain for Area champion Newport Borough and fellow qualifier Royal Buckley Town.

Both travel in confident mood, with Newport boasting a record of five wins from their last seven contest appearances under MD Robin Hackett and their North Wales counterparts, making their first appearance since 2009, putting in a solid show at Buxton led by the experienced Keith Jones.  

Midlands

Midlands hopes of a second National success 2004 rest with Area champion Gresley Colliery and returnees Rolls Royce (Derby).

Gresley is a band back on the up under Craig Stevens, having posted a top-six finish at Butlins prior to their success at Bedworth, whilst Graham Cardwell (MD since 2006) continues to lead the ‘Rollers’ in fine style, with a runner-up spot at the NEMBBA contest also included on the CV this season.


4BR Prediction

Who will win?

It’s certainly going to be a special ‘occasion’ for one band - although just who that might be is difficult to call.

The likes of South Yorkshire Police, Bollington and North Skelton look potential podium finishers if they hit top form, but Gresley Colliery, Newport Borough and Sidmouth Town may have something to say about that alongside our dark horse of Newmains & District.

1. South Yorkshire Police
2. Bollington
3. North Skelton
4. Gresley Colliery
5. Newport Borough
6. Sidmouth Town

Dark Horse: Newmains & District

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