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2023 National Championships of Great Britain
Third Section preview

A ghostly reminder of the human cost of both necessity and bureaucracy faces the bands in the Third Section on Sunday morning.


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During the Second World War, the community of an isolated village on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, which had been recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, effectively disappeared.

They weren’t bombed into oblivion by the enemy. Instead, in 1943, and with the future planning for the D Day invasion of Europe well advanced, the hamlet of Imber, first settled before the Romans arrived, was evacuated by Government decree to allow military exercises led by the American Army to take place.

150 people were moved out, never to return – even long after peace had been won. 

Today it remains under the control of the Ministry of Defence as part of its closed-off Urban Warfare Training area. Nearly all its original building remain although many have suffered ordnance damage.  At its centre stands the early 14th century Church of St. Giles. 


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Ghostly reminder

Visitors are allowed on the nearest Sunday to 1st September (St Giles’ Day), whilst earlier this year a former inhabitant who had been baptised at the Church as an infant was buried there.   

Although Government records now show that it was the intention to allow the inhabitants back, over the years various campaigns have failed in their efforts to see the village brought back to life.

It remains a ghostly reminder of the human cost of both necessity and bureaucracy.

It remains a ghostly reminder of the human cost of both necessity and bureaucracy.

Echoes

In that there are also echoes in other communities throughout the country – from the 114 or so Category D communities bulldozed in County Durham in the 1950s, to the infamous flooding of the Trweryn Valley and the loss village of Capel Celyn in 1965.

That village remains beneath the waters like the lost city of Ys (the mythical tale made famous by an opera by Edoard Lalo and a brass band overture arrangement by Frank Wright).   

Anniversary

Over the years story of Imber has been retold directly or indirectly in film, literature, music and television. 

Christopher Bond’s (above) engaging composition was commissioned by Bratton Silver Band in celebration of their 160th anniversary with funding from Arts Council National Lottery Projects Grants Fund and the Brass Bands England Norman Jones Trust Fund. 

‘The Lost Village of Imber’  is written in much the same way as the composer’s clever use of melody, texture and balance heard in his popular ‘Neverland’  – the scoring in each of the three movements such that a few absent lines don’t rob the music of its structural integrity. 

It’s playful (with a hint of a Cornish/Penlee-esque folk song), passionately industrious and oblivious to what the future holds. 

Joyful oblivion

‘On Imber Downe’  portrays the small rural community prior to evacuation; a village the resonates with a sense of ‘joyful’ togetherness – from the sound of the blacksmith’s anvil (the last person buried in the church earlier this year was the great nephew of the village blacksmith) to the cowbell of distant cattle and the bells of the church – the spiritual heart of the village.

It’s playful (with a hint of a Cornish/Penlee-esque folk song), passionately industrious and oblivious to what the future holds. 


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Mysterious relic

‘The Church of St Giles’ (above) tells of the human desolation that follows – the building becoming a mysterious relic (a thumping timp beats out lost time), as well as a beacon of hope for a future return. 

Led by the euphonium, it is music seeping with apprehension, loss and forlorn hope, the flugel, cornet and horn echo long lost voices before what sounds like a Victorian hymn speaks of potential future salvation.  

The composer draws two dichotomies together for the third movement, ‘Imemerie Aeternum’  (eternal memory). 

Bravado and swagger

Here he marks the arrival of the military forces (reminiscent of the tread of the Roman Legions on the Appian Way) complete with explosive intent, ‘bravado and swagger’. 

The more peaceful memory of the village isn’t lost though, with a triumphant ending and ‘scintillating’ final drive of unextinguished hope to close. 

The more peaceful memory of the village isn’t lost though, with a triumphant ending and ‘scintillating’ final drive of unextinguished hope to close. 

Interestingly, the composer Christopher Bond will be in the box (although at Cheltenham it’s a huge open topped tent) alongside the experienced pairing of Duncan Beckley and Stanley Malcolm Lippeatt.  No arguments about the final result then?

Title winners

Last year it was the Skelmersdale Band from the North West region that was triumphant – the third time since 2010 that the trophy has headed to the Red Rose side of the Pennines.  

Interestingly, the composer Christopher Bond will be in the box (although at Cheltenham it’s a huge open topped tent) alongside the experienced pairing of Duncan Beckley and Stanley Malcolm Lippeatt.  

The White Rose of Yorkshire can also boast successes, with wins in 2011, 2016, 2017, 2018, whilst the North of England (2015 & 2021), London & SC (2012 & 2013) and Wales (2014) have also enjoyed victory celebrations.

A band from the West of England last won in 2009, whilst Scotland’s last victory was way back in 2000. 

As for this year? 

Lots of well led representative bands will fancy their chances on this piece – although they will all hope that unlike the village of Imber, when they return with the National Trophy in their grasp there will be plenty of local people coming out of their homes to cheer them.

Iwan Fox


Third Section:
Sunday 17th September
Starts: 9.00am
Test piece: The Lost Village of Imber (Christopher Bond)
Adjudicators: Duncan Beckley, Christopher Bond, Stanley Malcolm Lippeatt  

Barton Community Band
Cleobury Mortimer Concert Brass
Clifton & Lightcliffe
Cross Keys Silver
Huddersfield & Ripponden
Hungerford Town
Fairlop Brass
Formby
Hawk Green
Jayess Newbiggin Brass
Long Eaton Silver Prize
Morecambe
Newtown Silver
Porthleven Town
Selkirk Silver
Shotts St Patricks
Simon Langton Brass
Stourport on Severn
Verwood Town Band
Wroughton Silver

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Dr Brett Baker

BSc (Hons), ARCM, PG Dip
Marketing Lead, Denis Wick & Alliance Products; Artist at Michael Rath Instruments


               

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