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2018 National Championships of Great Britain
Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London
Saturday 6 October


Live comments by Chris Thomas & Thomas Dunne; Social Media: Malcolm Wood & Iwan Fox; Pictures: Ian Clowes; Production: John James & Matthew Ruel

Tuesday 9, 12:27:08

Foden's in Focus

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Foden's take the applause after their winning performance

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On Stage Celebrations in the Albert Hall

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Prinicipal Cornet Mark Wilkinson gets his hands on the Trophy

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

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The chilly night but a warm trophy glow with Russell Gray

Monday 8, 18:27:52


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1st. Foden's (Russell Gray)

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2nd. Cory (Philip Harper)

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3rd. Brighouse & Rastrick (Prof David King)

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4th. Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas Childs)

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5th. Fairey (Garry Cutt)

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Trevor Caffull receives the Iles Medal

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Gwyn Evans receives the Mortimer Medal

Saturday 6, 20:51:29

Winners in Focus

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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)

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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)

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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

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Draw No 20: Adam Cooke with Virtuosi GUS

Saturday 6, 17:47:52

19. Thundersley (Nigel Taken)

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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)

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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

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Draw No 19: Thundersley (Nigel Taken)

Saturday 6, 17:25:25

18. Friary Guildford (Chris King)

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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

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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

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Draw No 18: Friary Guildford (Chris King)

Saturday 6, 17:00:55

17. Grimethorpe Colliery (Allan Withington)

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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

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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

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Draw No 17: Grimethorpe Colliery (Allan Withington)

Saturday 6, 16:37:37

16. Cory (Philip Harper)

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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

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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

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Draw No 16: Cory (Philip Harper)

Foden's Band - Annual Patrons Concert

Tuesday 19 February • Sandbach School, Crewe Road, Sandbach CW11 3NS

The Cobham Band - Best of Brass Concert

Saturday 23 February • The Vera Fletcher Hall. 4 Embercourt Road. Thames Ditton Surrey KT7 0LQ

Milton Keynes Brass - Charity Concert with Church Without Walls

Saturday 23 February • Broughton Fields Primary School. Milton Road. Broughton MK10 9LS

Black Dyke Band - Doncaster Minster

Saturday 23 February • 9 Church St, Doncaster DN1 1RD

Elland Silver Band -

Saturday 23 February • Brooksbank School Victoria road Elland H50QG

Freckleton Band

February 17 • Freckleton Band have a vacancy for a percussionist (kit) player. The band has recently been promoted to the Championship section and have a balanced concert and contest programme. Rehearsal nights are Mondays and Thursdays.

Freckleton Band

February 17 • Freckleton Band have a vacancy for a Soprano Cornet player. The band has recently been promoted to the Championship section and have a balanced concert and contest programme. Rehearsal nights are Mondays and Thursdays.

Elland Silver Band

February 17 • Require a first class Assistant Principal Cornet player to start after the Yorkshire Regional Championships. Ideal opportunity for an experienced or ambitious player to join our thriving organisation as we prepare for the senior cup and whit Friday.

Stuart Black

BA (Hons) Music
Conductor, Teacher, Flugel soloist