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2023 National Championships
The Centaur, Cheltenham
16-17 September

Comments:Iwan Fox
Images: Chappers Photography

  • Section 2Sunday 17, 23:04:29


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    2023 Champion: Whitworth Vale & Healey

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    2023 Champion: Whitworth Vale & Healey

    Second Section:

    Test piece: Lakeland Variations (Philip Sparke)
    Adjudicators: Alan Bourne, Anne Crookston, Mark Wilkinson

    1. Whitworth Vale & Healey (Mike Golding)
    2. Alder Valley Brass (David Hatton)
    3. Newmilns & Galston (Alan Friel)
    4. Soundhouse Brass (Lee Clayson)
    5. Tewit Silver (Martin Hall)
    6. Knottingley Silver (Kevin Belcher)
    7. Irvine & Dreghorn (Stephanie Kennedy)
    8. Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)
    9. Diggle (Sean Conway)
    10. Durham Miners' Association (Stuart Gray)
    11. Meltham & Meltham Mills (Tom Haslam)
    12. Chiltern Hills (Gordon Davies)
    13. Chinnor Silver (Oliver Hallstead-Brooks)
    14. Otterbourne (James Smith)
    15. Valley Brass (Haydock) (David Chadwick)
    16. Rolls-Royce (Derby) (Graham Cardwell)
    17. Abergavenny Borough (Lana Tingay)
    18. Foss Dyke (Gareth Westwood)
    19. Denmead Brass (Estelle Flood)

    Best Instrumentalist: Ian Peters (euphonium) — Whitworth Vale & Healey

  • Section 2Sunday 17, 22:25:02

    Round up and Editor's final prediction...

    Well it was a bit of a marathon day — first band on at 9.00am and last band leaving the stage at 10.15pm, but it has been very enjoyable.

    This contest started around 4.45pm and has been an interesting one — no real stand out winner, but a handful that just edged themselves in front for us. The standard has been pretty good though.

    As for a winner?

    We go for a couple of early markers in Tewit Silver and Valley Brass with Whitworth Vale & Healey right in the mix with them for the podium places.

    The Scots of Newmilns & Galston, Diggle and Foss Dyke with Chinnor as a dark horse make up our fancied runners.

    We may well be a mile out though with so little to choose between so many today.

    4BR Prediction:

    1. Tewit Silver
    2. Valley Brass
    3. Whitworth Vale & Healey
    4. Newmilns & Galston
    5. Diggle
    6. Foss Dyke

    Dark Horse: Chinnor

  • Section 2Sunday 17, 22:04:51

    Section 2: The final performance of the contest, the day and the weekend...

    The honour just after 10.00pm to give the final performance of the Cheltenham National Finals weekend went to Abergavenny Borough conducted by Lana Tingay.

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    Lana has also been volunteering all weekend as part of the organisation team, so it's a fantastic effort on her behalf.

    She inspires a well defined account — nicely and sensibly paced and styled in each of the variations. Excellent tubas and perc add the darker foundation and the texture. The middle band supports the bright cornets too.

    Euph does a fine job as do all the solo lines, with the cornet a refined voice and sop a sweet cherry topping.

    That intelligent approach worked well and the final fugue led by nimble horns was paced with no loss of focus and with scope for that final push of excitement to round the day and weekend off.

  • Section 2Sunday 17, 21:58:19

    Section 2: Into the final stretch...

    Down to the last three bands of the contest with all three West of England qualifiers drawn together.

    After Soundhouse comes Denmead with a hard working account led by Estelle Flood.

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    Bravo to the trio of tubas who provided a fine foundation and the two percussionists who gave rhythmic drive, texture and effect so well. Some limitations were obvious, but so too were the nicely placed moments of musicality, solo classiness and stylistic nuance.

    Kept its cohesion, drive and intent — light and breezy with a great pulse of energy to close.

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    They were followed by Otterbourne, fuller of sound and of confidence from the opening timp motif in fact.

    Lovely languid lefty conducting style by the MD but he doesn't miss a trick and his band responded. This was so well defined and spacious without losing flow. A bit robust in places maybe, but it all worked and there was a touch of artistry about the solo lines.

    A fine fugue to close that bubbled and bounced even if it was a tad heavy in places, but you must admit it was perky and roused the interest at this late hour. Bravo.

  • Section 2Sunday 17, 21:26:47

    Section 2: The Scots and South West

    Two bands that couldn't be any further apart in terms of geography and mileage but both still connected closely with their musical approach to the test-piece.

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    The Scots of Newmilns & Galston were very impressive — with a performance of musical certainty and technical clarity.

    Super take on the score by the MD — both energised and then lyrical at the right times. Great perc (best woodblock of the day) and so well structured in each of the variations — the balance of the band was spot on (super troms a feature) and the soloists all played their part.

    Just the occasional moment or two of unease and some messiness but it mattered little and the way in which the fugie built to the end would have made Bach let alone Mr Sparke proud. A good one that.

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    Lots to enjoy and engage with from Soundhouse too — light and measured in approach and understanding of the score from MD Lee Clayson.

    The style of each of the variations was marked and was aided by the warm ensemble sound and the sensible and sensitive approach to the dynamics, with the drive for home played with a lean breezy pulse of energy (and that took some doing after a long day like this).

  • Section 2Sunday 17, 20:52:18

    Section 2: Two more solid outings...

    Don't know whether or not either Chinnor Silver or Foss Dyke tried to find an as yet undiscovered secret formula for the test-piece, but their performances suggest they didn't and relied on good old common sense instead from their MDs.

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    It was a pacy one from Chinnor and Oliver Hallstead-Brooks — colourful and exciting if a little scrappy in places.

    It had verve and a boldness that made you sit and listen though — and some fine solo lines too. It was perhaps in need of a touch more poise in places even in the more lyrical sections, but by the time they hit their boot straps in the fugel section they had certainly made their mark and hallmarked it with a thumping last few bars.

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    A slightly different approach from Foss Dyke especially in terms of pacing under Gareth Westwood, and there was a nice lightness of touch to the dynamics that gave things a dance feel when it skipped along.

    The solo lines once again played their part in full — and that last section in particular had a refinement in the execution that caught the ear.

  • Section 2Sunday 17, 20:43:44

    Section 2: Sparke of interest...

    Great to see Philip Sparke here earlier on to hear the bands perform his piece.

    He also let the 4BR Editor into the secret formula to the success of his test-piece. And guess what? There is none. "It's all there on the score," he said.

    And as for the opening thematic cell?. "Nope — three lakes, three notes. Simple as that."

    The things that make genius eh?

  • Section 2Sunday 17, 20:17:06

    Section 2: Nine lakeside visits to go...

    Much like the British Open last weekend a late draw may not quite favour the bands as much as they would initially think.

    We have started back here just before 8.00pm and we are being told that it could be around 10.30pm for the last band to play — or even later.

    Although it is nowhere as near as hot as Symphony Hall (the air conditioning isn't on Arctic mode as it was yesterday above the press corps though), its still a draining day for those having to wait until the end of the contest to play.

    Bravo then to them all — and to the two bands that opened the final part of the weekend.

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    Alder Valley produced a bold and forthright account that grasped the music with serious intent and didn't let go.

    It perhaps needed a little more light and shade to really get that forensic Sparke detail to come through, but it was all there. Solid soloists did their stuff and the ensemble backed them in full — with those stentorian tubas giving it their all.

    The well worked close summed up a well worked performance.

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    There was a marked musical contrast with Whitworth Vale & Healey — with a much lighter approach in style and especially dynamic.

    The music danced along in places and the lyrical sections were also played with a light timbre to the sound. Lots to enjoy — and the delicacy was marked (the most nimble of tubas) in the final fugal section that grew and grew with a clarity and precision that stood out.

    One that made a mark that.

  • Section 2Sunday 17, 19:22:17

    Section 2: Chiltern and Newport lead us nicely to the break...

    It's proving to be a contest of fine margins we suspect for the judges — and for the press corps for that matter, as another two bands produce performances of technical competency and musical consideration.

    There could be a lot bands separated by a sheet of old Bronco paper come the results.

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    Chiltern Hill may well be one as the score was worked out so well by MD Gordon Davies — with tempos right in the circa mark on the score and the dynamics relevant and contrasting too.

    There was a defined style to each of the variations, perhaps not as vibrant as some but colourful enough to enhance the differences. A fine euph and cornet were the pick of solid soloists and the fugal drive for home was paced so well.

    Just some collective tiredness brought some intonation problems, but overall there was nothing much wrong.

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    A spirited rendition from Newport Borough brought us to the break — another based on an intelligent appreciation of the score by MD, Robin Hackett. He knew his Vinter from his Vaughan Williams and how to make the nod to them without overdoing the obvious.

    Perhaps it needed a few more primary flecks of colour and energy in places, but the solo lines were all delivered well — from tuba up to sop, with a special mention to fine euph and cultured cornet.

    The five variant differences were well defined and the final fugal section was captured with both drive and purposefulness.

  • Section 2Sunday 17, 18:46:57

    Section 2: More lakeside inspiration...

    Two more bands that enjoyed their trip to the Swiss cantons today — Irvine & Dreghorn from Scotland and Rolls Royce (Derby) from the Midlands.

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    The Scots have made the long trip south yesterday and will make it back later tonight — but they will leave heartened by their performance under the elegant baton of Stephanie Kennedy.

    She managed her resources so well with carefully observed tempo and dynamic choices, whilst the band responded with tasteful playing of stylish inflections and musicality in each of the five variations.

    There was a boldness to the opening which was carried through with some fine lead lines from the sop, cornet and euph in particular with the perc team adding effect and texture.

    Some moments of inconsistency may just catch them out with the judges, but there was much to enjoy with the interpretation and the delivery.

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    Much the same contest performance story with Rolls Royce (Derby) — with a well managed account by an MD who produced an interpretation of carefully chosen tempi and dynamic variance.

    Some ensemble untidiness was evident, but so too some lovely lead lines, and again the horns shine, rich and full toned. Their start to the fugal finale was spot on, although overall it may have just needed a little more poise.

    A super close though — back to those Vinter underpinnings and an energised romp to the whippy last few bars.

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South Yorkshire Police - Concert by South Yorkshire Police Band

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Enderby Band - The Melton Band

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The GUS Band - The GUS Band 90th Anniversary Celebration Concert

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Harlow Brass Band

September 22 • Seeking a MUSICAL DIRECTOR - We are a friendly, non-contesting band who play to a good standard. We hold our own Spring and Christmas concerts and provide entertainment at various local events throughout the year

Chinnor Silver

September 22 • Chinnor Silver Band (2nd section National finalists 2023) are looking to strengthen their ranks. We require a Bass player(either flavour) Bass trombone and percussionist. We are a friendly band with a good mix of Concerts and Contests planned for 2023/24

Easingwold Town Band

September 21 • We are an enterprising, forward-looking, inclusive 4th Section band with vacancies for soprano cornet, front-row cornet and Eb bass. Enjoy a friendly welcome at our bandroom in Easingwold, 12 miles N of York (postcode YO61 3DB). Come for a blow!

Nigel Seaman

Conductor, band trainer, teacher and adjudicator


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