There was perhaps an unintentional double meaning to Grimethorpe Colliery’s Brass in Concert victory in Gateshead on Sunday, as a theme of ‘Lest We Forget’ brought the Yorkshire band a record 16th victory at the event.
Led by Dr Robert Childs, and just days after the 100th anniversary commemorations of the First World War, their programme based on remembrance of sacrifice and selfless commitment also gave the audience a timely memory jolt to why they are still regarded by fans all over the banding world as the ultimate brass band entertainment specialist.
Brave and evocative
Theirs was a brave, evocative programme choice; one the MD revealed to 4BR that he had thought long and hard about presenting over the past few years. It proved to be one that certainly found consistent favour with the five separate judges.
First and third place positions from Alan Morrison and David Thornton for ‘Quality of Performance’ were backed by another first for ‘Programme Content’ from Paul Cosh, and second and fourth from Jo Wheeler and Steve Sykes for ’Entertainment & Presentation’.
Double dragon challenge
And on a day when they were less unanimously impressed by rivals, it enabled Grimethorpe to beat off the imposing ‘double dragon’ challenge of defending champion Cory and Tredegar — both of whom certainly seemed to find more favour in the straw poll opinions of the packed audience.
With a rejuvenated Fairey claiming fourth ahead of the in-form Flowers and an ever inventive Foden’s, it also proved to be a hugely significant victory — not only thrusting Grimethorpe back to the pinnacle of contesting success for the first time since 2010, but also their MD, with his first major title since the 2011 British Open.
“Given the timing of the contest, I’ve thought about presenting a programme such as this ever since my Cory days,” Bob Childs told 4BR.
The title theme opener from Royal Welsh College student Christopher Bond was followed by the Charlie Chaplin inspired ‘Smile’, featuring trombonist Chris Gomersall, the MDs own arrangement of ‘For the Fallen’ by Karl Jenkins, a ‘Big Band Tribute’ of ‘American Patrol' and ‘In the Mood’, and the finale of ‘Peacemakers’ by Dan Price.
“I think it’s a theme that can be explored with the right balance between poignant musicality and thoughtful entertainment,” he added.
“I was surprised nobody else really explored it this year in particular, but I think only a band with the capabilities of Grimethorpe could do it justice — especially as we featured all brand new works.”
Bob was also keen to express his thanks to the ‘team’ (the tubas also took the ‘Best Basses’ award) that helped him with the concept and its development.
“I couldn’t have done this without David (his son) and Craig Roberts. David sought out each new commission and worked closely with myself and the composers, whilst Craig’s expertise in multi-media presentation also gave it an added dimension.
The band was superb of course: What a team they are becoming for me.
I’ve just passed my first anniversary with them and it’s been great. I think we have been building towards a major success such as this for a while now — and with a tour to Australia in 2015 to add to this success I’m really excited about what the future with Grimethorpe has in store.”
Bob also ensured that he gave an additional mention to his son, who stepped in to help the band less than an hour before they took to the stage (and went on to win the ‘Best Soloist’ Award with Flowers) after solo euphonium Michael Dodd was taken to hospital with the after effects of severely debilitating food poisoning.
“It says so much for Michael that he wanted to play, but the right medical advice was followed. He’s now making a welcome recovery after his overnight hospital stay — cheered up by the news that the band won without him!”
Bob added: “David of course offered to help out — and my thanks go to Flowers, who played after us, for allowing him to do so, and to the organisers who fully appreciated what was an unforeseen emergency.”
Crowd pleasing Welsh
With five sets of prescribed marks linked to positions to make up the final total, two crowd pleasing programmes from Cory and Tredegar couldn’t quite find the right ‘adjudicator friendly’ mix of technique, content and presentation to beat their Yorkshire rivals.
Cory’s early marker from the number 2 draw, with aligning planets to Puccini opera was bursting with Phillip Harper inspired trademark effects and musical slickness (even borrowing the Tosca bells from the Welsh National Opera and a mini ‘glow in the dark’ light sabre baton).
However, despite one first place finish for ‘Quality of Performance’ and prizes for ‘Best Soprano’ and ‘Best Tenor Horn’ for Steve Stewart and Owen Farr, it didn’t quite find all-round favour with the judges, whilst the same ingredient problems befell Tredegar's cleverly themed 'Belonging' set.
Led onto the stage by their piccolo cornet playing MD Ian Porthouse, they could only top one ‘Entertainment & Presentation’ category, despite Dewi Griffiths winning the ‘Best Principal Cornet’ prize and their superbly choreographed re-working of the classic Mnozil inspired ‘Lonely Boy’ taking the collective audience breath away (as well as the chair from under soloist Jack Lapthorn).
Elsewhere, Fairey totally banished any lingering memories of their last place finish twelve months ago, as they impressively delivered an inventive programme under Garry Cutt to come fourth, with Josh Cirtina taking the ‘Best Trombone ‘ prize, whilst a confident Flowers once more showcased their major contesting credentials in fifth.
Ben Stratford took the ‘Best Baritone’ award to add to the ‘Best Soloist’ prize won by the indefatigable David Childs.
Nordic and Dutch import
Meanwhile, Foden’s latest Nordic programme import found favour with Jo Wheeler who placed it first in her Entertainment & Presentation category, but didn’t quite elicit the same response from her colleagues (despite Glyn Williams winning the ‘Best Euphonium’ award) or a rather bemused audience, in ending sixth.
Behind them the impressive Schoonhoven took the ‘Entertainment & Presentation’ prize for their ‘South African Symphony’ presentation in ending seventh, whilst Leyland were left feeling just a little too ‘Blue’ after their colour co-ordinated set didn’t quite raise the adjudicators temperatures enough in coming eighth (although John Doyle took the ‘Best Flugel’ prize).
The bottom quarter of what was a high class, and always entertaining day of entertainment, was led by Carlton Main Frickley, as their brave, contemporary choices of music saw Paul Cosh award Paul McGhee the ‘Best New Composition or Arrangement’ prize of £500 for his wonderfully evocative ‘Monet’s Embankment’.
An eye popping set from Brass Band of Central Florida certainly showed the Brits what swing should sound like (taking the ‘Best Percussion’ award), even if they didn’t quite show enough contrast to end tenth, with debutants Woodfalls, and Virtuosi GUS finding that well delivered but dated musical sets were some way off the pace of a contest that continues to explore and break exciting new musical boundaries.
With the sparkling talents of Beaumaris Youth Band providing a superb pre-results mini-concert to round off an excellently presented (Frank Renton on top form again) and organised contest, all that was left was for the fates to be relayed via Northumberland pipes and a slightly misfiring overhead computer results projection.
And despite a few glitches, the final result was clear to see: Lest no one forget — Grimethorpe Colliery Band are once again Brass in Concert champions.
I was surprised nobody else really explored it this year in particular, but I think only a band with the capabilities of Grimethorpe could do it justiceDr Robert Childs
Alan Morrison & David Thornton (Music-Quality of Performance)
Paul Cosh (Programme Content)
Jo Wheeler & Steve Sykes (Entertainment)
Mike Kilroy (Soloist)
Music/Music/Content/Entertainment/Entertainment = Total
Morrison/Thornton/Cosh/Wheeler/Sykes = Total
1. Grimethorpe Colliery (Dr Robert Childs): 1(60pts)/3(54)/1(40)/2(19)/4(17) = 190
2. Cory (Philip Harper): 3(54)/1(60)/6(30)/4(17)/3(18) = 179
3. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse): 7(42)/2(57)/4(34)/5(16)/1(20) = 169
4. Fairey (Garry Cutt): 2(57)/4(51)/8(26)/6(15)/5(16) = 165
5. Flowers (Paul Holland): 4(51)/6(45)/3(36)/11(10)/7(14) = 156
6. Foden's (Allan Withington): 6(45)/5(48)/7(28)/1(20)/8(13) = 154
7. Brass Band Schoonhoven (Erik Janssen): 8(39)/8(39)/5(32)/3(18)/2(19) = 146
8. Leyland (Richard Evans): 5(48)/7(42)/11(20)/7(14)/6(15) = 139
9. Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Leigh Baker): 10(33)/10(33)/2(38)/10(11)/9(12) = 127
10. Brass Band of Central Florida (Chad Shoopman): 9(36)/9(36)/10(22)/12(9)/11(10) = 112
11. Woodfalls (Ray Farr): 11(30)/11(30)/9(24)/8(13)/10(11) = 108
12. Virtuosi GUS (Adam Cooke): 12(27)/12(27)/12(18)/9(12)/12(9) = 93
Don Lusher Trombone: Josh Cirtina (Fairey)
Harry Mortimer Best Principal Cornet: Dewi Griffiths (Tredegar)
The Fesa Trophy for Best Flugel: John Doyle (Leyland)
The Gateshead MBC Trophy for Best Soprano: Steve Stewart (Cory)
The Louis & Colin Johnson Trophy for Best Percussion Section: Brass Band of Central Florida
Best Euphonium: Glyn Williams (Foden's)
Best Baritone: Ben Stratford (Flowers)
Best Horn: Owen Farr (Cory)
John Fletcher Best Basses: Grimethorpe Colliery
Best Entertainment & Presentation: Brass Band Schoonhoven
Best Programme Content: Grimethorpe Colliery
Quality of Performance: Grimethorpe Colliery
Best Soloist: David Childs, 2nd & 3rd Movements of Stratos Euphonium Concerto (Flowers)
New Composition/Arrangement: Paul McGhee (Monet's Embankment)
Winning MD: Dr Robert Childs
Youngest Player: Zoe Wright (aged 15) – Leyland Band