There was sure to have been a very long Saturday night of glorious revelry for the players and supporters of the University of Manchester Brass Band (above), as they celebrated their victory at the 2015 UniBrass Championship in Warwick.
Under the baton of Jonathan Evans, they went one better than last year to claim their first ever title (they previously won it linked to the RNCM), beating reigning champion, University of Huddersfield by a clear eight point margin, with Durham University in third.
They will not mind their thumping headaches on Sunday morning…
The quality and entertainment value of their 20 minute programme, inspired by the work undertaken by the UniBrass ‘Brass for Africa’ charity, certainly resonated with the judges Les Neish and Richard Jones, adding prizes for ‘Most Entertaining Band’ and ‘Best Solo Feature’, whilst their MD also claimed the ‘Best Student Conductor’ Award.
Formed in 2011, Manchester had been runner-up to Huddersfield in the past two years, but their set, which opened with ‘Madiba’ by Andy Scott, followed by ‘Drums of Thunder’ (Peter Graham), ‘My Mountain Top’ (Scott arr. Illiam Quane) and ‘They Shall Come from the East (Larsson) was a class apart on the day.
Speaking to 4BR on Sunday morning, Band spokesperson George Sanford told 4BR that the idea to base their programme around the work of the charity was something they had wanted to do for some time.
“It’s such a fantastic cause — and the work undertaken is something we feel very strongly about supporting, so the build a programme around it seemed the right thing to show that.”
He added: “We had a great time preparing for the contest and on the day itself — with Illy Quane on solo cornet a real start performer for us.
Everyone delivered on the day — and everyone managed to get on the coach and back to Manchester to enjoy a celebratory curry and a few drinks too!
There are a few sore heads this morning, but they have all been worth it. Now we have to get back to our studies though — but we will be back to defend our title again next year for sure.”
Huddersfield certainly put up a fine defence of their title under Jonathan Beatty, with the high tempo, ‘When Thunder Calls’, followed by the euphonium solo, ‘Zeibekikos’ from the Wilby Euphonium Concerto, played by Ashley Higgins, the prize winning ‘Best March’, ‘Jubilee!’, ‘Lady Stewarts Air’ and ‘Glorifico Aeternum’.
Despite adding the ‘Best Percussion’ award, it wasn’t enough to see them claim a hat-trick of title wins, as the UniBrass trophy headed to Manchester via the nearest welcoming bar.
There was also delight for the rapidly improving Durham University Brass Band, as they claimed their first ever podium finish, under the baton of Lewis Wilkinson.
After coming seventh last year, their circus themed programme saw them open with the choreographed ‘Come follow the Band’, leading into the march ‘Barnum & Bailey’s Favourite’, ‘Send in the Clowns’, featuring flugel soloist Natalie Morrison and Alan Fernie’s clever take on the classic ‘The Acrobats’ to close.
The remaining top six places went to the University’s of Lancaster, (who claimed the ‘Most Improved Band’ award), Nottingham and Birmingham.
Both adjudicators told the audience that they had been impressed by the overall standard of playing on show throughout the day, with Les saying that the top five bands ‘were easily put in their places’, with the soloists from each band doing ‘fantastically well’.
Richard meanwhile ensured that bands were made aware of some of the problems that did arise — notably balance issues (stirring a little bit of tongue in cheek ire from tenor horn sections!) , intonation and dynamics — with only ‘two bands’ in his opinion really taking the risks with dynamic contrast, especially in the piano, mezzo piano and mezzo forte range.
However, both felt that each band ‘was a credit to their university’ — something which was echoed by a host of speakers and representatives in what proved to be an extensive awards ceremony!
Each of the 17 bands certainly brought something different in their musical approach to the day — from clever comic routines such as ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ from Lancaster University Music Society and ‘Another Fine Mess’ from Oxford University Brass Band, to operatic overtures such as ‘La Forza Del Destino’ by University of Bristol, and the high tempo crowd pleasers such as ‘Don’t Stop Me Know’ from University of Nottingham and ‘Greased Lightening’ by Cambridge University.
The ‘Best Student Composition’ award this year went to the cracking ‘Penguin Hop!’ by Jacob Ashworth, performed splendidly by Keel University Brass Band.
With a wonderful, vibrant atmosphere permeating through the excellent live internet coverage of the contest, video presentations, free workshops for young player aged between 7 and 18 provided in the ‘Day of Brass’ by players from Cory Band, and a gala concert by Jaguar Land Rover Band to close, there was certainly something for everyone to enjoy — student or not.
UniBrass spokesperson Thomas Hicken told 4BR, that despite feeling exhausted, the organizers were delighted at the success of the 5th anniversary event.
“We are very tired,” he admitted on Sunday morning. “But it was a fantastic day, with brilliant support from everyone — sponsors to players, supporters and listeners. The workshops were great and carries on today for the students. Now we have to get back to a bit of study before planning for what promises to be an even bigger event next year.”
Next year’s contest has already been booked to take place at the excellent facilities provided by Music Centre at the University of Warwick on the 20th February, with bids being invited for future events.
There are a few sore heads this morning, but they have all been worth it. Now we have to get back to our studies though — but we will be back to defend our title again next year for sureUniversity of Manchester
Adjudicators: Richard Jones & Les Neish
1. University of Manchester (Jonathan Evans) — 124
2. University of Huddersfield (Jonathan Beatty) — 116
3. Durham University ( Lewis Wilkinson) — 102
4. Lancaster University Music Society (Chris Osborn) — 99
5. University of Nottingham (Adam Edwards & Chris Blunt) — 93
6. University of Birmingham (Stuart Birnie) — 92
7. University of Warwick Brass Society (Simon Hogg) — 88
8. Southampton University (Daniel James Laverick) — 87*
9. Leeds University (Sam Watson) — 84
10. Keele University (Nigel Butler) — 81
11. Bangor University (Callum Wilson) — 80
12. University of York (Ryan Durkan) — 79**
13. Oxford University (Ben Horton) — 77
14. Cambridge University (Adam Waterson & Matthew Waterson) — 76
15. University of Sheffield (Lewis Squires) — 74
16. Cardiff University (Elan Higueras & Andy Wareham) — 70
17. University of Bristol (William Whiting) — 66***
*3 point time penalty deduction
**2 point time penalty deduction
*** 2 point time penalty deduction