Editor's Christmas Picks: 5 Most Enjoyable Contest Performances

4BR Editor Iwan Fox picks five of his personal favourite contest performances of 2016.

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  Five of the 4BR Editor's most enjoyable contest performances of the year.

There have been many outstanding contest performances during 2016 — brilliant technical and musical showcases that took the breath away. However, there were also a few that were equally enjoyable in a very different way.

These may not have been ones that all went on to win, or even the best that didn't, but these were five that simply put a smile on the face — and stayed in the memory banks for a variety of different reasons, not just the playing.

In date order:

1. St Dennis Band — (Essay for Brass Band)
First Section: West of England Regional Championships)

Perhaps the best bit of interpretative Essay writing heard anywhere around the country this year — and a delight to note that it came from such a youthful band led by a talented young conductor, packed with locally produced talent.

Where others seemed bemused and befuddled by the sparse, transparent 45 year old scoring, Darren Hawken and his players lapped it up.

All this and it came off the number 1 draw against a field of 14 other pretty solid rivals. Six months later they won the National title in Cheltenham.

2. Beginners Section — National Youth Band Championships

Could have picked any one of the eight ensembles that took part on the day, but it was the overall enthusiasm, fun and sheer determination from them all that made it a real joy — from winners Wardle Junior Blast as well as Lions Beginners, Ysgol Bontnewydd Primary, Tewit Youth Junior, Stockport Schools Junior, Astley Youth Training, Macclesfield Youth Training and Dobcross Juniors.

All the bands were brilliantly led by conductors who smiled and winked, cajoled and supported their players from first note until last — and there wasn't a dry eye left in the house from their supporters either.

3. Elland Silver Youth
European Youth Championships Development Section

Memorable not just for their performance, which saw them come runner-up to a wonderful Tertnes Skoles Musikkorps, but for the way in which they also shamed the organisers who in a decision of mean spirited short sightedness had decided to charge children and families to come and listen to the contest.

Off the number 1 draw at 9.00am on a Sunday morning, there were more children performing on stage under Samantha Harrison than people in the audience.

However, instead of being deflated they did themselves proud with their playing, and soon after they played they sat in the hall, listened and supported their rivals. They were an absolute credit to their organisation, conductor, town and their country.

At the time it was like a musical trip through the MGM studios like you see at the end of the anarchic film 'Blazing Saddles' — although this time written by Salvador Dali4BR

4. Kleppe Musikklag — (A Trans-Siberian Railway blog)
Siddis Entertainment Championships

At a time when audiences are starting to get a bit miffed at having to sit through themed sets that are little more than A Level info-documentaries with accompanying music, this was a delightful reminder of what an innovative brass band entertainment programme can be like.

A simple idea under conductor Vidar Nordli brought thrilling to life; with music from Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky to Mongolian throat singing and Glenn Miller — all played with musical wit and choreographed imagination. It even had a Blue Peter 'one we made earlier' steam train making an appearance...

5. MG Risch-Rotkreuz — (Blue Horizons)
Elite Division: Swiss National Brass Band Championships

An absolute riot of a piece by Bertrand Moren that paid a very peculiar homage to all that jazz...

Blues, Swing, Stomp, Big Band, Trad, Cool... You name it — it was in it; from Glen Miller and Gershwin, to Jelly Roll Morton and even a touch of Ennio Morricone.

At the time it was like a musical trip through the MGM studios like you see at the end of the anarchic film 'Blazing Saddles' — although this time written by Salvador Dali. That said, it was also played rather well too...

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