It was a great pity that the Blue Riband Championship Section contest only managed to attract three competitors this year, as there was much to admire in terms of the premium quality on show, even if the quantity was disappointingly thin on the ground.
How Brass Bands England address the problem will take some inventive collaborative thinking, especially as the deserved winner, Youth Brass 2000, will also face the imposing challenge of starting their fund-raising campaign for the 2018 European Youth Championships almost as soon as they come back from proudly representing England at the 2017 contest in Ostend in a few weeks time.
Winning this title for a fourth consecutive year as well as the honour to represent England at the European event is a magnificent achievement for a band that combines both musical as well as organisational excellence, but the prospect of yet more expense for supportive families without any current additional funding help from BBE, could soon make winning here something of a poisoned chalice.
That problem will be looked at by the band after they return home from Ostend under their inspirational direction of Chris Jeans, as all thoughts for the moment will be targeted towards trying to lift that particular title in Belgium.
"That's the next objective,"he said, as he joined up with his Gold Award players to celebrate in the early evening sunshine outside the Maxwell Hall. "We are already planning ahead — so we will enjoy this victory and then it's back to the hard work once again."
He added: "I'm so proud of every member of the band, especially as we have been so busy over the past few months and are fielding a new principal cornet, euphonium, solo trombone and flugel.
To add this fourth consecutive win to the double hat-trick at the British Open Youth Championships is just a dream come true. I've been Artistic Director of Music since the band was formed exactly 28 years to the day, so this is extra special. Now we all want to top things off by claiming that European title."
Chris' praise for his young players was fully justified (with flugel player Georgia Bryan taking the 'Best Instrumentalist' award), after producing a superbly disciplined 20 minute display on the set-work, 'Penlee' by Simon Dobson, followed by the hymn tune 'Abide with Me' and 'Amazonia' from 'Windows of the World' — the latter without the MD in front of the band.
It was also recognised by the judges Richard Marshall and Mareika Gray. "Very mature playing throughout especially in the first piece ('Penlee'). Thoroughly enjoyed your performance. BRAVO."wrote Richard, whilst Mareika simply added: "A great performance today".
Whilst the destination of the title was in little doubt, there was still a great deal to admire about the performances from runner-up Northamptonshire Youth led by Brad Turnbull, and third placed Lions Youth conducted by Nigel Birch — each claiming thoroughly deserved Silver Awards.
Northamptonshire opened with an appropriately energetic rendition of PLC's 'Pound the Streets', followed by a dramatic account of Simon Dobson's work that brought a great deal of emotion and vivid passion to bear.
Meanwhile, Lions Youth also gave a purposeful reading to the set-work that combined drama as well as poignancy, especially in the final moments, before giving a delightful free-wheeling rendition of 'Velocity' by Jonathan Bates — a homage of themes and motifs inspired by the 'Tour de France' cycling race.
"It was an exceptional standard today,"Mareika Gray told the audience before the announcement of the results. There was a genuine attempt by all three bands to capture the drama and atmosphere of the 'Penlee' story. It was a wonderful experience to hear, and the other musical choices were well made too."
The winners though were a class apart and on this type of form will surely be a band that their European counterparts will fear, with news of their victory certainly reaching the far flung corners of the banding world almost as soon as the result was announced.
"We made sure Don Collins, our amazing organiser was the first to be informed,"Chris revealed. "Even though he's on a special wedding anniversary holiday in the Dominican Republic he said he wanted to know the result as soon as possible. I hope his wife didn't mind too much when I rang!"
He added: "We hope to do England proud in Ostend, and with a busy few months after that to come with a CD, tour to Austria and a performance at the Menin Gate for everyone to fit in around exams, the celebrations today are going to be short and sweet!"
To add this fourth consecutive win to the double hat-trick at the British Open Youth Championships is just a dream come true. I've been MD since the band was formed exactly 28 years to the day, so this is extra specialMD, Chris Jeans
'Penlee' (Simon Dobson) and Own Choice Programme.
20 minutes playing time.
Adjudicators: Mareika Gray and Richard Marshall
1. Youth Brass 2000 (Chris Jeans) (Gold)
2. Northamptonshire Youth (Brad Turnbull) (Silver)
3. Lions Youth (Nigel Birch) (Silver)
Best Instrumentalist: Georgia Bryan (flugel) — Youth Brass 2000