Report & Results: 2017 Australian National Championships

Central Coast Brass lead the way at a wonderful National Championships in Launceston, as they claim their first ever A Grade National title to give MD Conrad Curry a memorable leaving present.

Central Coast Girls
  It's celebration time for Conrad Curry and the girls of Central Coast Brass after their national victory

A five year quest to claim the famous Australian National Championship Fireman's Helmet Trophy ended in Tasmania on the weekend, as Conrad Curry led Central Coast Brass to their first ever A Grade title.

The New South Wales band topped two of the four individual musical disciplines over two days of keenly fought competition at Launceston's Princess Theatre, to eventually beat off the challenge of former champion Footscray — Yarraville with Darebin City Brass-Preston Band in third.


A clearly emotional MD spoke of his pride that his final contest performance with Central Coast had resulted in the victory he longed for — telling the audience that it was '...the most worthy musical thing I've done in my life.'

And after taking time to celebrate with the gleaming National Trophy in his grasp, he explained to 4BR that he couldn't have wished for a better end to his five-year 'project' with a band that he initially came to conduct on an interim basis in 2013.

"This means so much," he said. "With an increasingly busy law career and family caring responsibilities, this is the perfect way to end what I always felt was going to be a five-year project to reach the level of success I felt this band could achieve.

Two State Championships and a podium place last year showed we were getting close, but the sheer hard work of the players got us there. They had to play out of their skins and they did. I'm so proud of what they have just done."

Foundation of success

The foundation of the success for the band formed back in 1898, but which for the vast majority of its contesting life has performed in the lower sections, came on the Friday: A classy set-work topping account of 'Harrison's Dream', aided by an equally persuasive hymn tune account of 'The Day Thou Gavest' giving them a lead they never relinquished.

Technically secure and aided by some fine solo contributions from all around the stand (including British sop star Martin Britt), it was needed as well.

48 hours later they could only manage a third place finish with their own-choice rendition of 'Trance' and a slightly tired march, 'Roll Away Bet!', but it was still good enough to repel the consistent Victorian challenge of Footscray & Yarraville under Phillipa Edwards, by a two-point margin.

Strengths and weaknesses

They in turn pipped third placed Darebin City by a single point, after their Victoria counterparts recovered from a disappointing first day to top the own-choice and march disciplines under MD Andrew Snell with fine renditions of 'As if a voice were in them' and 'the rarely heard William Rimmer march, 'The Arabian'.

Behind them in a contest that showed both the strengths and weaknesses of top flight Australian banding, came South Brisbane Federal ahead of Glenorchy, Willoughby and Kensington & Norwood, as bands found Peter Graham's horological inspired work in particular, one that was pitched at the limits of their technical abilities.

Detailed analysis

That was also touched upon by adjudicator Nigel Seaman, who ensured that the appreciative audience was fully informed of his decision making process in what was a detailed, witty analysis of what he had heard.

Emphasising that over the two days he had been looking for ensemble cohesion, good intonation, dynamic balance and tonal warmth, he praised the bands for what he said were 'generally good' own-choice selections, although he felt that the set-work had led to a number of 'curate egg performances' that were 'good in parts'.

Nigel also highlighted the need for what he called 'corporate rhythm' in the march selections which he said were of a 'goodish standard', whilst he felt that the hymn tune selections could have perhaps have been more effective if bands had been brave enough to opt for simpler arrangements.

Few problems

He later told 4BR that he had few problems in choosing the winners of each discipline, although he had taken great care in his deliberations given the complex structure of the overall results.

"Each element had a clear winner and each played very well, so it did take a great deal of thought and consideration. On this evidence Australian banding has a great deal to be proud of."

The proudest of all however was Central Coast Brass and their MD, Conrad Curry, as their five year partnership 'project' came to a glorious end with a victory that will see their name engraved for evermore on the iconic National Trophy.

Section winners

There were also joyful celebrations for the B Grade champion, Boorondara Brass from Victoria led by Danny van Bergen, as they retained their title in splendidly vibrant fashion.

The young Victoria band that has grown impressively together over the last few years, delivered a polished brace of discipline topping renditions of the set-work, 'Penlee' and own-choice selection, 'Hannibal' to set up their victory over rivals, Cairns Brass from Queensland, with Marion City Band from South Australia in third.

In the C Grade there was also a successful title defence for Tasmanian favourites Latrobe Federal Band. Led by Geoff Dell they secured victory in commanding fashion over rivals Warriparinga Brass from South Australia, with Tasmanian rivals City of Burnie Brass in third.

Rich praise

In a D Grade contest that drew rich praise from adjudicator Nigel Seaman, it was Croydon Brass from Victoria that eventually claimed their first National title under the baton of Melina Benger, ahead of Hobart Brass and Sunshine Coast — Bold as Brass.

Although there were only four competitors in the trio of Junior competitions, the excellent standard saw victories go to Gunnedah Shire Band — their fifth title in a row, Sunshine Coast Youth Band — Bright as Brass, and Hyde Street Youth Band, who also defended their title.

Wonderful host

With the wonderful city of Launceston providing a warm welcome to all competitors (with numerous concert bands also taking part in their own National Championships) and with the local and national organisers, backed by a raft of sponsors, providing an expertly run series of events, competitions and gala concert, the 2017 Championships were deemed an overwhelming success.

Few who made the long trip across the Bass Straight from all parts of the country and beyond would disagree.

Two State Championships and a podium place last year showed we were getting close, but the sheer hard work of the players got us there. They had to play out of their skins and they did. I'm so proud of what they have just doneMD, Conrad Curry


A Grade:

Adjudicator: Nigel Seaman
Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Central Coast Brass (Conrad Curry): 96+196+186+81=559
2. Footscray-Yarraville (Phillipa Edwards): 95+194+183+85=557
3. Darebin City Brass — Preston Band (Andrew Snell): 89+190+189+88=556
4. South Brisbane Federal (Owen Clarke): 90+193+181+86=550
5. Glenorchy City Concert Brass (Simon Reade): 90+188+187+82=547
6. Willoughby Band (Josh Mann): 86+184+185+84=539
7. Kensington & Norwood (Philip Paine): 87+187+176+83=533

Parade of Bands:
Winners: South Brisbane Federal
Drum Major: Michael Adams (South Brisbane Federal)
Overall Aggregate Award (Parade of Bands & Contest): South Brisbane Federal

B Grade:

Adjudicator: Dr Kevin Cameron
Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Boroondara Brass (Danny van Bergen): 83+178+184+84= 529
2. Cairns Brass (Jon Christodoulides): 81+174+180+88=523
3. Marion City (Veronica Boulton): 80+170+174+86=510
4. Gunnedah Shire Band (Anthony Rowe): 84+166+173+85=508
5. Geelong West Brass Band (Jeff Steele): 79+168+176+82=505
6. City of Greater Dandenong Band (Michael Mathers): 77+160+172+78=487
7. Brisbane Brass No.2 (Rob McWilliams): 78+160+170+78=486
8. Box Hill City Band (Simon Brown): 79+164+160+81=484
9. City of Launceston RSL Band (Steven English): 77+158+168+80=483
10. Darebin City Brass — Northern Brass (Jamie Lawson): 78+156+164+74=472
11. Sunnybank & District Brass Band (Danny Dielkens): 77+158+152+72=459
12. Canberra Brass (Viv Martin): 75+156+150+77=458
13. Parramatta City Band (Jonathan Gatt): 74+148+154+75=451
14. Toronto Brass (Tim O'Hearn): 72+152+149+74=447

Parade of Bands:
Winners: City of Greater Dandenong
Drum Major: Glen Warriner (Sunnybank & District Brass)

C Grade:

Adjudicator: Monte Mumford
Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Latrobe Federal Band (Geoff Dell): 85+185+178+79=527
2. Warriparinga Brass (Veronica Boulton): 75+170+170+92=507
3. City of Burnie Brass Band (Robert Bentley): 63+155+190+91=499
4. Glenorchy City Community Brass (Dean Hunt OAM): 60+162+175+73=470
5. Boroondara Harmony Brass (Douglas Lewis): 68+165+158+75=466
6. Ulverstone Municipal Band (Thomas Lamb): 57+155+180+72=464
7. Bankstown City Brass (Ken Bradley): 62+150+160+65=437
8. Sunshine Brass (Courtney Duncan): 48+140+165+62=415

Parade of Bands:
Winners: City of Burnie Brass Band
Drum Major:

D Grade:

Adjudicator: Nigel Seman
Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Croydon Brass Band (Melinga Benger): 91+192+189+83=555
2. Hobart Brass Band (Robyn Males): 86+191+187+85=549
3. Sunshine Coast — Bold as Brass (Kevin Brown): 87+190+186+82=545
4. City of Devonport Brass (Tessa Lee): 89+189+184+80=542
5. Hyde Street Youth Band (Jee Kromhof): 83+186+183+79=531

Parade of Bands:
Winners: Hyde Street Youth Band (VIC)
Drum Major:

Junior A Grade:

Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total
1. Gunnedah Shire Band (Anthony Rowe): 65+175+172+87=499

Junior B Grade:

Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total
1. Sunshine Coast Youth Band — Bright as Brass (Kevin Brown): 83+168+170+80=501

Junior C Grade:

Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total
1. Hyde Street Youth Band (Jee Kromhof): 72+160+170+90=492
2. Ulverstone Municipal Band (Thomas Lamb): 68+165+165=66

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