Report & Results: 2017 New Zealand National Championships

Brisbane Excelsior crosses the Tasman Sea to reclaim National title and stop Wellington's attempts at five in a row history.

Brisbane Excelsior
  Brisbane Excelsior becomes 2017 New Zealand National Champion

A compelling battle between the two finest bands in the southern hemisphere ended in victory at the New Zealand National Championship for Brisbane Excelsior, as they won the 2017 title under the direction of MD Howard Taylor.

Narrowest margin

In a contest featuring a number of high class performances at Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre, the Australian's renditions of their sacred item, 'Swedish Folk Song', the set-work, 'Journey of the Lone Wolf' and own-choice of 'From Ancient Times', saw them repel the challenge of defending champion Wellington Brass to the claim the Champion Band Gold Cup for a third time by the narrowest of half point margins.

Seeking a historic fifth consecutive win, the local favourites gave their all under MD David Bremner — topping the scared item and own-choice disciplines over two days of intense competition with excellent accounts of 'Just As I Am' and 'Metropolis 1927'.

However, it was not quite enough, as Brisbane's fine sacred item and outstanding interpretation of Simon Dobson's evocative portrait of composer Bela Bartok, aided by the superb contributions of the 'Best Section' percussion team, guest principal cornet Iain Culross from the UK and flugel horn Tamaryn Heck who won the 'Best Soloist' award, had earlier given them a two and half point buffer over their main rivals.


That was to prove crucial come the own-choice element on Saturday evening, as they secured their first New Zealand title since 2008 with a resounding rendition Jan van der Roost's epic work to finish in second place — just two points behind Wellington.

Before the announcement of the results, adjudicator Nigel Seaman gave a perceptive analysis of the A Grade competition — stating that the best had 'made light work' of the Dobson composition, whilst he felt the 'best in the frame' on the own-choice had provided him with what he called, 'a very musical experience'.

And although he felt MDs needed to be careful with their choices — "...to choose music for the band you have in front of you, not the one you wish to have", he felt that overall the contest had 'excited his interest' with the own-choice works in particular giving him 'an evening of top rate music making'.

Few disagreements

Few people in the audience could have disagreed with his findings before the complex results process was made: Brisbane showcasing their imposing strengths of a deep, well-rounded ensemble sound backed by secure soloists that made the most of Howard Taylor's exciting interpretations, whilst Wellington displayed a compact ensemble tonality with equally secure solo lines to back their MDs more tempered realisations.

The diverse musical approaches by the two MDs certainly made for engrossing listening — even for those tuning in from around the world on the excellent live-streaming service.

When the sums were added up they eventually revealed former champion Woolston Brass in third, after giving a series of consistent performances under Tyme Marsters (aided by the 'Best Principal Cornet' playing of Anthony Smith on their own-choice of 'Fraternity') , with Wellington, as the last band to be announced, missing out on a record breaking fifth straight success by that miniscule margin.

Fourth place went to the emerging talents of Eastern Bay of Plenty, with the cosmopolitan mix of personnel at Dalewool Auckland Brass in fifth and Ascot Park Hotel Brass further back in sixth.

Deserved victory

The deserved victory however belonged to Brisbane Excelsior and MD Howard Taylor, who before praising the efforts of his own band and celebrating winning the world's oldest National Championship title, gave a gracious speech acknowledging the outstanding contribution of David Bremner to Wellington Brass and to New Zealand banding in general.

The standing ovation that resulted was heartfelt and prolonged, and was a wonderful show of communal support to the young MD who now takes his leave from conducting the home town band after a decade of unprecedented success.

Howard also acknowledged what he called, 'the unbelievable standard in New Zealand with the top bands' that meant his own band had to 'pull out all the stops' .

Judge's backing

That was certainly backed up by the adjudicator's written remarks which saw Nigel Seaman write about their rendition of the set-work; 'A powerhouse performance', whilst also singling out the 'exceptionally controlled' flugel and percussion.

He was also full of praise for their sacred item which he called, 'rich and balanced', whilst he thought their own-choice was ' a performance of not only exceptional virtuosity but one of immense musical stature as well'.

"Rehearsals went so well — and they had to,"Howard went on to say in his victory address.

"We came to do the business and we did,"although at that point his victory speech was cut short by his mobile phone going off in his jacket pocket. Much to the delight of the audience, he revealed it was from his mother!

Timely reminder

She, like many brass band supporters will have been heartened to hear the quality of the best A Grade bands over the two days — and the heavyweights of Brisbane and Wellington in particular, who not only produced a memorable cross-Tasman Sea battle, but gave a timely reminder to the rest of the banding world with the European Championship set to take place, that there is also outstanding quality south of the equator.

Other titles

As in Tasmanian the previous weekend, Nigel Seaman was also impressed by the quality of a highly competitive B Grade contest.

Victory was eventually claimed by defending champion Hamilton City Brass under MD Glenn Richards, as their triptych of 'The Father's Blessing', set-work 'Dances & Arias' and own-choice of 'La Divina Commedia' by Hendrik de Boer gave them a clear margin over Hutt City Brass with Palmerston North Brass in third. It was the third time since 2013 that Hamilton City Brass had claimed the Championship Challenge Shield.

In the C Grade at Wellington Opera House, there was also a successful title defence for Nelson City Brass as MD Nigel Weeks inspired them to a resounding victory, thanks in the main to classy performances of the set-work 'Purcell Variations' by Kenneth Downie and a musical taste of his former Welsh homeland with Philip Harper's 'Kingdom of Dragons'. Woolston Concert Brass was runner-up with Tauranga City Brass in third.

Although there were only two bands competing in the D Grade event, there was plenty of quality on show as Roxburgh Pioneer Energy Brass led by John Buchanan claimed a clear-cut victory over rivals Rangiora Brass thanks to excellent renditions of the set-work, ''Mid All the Traffic' and their own-choice of 'Typtich' by Philip Sparke.

Elsewhere, sole entrant Marlborough First Class Brass took the Youth Grade honours, whilst the hard fought series of Open and Junior solo and ensemble competitions once again provided ample evidence of the quality of Antipodean playing personnel, with the remarkable percussionist Rachel Thomas of Dalewool Auckland Brass retaining the Blue Riband Champion of Champions title.

The deserved victory however belonged to Brisbane Excelsior and MD Howard Taylor, who before praising the efforts of his own band and celebrating winning the world's oldest National Championship title, gave a gracious speech4BR


A Grade:

Set Work: Journey of the Lone Wolf (Simon Dobson)
Sacred Item + Set Work + Own Choice = Total
Adjudicator: Nigel Seaman

1. Brisbane Excelsior (Howard Taylor): 46.5/96/94 = 236.5
2. Wellington Brass (David Bremner): 47.0/93/96 = 236.0
3. Woolston Brass (Tyme Marsters): 45.5/94/93 = 232.5
4. Eastern Bay of Plenty Brass (Alan Spence): 46.0/95/90 = 231.0
5. Dalewool Auckland Brass (Jason Katsikaris): 44.5/92/93 = 229.5
6. Ascot Park Hotel Brass (Matthew Dick): 42.5/88/88 = 218.5
7. Waitakere Auckland Brass (Grant Langdon): 43.0/87/87 = 217.0
8. Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass (Dwayne Bloomfield): 42.5/87/85 = 214.5

Best Soloist in Set Work: Tamaryn Heck (flugel) — Brisbane XLCR
Best Section in Set Work: Percussion — Brisbane XLCR
Best Principal Cornet in Own Choice: Anthony Smith (Woolston Brass)

B Grade:

Set Work: Dances & Arias (Edward Gregson)
Sacred Item + Set Work + Own Choice = Total
Adjudicator: Nigel Seaman

1. Hamilton City Brass (Glenn Richards): 46.5/94/94 = 234.5
2. Hutt City Brass (Mark Davey): 45.0/93/93 = 231
3. Palmerston North Brass (David Maas): 43.5/ 89/95 = 227.5
4. Papakura Brass (Adrian Raven): 44.5/90/89 = 223.5
5. Brass Whanganui (Bruce Jellyman): 44.0/92/87 = 223
6. The Devon Hotel New Plymouth Brass (Leigh Martin): 45.5/88/89 = 222.5
7. Trust Porirua City Brass (Kerry Garrett): 44.0/89/85 = 218
8= Addington Brass (David Fiu): 43.0/87/84 = 214
8= Auckland City Brass (Vaughan McDonald): 43.0/87/84 = 214

Best Soloist in Set Work: Dale Vail (euphonium) — Hutt City Brass
Best Cornet Section in Own Choice: Palmerston North Brass

C Grade:

Set Work: Purcell Variations (Kenneth Downie)
Sacred Item + Set Work + Own Choice = Total
Adjudicator: Peter Maunder

1. Nelson City Brass (Nigel Weeks): 46.5/93/94 = 233.5
2. Woolston Concert Brass (Nick Johnson): 44.0/89/88 = 221.0
3. Tauranga City Brass (Steven Thompson): 43.0/87/89 = 219.0
4. Levin & Districts Brass (Colin Honey): 43.0/85/88 = 216.0
5. Te Awamutu Brass (Michelle Flint): 42.5/86/87 = 215.5
6. Upper Hutt Brass (Aaron Lloyd): 41.5/81/84 = 206.5

D Grade:

Set Work: Mid All the Traffic (Leonard Ballantine)
Sacred Item + Own Choice + Stage March = Total
Adjudicator: Peter Maunder

1. Roxburgh Pioneer Energy Brass (John Buchanan): 93/91/91 = 273.0
2. Rangiora Brass (Kenneth Love): 89/88/88 = 265.0

Youth Grade:

Sacred Item + Own Choice + Fun = Total
Adjudicator: Peter Maunder

1. Marlborough First Class Brass (): 84/87/85 = 256.0

Solo Champions:

Champion of Champions: Rachel Thomas (percussion) — (Dalewool Auckland Brass)
Junior Champion of Champions: Leo Reed (trombone) — Eastern Bay of Plenty
Open Soprano Champion: Jamie Rolfe (Brisbane Excelsior)
Open Cornet Champion: John Lewis (Dalewool Auckland Brass)
Open Amateur Cornet Champion: Steve Chapman (Woolston Brass)
Open Flugel Horn Champion: Tyme Marsters (Woolston Brass)
Open Tenor Horn Champion: Paul Bennett (Foden's Band)
Open Baritone Champion: Steven Booth (Waitakere Auckland Brass)
Open Euphonium Champion: Joel Williams (Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass)
Open Tenor Trombone Champion: Dale Vail (Woolston Brass)
Open Bass Trombone Champion: Joe Thomas (Waitakere Auckland Brass)
Open Eb Tuba Champions: Jordan Seaton (Woolston Brass)
Open Bb Tuba Champion: John Mason (Woolston Brass)
Open Percussion Champion: Rachel Thomas (Dalewool Auckland Brass)
Open Own Choice: Bryce Gordon (The Devon Hotel New Plymouth Brass)
Open Slow Melody: Ross Moloney (Brisbane Excelsior)

Masters Champion: Murray Borthwick (North Shore Brass)
Invitational Slow Melody: Chris Lawrence (Eastern Bay of Plenty)

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