Youth Brass 2000 made it five wins in a row at the National Youth Championships as they secured yet another title with a superbly polished performance set under MD Chris Jeans.
Their 'Gold Award' Championship Section success comes just a fortnight before they represent England at the European Youth Championships in The Netherlands, with their inspirational conductor telling 4BR that victory was a perfectly timed confidence boost as they start to put the finishing touches to their programme for Utrecht.
"I find it hard nowadays to try and explain just how proud I am of the players and the commitment they put in for these events,"Chris said. "All our focus was on retaining our title here against some super bands — and they did that and more for me yet again on stage.
We'll have a day or two off and then it's back to work for the trip to Utrecht where we're determined to be crowned European champion after coming runner-up on our last three appearances."
The band will surely be one of the favourites at the TivoliVrendenberg if they produce the type of classy performances they did at the Great Hall of Warwick Arts Centre to repel the high quality challenges of Silver Award winners Lions Youth Band and Birmingham Schools Brass Band with Bronze Award winner Northamptonshire Youth Brass Band in fourth.
Opening with the bold fanfare sounds of 'Ye Morning Stars of Light' by Andi Cook, Youth Brass 2000 went on to deliver an outstanding rendition of the set-work, 'Overture Metropolis' by Gordon Langford.
A brilliantly quick fire (and which almost set fire) xylophone solo, 'Zircus Rens' by Sophie Stevenson, led the way to the growing drama of 'The Pines of Rome' to close — an appropriately triumphant way to end, and one they hope will be repeated in Utrecht in a few weekends time.
The judges, Ian Porthouse and Dave Lea were certainly impressed, with the Gold Award coming with written comments from Ian that said: "A fantastic performance, well put together and delivered,"whilst Dave added that they had provided a "great programme and entertainment."
Although victory also came with a welcome first prize of £350 to go alongside the BBE President's Cup and Banner, for their indefatigable Chairman Don Collins, it also posed another welcome headache as they now qualify to represent the nation at another European Championships — this time in Montreux in 2019.
"We are of course thrilled to represent England, but it does take a great deal of fund raising,"he said. "2019 will be the fifth time in a row, so we hope that we can work with Brass Bands England, who we are grateful to this year, to see if we can be helped more."
He added: "We are a very busy band with a short tour to the European City of Culture in Leeuwarden to look forward to later this year, and we want to enable our youngsters to enjoy fantastic musical experiences as well as win championship titles."
BBE themselves will also be heartened by the standard of playing in the top section, in particular with a vibrant Lions Youth Brass Band showing their growing maturity with a fine set under Nigel Birch which included a pounding 'Road to Run' by Paul Lovatt-Cooper and the world premiere of a new work written especially for them for the contest by Jonathan Bates inspired by the mythical tale, 'The Fall of Icarus'.
There was also a great deal to be impressed by with Birmingham — especially their young soprano star Angus Carter who deservedly took the 'Best Instrumentalist' award for his scorching rendition of 'Live and Let Die' which may have already lined him up as the next 007 when Daniel Craig retires.
Meanwhile, there was plenty of fine playing with Northampton, with their solid set-work followed by an evocative and exciting rendition of 'Dark Side of the Moon'.
The Championship Section contest rounded off an excellent day of competition at the accessible Warwick Arts Centre complex, with BBE also putting on a polished show of intent with their new incoming CEO Kenneth Crookston in attendance, as well as the welcome guest Joanne Baker, daughter of composer Gordon Langford.
And whilst they recognise there are future challenges ahead to try and attract an even wider geographical spread of bands to the event, they will have been heartened that the excellent facilities and vibrant atmosphere of the contest day provides a strong foundation on which to build in the years to come.
We'll have a day or two off and then it's back to work for the trip to Utrecht where we're determined to be crowned European champion after coming runner-up on our last three appearancesYouth Brass 2000 MD, Chris Jeans
Adjudicators: Ian Porthouse and Dave Lea
1. Youth Brass 2000 (Chris Jeans) (Gold Award)
2. Lions Youth Brass Band (Nigel Birch) (Silver Award)
3. Birmingham Schools Brass Band (Stuart Birnie) (Silver Award)
4. Northamptonshire Youth Brass Band (Brad Turnbull) (Bronze Award)
Best Instrumentalist: Angus Carter (soprano) — Birmingham Schools Brass Band