Brighouse & Rastrick's 'exceptional class' not only reclaimed the Yorkshire Area title for the first time since 2014, but also threw down a formidable gauntlet for rivals to fear at the forthcoming European Championship in Montreux.
Led by Dr David Thornton, their elegantly structured 'Seascapes', lyrically defined in its coherent musicality, gained a vital edge of 'finesse' over Grimethorpe Colliery according to the judges, Stephen Roberts and Steve Sykes.
That in essence was the minuscule musical difference between the two.
It was also something the adjudicators confirmed to the audience in what they said had been "a really difficult decision"that "â€¦could have gone either way", whilst the remarkable level of performance excellence was stamped in the winner's written remarks.
"Absolutely terrific! So much musical poetry and technical control combining to produce a reading of exceptional class", Stephen stated. "Utterly convincing", added his fellow judge.
Few in the packed hall who heard Brighouse on this form will have begrudged their triumph, regardless of the ultimate margin of victory.
David Thornton laid out a performance of finely drawn lines, subtle textures and blended balances; the soloists cultured, the ensemble malleable and reactive. The noble close was lean and powerful, its burnished tonality just what the judges yearned for. It was playing of the very highest quality.
"All the credit goes to the players,"David later said. "It's such a difficult piece to work on, but their patience and input was essential. We recognised the need to restrain the dynamics but also maintain balances and bring out detail. It's been such a rewarding experience — and not just because of the win."
Although disappointed not to have secured the title for the first time since 2006, Grimethorpe will have taken some solace in securing their return to the Albert Hall in a contest where both domestic as well as national bragging rights mean so much.
Allan Withington's 'Seascapes' may have been drawn slightly darker in hue and colour, but it was as equally lyrical in its cultured pacing.
The same emotions will surely have been felt by Carlton Main Frickley, after Ian Porthouse led them into third place and London qualification with an outstanding rendition of their own; textured with detail and care from start to finish. It was a very fine performance.
The judges' observations certainly bore the stamp of consistency; the top three producing accounts that drew almost poetic abstract imagery from Ray Steadman-Allen's interpretation of John Masefield's evocative 'Cargoes' poem.
And whilst it may have taken a febrile imagination to conjure up the "coconuts gently swaying in the palm trees"as delightfully described by Stephen, the trio certainly produced the Mahleresque sounds of noble tonality as well as the required "subtleties of technique"and "finesse"- the latter the vital deciding factor in the title heading to West Riding.
A little earlier, the pantomime audience gasp that followed defending champion Black Dyke announced in sixth place also further reinforced the consistency of their remarks, as did Rothwell Temperance in fourth.
The duo had given darker hued, more power laden interpretations; ones which the judges later told 4BR whilst being technically impressive, were also dynamically over-wrought and lacking the refinement of the podium finishers.
Fans of Black Dyke were therefore left to rue missing out on a history-making fourth consecutive win. Rothwell supporters were left wondering when their run of qualification near misses will ever change.
Delight however for City of Bradford, who again showed their development as a mature top-flight contender under Lee Skipsey with a vibrant account to end fifth, whilst both Hepworth and Elland Silver will have left Huddersfield satisfied with their returns; the latter led with remarkable maturity by 13 year old principal cornet Lewis Barton.
Behind them came a series of performances that although technically solid, lacked the elements of tonal refinement, textural subtly and lyrical intent the judges were looking for. There would have been few complaints at their eventual placings.
Where Brighouse & Rastrick will be placed in Montreux remains to be seen However, their contesting stock (and that of their conductor) is rising fast. The result will be have been noted with considerable interest and a more than a touch of concern all over Europe.
At the end of a disappointing First Section contest, 'Symphony of Marches' left the judges as well as the regional committee with more conundrums to solve than an afternoon edition of 'Countdown'.
It was summed up in the obvious frustration in the voice of adjudicator Howard Evans when giving his forthright, detailed appraisal at what he and Gary Davies had heard in the box from the 11 competitors.
Emphasising that despite its age, Vinter's work still "puts us out of our comfort zone", he went on to highlight the problems encountered in balance, dynamic variance, intonation and his "bug bear"of badly chosen "galloping"tempos, especially in the 'Brioso' final movement.
It was an excellent critique that brokered few contrary arguments.
Gary was left to add his agreement; notably highlighting tempo choices which were "far too often above, but never below the markings in the score".
Both however were very clear that "one performance stood out". It was "exceptional"Gary said. The rest were damned by faint praise. Behind them were a "few together"and a "few that struggled".
That exceptional rendition came from Hatfield & Askern Colliery conducted by Stan Lippeatt, who later told 4BR that having played the piece under George Thompson and Elgar Howarth, he knew that it that couldn't be under-estimated.
"It is such a stylish work,"he said. "Get the pace and dynamics right and it comes to life. It's something that I remembered from playing it under those great conductors. You don't forget that type of advice and insight."
It was also advice that Stan put into practice; the tempos of each movement carefully notched to the initial 120 mark, the players (including 'Best Soloist' Neil Wright on Eb tuba) playing with classy reserve. It certainly made an impression in the hall as well as the box.
2019 is already turning into a memorable season (the name of Askern being heard as a winner for the first time in 30 years), and which on this form may well see further success in Cheltenham.
Joining them there for the first time since 2016 (when they were in the Second Section) will be Old Silkstone.
Under John Hopkinson they persuaded the judges that they were the best of that "few together"by providing a compact if occasional varied performance that most importantly caught their ears in the box rather than critics in the hall.
Crofton Silver's bold account eventually saw them end third, whilst many people's favourite in Yorkshire Imperial had to be content with fourth; their chances perhaps undermined in the judge's opinion by the ambitious tempo choice of the third movement.
The final top-six places in a contest that showed the difficulties First Section bands (and especially MDs) continue to experience if they misinterpret or blindly ignore the basic structures of Vinter's writing, went to Drighlington and Lindley.
The result left the Regional Committee with its own conundrum — with no less than four bands now in-line to be promoted to the Championship Section.
Like much that was heard at this contest at times — that makes little sense either.
The closeness in the fine standard of the 10 performances of 'Rise of the Phoenix' was subsequently revealed to be the reason why Howard Evans and Chris Houlding took almost 30 minutes to emerge with their decision from the confines of the box.
"We wanted to make sure we got it right", Howard said when he eventually came to the microphone to give his detailed analysis. "There was a group that was really good today,"he said, referring to those he felt, "were ready to move up a section".
With a touch of Machiavellian mischievousness he then added that after what he had judged in the First Section, some bands here, "â€¦would have also managed somewhat better to play yesterday's test-piece."
On this evidence he wasn't far wrong.
And whilst the judges highlighted concerns over "forced sounds"and the need to bring "good articulation and rhythm to the fore"as well as "musical flow"to the central section, they also complimented the MDs and soloists on their approaches to what they called the "commercial sounds"of the score.
After such a long wait it was South Yorkshire Police that emerged triumphant — and a clear winner at that according to their conductor Leigh Baker.
"I spoke to the judges and they told me we were 2 or 3 points ahead,"he said as he clutched the Area trophy. "We worked hard for this and I knew the band was capable of playing well. They were great on stage"
They certainly gave a fine performance (as did all the competitors), with the pastiche John Barry 007 motifs and lyrical lines played with a classy aplomb (especially 'Best Soloist', principal cornet Andy Able). Never shaken or stirred outside their secure technical and musical approach, it was worthy of the title.
Joining them in Cheltenham for the first time since 2016 will be Chapeltown, as Sam Fisher (who enjoyed a fine weekend) inspired a colourful account from the number 1 draw to pip a spirited rendition from Hade Edge.
The remaining places in a high-quality top-six went to Horbury Victoria, BD1 Brass (who many tipped to win, but who may just have lost their grasp on a Cheltenham spot with an adrenaline fired finale) and Meltham & Meltham Mills.
Every band though brought something from the score in what was a cracking contest every bit as enjoyable as any 007 blockbuster.
The opening contest of the weekend showed that the region will send two high-class contenders to Cheltenham.
Faced with the stern challenge of Holst's 'First Suite in Eb', it was Kippax, led by Stephen Tighe that eventually emerged triumphant — courtesy of a performance whose warm tonality was paced with intuitive stylistic appreciation by the MD and cultured execution by his players.
"A bit of experience helped on this one,"Stephen later said. "I love Holst's music and I've played and conducted the piece many time before. It's a lovely work to rehearse and perform and the credit goes to the players (their sop star Fay Thompson won the 'Best Soloist' award) who did just what I asked."
Respectful and lyrical it saw them claim a first Area title in 40 years to return to the finals for the first time since 2007 alongside fellow qualifiers Wetherby Silver. They in turn can look forward to their first Cheltenham appearance since 2014 after producing an engaging account under Derek Wharley's baton.
It also meant that they pipped a fine effort from Rockingham in third, whilst the remaining top-six places in an impressive contest went to Dinnington, Emley and Gawthorpe Brass 85.
"There was a clear winner,"adjudicator Sheona White said in her pre-results remarks. "There were some super moments today on a fantastic piece."
And although Sheona and David Thornton made pertinent points about the need to work on softer dynamics, both were impressed by the solo playing (especially soprano players) on what David referred to as, "a very complex work that doesn't reveal it challenges the first time around."
"All bands had some 'silly' moments,"David added. "Overall though, the best had real quality."
Few would have disagreed with the winners in particular, as Yorkshire sends a brace of bands to Cheltenham in September that could very well enjoy further podium success.
Despite the lack of numbers in the Fourth Section, there was certainly no lack of quality.
Adjudicator Sandy Smith's warmly received pre-results analysis covered both aspects — acutely observing that unless help is forthcoming to a level of banding that he described as being "in crisis", then the time will soon come in the not too distant future when there will be no bands, let alone eight to enjoy.
"The standard was good,"he said, whilst fellow judge Alan Duguid added that it was "pretty strong"with "some great performances".
And whilst the more immediate concern for those in the hall was to find out who had won, all will have taken home with them food for thought. Sandy's informed opinions should not be ignored.
For Maltby Miners victory was just reward for a band that continues to work hard year after year under their dedicated MD, Terry Clifford.
In fact he's conducted them at the Area contest since 1984, with a remarkable record of victories spanning three decades — 1999, 2009 and now 2019; the latest courtesy of a cracking performance of 'Stantonbury Festival' off the number 1 draw full of dynamic and stylistic contrast.
"We have always worked hard,"he said, "â€¦and especially this year. We enjoy contesting but we're also a busy concert band. We've a great atmosphere in the band and that's why I keep doing it. This win comes after some good performances and now we have Cheltenham to look forward to."
Joining them will be Barnsley Metropolitan (with no less than seven teenage players making their Area debuts), who gave a vibrant account under Alex Francis. Both will be strong contenders on this form.
It meant that Garforth just missed out on an immediate Cheltenham return, whilst the top-six was made up of Dodworth, Linthwaite and Friendly Band (Sowerby Bridge). Both Loxley and Thurcroft were not far behind.
Ray Steadman-Allen's well-crafted work provided amply scope for the bands to display good banding basics, with each of the contenders doing just that — despite nearly all of them having empty seats.
And whilst the contest honours deservedly went to Maltby Miners, on a day when longer term concerns were also addressed, a prize should perhaps have also been given to Linthwaite who bravely (but brilliantly) took to the stage with 15 players.
If ever there was a sign of what the future may hold at this level without intervention of some sort that was it in a nutshell.
"Absolutely terrific! So much musical poetry and technical control combining to produce a reading of exceptional class", Stephen stated. "Utterly convincing", added his fellow judgeAdjudicator's written remarks for Brighouse & Rastrick
Test Piece: Seascapes (Ray Steadman-Allen)
Adjudicators: Stephen Roberts and Steve Sykes
1. Brighouse & Rastrick (Dr David Thornton)**
2. Grimethorpe Colliery (Allan Withington)*
3. Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Ian Porthouse)*
4. Rothwell Temperance (David Roberts)
5. City of Bradford (Lee Skipsey)
6. Black Dyke (Prof. Nicholas J Childs)**
7. Hepworth (Mark Bentham)
8. Elland Silver (Daniel Brooks)
9. Skelmanthorpe (Martin Heartfield)
10. Hammonds Saltaire (Morgan Griffiths)
11. Unite the Union (John Roberts)
12. Marsden Silver (Andrew Lofthouse)
13. Strata (Jonathan Bates)
**Black Dyke and Brighouse & Rastrick pre-qualify for National Final
*Qualify for the National Final
Best Principal Cornet: Iain Culross (Grimethorpe Colliery)
Best Soloist: Chris Robertson (euphonium) — Brighouse & Rastrick
Best Instrumentalist: Zoe Lovatt-Cooper (flugel) — Black Dyke
Youngest Player: Lewis Barton (Elland Silver) — aged 13
Test Piece: Symphony of Marches (Gilbert Vinter)
Adjudicators: Gary Davies and Howard J Evans
1. Hatfield & Askern Colliery (Stanley Lippeatt)*
2. Old Silkstone (John Hopkinson)*
3. Crofton Silver (Dean Jones)
4. Yorkshire Imperial Urquhart Travel (Simon Gresswell)
5. Drighlington (Neil Robinson)
6. Lindley (Robert Westacott)
7. Stannington (Derek Renshaw)
8. Prospect Brass Skelmanthorpe (Duncan Beckley)
9. Hebden Bridge (David Hamilton)
10. Wakefield Metropolitan (Peter Kench)
11. Knottingley Silver (Kevin Belcher)
*Top two bands qualify for National Final
Best Soloist: Neil Wright (Eb tuba) â€” Hatfield & Askern Colliery
Best Soprano: Sam Fisher (Crofton Silver)
Best Euphonium: Mick Tyler (Drighlington)
Youngest Player: Max Creese (Hebden Bridge) â€” aged 11
Test Piece: Rise of the Phoenix (Darrol Barry)
Adjudicators: : Howard J Evans and Christopher Houlding
1. South Yorkshire Police (Leigh Baker)*
2. Chapeltown (Sam Fisher)*
3. Hade Edge (Jonathan Beatty)
4. Horbury Victoria (Duncan Beckley
5. BD1 Brass (Lee Skipsey)
6. Meltham & Meltham Mills (Tom Haslam)
7. Slaithwaite (Ryan Watkins)
8. Dronfield Genquip (Damian Wileman)
9. Barnsley Brass (William Rushworth)
10. Clifton & Lightcliffe (John Clay)
Withdrawn: Worsbrough Brass (Dr. Alexander Parker)
*Top two bands qualify for National Final
Best Soloist: Andy Able (cornet ) â€” South Yorkshire Police
Youngest Player: Ted Crosby (BD1 Brass) â€” aged 13
Test Piece: First Suite in Eb (Gustav Holst arr. Sydney Herbert)
Adjudicators: Sheona Wade and Dr David Thornton
1. Kippax (Stephen Tighe)*
2. Wetherby Silver (Derek Wharley)*
3. Rockingham (Adam Whittle)
4. Dinnington (Lee Dunkley)
5. Emley (Garry Hallas)
6. Gawthorpe Brass 85 (John Edward)
7. Huddersfield & Ripponden (Adam Bell)
8. Lofthouse 2000 (Andrew Whitaker)
9. Oughtibridge (Gavin Somerset)
10. Armthorpe Elmfield (R. Kilcoyne)
11. Clifton & Lightcliffe B (John Clay)
12. Deepcar (Cathryn Rogers)
*Top two bands qualify for National Final
Best Soloist: Fay Thompson (soprano) â€” Kippax
Youngest Player: Thomas Musgrave (Huddersfield & Ripponden) â€” aged 10
Test Piece: Stantonbury Festival (Ray Steadman-Allen)
Adjudicators: Alan Duguid and Sandy Smith
1. Maltby Miners (Terry Clifford)*
2. Barnsley Metropolitan (Alex Francis)*
3. Garforth (John Thompson)
4. Dodworth Colliery M.W. (Eliot Darwin)
5. Linthwaite (Paul Kershaw)
6. Friendly Band (Sowerby Bridge) (James Beecham)
7. Loxley Silver (Richard Windle)
8. Thurcroft Welfare (Matthew Wright)
*Top two bands qualify for National Final
Best Soloist: Dave Chambers (euphonium) â€” Maltby Miners
Best Percussion: Maltby Miners
Youngest Player: Sam Thompson (Garforth Brass) â€” aged 8