Report & Results: 2019 New Zealand National Championships

Wellington Brass defends it New Zealand title with a clean sweep display of musical authority in Hamilton as section awards got to Nelson City Brass, Tauranga City Brass, Matamata Brass and Takapuna Youth Band.

  Wellington celebrate yet another National Championship title success

Wellington Brass has been crowned New Zealand National Champion for an eighth time, following a comprehensive victory in the North Island city of Hamilton.

Once again led by their inspirational driving force David Bremner, the defending champion secured the famous Gold Cup Trophy by claiming a clean sweep of the contest disciplines to head home with additional silverware for the Sacred Item, Set-Work and Own-Choice categories thanks to impressive renditions of 'The Light of the World', 'Variations on a Ninth' and 'Titan's Progress'.

In addition, their tuba team took the 'Best Section' prize, whilst the MD was presented with the KGL Smith Memorial Trophy and the Mervyn Waters Memorial Trust Cup – named after two of the nation's most famous conductors, in leading his band to their sixth win in the last seven years.


Speaking exclusively to 4BR he said; "The band played so well all weekend and were relaxed on stage. It's a privilege to be back conducting them and to be part of such performances.

The players worked incredibly hard in the build up and we're thrilled to be taking the trophies back to our Ngaio bandroom."

He added: "A special mention must go to all our principals, in particular Toby Pringle who also won the 'Champion of Champions' solo title on the weekend and our 'Best Section' tubas. The celebrations as you can imagine, were long and fun!"

Defined order

Victory further endorsed Wellington as the pre-eminent brass band in the southern hemisphere, leading home rivals Woolston Brass and podium finishers North Shore Brass in what was a clearly defined order of preference from adjudicator Luc Vertommen.

Before the announcement of the results the Belgian made a generous speech; acknowledging not just the playing of the bands, but also the contribution of the National and local organising committees to what proved to be a highly successful National return to Hamilton for the first time since 1979.

And although he complained (with tongue firmly in his cheek) that having read so much about New Zealand being the best place in the world to visit he had spent the vast majority of his time in the country inside an adjudicator's box, he was still fulsome in his praise for the standard of playing he had heard in the solo and ensemble events as well as the main band competitions.

Salt, pepper, mustard and ketchup

He did feel though that only four bands really captured Gilbert Vinter's precise musical intentions on 'Variations on a Ninth' — stating that conductors that tried to "overdo"tempi and dynamics on the "classical masterpiece"found that "it just didn't work".

"It was like putting extra salt, pepper, mustard and ketchup on an excellent dish", he said.

He added: "Those who did what the composer asked for, and that was what I was looking for, scored well. It is still a very difficult test for modern bands. Not even all the top four could play Variations 1 and 8, but there was one band that clearly stood out and ticked all the boxes.

They had minor blemishes but I felt they played with good taste and probably laid the foundations for winning the title today."

And in respect to the own-choice selections he revealed that he knew the pitfalls the scores contained having conducted 10 of the 11 himself. "There were 11 top class performances,"he said. "Today was a big feast of modern test pieces."

Significant margin

A glance at the overall results later confirmed that Wellington had perhaps sealed their victory on the Friday in leading rivals Woolston and North Shore Brass by a small, but significant margin ahead of the own-choice finale.

There they produced a dramatic account of 'Titan's Progress' off the number 1 draw at the Claudelands Event Centre, that despite high-quality efforts from Woolston on 'A Brussels Requiem' and North Shore on 'Fraternity' (with guest principal cornet Harmen Vanhoorne claiming his second 'Best Principal Cornet' prize) proved more than good enough to seal yet another National success.

Behind them in a contest of varying top flight quality came solid accounts from Waitakere Auckland Brass (who also impressed with their set-work rendition) playing 'On the Shoulders of Giants', Eastern Bay of Plenty and welcome USA visitors, Chicago Brass Band – the latter duo perhaps more at home with their own-choice selections of 'Fraternity' and 'Trance'.

The decision to use Gilbert Vinter's 1964 composition in commemoration of the 50 anniversary of his death proved to be something of an inspired choice – with both MDs and players faced with somewhat unfamiliar tests of musical character in terms of pacing, dynamic and balance (something Luc Vertommen touched on),

The famous set of cadenzas certainly tested the players, with Anthony Smith of Woolston Brass deservedly taking the Elgar Clayton Memorial Trophy for his fine playing.

B Grade:

In the B Grade, one of New Zealand's fast rising ensembles, Nelson City Brass claimed an equally comprehensive victory — enabling MD Nigel Weeks to celebrate the recent announcement of his award of the Queen's Service Medal by leading them to a third National title in the last four years.

The 2018 runner-up secured victory by a massive 11-point margin over rivals, Boroondara Brass and joint third placed Auckland City Brass and defending champion Whanganui, with mature renditions of 'I Know Thou Art Mine', the set-work, 'Triumphant Rhapsody' and 'Prisms'.

C , D and Youth Grade:

There was also a clear victory in the C Grade event for Tauranga City Brass led by conductor Steven Thompson, as they secured their first National win since 2006 with well-structured accounts of 'Guardian of My Soul', 'Penlee' and 'Elegy 1'.

Behind them came defending champion Howick Brass with 2014 winner Te Awamutu Brass in third.

In a highly enjoyable D Grade event (one in which adjudicator Graham Hickman was full of insightful analysis and praise for the individual performers) it was a welcome return for Matamata Brass led by Barry Cullen (they did not compete in 2017 or 2018).

They secured their first win since 2013 with fine renditions of the difficult set-test, 'Meditation on St Clement' as well as 'Music for a Festival' and 'Jack o'Lantern'.

Behind them came well delivered performances from Hamilton Auxiliary Brass, also on their return to the event since 2013 and debutants North Shore Brass Academy alongside Rotorua Brass.

Although there was only one band in the Youth Grade, the audience at the Southwell School Performing Arts Centre thoroughly enjoyed the fine playing of Takapuna Youth Band led by Mark Close, especially on 'The Once and Future King' and 'Riffs & Whirligigs'.

The return of the National Championships to Hamilton for just the second time in the 139 year history of the event proved to be an overwhelming success, with the outstanding organisation and slick presentation mirrored by the increased turn-out of competitors and the warm welcome of the host city.

The band played so well all weekend and were relaxed on stage. It's a privilege to be back conducting them and to be part of such performancesWellington MD, David Bremner


A Grade:

Adjudicator: Luc Vertommen
Sacred Item/Set-Work/Own-Choice = Total

1. Wellington Brass (David Bremner): 48/96/97 = 241
2. Woolston Brass (Tyme Marsters): 47.5/94/96 = 237.5
3. North Shore Brass (Colin Clark): 46/92/95 = 233
4. Waitakere Auckland Brass (Howard Taylor): 45.5/91/92 = 228.5
5. Eastern Bay of Plenty Brass (Alan Spence): 44.5/87/94 = 225.5
6. Chicago Brass Band (Colin Holman): 44/88/93 = 225
7. Ascot Park Hotel Brass of Invercargill (Matthew Dick): 45/90/87 = 222
8. Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass (Nathaniel Griffiths): 44.5/89/88 = 221.5
9. Hamilton City Brass (Glenn Richards): 41.5/82/90 = 213.5
10. Marlborough District Brass (Kevin Moseley): 42.5/81/89 = 212.5
11. St Kilda Brass (Peter Adams): 42/80/86 = 208

Best Soloist (Set-Work): Anthony Smith (principal cornet) — Woolston Brass
Best Section (Set-Work): Tuba section of Wellington Brass
Best Principal Cornet (Own-Choice): Harmen Vanhoorne (North Shore Brass)

B Grade:

Adjudicator: Graham Hickman
Sacred Item/Set-Work/Own-Choice = Total

1. Nelson City Brass (Nigel Weeks): 40/89/90 = 219
2. Boroondara Brass (Daniel Van Bergen): 39/84/85 = 208
3= Auckland City Brass (Tak Chun Lai): 37.5/86/81 = 204.5
3= Brass Whanganui (Bruce Jellyman): 39.5/82/83 = 204.5
5. The Devon Hotel New Plymouth Brass (Christopher Lake): 38/79/77 = 194
6. Hutt City Brass (Matt Stein): 35.5/80/77 = 192.5
7. Deco Bay Brass (David Mass): 36/76/80 = 192
8. Trust Porirua Brass (Clynton Payne): 37/78/76 = 191
9= Kaikorai Metropolitan Brass (Michael Grant): 35/74/73 = 182
9= Papakura City Brass (Adrian Raven): 35/73/74 = 182

Best Soloist (Set-Work): Jan Lewis (flugel) — Nelson City Brass
Best Principal Cornet (Own-Choice): Steve Rudhall and Doug Couchman (Nelson City Brass)

C Grade:

Adjudicator: Luc Vertommen
Sacred Item/Set-Work/Own-Choice = Total

1. Tauranga City Brass (Steven Thompson): 43/94/94 = 231
2. Howick Brass (Brendan Agnew): 42.5/90/91 = 223.5
3. Te Awamutu Brass (Sarah Carroll): 43/89/89 = 221
4. Fielding Brass (Carissa Davies): 42.5/87/85 = 214.5
5. Cambridge Brass (Rob Hocking): 40.5/80/80 = 200.5

D Grade:

Adjudicator: Graham Hickman
Sacred Item/Own-Choice/March = Total

1. Matamata Brass (Barry Cullen): 72/78/74 = 224
2. Hamilton Auxiliary Brass (TeReo Hughes): 69/77/73 = 219
3= North Shore Brass Academy (Steve Foster): 71/76/70 = 217
3= Rotorua Brass (Jim McGregor): 70/75/72 = 217

Youth Grade:

Adjudicator: Graham Hickman
Sacred Item/Own-Choice/March = Total

1. Takapuna Youth Band (Mark Close): 68/70/70 = 208

Best Soloist: Euphonium (Takapuna Youth Brass)

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