There proved to be an emphatic winning marker endorsing the global success of the inaugural Cory Online Championships, as America's premier brass band, Fountain City, claimed the top section honours to close a double-header twin weekend of entertainment.
They finished ahead of Whitburn from Scotland and the home grown talents of City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) on Saturday evening, after a contest in which all 15 contenders delivered slickly produced programmes for the adjudication panel of Philip Harper, Tom Hutchinson, Nigel Seaman and Simon Howell to enjoy.
The overall event, which gained financial support from Arts Council Wales as well as a raft of high profile sponsors, not only enjoyed widespread support from 68 competing bands from across the globe who delivered a real spirit of invention, enthusiasm and excellence, but also by viewers from every corner of the banding world.
And with Cory MD Philip Harper as the indefatigable host and the technical excellence of Cory's in-house tech wizard Ali Woodman, it also opened the door to an exciting new era of concert programme presentation to a musical public increasingly accustomed to accessing entertainment at home via social media platforms.
Knock out winners
It was certainly a heavyweight knock-out performance that claimed the top section honours, as reigning North American and US Open Champion, Fountain City, led by their MD 'corner man' Dr Joe Parisi, took their title winning inspiration from the famous 'Rocky' boxing movie.
The unmistakable sounds of 'Going the Distance' and 'Gonna Fly Now' (featuring Ryan Sharp, Rich Sweat and the MD on trumpet) was followed by flugel soloist Matthew Vangjel on 'Micky' before closing with the iconic 'Night of the Tiger' to become the new online 'Champion of the World' as well as taking prizes for 'Best Cornets' and 'Best Percussion'.
"The studio was set alight"Philip Harper said, with adjudicator Simon Howells in full agreement: "It had something for everyone". "It was so professionally put together"Tom Hutchinson added, whilst Nigel Seaman said "it sounded as good as a CD to me".
The only question mark came with the rather conservative visual approach (the judges looked at musical quality, concept and presentation) — something that wasn't the case with runner-up Whitburn.
Led by Bryan Allen and produced by their young percussionist Ryan Bradley, their eclectic triptych set saw them open with the 1960s sounds of the television series 'Hawaii Five-O' (although you suspect it may not have been filmed in the Autumnal sunshine of West Lothian!)
Principal cornet Chris Bradley showcased wonderful lyricism in deservedly taking the 'Best Soloist' award with 'First Light', before the band closed with the 'Toccata' finale from 'Suite Gothique' with their 'Best Basses' providing the organ-like foundation.
The final podium place went to City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) who mined a seam of Welshness as thick as anthracite coal under MD Christopher Bond, with their trio of 'Afonaf Angel', the MD's own 'Welsh Melody' arrangement and the closing sounds of Tom Jones at his thumping best with 'It's Not Unusual'.
It enabled them to not only repeal the strong challenge from other fancied contenders, but also claim the prizes for 'Best Welsh Music Performance', 'Best Horns' and 'Best Euphoniums/Baritones'.
The 'Most Entertaining Programme' and 'Best Trombones' award went to Hitchin Band under MD, Nick Garman with their slickly presented set based on 'The Power of Music' — from emotive reflection to full in the face custard pie fun!
Downshire Brass from Northern Ireland had to wait a little while after their first weekend performance to finally enjoy the socially distanced celebrations being crowned First Section champion.
However, it was certainly worth it after their wonderfully evocative programme inspired by the people, places and culture of their nation, composed and arranged by MD Michael Alcorn. It captured the honours from Lion City from Singapore and Brass Band of Northern Virginia from the USA.
The opening 'She Moved Through the Fair' featured the outstanding 'Best Soloist' winner Lauren Stewart on flugel, which segued into a world premiere of 'A Ragged Hank of Yarn' featuring Jonny Sproule on euphonium.
Downshire closed with another world premiere of 'I'll Tell Me Ma' (complete with guest vocals and next generation youngsters) to round off a highly polished production that also claimed accolades for 'Best Euphoniums/Baritones' and 'Best Percussion'.
Such was the impact that Philip Harper summed it up by saying "How about that?", whilst the collective adjective from the judges was simply "Wow!"
Runner-up was Lion City (established in 2015) who showcased their emerging talents under MD, Ignatius Wang with the quick fire march 'Rolling Thunder', the 'Lament' from Karl Jenkins' 'Stabat Mater' played by euphonium soloist Kang Chun Meng and rousing 'Stand up for Singapore' to close.
Third place and the prize for providing the 'Most Entertaining Programme' and 'Best Basses' went to Brass Band of Northern Virginia.
Led by David Searle they provided a set of musical portraits — from the 'Promenade' from 'Pictures at an Exhibition' and 'Cityscape' from 'A Lowry Sketchbook' to 'Rider' from Anthony Plog's 'Trumpet Concerto' played on this occasion by euphonium soloist, Dr Richard Demy.
There was a deserved Scottish success in the Second Section as Lochgelly Band led by Paul McElvie OBE dipped into the bag of concert repertoire that has brought them success over the past year or so to repel the strong challenge of Norwegian contenders Fjell Brass and Bearpark & Esh from the North of England.
The impressive Scots took a circuitous European route to musical success with the colourful opener 'El Es El Senor', followed by 'Share My Yoke' played by principal cornet Lynsey Aitken and the rhythmic drive of the closing 'Balkan Dance'.
All the judges remarked on the control and precision of the playing — especially the finale, which Nigel Seaman said was "remarkable"given its complexity to put together in the circumstances, whilst Rob Nicholson added that "everyone was on board with what the conductor wanted." Glyn Williams added that overall "it was a great performance."
Not only did it claim the overall title, but also saw Lochgelly take the accolades for 'Most Entertaining Programme', 'Best Basses' and 'Best Percussion'.
Fjell Brass led by Joseph Cook certainly pushed them all the way as they set a benchmark of Nordic/Celtic inspiration as the first of the eight contenders.
The band from just outside Bergen opened with 'Happy' (recorded at Easter — explaining the appearance of a bunny and chicken!), 'Ved Nesland Kyrkje' tenderly played by 'Best Soloist' winner Eli Johanne Fischer on cornet, and a passionate 'Sospan Fach' to close — taking the 'Best Trombones' and 'Best Horns' prize along the way.
70th anniversary celebrating Bearpark & Esh took the final podium slot under Philip Tait with a set based on 'The Power of Song' — with 'All Night Long' segueing into 'Abide with Me' joined by The Northern Spirit Singers and 'Let there be Light' by Steven Ponsford.
There were also a number of other fine performances on show, with Wotton Silver (125 years old in 2019) claiming prizes for 'Best Cornets', 'Best Euphoniums/Baritones' and 'Best Welsh Music Performance' for 'Calon Lan' in their cross border set.
The worldwide scope of the championships was certainly shown in the Third Section where strong contenders came from as far afield as South Korea, Germany and a brace from Australia.
However, it was the highly impressive Lostock Hall Memorial Band from the North West of England that claimed the honours under MD, Ryan Broad with a set based on the events of the past year — from Black Lives Matter to COVID-19.
They opened with a brand new composition entitled 'Lockdown' before the baritone solo 'We Shall Overcome' was wonderfully played by youngster Matthew Hurst. The finale came with the Disney classic 'Go the Distance' arranged by the MD and featuring vocalists Shane Murray (who composed the opener) and Samantha Seth.
The adjudicating trio of Rob Nicholson, Nigel Seaman and Glyn Williams were certainly impressed — with Glyn simply describing it with 'Wow!' — praising its imagination, delivery, confidence and production values. That was echoed by both Rob and Nigel who were equally bowled over — 'ticking' every box they were looking for.
The 'rave reviews' as Philip Harper added, eventually saw the band claimed the overall honours as well as 'Most Entertaining Programme', 'Best Horns' and 'Best Percussion'.
Brass Band B10 from Germany under MD Dominic Wagner showcased their emerging talents with an eclectic set that encompassed the Olympic spirit of 'Citius, Altius, Fortius', 'Soul Bossa Nova' led by flugel soloist Volker Lutz and the closing 'Ready, Steady, Brass!' featuring cornet player Levin Pold.
It also gave them the prizes for 'Best Trombones' and 'Best Basses' as they pipped Towcester Studio Band from Northamptonshire in third.
Conducted by Peter Wain, Towcester's set was a homage to their home town's sporting and industrial heritage (finishing with 'Clog Dance') with 14 year old euphonium star Ewan Rigby claiming the 'Best Soloist' award for his splendid whip through 'Blaydon Races' and a lyrical rendition of 'David of the White Rock' securing the 'Best Welsh Music Performance' prize.
Prizes also went to Newcastle PCYC from Australia and Brilliante Brass from South Korea.
Some of the best entertainment was certainly on show in the Fourth Section where a huge field of 20 contenders produced fantastic visual as well as musical programming.
The eventual winner was Woodhouse Silver Prize Band from Yorkshire, who although formed way back in 1853 has been for many years a non-competing band — hoping to make their first Area appearance in 2021.
That 'Journey' back to the contesting fold under MD, Richard Windle was delivered with polished aplomb both musically and visually as they took the overall honours, as well as the 'Most Entertaining Programme' prize with a set that opened with the MD's own space age compositions 'Voyager' and 'Pale Blue Dot'.
A touch of 1970's television nostalgia and great humour with 'Avenues and Alleyways' (the the theme tune to 'The Protectors') led into the video game era and the closing 'Baba Yetu'.
"It had everything"adjudicator Steve Stewart said "Bravo". "It had drama, invention and humour"Phil Harper added, whilst Helen Williams said it "ticked all those boxes — showing their personality and character".
A fine runner-up came in the form of Royston Town Band under Steve Earley, with a four piece set that opened with 'The Greatest Show' followed by 'A Design for Life'.
Ambulance driver Andy Snowball found time between 999 calls for a super rendition of 'First Light' before the band closed with 'Never Enough'.
The final podium spot went to Dungannon Silver led by MD, Boris Pinto. With an age range from 8 to 80 they certainly showcased their abilities to the full with a set that incorporated 'Europa Mars', 'The Irish Blessing' and 'Ring, Ring' by ABBA with vocalist Jayne Patterson.
Talented youngster James Shaw of Poyntzpass Silver Band took the 'Best Soloist' award for his super performance of 'Grandfather's Clock', whilst awards were also shared by Test Valley Brass, Blackley, Holmestrand (Norway), University of Bristol, Fakenham and Simply Brass.
it also opened the door to an exciting new era of concert programme presentation to a musical public increasingly accustomed to accessing entertainment at home via social media platforms4BR
Adjudicators: Nigel Seaman*, Tom Hutchinson, Simon Howell (placings given in order)
1. Fountain City Brass Band: (2/1/1) = 4
2. Whitburn: (1/2/2) = 5
3. City of Cardiff (M1): (3*/4/4) = 11
4. GUS Band: (5/3/3) = 11
5. Strata Brass: (4/5/6) = 15
6. Redbridge Brass: (7/8/5) = 20
7. Leyland Band: (6/9/8) = 23
8. Hitchin Band: (11/7/7) = 25
9. Elland Silver: (8/6/12) = 26
10. Glenferrie: (9/10/11) = 30
11. Michelmersh Silver: (10*/13/14) = 37
12. Langley Band: (12/15/10) = 37
13. Enderby: (13/11/13) = 37
14. Brass Band Leieland: (15/14/9) = 38
14. Easington Colliery: (14/12/15) = 41
*Nigel Seaman provided tie-breaker mark
Most Entertaining Programme: Hitchin Band
Best Welsh Music Performance: City of Cardiff (Melingriffith)
Best Soloist: Chris Bradley (Whitburn) — cornet
Best Cornets: Fountain City Brass Band
Best Horns: City of Cardiff (Melingriffith)
Best Euphoniums/Baritones: City of Cardiff (Melingriffith)
Best Trombones: Hitchin Band
Best Basses: Whitburn
Best Percussion: Fountain City Brass Band
Adjudicators: Steve Stewart, Steve Kane, Ailsa Russell*
1. Downshire Brass: (1/1/1) = 3
2. Lion City Brass Band: (3/2/3) = 8
3. Brass Band of Northern Virginia: (2/3/4) = 9
4. Arkansas Musicworks: (4/4/2) = 10
5. Seindorf Arian Deiniolen: (5/6/7) = 18
6. BTM: (11/5/6) = 22
7. Milton Keynes: (7/12/5) = 24
8. Drogheda: (10/7/8*) = 25
9. Kingdom Brass: (6/9/10) = 25
10. Manx Concert: (12/8/9) = 29
11. Chiltern Hills: (8/13/11*) = 32
12. Bollington: (9/10/13) = 32
13. Shirley: (13/11/12) = 35
14. 1st Old Boys: (14/14/15) = 43
15. Freckleton: (15/15/14) = 44
*Ailsa Russell provided tie-breaker mark
Most Entertaining Programme: Brass Band of Northern Virginia
Best Welsh Music Performance: Arkansas Musicworks
Best Soloist: Lauren Stewart (Downshire Brass) — flugel
Best Cornets: Bollington
Best Horns: Seindorf Arian Deiniolen
Best Euphoniums/Baritones: Downshire Brass
Best Trombones: Lion City
Best Basses: Arkansas Musicworks
Best Percussion: Downshire Brass
Adjudicators: Nigel Seaman, Glyn Williams*, Rob Nicholson
1. Lochgelly: (1/2/1) = 4
2. Fjell Brass: (2/1/2) = 5
3. Bearpark & Esh: (3/4/3) = 10
4. Wotton Silver: (4/3/4) = 11
5. Wantage: (7/5*/6) = 18
6. Gresley Colliery: (6/7/5) = 18
7. Durham Miners: (5/8/7) = 20
8. Ammanford: (8/6/8) = 22
*Glyn Williams provided tie-breaker mark
Most Entertaining Programme: Lochgelly
Best Welsh Music Performance: Wotton Silver
Best Soloist: Eli Johanne Fischer (Fjell Brass) — cornet
Best Cornets: Wotton Silver
Best Horns: Fjell Brass
Best Euphoniums/Baritones: Wotton Silver
Best Trombones: Fjell Brass
Best Basses: Lochgelly
Best Percussion: Lochgelly
Adjudicators: Nigel Seaman, Glyn Williams*, Rob Nicholson
1. Lostock Hall Memorial: (1/1/2) = 4
2. Brass Band B10: (2/2/1) = 5
3. Towcester Studio: (3/6/4) = 13
4. Gillingham Imperial: (6/3/6) = 15
5. Hawk Green: (5/4*/9) = 18
6. Newcastle PCYC: (8/7/3) = 18
7. Brilliante Brass: (9/5/5) = 19
8. Regent Community: (4/10/8) = 22
9. CNL Brass: (10/8/7) = 25
10. Dynamic Brass: (7/9/10) = 26
*Glyn Williams provided tie-breaker mark
Most Entertaining Programme: Lostock Hall Memorial
Best Welsh Music Performance: Towcester Studio
Best Soloist: Ewan Rigby (Towcester Studio) — euphonium
Best Cornets: Newcastle PCYC
Best Horns: Lostock Hall Memorial
Best Euphoniums/Baritones: Brilliante Brass
Best Trombones: Brass Band B10
Best Basses: Brass Band B10
Best Percussion: Lostock Hall Memorial
Adjudicators: Helen Williams*, Steve Stewart, Steve Jones
1. Woodhouse Silver Prize Band: (2/1/3) = 6
2. Royston Town: (3/2/6) = 11
3. Dungannon Silver: (6/6/2) = 14
4. Holmestrand Brass: (4/10/1) = 15
5. Blackley: (1/13/8) = 22
6. Whit Spirit: (11/9/4) = 24
7. Test Valley Brass: (10/3/15) = 28
8. Menai Bridge: (5/7/17) = 29
9. Poyntzpass Silver: (9*/14/7) = 30
10. Ashover Band: (12/8/10) = 30
11. Askam Town Silver Band: (13/12/5) = 30
12. University of Bristol: (8/4/19) = 31
13. Simply Brass: (15/5/12) = 32
14. Gresley Colliery Youth: (19/11/9) = 39
15. Amington Band: (16*/15/14) = 45
16. King's Lynn Town: (17/17/11) = 45
17. Crosskeys Silver: (7/19/20) = 46
18. Camping & Caravanning: (14/16/18) = 48
19. Fakenham Town: (18/18/16) = 52
20. London City Brass: (20/20/13) = 53
*Helen Williams provided tie-breaker mark
Most Entertaining Programme: Woodhouse Silver Prize Band
Best Welsh Music Performance: Crosskeys Silver
Best Soloist: James Shaw (Poyntzpass Silver) — euphonium
Best Cornets: Test Valley Brass
Best Horns: Blackley
Best Euphoniums/Baritones: Holmestrand
Best Trombones: University of Bristol
Best Basses: Fakenham
Best Percussion: Simply Brass