An appreciative worldwide audience enjoyed two days of 'virtual' competitive action as 119 bands from 13 countries performed 57 different marches as part of the Foden's online Whit Friday Championships.
And whilst there was a very familiar name at the top of the overall contest podium, Cory's victory proved to be the ultimate endorsement of a competition that captured the wit, imagination and brilliant playing skills of the famous Tameside and Saddleworth events — and there wasn't a drop rain in sight to dampen spirits either.
Michael Fowles had a gargantuan task of listening to all 119 competitors in the seven different sections.
It had been "a terrific contest" he said, and great to hear the "...classic marches but also some revivals of marches that we don't hear that often anymore."
He offered his congratulations to all the prize-winners, reinforcing his thanks to every entry as well as "the technical experts" that had put them all together with skill and humour.
There was certainly plenty of variety — from serious intent to slapstick humour (and a number of performances were worthy of a Comedy BAFTA), whilst it was heartening to see the entries from across the globe — including the Mbale Schools Band from Uganda with a rousing 'Contestor' dressed in their own version of Brighouse & Rastrick's famous Whit Friday uniforms.
It also ensured that it was a very difficult task for adjudicator Mark Bousie to decide on the winner of the 'Most Innovative Presentation' prize, but in the end he opted for Macclesfield Youth's 'Brassed Off!' homage, which was anything but with its brilliant 'soft drinks' inspired wit under MD, Louise Renshaw.
Cory top the podium
The world's number 1 ranked band was obviously pleased with their debut Whit Friday Championship Section success, writing on the Cory Facebook page: "We're delighted to have been awarded first place for our performance of Navigation Inn".
They added: "And of course, a big thanks to the Foden's Band for organising this incredible showcase of brass banding and giving us all something to focus on in these difficult times."
Cory also eschewed the traditional Whit Friday march favourites such as 'Knight Templar', 'Ravenswood' and 'The President' to showcase their full panoply of talents under Philip Harper in delivering an impeccable rendition of the ornate 'Navigation Inn' by Philip Sparke.
It proved to be just enough to repel the challenge of perhaps one of the most impressive 'scratch bands' ever to take part in the Whit Friday contests.
Bedroom Brass, made up of star players (and some 'bedrooms' also seemed to have plenty of decorated quality) from all corners of the globe (including a Cory player or two) gave a rousing 'tour-de-force' quick-step rendition of the same march as the winner, which adjudicator Michael Fowles later told 4BR was just 'the narrowest of margins' behind them.
The GUS Band also enjoyed their virtual journey north from Kettering with a polished 'Ravenswood' to claim the final podium spot. The depth and variety of the challenges was shown with the final top-six places going to the British Army Band, Aldbourne and Atlantic Brass Band from the USA.
1st Old Boys from Northern Ireland secured the First Section honours with a slickly produced travelogue rendition of Alford's 'Great Little Army' played with just the right touch of swagger under MD Stephen Cairns.
It not only took the title but ended a fine 11th overall, repelling excellent accounts from podium finishers Strata Brass from Yorkshire ('The President') and the Texan 'Honest Toil' from Houston Brass Band.
The remaining top six slots went to Eccles Borough (drawn number 1, playing 'The Australasian'), Third Carrickfergus from Northern Ireland ('Imperial Echoes') and Five Lakes Silver from the USA ('The President').
It was a nip and tuck battle in the Second Section with the podium finishers of Wantage Concert Brass, Lochgelly and Wakefield Metropolitan Brass ending just one place apart in the overall standings.
Wantage produced a super 'Honest Toil' (and with no MD), with the Scots of Lochgelly just behind with their vibrant 'Viva Birkinshaw'. Wakefield's bold 'Contestor' was also right in the mix, as was Bearpark & Esh in fourth ('Ravenswood') to finish just one place behind overall.
The remaining top-six slots went to Annan Town Band ('Viva Birkinshaw') and Hinnerup Garden Band from Denmark with 'March of the Cobblers'.
Welsh bands certainly enjoyed their virtual trip over Offa's Dyke, with Seindorf Beaumaris taking the Third Section title with a swaggering rendition of 'Punchinello' played in front of perhaps the best open-air backdrop of the contest from their home in Anglesey.
They were the clear winners in what was a Home Nations podium battle, with the Scots of Langholm Town in second with their upbeat 'Star Lake' and Skelmersdale Prize in third with 'The Contestor'.
The worldwide appeal of the contest was shown as Bendigo United Brass from Australia paid homage to the contest organisers with 'The Cossack', with Dungannon Silver from Northern Ireland ('Blaze Away') and Darwen Brass from England ('Knight Templar') making up the top-six.
There was more Welsh success in the Fourth Section, as Cross Keys Silver conducted by Cory euph player Sion Rhys Jones opted for a march close to their geographical hearts.
Their super rendition of T.J Powell's 'Castell Caerffili', claimed a clear victory over rivals City of Birmingham Brass Band with their swaggering 'Punchinello', whilst Littleborough's breezy 'March of the Cobblers' ended third.
The remaining top-six places in a contest inspired in part by medieval fortifications and a dubious eye-test, went to Test Valley Brass, Trentham Brass (both playing 'Castell Coch') and Amersham Community Brass ('Barnard Castle').
There was a great turnout of 17 non-competitive bands — led by eventual winners University of Huddersfield Brass Band, who were locked in what was to be a head-to head battle with their academic rivals of the University of Manchester Brass Band.
In the end just one place separated them in the overall standings, with Huddersfield's devilishly impressive 'Mephistopheles' taking the honours ahead of their rival's impish 'Punchinello'.
There was plenty of musical variety on show, as the Ambassadors Brass Band, made up of a majority of Salvation Army players came third with their neat account of Henry Goffin's 'The Red Shield', whilst the remaining top-six places went to Galashiels Town ('The Gathering'), Age UK ' Creating a Buzz' Band ('Slaidburn') and Woodhouse Prize ('Fraternal Greetings').
One of the highlights of the two days was the performances from the 17 youth bands — including a trio of overseas entrants from Uganda (Mbale Schools Band), Denmark (National Youth Band) and Singapore (UWCSEA Dover Brass Band).
In the end though it was Yorkshire's Elland Silver Youth who put behind them the recent flooding of their bandroom to produce a cracking account of 'Mephistopheles' full of youthful passion and mature precision to take the honours by a short head from their Singapore rival's equally red-blooded, 'Castell Coch'.
Third place went to local favourites Lions Youth Brass with 'Death or Glory' whilst the top-six was completed by super efforts from The National Youth Band of Denmark ('The Cossack'), Enderby Youth Band ('Out of the Blue') and the 'Most Innovative Presentation' winners, 'Macclesfield Youth ('March of the Cobblers').
The top three prize winners will receive awards sponsored by Tameside Council, although each of the bands in the section deserved the plaudits for their great, fun packed playing.
Foden's commitment to ensuring that the Whit Friday tradition was maintained in 2020 and 2021 deserves huge credit, not just for the technical production (spearheaded by Darren Lea and his team), but also their commitment to the Tameside and Saddleworth organising committees which raised over £3,400 by the end of the weekend to help with their contest days returns in 2022.
Support for the event also came from a raft of sponsors, with Tameside Council offering awards in the Youth Section.
And whilst Foden's Band Manager Mark Wilkinson hoped that circumstances will now see his band join forces with others out on the Whit Friday circuits of Tameside and Saddleworth in 2022, he believed the on-line event also has a place in the contesting calendar.
"Whit Friday is such an important date for banding that we've been honoured to play our part as an organisers in the past two years.
Hopefully, we will be back competing with everyone else in 2022, but we think there is a place for an event like this to carry on as it enables us to reach out to bands across the globe — and for them to showcase their talents in return."
Whit Friday is such an important date for banding that we've been honoured to play our part as an organisers in the past two yearsFoden's Band
1. Cory Band (Wales)
2. Bedroom Brass (England)
3. GUS Band (England)
4. British Army Brass Band (UK)
5. Aldbourne Band (England)
6. Atlantic Brass Band (USA)
1. 1st Old Boys (Northern Ireland)
2. Strata Brass (England)
3. Houston Brass Band (USA)
4. Eccles Borough Band (England)
5. Third Carrickfergus (Northern Ireland)
6. Five Lakes Silver Band (USA)
1. Wantage Concert Brass (England)
2. Lochgelly (Scotland)
3. Wakefield Metropolitan Brass (England)
4. Bearpark & Esh (England)
5. Annan Town (Scotland)
6. Hinnerup Garden (Denmark)
1. Seindorf Beaumaris (Wales)
2. Langholm Town (Scotland)
3. Skelmersdale Prize (England)
4. Bendigo United Brass (Australia)
5. Dungannon Silver Band (Northern Ireland)
6. Darwen Brass (England)
1. Cross Keys Silver (Wales)
2. City of Birmingham Brass (England)
3. Littleborough (England)
4. Test Valley Brass (England)
5. Trentham Brass (England)
6. Amesham Community Brass (England)
1. University of Huddersfield Brass (England)
2. University of Manchester Brass (England)
3. The Ambassadors (England)
4. Galashiels Town (Scotland)
5. Age UK 'Creating a Buzz' Band (UK)
6. Woodhouse Prize Band (England)
1. Elland Silver Youth (England)
2. UWCSEA Dover Brass Band — Singapore (Singapore)
3. Lions Youth Brass (England)
4. The National Youth Band of Denmark (Denmark)
5. Enderby Youth Band (England)
6. Macclesfield Youth Brass Band (England)
Most Innovative Presentation:
1. Cory Band (Championship)
2. Bedroom Brass (Championship)
3. GUS Band (Championship)
4. British Army Brass Band (Championship)
5. Aldbourne Band (Championship)
6. Atlantic Brass Band (Championship)
7. Brass Band of Central Florida (Championship)
8. St Dennis Band (Championship)
9. Amersham Band (Championship)
10. Elland Silver (Championship)
11. 1st Old Boys (First)
12. Enderby Band (Championship)
13. Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass (Championship)
14. Strata Brass (First)
15. UNISON Kinneil (Championship)
16. Houston Brass Band (First)
17. Eccles Borough (First)
18. Bo'ness & Carriden (Championship)
19. Third Carrickfergus (First)
20. Five Lakes Silver Band (First)
21. Wantage Band (Championship)
22. Marsden Silver Prize (First)
23. Stonehenge Silver (Championship)
24. Lindley (First)
25. Arhus Brass (First)
26. Seindorf Arian Deiniolen (First)
27. Strabane Brass (First)
28. VBS Poynton Band (First)
29. Hitchin Band (Championship)
30. Steel City Brass (Championship)
31. Distant Brass (Championship)
32. Jackfield Band (First)
33. Immortal Brass Eternally (Championship)
34. Hade Edge (First)
35. Pontardulais Town (First)
36. SW COMMS Band (Championship)
37. Bollington Brass (First)
38. Langley Band (First)
39. Chiltern Hills Brass (First)
40. Rockville Brass Band (First)
41. Milton Keynes Brass (First)
42. Freckleton (First)
43. Wantage Concert Brass (Second)
44. Lochgelly (Second)
45. Wakefield Metropolitan Brass (Second)
46. Bearpark & Esh Colliery Band (Second)
47. Wotton-under-Edge Silver (First)
48. Annan Town (Second)
49. Hinnerup Garden (Second)
50. Warringah Concert Brass (Championship)
51. Selkirk Silver (Second)
52. Cross Keys Silver (Fourth)
53. University of Huddersfield Brass (UnRegistered)
54. University of Manchester Brass (UnRegistered)
55. Bilton Silver (Rugby) Band (First)
56. Elland Silver Youth (Youth)
57. UWCSEA Dover Brass Band — Singapore (Youth)
58. Seindorf Beaumaris (Third)
59. City of Birmingham Brass (Fourth)
60. The Ambassadors (UnRegistered)
61. Lions Youth Brass (Youth)
62. The National Youth Band of Denmark (Youth)
63. Audley Brass (Second)
64. Gresley Colliery Band (Second)
65. Langholm Town (Third)
66. City of Bristol Brass (First)
67. Galashiels Town (UnRegistered)
68. Littleborough (Fourth)
69. Test Valley Brass (Fourth)
70. Age UK 'Creating a Buzz' Band (UnRegistered)
71. Skelmersdale Prize (Third)
72. Bendigo United Brass (Third)
73. Enderby Youth (Youth)
74. Woodhouse Prize (UnRegistered)
75. Langley Community Brass (UnRegistered)
76. Dungannon Silver (Third)
77. Tendring Brass (Second)
78. Macclesfield Youth Brass (Youth)
79. Trentham Brass (Fourth)
80. Amersham Community Brass (Fourth)
81. Whit Spirit (Fourth)
82. Red Admiral Brass (Fourth)
83. Golborne Brass (Fourth)
84. Darwen Brass (Third)
85. St Helens Youth Brass (Youth)
86. Downton Band (Second)
87. Elland Silver Community Brass (UnRegistered)
88. Amersham Concert Brass (UnRegistered)
89. Camping and Caravanning Club Brass (UnRegistered)
90. Salvo Brass (UnRegistered)
91. Mbale Schools Band (Youth)
92. Coleshill Youth Brass (Youth)
93. St. John's Band (Mossley) (Fourth)
94. Loxley Silver (Fourth)
95. Western Brass (Third)
96. Ireland Colliery (Chesterfield) Band (Third)
97. Littleport Brass (Third)
98. King's College London Brass (UnRegistered)
99. Wroughton Silver (Third)
100. Wincanton Silver (Fourth)
101. Gresley Colliery Youth (Youth)
102. Fakenham Town (UnRegistered)
103. South Derbyshire Music Centre Family Brass (UnRegistered)
104. Poyntzpass Silver (Fourth)
105. Royston Town (Fourth)
106. Royal Oakeley Silver (Fourth)
107. Rode Hall Silver (Third)
108. Abbey Brass (Abingdon) (Fourth)
109. King's Lynn Town (UnRegistered)
110. Dobcross Youth (Youth)
111. Elland Silver Training (Youth)
112. Banovallum Brass (Fourth)
113. Brass Roots — Amersham (Youth)
114. Oldham Music Centre Senior Band (Youth)
115. Tameside Youth/Hattersley Brass (Youth)
116. Lions Junior Brass (Youth)
117. Audley Community Band (UnRegistered)
118= Dobcross Training (Youth)
118= St Helens Youth Beginners Brass (Youth)