Report & Results: 2021 New Zealand National Championships

Wellington triumphs to retain National title as Grade honours go to Brass Whanganui, Woolston Concert Brass, Matamata Brass and Buzzing Brass Wellington Youth in Christchurch.

New Zealand
  Wellington claimed the A Grade title for the seventh time in nine years

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After the Covid-19 hiatus that caused the oldest National Championships in the banding world to be cancelled in 2020, Wellington Brass returned to the contest stage in Christchurch to reimpose their domestic dominance with a seventh New Zealand A Grade victory in the past nine years.

Cool head

Led with cool headed authority by David Bremner (hear interview above), his youthful ensemble (featuring 12 National debutants) displayed a remarkable degree of musical maturity to once again claim the famous Gold Cup trophy as well as the KGL Smith Cup presented to the winning conductor.

In addition, the band added the prizes for topping the Test-Piece and Sacred Item categories, whilst principal cornet Toby Pringle took the 'Outstanding Soloist' accolade in the set-work and their flugel/horn team the 'Best Section'.


An intuitively structured rendition of the reflective, 'Just As I Am', followed by a majestic account of Edward Gregson's 'Of Men and Mountains' gave them the cushion on which to deliver an absorbing performance of Philip Wilby's imposing 'Revelation' to secure a narrow, but decisive victory.

Runner-up was hometown favourite Woolston Brass, who gave everything in their pursuit of a first title in a decade under Tyme Marsters; topping the Own-Choice element with a vividly drawn rendition of Philip Harper's 'Explorers on the Moon'.

Their principal cornet Anthony Smith added to his 'Champion of Champions' title by being awarded the 'Outstanding Principal Cornet in the Own Choice' prize.


As the two pre-contest heavyweight favourites battled for the ultimate honours there was also delight for North Shore Brass in third.

Led by an uber-confident Harmen Vanhoorne, they delivered an impressive trio of performances; including a fine account of Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen's 'Old Licks Bluesed Up' to show their growing maturity as a top flight force.

Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass will also have left happy after deserved fourth place led by Andrew Snell, whilst Nelson City Brass showed further evidence of their progress under Nigel Weeks to end fifth ahead of the closely matched duo of Ascot Park Hotel Brass of Invercargill and Hamilton City Brass.

Generous synopsis

The respected Chief Adjudicator David Gallaher gave a generous synopsis of what he had heard from the 10 bands over the two days at Christchurch Town Hall — including the observation about acoustic balance, which he felt needed crucial appreciation.

His remarks about picking a Sacred Item that was a 'musical entity' displaying breadth and balance were also echoed in his appreciations of the set work and own-choice selections.

Gregson's monumental work, "fitted the bill perfectly" he said. It brought the best out of "three or four bands" that made the most of the "wonderful music", he added.

He also felt the own-choice selections were "stunning", resulting in him admitting that he was "lifted off my seat three times".

"There were some brilliant highlights" he added as he marked out the playing of the trio that eventually topped the podium slots in the discipline, as well as adding that, "every band had moments that were superb."

Consistency key

The unique nature of the triptych contest meant that consistency was key.

For listeners in the audience (no social distancing) as well as at home around the world (thanks to the excellent live-streaming), it was especially good to hear performances of own choice works that had been picked to enhance banding strengths rather than merely MD's musical egos.

In particular there was much to admire in Oliver Waespi's 'La Passiun' from Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass, as well as both Nelson's and Hamilton's 'Music of the Spheres' as they showed that New Zealand banding now has a small, but concentrated depth of top flight excellence.

However, none at present can quite match the overall quality of Wellington Brass — with their seventh victory every bit as deserved as their previous six. They are a band with a deeply embossed hallmark of quality.

And with a cohesive ensemble packed with youthful talent (the next generation is already being nurtured through their Buzzing Brass Wellington Youth Band) their next ambition will surely be to add an eighth success when the contest returns to their home city of Wellington next year.

B Grade:

There was an equally impressive winner of the B Grade title as Brass Whanganui claimed their fourth National title since 2009, and an extensive haul of silverware under the baton of Bruce Jellyman.

Victory was built on the excellent performances of their Sacred Item, 'Love Unknown' as well as their own-choice selection of Tom Davoren's 'Legacy', which added to second place on the set-work, 'Temperamental' by Fendall Hill gave them a clear two-point winning margin over Hutt City Brass, with Addington Brass in third.

Hutt City also impressed with their playing as they searched for their first title success since 2011 under Matt Stein.

Their table topping account of the demanding set-work, as well as own-choice selection of 'A London Overture' were notable for the technical security displayed as well as the stunning contribution of 18-year principal cornet Stephen Mosa'ati, who deservedly claimed the 'Best Soloist in Test Piece' and 'Best Principal Cornet in Own Choice' accolades.

Third place went to Addington Brass who by an evocative account of Oliver Waespi's 'The Raid' as their own-choice, whilst the remaining top-six places went to The Devon Hotel New Plymouth Brass, Auckland City Brass and Kaikorai Metropolitan Brass.

Extremely difficult

Adjudicator David Gallaher once again gave a detailed synopsis of what he had looked for in the performances. And whilst he thanks the bands for the "variety" of sacred items, he pinpointed the need for "breadth" and "time".

Whilst he acknowledged that Fendall Hill's demanding set-work was "extremely difficult to judge", (commending the bravura soprano playing) he did think there were eight "really good" efforts, but a couple "more consistent throughout".

He did however feel that the own-choice selections, although "great choices" were "not so consistent". He had judged "the best performance not the best band", although four bands "really stood out" in giving "complete" performances.

C Grade:

The encouraging signs of long-term strategies being put in place for the future sustainability of New Zealand banding was certainly on show on the weekend, with Woolston Brass in particular fielding three different competitive ensembles.

Led by their the A grade outfit's flugel star Kevin Hickman (whose wife Sarah conducted the D Grade Woolston Junior Band), Woolston Concert Brass claimed the C Grade title in commanding fashion.

Triple top

They topped each discipline; with a well-controlled rendition of their Sacred Item 'Colne' balanced by a super rendition of the set-work, 'Fanfares', full of pageantry, colour and excitement, and an atmospheric trip to PLC's 'The Dark Side of the Moon'.

Second place went to defending champion Tauranga City Brass (who gave a cracking own-choice rendition of 'Lions of Legends'), with 2018 winner Howick Brass (who played 'Endurance') in third.

The remaining top-six places went to Nor'west Brass, Westport Municipal and Levin & Districts.

Adjudicator Alan Spence congratulated all the bands for their efforts; although he encouraged conductors to seek new 'reflective music' from New Zealand composers.

The demanding set-work from composer David Woodcock he felt "was a test" from the opening double tongued bars, and posed challenges right to its end — with "no band finishing the piece right!"

However, two band's he felt were "outstanding", whilst two were also "absolutely magnificent" in the own-choice section and "sent a shiver down the spine".

D Grade:

Alan Spence was also full of praise for the D Grade competitors, where Fraser Bremner's affectionate homage to the success of the 1953 National Band of New Zealand provided what he called, "a great test from the very first chord".

'1953' was certainly a clever combination of the lyrical and technical, one which Alan felt required "clarity in both the legato sections as well as the more pointed fanfares".

And whilst he questioned whether or not the tubular bells were played at the close, he added that every band had "given a good reading", with two in particular giving "outstanding performances".

Chief amongst them was the defending champion and eventual winner, Matamata Brass led by a confident and encouraging Kaperiera Hughes, playing their own-choice of 'Lake of the Moon' and their march, 'The Cross of Honour'.

Just behind came the strong challenge posed by 2017 and 2018 winner Roxburgh Pioneer Energy Brass conducted by Ashley Hopkins who played three movements of 'The Royal Mile Suite', with Rangiora Brass led by Dwayne Bloomfield in third.

Youth Section:

Although there was only one band in the Youth Grade this year, Buzzing Brass Wellington Youth directed by Byron 'Buzz' Newton gave the audience a real treat — and not just with their every present smiles, presentations and brilliant 'black and yellow' bumble bee hoodie uniforms.

They opened with the sci-fi sounds of 'Doctor Who' and the super tuba solo 'The Final Countdown' played with real panache by Malachy Holborow, before showcasing their serious side with a mature rendition of Jacob de Haan's 'Oregon'. They closed with 'In the Hall of the Mountain King'.

Memorable weekend

Earlier on the weekend the traditional Parade of Bands through the streets of Christchurch brought out the crowds with victories going to Woolston Brass, Brass Whanganui, Woolston Concert Brass, Matamata Brass and Buzzing Brass Wellington Youth.

A Sunday afternoon concert given by the New Zealand Army Band and the National Band of New Zealand rounded off a memorable weekend — not just for the Wellington Band organisation, but for the New Zealand Brass Band Association who worked so hard to enable the postponed event to take place in Christchurch with a record number of entrants following the earthquake in 2011 and the Covid-19 cancellation in 2020.

Iwan Fox

However, none at present can quite match the overall quality of Wellington Brass — with their seventh victory every bit as deserved as their previous six. They are a band with a deeply embossed hallmark of quality4BR


A Grade:

Adjudicator: David Gallaher MNZM
Set Work: Of Men and Mountains (Edward Gregson)
Sacred Item/Test Piece/Own Choice = Total

1. Wellington Brass (David Bremner): 45/93/96 = 234.0
2. Woolston Brass (Tyme Marsters): 44.5/91/97 = 232.5
3. North Shore Brass (Harmen Vanhoorne): 43/92/95 = 230.0
4. Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass (Andrew Snell): 43/90/92 = 225.0
5. NBS Nelson City Brass (Nigel Weeks): 44/88/91 = 223.0
6. Ascot Park Hotel Brass of Invercargill (Phillip Johnston): 44/89/88 = 221.0
7. Hamilton City Brass (Mason Elliot): 43/88/90 = 221.0
8. Waitakere Auckland Brass (Grant Langdon): 43/88/87 = 218.0
9. St Kilda Brass (Peter Adams): 43.5/88/86 = 217.5
10. Marlborough District Brass (Kevin Moseley): 42.5/86/89 = 217.5

Outstanding Soloist in Test Piece: Toby Pringle (Wellington Brass)
Outstanding Principal Cornet in Own Choice: Anthony Smith (Woolston Brass)
Best Section in Test Piece: Flugel & Horns of Wellington Brass

Sacred Item:
1. Wellington Brass
2. Woolston Brass
3. NBS Nelson City Brass

Test Piece:
1. Wellington Brass
2. North Shore Brass
3. Woolston Brass

Own Choice:
1. Woolston Brass
2. Wellington Brass
3. North Shore Brass

B Grade:

Adjudicator: David Gallaher MNZM
Set Work: Temperamental (Fendall Hill)
Sacred Item/Test Piece/Own Choice = Total

1. Brass Whanganui (Bruce Jellyman): 44.5/90/86 = 220.5
2. Hutt City Brass (Matt Stein): 43.5/91/84 = 218.5
3. Addington Brass (Adrian Dalton): 44/88/85 = 217.0
4. The Devon Hotel New Plymouth Brass (Fraser Bremner): 43/89/82 = 214.0
5. Auckland City Brass (Mark Close): 43/85/83 = 211.0
6. Kaikorai Metropolitan Brass (Shane Foster): 42.5/85/78 = 205.5
7. Trust Porirua City Brass (Clynton Payne): 42.5/84/79 = 205.5
8. Alpine Energy Timaru Brass (Paul Black): 42.5/83/77 = 202.5

Best Soloist in Test Piece: Stephen Mosa'ati (principal cornet) — Hutt City Brass
Best Principal Cornet in Own Choice: Stephen Mosa'ati (Hutt City Brass)

Sacred Item:
1. Brass Whanganui
2. Addington Brass
3. Hutt City Brass

Test Piece:
1. Hutt City Brass
2. Brass Whanganui
3. The Devon Hotel New Plymouth Brass

Own Choice:
1. Brass Whanganui
2. Addington Brass
3. Hutt City Brass

C Grade:

Adjudicator: Alan Spence QSM
Set Work: Fanfares (David Woodcock)
Sacred Item/Test Piece/Own Choice = Total

1. Woolston Concert Brass (Kevin Hickman): 43/90/95 = 228
2. Tauranga City Brass (Steve Thompson): 42.5/89/92 = 223.5
3. Howick Brass (Brendan Agnew): 42/86/91 = 219
4. Nor'west Brass (Matt Toomata): 41/87/90 = 218
5. Westport Municipal (Nathan Keoghan): 41.5/88/85 = 214.5
6. Levin & Districts Brass (Colin Honey): 40.5/84/89 = 213.5
7. Te Awamutu Brass (Sarah Carroll): 40/85/88 = 213
8. Upper Hutt Brass (Aaron Lloydd): 40/82/88 = 210
9. Ascot Park Hotel Brass Auxiliary Brass (Kath Herman): 39.5/78/84 = 201.5
10. Mosgiel Brass (Philip Craigie QSM): 39/78/83 = 200

Sacred Item:
1. Woolston Concert Brass
2. Tauranga City Brass
3. Howick Brass

Test Piece:
1. Woolston Concert Brass
2. Tauranga City Brass
3. Westport Municipal Band

Own Choice:
1. Woolston Concert Brass
2. Tauranga City Brass
3. Howick Brass

D Grade:

Adjudicator: Alan Spence QSM
Set Work: 1953 (Fraser Bremner)
Sacred Item/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Matamata Brass (Kaperiera Hughes): 81/87/86 = 254
2. Roxburgh Pioneer Energy Brass (Ashley Hopkins): 80/85/87 = 252
3. Rangiora Brass (Dwayne Bloomfield): 82/84/85 = 251
4. Kumeu Brass Inc (Linda Heart Filimoehala): 79/83/84 = 246
5. New Brighton Silver (Craig Williamson): 73/76/79 = 228
6. Nor'West Zephyrs (Matthew Harris): 70/75/78 = 223
7. Woolston Junior Band (Sarah Hickman): 72/74/77 = 223

Youth Grade:

Adjudicator: Alan Spence QSM
Own Choice Concert

1. Buzzing Brass Wellington Youth (Byron Newton): 85/90 = 175

Best Soloist: Malachy Holborow

Parade of Bands:

Adjudicator: Dennis Spurdle

A Grade: Woolston Brass
B Grade: Brass Whanganui
C Grade: Woolston Concert Brass
D Grade: Matamata Brass
Youth Grade: Buzzing Brass Wellington Youth

Most Entertaining: Brass Whanganui

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