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Report & Result: 2021 National Championships of Great Britain: Section 2

A band with a rich history adds the National title to its Honours Board of accolade.

Cheltenham
  What a day for Chris Binns & Hebden Bridge Band — National champion.

A band with a history richly influenced by musicians who enjoyed considerable personal success after spending the formative years of their development in the snug Upper Calder Valley west of Halifax, finally celebrated a collective 'National' title of its own on the weekend.

Hebden Bridge has been conducted by legendary figures since its first contest appearance in 1876 — the names of Birkinshaw, Gladney, Mortimer, Rimmer, Greenwood and Halliwell all inked in next to their entry in contest programmes.

Chris Binns can now add his name to a long and distinguished 'Honours Board' — one that can boast British Open, Senior Cup, Butlins Mineworkers and Yorkshire Area accolades.

Now it also reads: 2021 Second Section Championship Band of Great Britain.

Lineage

Their victory came in an enjoyable battle of 17 well matched bands on a test-piece that in reality owed as much to Thierry Deleruyelle's study of the symbolism of the 'King of the Jungle' as Siegfried & Roy's famously camp Las Vegas lion shows.

Despite its audio-linked MGM film title roar (that became an annoying distraction the longer the contest went on), the more obvious compositional lineage of 'Lions of Legends' came from the composer's celebrated coal mining composition, 'Fraternity'.

Richly scored, with trademark statuesque chords, metallic percussion and windblown effects, lyrical solo cameos, and hymnal chorale finale, it was as if he let a few hefty felines loose down a pit to see what would happen.

What did, was not crepuscular panic given the stern technical tests it contained, but a host of well managed accounts that resulted in a meaty list of contenders making a persuasive case not just for a top-six finish but also for the title honours.

Solid performances

That closeness was acknowledged in what David Hirst said in his well-considered pre-results analysis, were "solid performance"- the differences between which were the "number of inconsistencies" in elements of "intonation and ensemble cohesion".

He said that the "top-six had played very well indeed" with "musical touches on show", whilst the podium finishers had also benefited from "MDs who had done their homework on the score" and who wanted to "convey the musical content".

Close battle

For them that meant a close battle between the Yorkshire representatives of Hebden Bridge and BD1 Brass — the difference perhaps the more mature tonality produced by the winners.

It was close though, with both showing admirable control in keeping the more feral elements of excitability in check.

It was also good to watch their young MDs at work. Chris Binns and Jonathan Bates have already made a name for themselves as top-line instrumental performers, but here they also showed considered appreciation of the conducting art.

Both performances were cut from the same well-balanced ensemble cloth; aided by sensible tempi and an appreciation of dynamic calibration.

The percussion teams were excellent — adding texture as well as effect, whilst Charlotte Heaven of Hebden Bridge certainly lived up to her surname with her angelic tonality to claim the 'Best Instrumentalist' award.

Visceral account

Just behind came a much more visceral account from Wantage Concert — with an excitement level that was as we said at the time, a bit like putting your head in a lion's mouth just after it had licked its lips. Paul Holland kept the whip hand — but it was one that bared its teeth.

More domesticated accounts made up the top-six; with a tenderly shaped rendition by Annan Town in a well-deserved fourth, an evocative rendition from Uppermill in fifth and a super number 1 draw marker from Durham Miners Association in sixth.

Behind them the inconsistencies became more pronounced, but each — from St Keverne in seventh down to Abertillery gave performances of merit and character.

All round endorsement

The all-round endorsement of what the judges were looking for (David Hirst was joined by Nicholas Garman and Steve Pritchard-Jones in the box) was certainly shown in their written remarks about Hebden Bridge's winning account.

"A good performance full of colour and life," David wrote. "Good ensemble precision and musical approach by MD. Good contributions from soloists and effective percussion".

Meanwhile Nicholas Garman rounded up his appraisal by writing: "Thank you for your performance which was very good in many respects. There was just a little loss of stamina to finish but overall, well played."

Steve Pritchard -Jones concurred: "...a performance with so many excellent musical touches. Excellent soloists and the ensemble was controlled. Lots of detail came through today".

Variations on these themes would have been seen throughout the adjudications of the other main contenders for the title.

Personal thoughts

For the winning conductor thoughts of a personal nature where at the forefront of his mind as he celebrated on stage with his wife and players.

Chris Binns' father is currently waiting to undergo an operation following a short illness scare and hospital visit last Friday, and as a result the band took to the stage with just the two trombones.

"I'm sure the result will give him a huge boost," he said. "Not to have him here to enjoy the moment will be offset by his return to full health though. That's more important than anything."

Chris is also looking forward to a return to his full-time day job with a run with him playing trombone on 'Carmen' coming up.

"It's strange to say, but it would be nice to enjoy this win for a couple of days before starting back to the old job again — but I can't complain.

After the 18 months everyone has been through, I think things are looking up again — and that includes for a great bunch of players and supporters of a wonderful band!"

Indeed there they are — and led by a musician that in the years ahead could well go on to a make a mark on the banding movement every bit as impressive as any of his illustrious predecessors.

Iwan Fox

After the 18 months everyone has been through, I think things are looking up again — and that includes for a great bunch of players and supporters of a wonderful band!Chris Binns

Result:

Test Piece: Lions of Legends (Thierry Deleruyelle)
Adjudicators: Nicholas Garman; Steve Pritchard-Jones; David Hirst

1. Hebden Bridge (Chris Binns)
2. BD1 (Jonathan Bates)
3. Wantage Concert (Paul Holland)
4. Annan Town (Andrew Warriner)
5. Uppermill (Mark Peacock)
6. Durham Miners' Association (Stuart Gray)
7. St Keverne (Karl Long)
8. Taff Vale (Gareth Ritter)
9. Cockerton Prize Silver (Andrew Hunter)
10. Tendring (David Johnson)
11. Gresley Colliery (Craig Stevens)
12. Bedford Town (Craig Paterson)
13. Valley (Haydock) (David Chadwick)
14. Glossop Old (David Ashworth)
15. Eagley (Chris Wormald)
16. Hatherleigh Silver (Nick West)
17. Abertillery Town (Alun Williams)

Best Instrumentalist: Charlotte Heaven (Solo Cornet), Hebden Bridge

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