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Report & Result: 2021 Youth Brass in Concert

Youth Brass 2000 takes the spoils in the Youth contest at Sage Gateshead as there's smiles everywhere as performers thrive performing live again

Sage Gateshead
  The entertainers return to the stage at Sage Gateshead

There couldn't have been a better pick-me-up tonic to toast banding's return to Sage Gateshead than that provided by the four youth bands that battled for the honours in the Youth Brass in Concert Championship.

It may have been an early start for supporters and online fans too, but one well worth sacrificing a lazy Saturday morning in bed for as Houghton Area Youth, Elland Silver Youth, Enderby Youth and Youth Brass 2000 provided vibrant entertainment.

Joyous experience

In the end judges Anne Crookston (Quality of Music) and Wendy Smith (Entertainment) had an unenviable task picking a winner. Their supportive remarks and constructive observations confirmed that: This really was music making of inclusion and invention, storytelling, showmanship, exuberance and excellence.

"This morning was such a joyous experience,"Anne said before the announcement of the results.

"Every performance was outstanding. I can't commend you enough after two years of uncertainty and not being able to connect with each other and not being able to perform. You came here and you played from the heart and for each other, for your families and for your friends."

And whilst Anne also gave essential tips on how to keep improving ensemble, balance and intonation, she added: "We had four fantastic performance with one that would have been the envy of many a senior band. It had such maturity, authority and poise about it. It was wonderful."

Engaging

Meanwhile, Wendy Smith (Director of Contemporary Music at Sage Gateshead) said: "All your performances were excellent. It was clear how much work had gone into the performances and how much passion you have for the music."

She added: "It was joyful, uplifting and incredibly moving. The stories were engaging. I would certainly pay to come to hear your performances."

Few would have disagreed with their observations, or the result, as Youth Brass 2000 led by an energised Chris Jeans (who must have been fuelled by an extra espresso morning coffee or two the way he was leaping about) took the title for the first time to complete their full set of major championship honours.

Renowned polish

Their renowned presentational polish was displayed from the opening 'Balkan Dance', which was backed by equally burnished quality playing, whilst maturity was exemplified by baritone soloist Ed Culpin who played with elegant beauty on 'The Lark in the Clear Air' to deservedly claim the 'Best Soloist' Award.

All that was missing was a guest appearance by Morecombe and Wise for the nostalgic 'Bring Me Sunshine', whilst for those with slightly older memories there was an evocative touch of Albert Ketelby courtesy of 'The Clock with the Dresden Figures' played with Swiss timed precision by the percussion team.

It was all rounded off with the bluesy thriller 'Sing, Sing, Sing' packed with rambunctious fun and games and the best use of kitchen stools since the Bake-Off final (or when Cory did it many years ago here) by the splendidly cool perc duo.

Speaking to 16 year old 'Best Soloist' winner, Ed Culpin, he said that the secret to the success was that MD Chris Jeans in his opinion was "a genius"who "inspired all the players"- another player later revealing that they travelled over two hours each way to attend rehearsals.

Not surprisingly then that inspired direction led them to a clear victory; placed first and second for quality and entertainment respectively. It was thoroughly deserved.

Huge cheer

There should be no disappointment for any of their rivals — as shown by the huge cheer of delight for the runner-up Houghton Area Youth as they posted their best result here under the direction of MD Brian Adams.

Drawn from several schools in the area they have been building year on year (despite Covid-19).

And with the prospect of over 500 or more youngsters taking up brass instrument tuition in the next year alone thanks to the work of the Brass in Concert Elementary Programme initiative with local hubs, they could well become the new powerhouse of youth banding in the country — especially under their cracking conductor.

This was a hugely encouraging boost though, with a musically 'inclusive' set that was as colourful as their t-shirts and posters — topped and tailed by the poptastic sounds of 'Music' complete with electric guitar soloist.

In between they moved around with choreographed slickness for 'The Longest Time' with a super vocal soloist, the fun of 'Strictly Come Dancing' with 'Libertango' (featuring their suave flugel playing electric guitarist Ankit Kumar) and a touching 'Song for the Frontline'.

The ubiquitous sounds of 'The Wellerman' bounced and bobbed on the waves before they closed with a return to 'Music' that pulsated with energy and drive.

Elland ethos

It gave the band a narrow margin over third placed Elland Silver Youth, who once again showcased their qualities led by Samantha Harrison.

Their latest batch of young players has already been inspired by the 'Elland Ethos' of musical excellence and fun (kitted out in black shirts, white bracers and pork pie hats), with their programme inspired by a young girl's trip to New York.

The lead role was taken by the talented Olivia Leather, who was the featured vocalist in 'If My Friends Could See Me Now', whilst there was character, style and variety in the other items that captured the musical heart and soul of 'The Big Apple' — especially a lyrical rendition of 'First Light' played by principal cornet Ben Martin.

'Hello Dolly' complete with ensemble vocals rounded off another inventive set from a band and MD that continues to expertly mine one of the richest seams of musical talent in the UK.

Rich seam

Enderby Youth showed that the seam also surfaces in Leicestershire, with a cleverly conceived 'Postcard' set led by emergency stand-in conductor Sam McClumpha.

At a contest where the accolades are usually rightly reserved for the youngsters, her hutzpah in stepping into the breach to conduct with less than 48 hours' notice after Trevor Housome had tested positive for Covid, deserved a medal itself.

It was a tremendous effort, and her band responded superbly; each of the pieces played with brio, verve and style — especially their super cornet soloist Corey Kohut on 'First Light' and the obvious fun inspired by 'Game of Thrones' before closing with Darrol Barry's rousing 'Your Last Song'.

Welcome headache

The Youth event has quickly become an integral part of the Brass in Concert experience -although its success may well present the organisers with a welcome headache as hopefully more bands return to the fold in 2022.

What the future holds then will be interesting, but with its atmosphere of fun and inclusion, super organisation and presentation (aided by Sarah Baumann as the stage compere) it is surely an event that deserves the additional support as well as the accolades.

Iwan Fox

We had four fantastic performance with one that would have been the envy of many a senior band. It had such maturity, authority and poise about it. It was wonderfulAnne Crookston

Result:

Adjudicators: Anne Crookston & Wendy Smith
Performance/Entertainment & Presentation = Total

1. Youth Brass 2000 (Chris Jeans): 120/78 = 198
2. Houghton Area Youth (Brian Adams): 114/80 = 194
3. Elland Silver Youth Band (Samantha Harrison): 117/76 = 193
4. Enderby Youth Band (Sam McClumpha): 111/74 = 185

Best Soloist: Ed Culpin (baritone) — Youth Brass 2000

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