Report & Result: 2022 UniBrass Championships: Trophy Section

The students of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire claim the 2022 UniBrass Trophy Section title for the first time.

  The students of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire celebrate their victory

The students of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Brass Band claimed the UniBrass Trophy title for the first time in Sheffield.

Led by conductors Alan Gifford and Matt Ludford-King on a 20-minute performance set that included three premieres and an outstanding 'Best Soloist' winner in tuba player John McVicar, they took the honours in a close three-way battle from rivals Salford University with Huddersfield University in third.

Highly entertaining

In what proved to be a highly entertaining contest, broadcast to a worldwide audience through the BrassPass.tv recording platform, the winners set out their stall with the vibrant sounds of the opening 'Clef Addict' specially composed for them by Paul Saggers.

That was followed by their solo feature in which Archie McVicar gave a superb account of the first movement of Peter Meechan's tuba work, 'Shine', whilst a change of mood and musical emphasis came with the premiere of the evocative 'The Dust is Setting on Sheffield Town' by Katherine Moles.

Their impressive multi-media programme came to thrilling conclusion with an injection of musical accelerant with 'Impetus' by student composer Jude Radley, which claimed the 'Best Student Composition' accolade.

Celebratory mood

The haul of silverware was completed by Matt Ludford-King taking the 'Best Student Conductor' and the Percussion section taking their 'Best Percussion' prize, so little wonder he was still in celebratory mood when 4BR finally caught up with him

"I think we all had sore heads as we returned to studies on Monday morning," he admitted. "It was a fantastic achievement, and all the credit goes to the players. This year Ian Porthouse (Director of Brass Band Studies) gave Alan and I the lead and he's been so supportive of our efforts.

It was great to have him in Sheffield to see us win after so many close misses over the last few years, and to be able to enjoy the performances that included those three great new works and a brilliant soloist in Archie McVicar."

In response Ian told 4BR: "My congratulations go to all the players, but a special mention does go to Matt and Alan.

They are studying on our Masters in Brass Band Conducting course, whilst Katherine and Jude are compositional students at the Conservatoire, and Archie is in his second year with us. I think it shows that we have a great deal of talent in the Conservatoire ranks."

Bags of talent

There was also bags of talent mixed with fun and enthusiasm displayed by all the competing bands, with adjudicator Andrea Price (joined by Chris King) taking the time to thank them for their efforts in her detailed address, stating that the "standard of music making had been exceptionally high".

Andrea added that their sets had been "creative, thoughtful and well balanced"and that the pair had been "entertained and inspired"by the playing. They had been looking for "well balanced and well chosen programmes"on entertainment and musical quality, and that it had been, "fantastic so hear so many new arrangements and original compositions".

She summed up by saying that, "everyone should be extremely proud of yourselves… for bringing such a fantastic day of music making to Sheffield."

Andrea was also spot on with her observation that the bands hadn't made it easy for them to choose a winner.

King Arthur

Runner-up Salford led by conductor Adam Bokaris pushed Birmingham all the way to the finishing line.

They opened their 'King Arthur' set, complete with narration and imagery, with 'Home of Legends', before segueing into 'For the love of a Princess' and the clever triptych trombone solo 'Betrayal, Reflection and Justice' by Simon Oliver played by Jeremi Favre.

Their set ended with the final section of 'The Legend of King Arthur' by Peter Meechan.

Noah's Ark

Just behind them came Huddersfield University's 'Most Entertaining Programme'. Led by MD Jonathan Beatty, with their narrated 'Timo & Rosie' Noah's Ark themed set; their 'two by two' 'Elephant Patrol' opening moved into the tuba solo, 'He Wipes the Tear from Every Eye' played by Tommy Tynan.

His own composition 'The Flood & Lament for Timo' added drama before the rain clouds abated and the inter-species happy ending of reunited love was realised with the final section of Peter Graham's 'Shine as the Light'.

Light and Dark

Although the top three bands were a margin ahead in terms of performance and presentation, there was a great deal of highly enjoyable entertained provided by the other competitors.

Fourth placed Chichester University conducted by Emma Button celebrated their 10th anniversary with a cleverly contrasted set.

They opened with Barrie Gott's 'Lightwalk', took in a traditional T.J. Powell march, a classic bit of Frank Sinatra before closing with the colourful 'Valero', whilst the University of Sheffield in fifth gave a programme almost as colourful as their MD's superbly tailored jacket — from 'Saint Francis' to 'With Fire and Sword' and the 'Best March' of 'Star Lake' by Eric Ball.

There was also plenty of eclectically inspired repertoire (as well as ensemble numbers) on show on the day, with the massed ranks of the University of Birmingham opting for a thoughtfully linked inclusivity themed set that incuded Evelyn Glennie's 'Little Prayer' as well as Simon Dobson's 'Lock Horns Rage On'.

Elsewhere, Manchester brought a pinch of star-spangled Americana, Warwick were inspired by Judy Garland to Freddie Mercury, Nottingham from 'Knight Templar' to 'Fire in the Blood' and an explosive University of Bristol opted to travel to 'The Dark Side of the Moon'.

The cheers from a packed auditorium at the end of a very well produced and presented competition and broadcast were heartfelt, mischievous and inclusive — all elements that make the UniBrass Championships such an engaging event.

Iwan Fox

I think we all had sore heads as we returned to studies on Monday morning. It was a fantastic achievement, and all the credit goes to the playersMatt Ludford-King


2022 UniBrass Championships: Trophy Section
Adjudicators: Andrea Price & Chris King
Musical Quality + Entertainment = Total

1. Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (Alan Gifford & Matt Ludford-King): 99+45 = 144
2. Salford University (Adam Bokaris): 95+47 = 142
3. Huddersfield University (Jonathan Beatty): 93+48 = 141
4. Chichester University (Emma Button): 91+43 = 134
5. The University of Sheffield (Jack Aitken): 89+44 = 133
6. The University of Birmingham (Stuart Birnie): 84+46 = 132
7. The Universities of Nottingham (Oliver Gordon & Samuel Boobier): 86+39 = 125
8. Manchester & Manchester Metropolitan (Ben Attfield): 82+40 = 122
9. The University of Warwick (Tom Stoneman): 80+42 = 122
10. The University of Bristol (Sam Kail-Dyke): 79+38 = 117*

*Deducted 2 time penalty points

Most Entertaining Performance: Huddersfield University
Best Student Conductor: Matt Ludford-King (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire)
Best Soloist: Archie McVicar (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire)
Best March: The University of Sheffield (Star Lake)
Best Percussion: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Best Student Composition: Impetus (Jude Radley) — Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Spirit of UniBrass Award: Curtis Maltby (The University of Birmingham)

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