Brighouse & Rastrick's long wait to lift the British Open Challenge Shield in triumph ended in magnificent fashion at Symphony Hall in Birmingham.
44 years since their last victory at the contest's iconic Belle Vue, Manchester home, their seventh British Open success was inspired by Prof David King, as he ended his own frustrating hiatus to add to his four Mortimer Maestro winning conductor trophies. His last was in 2003.
That 1978 victory certainly came in a different era (The Queen had just celebrated her Silver Jubilee) let alone a different contest venue, so perhaps there was a poetic sense of circular nominative musical determinism about it all given the unique circumstances in which this event took place.
In reality though it was a result that was a formidable reminder of the enduring major title winning qualities of both the Australian and his West Riding band.
Theirs was a performance of deftness and musical subtlety; the MD paying respectful attention to the composer's intentions, yet allowing himself just enough leeway to imbue his interpretation of 'The World Rejoicing' with trademark dramatic impulses and even a little theatrical presentation.
It was rivetingly glorious; from the ear catching individual contributions (including the second trombone taking the opening solo) to the layered ensemble balances, marbled colorings and nuanced pacing of the variant sections that flowed with linear progression to its conclusion.
The standing soloists may have raised an observer's eyebrows, but in the adjudicator's box it was the quality of their spotlight playing that made the lasting impression.
Martin Irwin on soprano, Chris Robertson on euphonium, and Andy Moore on horn must have come close to winning the individual solo honours on the day.
The ultimate focal point though was the MD, limping from a recent DIY accident, but still an ever mobile force of musical nature as he weaved a tapestry of interlocking styles and textures together; the tender 'Prelude' opening followed by eight sections of contrasting, threaded, tactile brilliance.
"A super performance full of musicality and drama", was how Dr Robert Childs described it in his remarks, whilst Martyn Brabbins called it; "A very satisfying performance. So much detail, both musical and technical. Dynamic shading and precise balance. A pleasure to listen to. Bravo all involved."
Stephen Roberts summed up what many on the audience thought as the MD and his players soaked up the acclamation at its end: "A towering performance of breathtaking virtuosity and brilliantly paced musicianship. It was a privilege to hear it."
It was indeed — especially as it came at a time when they were perhaps wondering if any of the 18 contenders were going to fully master Gregson's superb score — one packed with intricate, testing challenges for players and conductors alike.
They didn't have to wait long for another, as Brighouse was followed by National Champion Foden's.
Russell Gray still awaits his first Mortimer Maestro trophy, but he could not have done anything more after moulding a performance of deeply satisfying colour and texture.
This was noble musicality — "only the slightest of glitches to note", as Bob Childs wrote in his remarks, whilst Martyn Brabbins added it just needed, "a little more variety of dynamics, balance and colour".
For Stephen Roberts though it was "an outstanding performance", "replete with tonal excellence well-paced musicianship and brilliant soloists", that had been "a privilege to listen to".
One of those was Richard Poole, who, on a weekend when he released his debut solo CD, deservedly retained the Brian Evans 'Best Soprano Cornet' accolade.
Speaking to 4BR the judge's later confirmed that the top two bands were "absolutely superb", but that the winners were "clear".
It also backed up the forensic analysis given by Bob Childs before the announcement of the results.
"The result today was absolutely unanimous," he said, before taking his time to precis the collective opinion on 'The World Rejoicing', which he felt "was such a wonderful piece", that "had everything we were looking for".
In referring to the 'Conductor's Note' given by Edward Gregson, it led him to say that "there was no reason to deviate much from what it said on the tin", and that he had spent considerable time talking to him about the piece, which he then conveyed to his colleagues.
"There were four adjudicators in the box today if you like," he said, "as Eddie told us exactly what he was looking for".
There will surely have been a few wry smiles on well-known conductor's faces when he said that. There would have been many more after the announcement of the results; the detailed explanation leaving no doubt that the judges held a consistent opinion about what they were hoping to hear.
The balance of a six-time winning conductor, a composer who has written or arranged three works for the contest, and an orchestral conductor with a world class reputation for artistic excellence, was as good as this or any other major event has had for many a year. Hopefully it will be repeated.
Throughout the day it was therefore interesting to hear conductors speak of the challenges faced in the Gregson score — and (although few admitted it) in reining in their almost addictive desire to 'enhance' interpretations without falling foul of his politely written instruction not to "over indulge".
A few still couldn't help themselves — and as Dr Childs neatly pointed out, those who couldn't resist "the temptation for grandstanding" at the end for instance, "ignored it to your expense".
One conductor who certainly adhered to the clear intentions with a refined malleability was Ivan Meylemans with Aldbourne.
The announcement may have come as a surprise in the hall (although you do wonder how many actually listened to them on a day of pronounced audience ebb and flow), but the judges were in no doubt — adding further substance to their emergence as a fine major contest band.
"A splendid performance of the highest order", Dr Roberts Childs wrote. "Joyful and appropriate", "The music spoke clearly", added Martyn Brabbins, whilst Stephen Roberts said that it was, "A really fantastic performance... with such beautiful tone quality, fine soloists and on point tempi from the MD".
The West of England champion will head to the Albert Hall confident of adding yet further prize-winning accolades to their CV.
No Cory hat-trick
There was to be no hat-trick for Cory as they ended outside the top three for the first time since 2010.
Sublime ensemble and solo playing was mixed with moments of unease, whilst Philip Harper's take on some tempi and shaping elements (including the longest lunga pausa of the day before the Fuga Burlesca) may have just cost them in the final analysis in the box.
Alongside Brighouse and Foden's theirs was still one of the trio of names that most listener's felt were in the mix for the title, but on this occasion, it wasn't to be. You sensed as they came off stage that they knew they had just not done enough.
The same feelings also for Tredegar and Grimethorpe, who filled the top-six spots with accounts of style and deft touches of subtle musicality from Ian Porthouse and Michael Bach.
Both though were also pockmarked with minor errors and flaws, although Christopher Binns, solo trombone of Grimethorpe overcame the dropping of a mute to deservedly take the Stanley Wainwright Memorial Trophy as 'Best Soloist'.
If there was an award for the most telling contribution to a day held in admiration to Her Majesty The Queen, the Patron of the championship, then it would have gone to compere, David Hayward. His contest introduction was perfectly pitched — setting the tone in the most fitting manner.
The whole event was also undertaken with great respect for the wider context — led by Frank Hodges and his excellent backroom team and with several bands wearing black ribbons on their uniforms.
It showed banding off at its communal best, and fully justified the decision made by Martin and Karyn Mortimer alongside B:Music to hold the contest.
The draw saw Carlton Main Frickley Colliery perform the National Anthem (Northop as the final performer repeated it) — with the Yorkshire band understandably more restrained in their endeavors than would normally be expected.
Unfortunately, it saw them finish 16th — a result that returns them to the Grand Shield where they will hope they will have something more joyful to 'rejoice' next May.
They will be joined by NASUWT Riverside, as the 2019 Grand Shield winner's elongated two-year Open tenure came to end, despite giving a solid account to end 13th.
Grand Shield threat
Such is the level of quality at the British Open that even midfield finishers must be wary of that potential relegation threat.
That won't apply to Paris Brass Band who delivered a persuasive account under Laurent Douvre's elegant baton to finish 14th, but WFEL Fairey, Desford and Rothwell Temperance certainly will.
They finished 15th, 17th and 18th respectively, and will now feel the cold chill of apprehension when they take to the stage next year, despite all finding support for their performances outside the confines of the adjudicator's box.
However, as all competitors know, the only opinion that counts is the one that comes from within — and on this occasion, Bob Childs, Martyn Brabbins and Stephen Roberts didn't really take to the approaches (although they gave the 'Best Euphonium' prize to Peter McDonough of WFEL Fairey), contrasting as they were, of Arsene Duc, Michael Fowles and David Roberts.
All three know that the nature of brass band contesting will be forever such. Next year it could be very different. They will be certainly hoping so.
Contrasting emotions higher up the results table too, with the long trek home for the cooperation band (as well as MD Glenn Van Looy to Switzerland) boosted in renewed confidence after a period of inconsistency.
Also very happy will be Northop, who completed the trio of top-ten Welsh bands in ninth, after performing as the final contender of a long but engrossing day. Gareth Brindle's intelligent direction brought sensibility and sensitivity to a confident account.
Obvious disappointment for Black Dyke though, as on a weekend when they released their latest CD recording which featured 'The World Rejoicing', the combination of a number 2 draw and a performance that never quite ignited saw them end eighth.
Much the same for Hammonds and Leyland in 10th and 11th — both solidly delivering under Morgan Griffiths and Thomas Wyss to show that they will be bands to listen out for at the Royal Albert Hall, whilst Flowers will hope that they don't kick a black cat or walk under a misplaced ladder on their way to Kensington Gore.
Paul Holland's finely structured account didn't quite find the favour in the box as may thought it deserved, whilst a mechanical breakdown just after the start meant their solo tuba was left stranded with a broken valve.
The sterling efforts of colleagues helped, but understandably the ensemble balance suffered by the close. Sometimes the contest gods really do not shine on you.
For 44 years they didn't shine their contest winning benevolence on Brighouse & Rastrick at this event either — despite a couple of runner-up finishes under David King's direction.
Understandably then he recognised the significance as he clutched that prized fifth Mortimer Maestro trophy with his wife Rosie at his side.
"That is something I've wanted to do with this band for such a long time,"he said.
"They deserve it — everyone one of them and everyone who has tried to win it since 1978 with the band. It was a masterful work from Edward Gregson to do it on — and that made it so special."
And always a musician able to appreciate wider horizons he added: "The circumstances today gave the contest extra resonance and importance as the brass band movement's collective response to the death of Her Majesty The Queen.
It was an honour to perform at the contest today and an even greater one to win it."
A towering performance of breathtaking virtuosity and brilliantly paced musicianship. It was a privilege to hear itStephen Roberts on Brighouse & Rastrick's performance
Test piece: The World Rejoicing — Symphonic Variations on a Lutheran Chorale (Edward Gregson)
Adjudicators: Martyn Brabbins, Dr Robert Childs, Stephen Roberts
1. Brighouse & Rastrick (Prof David King)**
2. Foden's (Russell Gray)
3. Aldbourne (Ivan Meylmans)
4. Cory (Philip Harper)
5. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)
6. Grimethorpe Colliery (Michael Bach)
7. the cooperation band (Glenn Van Looy)
8. Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas J. Childs)
9. Northop Silver (Gareth Brindle)
10. Hammonds (Morgan Griffiths)
11. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)
12. Flowers (Paul Holland)
13. NASUWT Riverside (Dr Ray Farr)***
14. Paris Brass Band (Laurent Douvre)
15. WFEL Fairey (Arsene Duc)
16. Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Allan Withington)***
17. Desford Colliery (LMTF) (Michael Fowles)
18. Rothwell Temperance (David Roberts)
Stanley Wainwright Memorial Trophy: Chris Binns (Grimethorpe Colliery)
Brian Evans Memorial Trophy: Richard Poole (Foden's)
The Geoffrey Whitham Memorial Trophy: Peter McDonough (WFEL Fairey)
** Receives invitation to represent England at 2024 European Championships in Palanga
*** Carlton Main Frickley Colliery and NASUWT Riverside are relegated to Grand Shield.