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Report & Result: 2022 First Section National Championship of Great Britain

Stannington claim the glory in a late battle for the honours at Cheltenham.

cheltenham
  Stannington claimed the First Section title in Cheltenham under the baton of Sam Fisher

The White Rose flag of Yorkshire was flown in First Section triumph for the first time in a decade as Stannington claimed an outstanding Cheltenham victory under the direction of MD, Sam Fisher.

Their confidently executed rendition of James Curnow's 'Trittico' as the penultimate band of the contest posed "no argument" according to the judges as they took the title and £1,000 first prize ahead of fellow Yorkshire representatives Marsden Silver Prize, with the Midlanders of Staffordshire in third.

In a neat twist of coincidence, the last Yorkshire victory of Unite the Union in 2012 was conducted by Derek Renshaw, who played repiano with Stannington on the weekend, and was also the MD when they won the Second Section National title in 2016.

Clear indication

The contest certainly provided a clear indication of the potential top section credentials of all 16 contenders, with Stannington providing ample evidence of their future ability to step up in class with an account that drew rich praise from adjudicators Ian Porthouse, Roger Webster and Gary Davies.

Ian wrote that it was a "very enjoyable performance that well prepared and delivered", whilst Roger ticked off the "many" plus points as the performance developed from a "superb opening" through "bravo" solo lines to having the stamina required to provide "enough power to close".

Gary further endorsed his colleagues' opinion by adding that it was, "a controlled performance with lots to commend."

Fisher attention

Few who heard them would have disagreed, as Sam Fisher's attention to dynamic levels and contrast, as well as ensemble balance and precision maintained a cohesive flow to the music's cleverly related variants.

Fine individual contributions added to the collective ensemble excellence. The victory was clear and deserved.

It also endorsed the thoughts of the judges which Ian Porthouse laid out before the announcement of the results.

"It's a fantastic test-piece, but conductors have to stick to their plan," he said, as he felt some had found difficulty in regaining consistency after errors unsettled things. "Don't worry about the mistakes — it's the next ten bars that need to be focused on otherwise the plan doesn't work."

He added: "Everything MDs needed to know was in the score. And this composer knows exactly want he wants in his suggestions on tempo and dynamics. There are also a lot of duets that need to complement each other, so there were many pitfalls to overcome. The were no arguments between us on the result."

Clear cut victory

Speaking later to 4BR he added: "It was a clear-cut victory and it was good to hear playing based on such a well thought out approach. We were able to identify everything that was required. The control and consideration was first class."

He went on: "It was a bit closer between second and third, but overall things fell into place quite easily. It was a fine test and well chosen by the panel.

The step up from here to Championship Section level is daunting though for many of these bands and 'Red Priest' (the 2023 Area set-work) will need a huge amount of preparation."

Thanks

For the winning MD that is something that he is already looking forward to. "That is going to be a huge test, but there is such a strong core of committed, talented players here that I'm sure we can do well.

I think it says a lot about the band that they weren't totally happy at the way they played on the weekend, but as soon as we came off, I was. I can't thank them all enough. They put in so much hard work that I was able to vary rehearsals with other music even in the week before the contest."

Sam added: "This a super band to be conducting full of super people. Now we have Bolsover ahead of us in a couple of weeks' time, so we won't be celebrating for too long."

Marsden and Staffs progress

They will surely head there as one of the favourites on this form and to potentially secure a place at the British Open Spring Festival, whilst both Marsden Silver Prize and Staffordshire will look towards their future contest appearances buoyed by continued substantive progress.

Marsden played with polish and panache, and whilst the more exposed elements just found them in a little discomfort in places, it was still a fine performance under the neat direction of MD, Andrew Lofthouse.

So too Staffordshire who immediately followed on stage — upping the title winning bar even further with a rendition cut from the same well managed, richly coloured cloth by Craig Williams, that just also faltered a little in those lyrical duets.

Any disappointment will be tempered — these are bands heading very much in the right direction under their MDs.

Dramatic intentions

Just behind came Sandhurst, as David Johnson set out an account full of dramatic intentions and pulsating energy, whilst both Acceler8 and Ebbw Valley (off the number 1 draw) will have known that their bold takes were just marred by a few too many minor errors to have pushed for a podium finish.

Much the same in respect to Ashton (whose excellent flugel, Rachel Dines took the 'Best Instrumentalist' award), Bo'ness, Pontardulais and Hyde in their slightly different ways as they eventually filled the top ten places, although after that 'Trittico' became increasingly challenging for the bands lower down the results table.

Whether or not on this evidence any of them are all ready for promotion to the Championship Section is debatable, but playing works that bridge the obvious gap between the First and Championship Section can only hold them in good stead.

It certainly did for Stannignton.

Iwan Fox

Sam Fisher's attention to dynamic levels and contrast, as well as ensemble balance and precision maintained a cohesive flow to the music's cleverly related variants4BR

Result: First Section

Adjudicators: Gary Davies, Ian Porthouse, Roger Webster
Set work: Trittico (James Curnow)

1. Stannington (Sam Fisher)
2. Marsden Silver Prize (Andrew Lofthouse)
3. Staffordshire (Craig Williams)
4. Sandhurst Silver (David Johnson)
5. Accler8 (Jef Sparkes)
6. Ebbw Valley Brass (Gareth Ritter)
7. Ashton under Lyne (Martyn Evans)
8. Bo'ness & Carriden (Charlie Farren)
9. Pontardulais Town (Paul Jenkins)
10. Hyde (Nigel Seaman)
11. Dalkeith & Monktonhall (James Chamberlain)
12. Kirkbymoorside Town (Sarah Woodward)
13. Gresley Colliery (Craig Stevens)
14. East of England Co-op (Nigel Cooper)
15. Houghton Brass (Michael Franey)
16. Bodmin Town (Steve Sykes)

Best Instrumentalist: Rachel Dines (flugel) — Ashton under Lyne

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