A year that started with contesting anxiety and disappointment ended in total confidence and triumph for the cooperation band, as they claimed the Scottish Open Championship in Perth.
Their winning rendition of 'The Journey of the Lone Wolf', was also marked by a renewed sense of dominant spirit as they secured the title with what the judges, John Doyle and Glyn Williams called a "stunning" performance to lift the trophy and bag the £1,000 top prize.
It was the band's first Scottish Open victory since 2013, bringing to an end the seven year hegemony of rivals Whitburn. Third place in a keenly fought cross border battle went to Rainford, with the remaining top-six places filled by Pemberton Old DW Wigan, East London Brass and Easington Colliery.
"We had a fantastic day", John Doyle said before the announcement of the results.
"Between us we have played every one of these pieces, except 'Metamorphosis' which we know quite well. Some bands maybe chose a piece that was little bit difficult for them, so conductors have to be careful with what they pick to suit their bands."
John congratulated the quality of the percussion which he felt was "fantastic", whilst Glyn added that he also enjoyed the day with "fond memories" of a number of the choices (John had earlier poked a little fun by saying that he had won on just about all of them during his career).
"It was fantastic to hear such a wide variety today," he said, before revealing that he felt to judge a contest such as this you had to be "a bit of a band geek".
He also praised the quality of the featured soloists, and whilst he felt that the bands that came "towards the bottom" had to "work a little more on the basics", he added that, "the ones that came towards the top were able to do all those things well" and were able to give something "a little bit special — some sort of X factor".
That certainly applied to the cooperation band with a victory that brokered little argument, as Michael Fowles drew a visceral portrait of Hungarian composer Bela Bartok's troubling life from the pages of Simon Dobson's score backed by a rich ensemble sound and outstanding soloists (Chris Flynn taking the 'Best Euphonium' prize).
By its close as the final band of the day, the sound of Bartok's coffin being lowered into a pitiless grave also signalled the burying of any chance rivals had of beating them.
It was a high-class victory from a band that has made a remarkable journey of its own in 2022 — from failing to qualifying for the National Finals to a hugely encouraging appearance at the European Championship, followed by a fine account at the British Open and ultimately a return to the winner's enclosure in Perth.
"We took a number of important decisions during Covid that we knew would take a little while to work through,"Band Manager Alan Douglas later told 4BR.
"Everyone supported them and now it's paying off. We have a secure base, good organisation and long term objectives."
He added: "We also have a group of players all wanting 'The Co' to return to the top again — and that has been shown as the year has progressed. This was a real boost and our thanks go to Michael Fowles who has been outstanding. The future looks good and we are determined to build on this further."
If they do then they will return to Perth in March as favourite to reclaim the Scottish title.
Whitburn will of course be determined to stop them, but they will know that they will have to find a renewed contesting spirit after a somewhat inconsistent rendition of 'The World Rejoicing' under Prof Nicholas Childs.
With their appearance at the European Championships in Malmo and the Grand Shield also to come, the choice of the Gregson British Open work was a sensible one — although also one that showed just how unforgiving it can be if not fully mastered.
Third placed Rainford will also renew acquaintance with them at Blackpool, and will be a band to watch out for, although on this occasion they showcased a fine appreciation under David Thornton of the elegant challenges of George Lloyd's 'English Heritage'.
Another band to watch out for there (as well as at the North West Area) will be the solid Pemberton Old Wigan after they delivered a coherently structured 'Rococo Variations' to end fourth, whilst, East London Brass made the long journey home buoyed by an excellent fifth place finish.
Their rendition of the unfamiliar 'Metamorphosis' by Jan de Haan was a welcome addition to an eclectic selection of test-pieces on the day — the dramatic thematic changes and Bach inspired impulses confidently portrayed by Jayne Murrill and her band to offer the judges an impressive early marker.
Confidence was not in short supply either for sixth placed Easington Colliery with 'Standing on the Shoulders of Giants', whilst Hepworth's equally bold ambition in tackling Philip Wilby's gargantuan 'Revelation' just missed out in seventh.
Elsewhere, it was good to hear bands tackle works that balanced ambition with realism, with MDs also opting for reprises of works long deserving of the renewed light of the contesting day.
The mini domestic battle between the two Kirky bands saw Kirkintilloch Kelvin's 'Lone Wolf' pip Kirkintilloch's 'Cloudcather Fells', whilst the final top-10 spot went to a colourful 'Fraternity' by Kingdom Brass.
Behind them the midfield finishes each brought something to bear with their choices: Fishburn's hard working 'English Heritage' was eleventh, although City of Bradford's absorbing 'Lone Wolf', which featured a superb flugel cameo contribution from '4BR Best Instrumentalist', Phoebe Mallinson, could perhaps count itself unlucky that it didn't quite make the same overall impression in the box.
Elsewhere there was much to enjoy with Dalmellington ('The World Rejoicing'), Johnstone ('The Essence of Time'), Elland Silver ('The Year of the Dragon') and Newtongrange ('Pageantry'), whilst inconsistencies just pockmarked the efforts of Bon-Accord ('Isaiah 40'), Wingates ('Vita Aeterna Variations') and Unison Kinneil ('Rococo Variations').
Before the announcement of the results there was an extended ceremony that featured performances from an ensemble of principal players from the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland, as well as presentations to Ian Gordon for his outstanding service, and compere Alasdair Hutton OBE to mark his retirement from the event.
It was appropriate that his unique voice announced the 2022 winner band — as a rejuvenated cooperation band was crowned Scottish Open Champion for a sixth time.
By its close as the final band of the day, the sound of Bartok's coffin being lowered into a pitiless grave also signalled the burying of any chance rivals had of beating them4BR
Saturday 26th November
Adjudicators: John Doyle and Glyn Williams
1. the cooperation band (Mike Fowles): 198
2. Whitburn (Prof Nicholas Childs): 197
3. Rainford (David Thornton): 195
4. Pemberton Old Wigan DW (Chris Binns): 194
5. East London Brass (Jayne Murrill): 192
6. Easington Colliery (Stephen Malcolm): 191
7. Hepworth Band (Ryan Watkins): 190
8. Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass (Mareika Gray): 189
9. Kirkintilloch Band (David Roberts): 188
10. Kingdom Brass (Paul Drury): 187
11. Fishburn (Duncan Beckley): 186
12. City of Bradford (Jonathan Bates): 184
13. Dalmellington (Gary J Williams): 182
14. Johnstone (Colin McKenzie): 181
15. Elland Silver (Daniel Brooks): 180
16. Newtongrange (Anne Crookston): 179
17. Bon-Accord Silver (Stephen Malcolm): 178
18. Wingates (Andrea Price): 177
19. Unison Kinneil (Raymond Tennant): 176
Best Instrumentalist: Phoebe Mallinson (flugel) — City of Bradford
Best Euphonium: Chris Flynn (the cooperation band)