Report & Result: 2023 National Championships of Great Britain: Second Section

Whitworth Vale & Healey enjoy their trip to the Swiss lakes to finally end their long wait for a National title success.

  Whitworth Vale & Healey celebrate their long awaited National triumph

Formed in 1853, Whitworth Vale & Healey Band has waited a long time to become a National Champion.

Over the years they had come fifth (1964, 1982, 1983), fourth (1998, 2011, 2012) and runner-up (1992) in their numerous attempts in the Fourth and Third Sections.

Hanging around until well after 10.45pm on Sunday night to find out if they had finally claimed the title wasn't too much an extra bother then — especially not when compere David Hayward finally announced the identity of the 2023 Second Section National Champion Band of Great Britain.

You could have heard the cheer halfway up the M6 motorway to their home just outside Rochdale. When they did get home the trophy was proudly displayed in the bar of the Band Club.

Outstanding victory

Theirs was an outstanding victory inspired by MD, Mike Golding in a contest packed with a host of fine title seeking renditions of Philip Sparke's intricately absorbing 'Lakeland Variations'.

Podium prize-winners Alder Valley and Newmilns & Galston, as well as the top-six finishers of Soundhouse Brass, Tewit Silver and Knottingley Silver could not have performed much better in their title bids, with others also counting themselves a little unfortunate not to get a mention off the stage.

"There were 19 very commendable performances," adjudicator Alan Bourne said in his pre-results remarks. He was bang on the money.

Written detail

Wary of the lateness of the day, he gave a general analysis to ensure that the bands were informed in broad terms of just what he and his colleagues (Anne Crookston and Mark Wilkinson) were looking for. The detail he said came in their written remarks.

"There are copious notes from us to use to add to your development after today," he added as he touched upon issues of dynamic layering, rhythmic precision and grouping, as well and accompaniment concerns, using the example of the all too often swamped cornet solo in the work's fourth variation.

It was clear and to the point — with those written adjudications further emphasising what he had covered. It certainly was with the winner.

"A well-directed performance — lots of very good playing. Bravo soloists", wrote Mark Wilkinson in his overall summing up, whilst Anne Crookston wrote that it was a performance that had "shape and intent" and Alan Bourne called it "a very comprehensive performance from all today".

Each also noted the standout contribution of their euphonium 'Best Instrumentalist' Ian Peters, a hugely experienced performer who now added this National title to the one he won with the Fairey Band at the Royal Albert Hall in 1993.


In a post contest interview on Facebook given to the 'Brassing Around' coverage of the contest, the new champion revealed that their celebrations "went late into the next morning" at their Cheltenham hotel, and that they had been "happy that we had done exactly what Mike Golding had asked."

Whitworth Vale & Healey now has just enough time to recover from their celebratory sore heads before preparing for the upcoming Bolsover Entertainment Contest (which they won last year in the Third Section). Then the future focus will be on the 'High Peak' challenge of the 2024 First Section Area test-piece.

Confidence and style

They should travel to Bolsover and even Blackpool in a buoyant mood after they captured the variant characteristics of Philip Sparke's clever work with confidence and style — right from the opening timpani motif.

Thereafter Mike Golding drew lighter colourings and a sense of lyricism from the detailed scoring, with the dynamics considered and controlled.

Not once did it lose that focus with the final fugel section built, like their wait to be crowned champions, with patience and fortitude before its triumphant conclusion.

Podium contrast

It also offered a fascinating contrast to Alder Valley who played with a forthright confidence just before them following the mid-point break.

A super tuba team provided a rock-solid foundation with excellent soloists adding to the sense of boldness engineered by MD David Hatton that had so much to commend in its execution.

Just behind came the very impressive Scots of Newmilns & Galston, with conductor Alan Freil inspiring a performance of musical certainty and technical clarity that ended with perhaps the best fugue and reprise ending of the entire contest.


Immediate contrast was also to come with fourth placed Soundhouse, much like Whitworth Vale in their dynamic approach and lightness of touch, in an understanding approach to the intricacies of the score by MD Lee Clayson.

The final top-six places went to the early markers of Tewit Silver and Knottingley Silver who also played next to each other.

Tewit could perhaps count themselves unlucky that they couldn't quite repel the later challengers in what was a wonderfully vibrant account led by Martin Hall. Knottingley also gave notice of their lasting quality with a more tempered approach of clarity and balance.

Well led accounts

As Alan Bourne indicated, there were several fine performances on the day, with the well led accounts from Irvine & Dreghorn all the way down to Denmead Brass bringing character and style to each of the five 'Lakeside' variations. There was no weak performance that found the score beyond their technical or musical reach.

And whilst a couple of bands such as Valley Brass (Haydock) and Foss Dyke may look back a little quizzically to why their accounts didn't register in the box as perhaps a much as they did in the hall, there was very little chose between a whole host of competitors in a very closely matched contest.

That though is no longer something Whitworth Vale & Healey needs to be frustrated about anymore. All those past close National calls have now be consigned to history.

Iwan Fox

Theirs was an outstanding victory inspired by MD, Mike Golding in a contest packed with a host of fine title seeking renditions of Philip Sparke's intricately absorbing 'Lakeland Variations'4BR


Second Section:

Test piece: Lakeland Variations (Philip Sparke)
Adjudicators: Alan Bourne, Anne Crookston, Mark Wilkinson

1. Whitworth Vale & Healey (Mike Golding)
2. Alder Valley Brass (David Hatton)
3. Newmilns & Galston (Alan Friel)
4. Soundhouse Brass (Lee Clayson)
5. Tewit Silver (Martin Hall)
6. Knottingley Silver (Kevin Belcher)
7. Irvine & Dreghorn (Stephanie Kennedy)
8. Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)
9. Diggle (Sean Conway)
10. Durham Miners' Association (Stuart Gray)
11. Meltham & Meltham Mills (Tom Haslam)
12. Chiltern Hills (Gordon Davies)
13. Chinnor Silver (Oliver Hallstead-Brooks)
14. Otterbourne (James Smith)
15. Valley Brass (Haydock) (David Chadwick)
16. Rolls-Royce (Derby) (Graham Cardwell)
17. Abergavenny Borough (Lana Tingay)
18. Foss Dyke (Gareth Westwood)
19. Denmead Brass (Estelle Flood)

Best Instrumentalist: Ian Peters (euphonium) — Whitworth Vale & Healey

Become a supporter and help make our future secure.

4barsrest continues to be a proudly independent voice. There are no paywalls to overcome to be able to enjoy what we do to keep our journalism at the heart of the brass banding world. Support us with a one-off donation or subscribe from just £2.50 per month.

Support us    

Kingdom BRASS

Result: 2023 Fife Charities BBA

October 2 • Katrina Marzella-Wheeler leads Kingdom Brass to victory in Kirkcaldy


Results: 2023 Bolsover Festival of Brass

September 30 • There are entertainment victories for Stannington, Freckleton, Whitworth Vale & Healey, Spennymoor Town and Banovallum Brass in Bolsover.


Interview with John Wallace CBE

September 29 • We catch up with John Wallace CBE ahead of a cocnert performance in Edinburgh this weekend that sees him explore some of the earliest brass ensemble transcriptions.


New committee to advise on Iles and Mortimer Medal awards

September 29 • Mark Bromley will lead a new Advisory Committee to recommend candidates for the annual Iles and Mortimer Medals.

Luton Brass Band - Masterclass with David Daws

Wednesday 27 September • St Augustine's Church, Luton LU3 2JR

South Yorkshire Police -

Saturday 30 September • Sheffield Catherdral. Church Street. Sheffield. S1 1HA

Epping Forest Band - Thundersley Brass Band

Saturday 30 September • Salvation Army Hall, Hadleigh, Essex SS7 20F

Friary Brass Band - guest soloist Tom Smith

Saturday 30 September • Trinity Methodist Church. Brewery Road. Woking GU21 4LH

Contest: Bolsover Festival of Brass

Saturday 30 September • Shirebrook Academy, Common Lane, Shirebrook. Derbyshire NG20 8QF

Thurcroft Welfare Band

October 2 • Thurcroft Welfare Band is seeking a new Musical Director. The Band recently appeared at the National Finals at Cheltenham. We rehearse Tuesdays and Thursdays at our own bandroom situated near Rotherham M1/M18 .

Harlow Brass Band

October 2 • Seeking a MUSICAL DIRECTOR - We are a friendly, non-contesting band who play to a good standard. We hold our own Spring and Christmas concerts and provide entertainment at various local events throughout the year

Mereside Brass

October 1 • MERESIDE BRASS (Northwich, Cheshire) are looking for a front row CORNET, possibly PRINCIPAL, and a PERCUSSIONIST. We are a friendly 4th Section band aiming to return to contesting in 2024 and with a sensible calendar of jobs and band social events

Nicholas B. Hudson

Musician | Trombonist | Educator


 © 2023 4barsrest.com Ltd