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Report & Results: 2019 Butlins Mineworkers Championships: British Open Solo & Quartet

As 4BR Editor Iwan Fox reports, there were some outstanding winning performances to be enjoyed in the Intermediate Slow Melody, Senior Solo and Quartet contests in Skegness

Ed Culpin
  13 year old Ed Culpin won the British Open Intermediate Slow Melody title

One of the new innovations at the Butlins Mineworkers Festival this year was the re-introduction of the British Open Solo & Quartet Championships.

Last held in Dukinfield in 2009, it has been revived at a time when what was once almost a weekly competitive occurrence around the UK has almost become extinct.

It proved to be an encouraging start (and the events were excellently run by Ian and Judith Beckett) for what is hoped will become an important part of future Butlins Festivals. They in turn have made their commitment clear with a top prize of £500 in each of the Senior Solo and Quartet competitions and £300 in the Intermediate event.

Unfortunately there wasn't enough interest to hold the Junior Slow Melody and Junior Quartet categories, although the Butlins organizers told 4BR that they will be making a proactive approach to reach out to brass band associations and youth organizations as well as conservatoires and colleges to ignite greater interest for 2020.

It is also hoped that the event can also become much more closely aligned to the European Brass Band Association's Blue Riband Solo Championship.

Intermediate winner

There was certainly plenty of support and interest on show at the Royal Arthur Suite on Friday night, as 10 talented youngsters from eight different bands took part in the Intermediate Slow Melody competition.

They showcased their unaccompanied talents to a packed audience as well as adjudicators Richard Marshall and Peter Roberts — former winners of British Open Solo titles themselves.

The overall standard was excellent (although Peter Roberts was somewhat critical at what he had heard) with Richard Marshall praising each player for their efforts as well as giving some expert tips in his remarks.

Nerves did play a part on occasions, but each of the three cornet and trombone players, the two of horn players, euphonium and baritone did themselves and their bands proud.

The eventual winner (no placings were given all three competitions), was 13 year old baritone player Ed Culpin (above) from Leicestershire Co-operative Band, who gave a stunning performance of 'Nocturno' by Franz Strauss — one described by Richard when speaking to 4BR, as "simply brilliant".

Also a member of Youth Brass 2000 and the National Children's Band of Great Britain, he is taught by Katrina Marzella of Black Dyke. His rendition had a maturity of understanding and especially tonality that was way beyond his tender years. This is a young performer with the brightest of brass banding futures ahead of him.

Defending champion

There was certainly a performance of rich maturity and technical virtuosity from the newly crowned Senior Solo Champion, Jef Vermeiren of Brass Band Heist in Belgium.

More accurately, it was a cornet winning performance from the defending champion, as Jef was the last person to claim the accolade back in 2009.

Amazingly, he also wound the clock back a decade by retaining the title on a piece by Vladimir Peskin — this time his 'Second' rather than 'First' Concerto for Trumpet. It was a classy and highly accomplished display of all round cornet playing — one that deservedly claimed the title and the £500 first prize.

Speaking to 4BR Jef also confirmed that he was both proud to be crowned champion for a second time and that he now hopes to retain it by returning in 2020.

"It's a great honour to win this title for a second time. I didn't think it would be a ten year gap, but I was delighted to be able to catch the ferry over to the UK to take part once again, and I'm sure that many more Belgian players will take part next year — including myself."

Although the field was reduced to 15 competitors on the day, the overall standard was not diluted, with a number of interesting choices of repertoire; from classic air-varies to contemporary florid solos — all expertly accompanied by Barry Whitfield.

Femmes triumph

Hopefully there will be more competitors in the Senior Quartet category, although the three ensembles did produce performances of quality — headed by the eventual winner Femmes of Frickley.

They took the title and £500 first prize with a neatly re-tailored arrangement of Gilbert Vinter's 'Elegy, Rondo and Caprice' — one that saw the baritone very effectively take the horn part.

Iwan Fox

Last held in Dukinfield in 2009, it has been revived at a time when what was once almost a weekly competitive occurrence around the UK has almost become extinct4BR


British Open: Intermediate Slow Melody

Adjudicators: Richard Marshall & Peter Roberts

Winner: Ed Culpin (Leicestershire Co-operative) — Baritone

British Open: Senior Solo

Adjudicators: Richard Marshall & Peter Roberts

Winner: Jeff Vermeiren (Brass Band Heist) — cornet

British Open: Senior Quartet

Adjudicators: Richard Marshall & Peter Roberts

Winner: Femmes of Frickley

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