The Wychavon Festival of Brass certainly lived up to its name in Evesham on the weekend. A packed day of contesting was enjoyed by performers and listeners alike, thanks to the excellent organisation and facilities as well as the desire of the competitors to showcase a wide variety entertainment genres and styles.
A keen battle in the Championship Section saw the impressive Llwydcoed take the Evesham Town Cup and £1,250 first prize under MD Chris Turner back to Wales with a polished set that opened with 'Ride', before showcasing euphonium player Darren Morris in 'I'll Walk With God', the second movement of 'Lowry Sketchbook', the up tempo 'Melody Shop' march and their finale of 'One Small Step'.
"It's our biggest achievement in recent years", a delighted Chairman, Kevin Johnson told 4BR. "We've enjoyed a great run of form since Chris took over as MD, and this shows the progress we continue to make at Championship level.
The atmosphere in the band is great and to secure this win gives us yet another boost of contesting confidence."
There was also joy for local rivals Ebbw Valley Brass, as the nationally graded First Section outfit rounded off a busy day (they also came fourth in the First Section) with a tremendous runner-up finish under Gareth Ritter — claiming £650 prize money and more importantly, the invitation to compete at the British Open Spring Festival in Blackpool.
"We're ecstatic!" Band Manager Dean Woods told 4BR. "This is another major stepping stone for the band — and perhaps it's our most significant one since our formation in 2011."
Third place in a contest that impressed adjudicator Dr Robert Childs with its variety, was Medway, led by the experienced Melvin White.
They secured the final podium spot in the 18 band field thanks in part to an outstanding 'Best Soloist' performance of the famous Mendelssohn 'Violin Concerto' by horn player Tim De Maeseneer, who later told 4BR: "I hope the award goes someway to repaying the band for their support."
The final top-six places went to City of Cardiff (Melingriffith), Aveley & Newham and Lanner & District, with defending champion Eccles Borough in seventh. Enderby Band rounded off a highly successful day by taking the 'Best Entertainment' award, whilst the 'Best Baritones' and 'Best Percussion' prizes went to Ebbw Valley Brass and Aveley & Newham respectively.
Enderby Band certainly enjoyed their visit to Evesham as they came away with the Roger Spragg Cup and the £900 top prize in the First Section under Simon Gresswell.
Continuing their strong 2017 form, band spokesman Ian Hayto told 4BR: "We're so pleased with our contest consistency. This win follows on from good results at the Shirebrook and Bolsover events, and we feel we are pushing on with each contest outing under Simon's inspirational leadership."
The band's winning set featured Sandy Smith's arrangement of 'London Town' and 'The Girl from Ipanema', before trombonist Andy Grey delivered a cracking rendition of 'Smile'. There was plenty of innovation on show with the exotic Indian hosepipe sounds of 'Karma Naand', before they rounded things off with Dan Price's 'An American Tale'.
Eccles Borough produced a fine defence of their title under Mareika Gray to finish runner-up (aided by 'Best Soloist', Peter McDonough on euphonium), whilst welcome Scottish visitors Johnstone Silver was third.
The final top-six places in a contest of well matched bands went to Ebbw Valley, BTM and Langley (who took the 'Best Baritones' accolade), with Sandhurst Silver taking the 'Best Percussion' prize.
An innovative musical revival theme was adopted by Second Section winners Haydock Band, as the north west band featured a programme consisting entirely of new arrangements by their composer in residence Adam DJ Taylor.
'Don't Rain On My Parade', 'I've Gotta Be Me', featuring Russell Prescott on horn, 'Tell Me It's Not True', 'Facade' and the prophetically appropriate finale, 'This is the Moment' proved to be a classy winning combination for Mark Quinn's band.
A delighted MD later told 4BR: "This is our first entertainment contest for over ten years, so we wanted to make it a special performance. I think that came across to adjudicator David Hirst as his remarks were extremely complimentary about the music, the concept and most crucially, the performance."
It gave Haydock the chance to celebrate their victory back up the M6 with the WFB Wychavon Cup in their grasp alongside £600 in prize money.
The band was pushed all the way though by second placed Milton Keynes Brass led by Jonathan Mott, whose vibrant set (aided by their 'Best Baritones') saw them add an extra £100 as 'Best Entertainment' winners to the £300 runner-up prize.
Crofton Silver was third, with Rob Perham of fourth placed Weston Brass taking the 'Best Soloist' award. They also claimed the 'Best Percussion' prize, with the final top-six places taken by the Welsh duo of Blaenavon Town and Ammanford Town.
There was an early Christmas present for Wem Jubilee to celebrate in the Third Section as they claimed the Emley Foundation Cup and £500 first prize under MD Roger Thorne. Their slickly presented festive inspired set also bagged the 'Best Percussion' prize and gave euphonium player John Roberts the 'Best Soloist' accolade.
'Jingle Bell Fantasy', John's splendid 'Good King Wenceslas', 'Still, Still, Still' and the finale of 'Christmas Eve Sarajevo' got everyone looking forward to prospect of turkey and tinsel, with principal cornet Ruth Wilson later telling 4BR: "Our comments from Anne Crookston were really positive and we are so happy that our programme came off, despite it being in October!"
Close behind in a highly entertaining contest came Stourport on Severn led by Oliver Wilson, with the final podium spot taken by Hawk Green who won the 'Best Entertainment' prize. The final top-six places went to Ynyshir (who took the 'Best Baritones' prize) and Porthywaen Silver, with their kit player Jack Arrowsmith taking the Dave Hodgetts Memorial prize.
Rode Hall Silver certainly celebrated their 180th anniversary in style in winning a cracking Fourth Section contest under MD Nigel Butler.
The South-Cheshire outfit navigated a winning path against keen rivals to claim the £400 first prize and Fleece Inn Trophy thanks to an energetic programme that featured 'Prismatic Light', 'Under the Boardwalk', 'Libertango', 'Lisa Lan' and finale of 'Caravan'.
Band spokesperson Steve Twenlow told 4BR: "We are over the moon with the result. The extra rehearsals, the preparation concerts and the work from everyone really made the difference. There'll be a great feeling around the band that the win has come in our 180th anniversary year."
Rode Hall also claimed the 'Best Entertainment' and 'Best Percussion' prizes, whilst Wem Jubilee took the opportunity to warm up for their successful Third Section challenge by coming runner-up (adding a further £200 to their prize fund and with their talented xylophonist Tom Thorne taking the 'Best Soloist' award alongside their 'Best Baritones'), with Ledbury Community Brass coming third.
We've enjoyed a great run of form since Chris took over as MD, and this shows the progress we continue to make at Championship levelLlwydcoed Band
Adjudicator: Dr Robert Childs
1. Llwydcoed (Chris Turner) — 192
2. Ebbw Valley Brass (Gareth Ritter) — 190*
3. Medway (Mevin White) — 189
4. City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) (Dewi Griffiths)
5. Aveley & Newham (Alan Duguid)
6. Lanner & District (Andrew Berryman)
7. Eccles Borough (Mareika Gray)
8. Enderby (Simon Gresswell)
9. Foresters Brass (John Davis)
10. Jackfield Elcock Reisen (Simon Platford)
11. Yorkshire Imperial DUT (Martin Heartfield)
12. Johnstone Silver (Martyn Ramsay)
13= Hatfield (Stan Lippeatt)
13= Langley (Cliff Parker)
15. Bedworth (David Maplestone)
16. BTM (Jeff Hutchinson)
17. Brunel Brass (Paul Collis-Smith)
18. Sandhurst Silver (Paul McLaughlin)
* Gained invitation to 2018 British Open Spring Festival
Entertainment Prize: Enderby
Best Soloist: Tim Maeseneer (horn) — Medway
Best Baritones: Ebbw Valley Brass
Best Percussion: Aveley & Newham
Winning Conductor Trophy: Chris Turner (Llwydcoed)
Adjudicator: Tom Davoren
1. Enderby (Simon Gresswell) — 191
2. Eccles Borough (Mareika Gray) — 190
3. Johnstone Silver (Martyn Ramsay) — 189
4. Ebbw Valley Brass (Gareth Ritter)
5. BTM (Jeff Hutchinson)
6. Langley (Cliff Parker)
7. Gresley Colliery (Craig Stevens)
8. Crewe Brass (Jamie Meredith)
9. Crofton Silver (Dean Jones)
10. Foresters Brass (John Davis)
11. Oddfellows Brass (Rob Boulter)
12. Sandhurst Silver (Paul McLaughlin)
Entertainment Prize: Enderby
Best Soloist: Peter McDonough (euphonium) — Eccles Borough
Best Baritones: Langley
Best Percussion: Sandhurst Silver
Winning Conductor Trophy: Simon Gresswell (Enderby)
Adjudicator: David Hirst
1. Haydock Band (Mark Quinn) — 190
2. Milton Keynes Brass (Jonathan Mott) — 189
3. Crofton Silver (Dean Jones) — 187
4. Weston Brass (Bryn James)
5. Blaenavon Town (David Langley)
6. Ammanford Town (Glyn Jones)
7. Stourport on Severn (Oliver Wilson)
8. Crewe Brass (Jamie Meredith)
9. Avonbank (Richard Dickens)
10. Downton Brass (Paul Williams)
Entertainment Prize: Milton Keynes Brass
Best Soloist: Rob Perham (flugel) — Weston Brass
Best Baritones: Milton Keynes Brass
Best Percussion: Weston Brass
Winning Conductor Trophy: Mark Quinn (Haydock)
Adjudicator: Anne Crookston
1. Wem Jubilee (Roger Thorne) — 192
2. Stourport on Severn (Oliver Wilson) — 191
3. Hawk Green (Neil Hewson) — 190
4. Arrow Valley (Andrew Culshaw)
5. Ynyshir (Gary Davies)
6. Porthywaen Silver (Dougie Graham)
7. Cinderford (Chris Howley)
8. Jubilee Brass (Oxford) (Clifford Sandler)
9. Crosskeys Silver (Mike Davies)
10. Oakdale Silver (Kerry Bowden)
Entertainment Prize: Hawk Green
Best Soloist: John Roberts (euphonium) — Wem Jubilee
Best Baritones: Ynyshir
Tracey Sollis Cup: Noah Davies (aged 7) — Ynyshir
Dave Hodgetts Memorial Trophy: Jack Arrowsmith (kit percussion) — Porthywaen Silver
Winning Conductor Trophy: Roger Thorne (Wem Jubilee)
Adjudicator: Anne Crookston
1. Rode Hall Silver (Nigel Butler) — 188
2. Wem Jubilee (Roger Thorne) — 187
3. Ledbury Community Brass (Colin Herbert) — 186
4. Porthywaen Silver (Dougie Graham)
5. City of Wolverhampton (George Draycott)
6. Oakdale Silver (Kerry Bowden)
Entertainment Prize: Rode Hall Silver
Best Soloist: Tom Thorne (xylophone) — Wem Jubilee
Best Baritones: Wem Jubilee
Best Percussion: Rode Hall
Winning Conductor Trophy: Nigel Butler (Rode Hall Silver)