A brace of high class test piece and entertainment performances gave the Flowers Band the perfect start to the 2015 season, as they retained the Butlins Mineworkers Championship title in authoritative style at a chilly Skegness.
Under the baton of MD Paul Holland, they topped both sections of the contest for the second successive year, thanks to a confident, but not error free rendition of the set work, ‘Facets of the Heart’ by Tom Davoren, and a polished, tweaked reprise of their recent Brass in Concert programme.
Although their eight rivals pushed them hard over the two days, there was little doubt to where the £10,000 first prize and the magnificent Warwick Vase Trophy was heading come the late night announcement of the results.
Adjudicators Michael Fowles and Stephen Roberts wrote in their remarks that they had produced, ‘...a terrific performance’ and ‘...a brilliant performance’ of the set work, with Stephen also adding that their Sunday entertainment set had ‘...outstanding virtuosity and eloquent sounds’, whilst Chad Shoopman though they had produced, ‘...world class ensemble sounds’.
Meanwhile, David Childs also retained his ‘Best Soloist’ award with a scintillating rendition of ‘Gypsy Airs’ — described as ‘...a wonderful display of musicality’ to take the Geoff Dove Shield.
Neck and neck
There was though a neck and neck battle for the remaining podium places, with Virtuosi GUS, Woodfalls and Redbridge all ending up with the same combined points aggregate.
However, the Midlanders second place on the set work, ahead of Woodfalls and Redbridge, enabled them to come runner-up overall, bagging a hefty £5,000 in the process.
Despite just missing out on their best ever Butlins finish, Woodfalls later told 4BR that they were happy with their solid start to the season (boosted by a cheque for £2,500) with a thrilled Redbridge surprising many (4BR included) with their fine return to form in coming fourth.
A thoroughly delighted Friary Guildford ended fifth, claiming the £1,000 prize and Butlins Trophy, as the ‘Most Entertaining Band’ (and Best Bass Section) on the Sunday in the process, whilst sixth went to Thoresby Colliery, who took the William Lippeatt Memorial Trophy for what will be the last time as a mining band following the announcement of the closure of their namesake pit later this year.
Flowers MD Paul Holland wore a satisfied smile of victory on Sunday night when he spoke to 4BR, although he did admit he had to remind his band that they couldn’t take a fourth victory here in five years for granted.
“I did have to do that on Saturday night, after we made a couple of sloppy errors on the test piece, but the band responded superbly for me on our entertainment programme,” he said.
“We are playing so well at the moment, but we are also determined to build on the success we enjoyed in 2014. This is a great way to do that with a solid victory here.”
Meanwhile, Band Manager Lee Downie added that 2015 now brings slightly different challenges, with no Yeovil or Grand Shield contest on the horizon.
“We built momentum last year at those two events, but this year we have high profile performances at the Cheltenham Festival, CD recordings and some interesting projects to keep us busy before we get to the British Open in September.”
There was a great battle between the best of Britain and America in the First Section, where Unite the Union (City of Sheffield) claimed the £2,000 first prize ahead of the star spangled rivals of Oakland University Brass from Detroit.
The two expertly led competitors certainly showed their class on the dangerously under estimated set-work, ‘Three Folk Song Settings’, which bared its bucolic teeth to scupper the contest winning aspirations of many of the 19 contenders — almost from the word go.
Adjudicator David Thornton later told 4BR that despite the lack of overtly technical challenges posed by Mike Kilmartin’s arrangement, it was brass band basics that certainly sorted things out for him and Chad Shoopman in the box.
“It was surprising how often we had to remark on poor starts and basic balance and initiation issues,” he said.
“There was a great deal of quality playing on show with the best bands — and the top two in particular, but elsewhere we were surprised just how often they failed to master the deceptively simply musicality of the writing.”
No problem for Unite or Oakland, both of whom produced fine performances under MDs David Hirst and Kenneth Kroesche, whilst solidly delivered renditions from Jackfield (Elcock Reisen) and Enderby took the remaining top four prizes.
“It’s a great start to the year,” Unite’s representative later told 4BR as he clutched the First Section Trophy and winner’s banner in his hand backstage after the results.
“We’re determined to build on this result at Bradford in a few months time and start our journey back to the Championship Section.”
In a contest that showed that it’s not always sheer technique and dynamic brashness that wins through, more considered renditions that found the score's contrasting elements gained reward from the box; with the remaining top six places going to Hebden Bridge and Becontree Brass, and with Leicestershire Co-operative taking the ‘Highest Placed Mining Band’ award.
Eccles Borough went one better than 2014, as they claimed the 2015 Second Section title under the baton of Marieka Gray.
David Hollings’ ‘Phoenix’ set work certainly proved engaging as well as demanding for the thirteen well matched bands, with a host of colourful performances for David Horsfield and Alwyn Green to enjoy in the box.
However, it was the added precision, ensemble balance and well controlled excitement from Eccles that eventually claimed the £2,000 first prize, taking the honours from a brace of fine renditions from rivals Haydock and Colchester.
“They are such a hard working band — even on a day off,” Eccles MD Marieka Gray later told 4BR.
“We have almost had half a band of changes in the past year, but this group has real belief in themselves and are happy working hard and being together. Even when they had a day off they were on social media talking about the test piece and how they wanted to keep improving.”
With that in mind Eccles will surely be one of the favourites as they look towards the North West Area contest in Blackpool in March alongside Haydock, whilst Colchester will have enjoyed a huge boost of confidence ahead of their appearance at Stevanage.
Amington Brass claimed the remaining top four prize place, as well as the ‘Highest Placed Mining Band’ award, with the final top six places going to the Yorkshire duo of Emley Brass and Kippax.
There couldn’t have been a happier MD in Skegness all weekend than Robert Prew, as the experienced MD led Stamford Brass to their first major title winning success since 1988.
“I said I would carry on conducting the band until we once again tasted victory — but now I want to carry on to see if we can add to it!” he told 4BR after the announcement of the results.
Well worth it
Rob returned to the band a few years ago after his first spell finished a decade ago, and ever since he has been re-building them as well as himself, back to contesting strength.
“It’s been well worth it,” he remarked. “Going on the Allan Withington conducting course a couple of years ago gave me a huge boost of confidence and has really helped me with this wonderful band. I now hope we can all build on this starting at the Midlands Area Championship.”
With Nigel Hall’s cleverly constructed arrangement of Percy Fletcher’s deceptive ‘Woodlands Pictures’ asking searching questions of musicality rather than technicality, it was good to hear a host of contenders trying to bring out the textures and lyricism of the music — not just forcing unwarranted pace and volume to gain excitement.
Golborne’s neatly portrayed imagery saw them eventually claim the runner-up spot and the ‘Highest Placed Mining Band’ award, ahead of equally well delivered performances from the prize winners, Hucknall & Linby and Ifton Colliery.
The final top six places went to the fancied North West duo of Coppull & Standish and Boarshurst Silver, who set a high class marker from the number 1 draw.
A combination of youthful conducting talent and a fine sense of Gallic musicality won the Fourth Section, on what was a highly enjoyable musical aperitif to the Championship Section test piece contest on Saturday morning.
Joshua Hughes, resplendent in a light blue suit that was every bit the same colour as some of the hands and feet of the players and audience in a chilly Centre Stage venue, directed Sale Brass in a cracking rendition of Chris North’s inventive, ‘Five French Masters’ set work, to take the £2,000 first prize.
The homage to the quintet of iconic impressionist portraits certainly tested the bands, with nerves and unforced errors alongside style and technique deciding the destination of the title.
However, a combination of composed direction and solid execution from Sale gave them the title in emphatic fashion, despite solidly portrayed efforts from runner-up Skelmersdale Prize and fellow prize winners Whitwell Brass (who also took the Highest Placed Mining Band award) and Sherwood Forest Brass. The final top six places went to Brighton & Hove City Brass and Ynyshir.
All round quality
Adjudicator John Doyle later told 4BR that Sale’s all round quality made them a clear winner.
“We had no problem picking them out,” he said. “Both David (Ashworth) and myself were really impressed by the direction given by the MD in terms of tempo, style and dynamics, and the playing was first rate. A number of other bands did well on the day, but Sale was a good margin ahead of the rest.”
Understandably, the young MD was delighted by his band’s success — and on only his second competitive outing with them.
“We have been working hard together now for a little while, and they really give 100% to everything I ask of them,” he said. “I wanted to bring out the style of the music today and I think we achieved that thanks to some excellent solo and ensemble playing all round the stands.”
Youth & Ensemble Sections:
As always there was a great day of Sunday contesting action in the Reds venue, as the youth bands and ensembles produced playing every bit as entertaining as that on show with the top flight contenders at Centre Stage.
There was also plenty of nail biting excitement too, as Wardle Academy ended Youth Brass 2000's six year hegemony in the Youth Section, with the added bonus of their Junior band also taking the Ensemble title.
First title success
Under the direction of Lee Rigg, Wardle's programme of 'Prismatic Light', followed by 'Old Hundreth', Alford's march, 'On the Quarter Deck, 'Sunset' and the closing 'I'll Walk With God' saw them claim the £1,000 first prize for the very first time — much to the thrilled delight of the young players, supporters and MD.
The band’s outstanding solo cornet player Laura Conway also took the deserved ‘Best Soloist’ award.
Defending champion, Youth Brass 2000, couldn't have done any more to make it seven successive wins after a confident programme that included a fine rendition of Philip Sparke's ‘Evolution: Five States of Change’, which will test Third Section bands at the Regionals in March.
The two remaining bands, Gresley Colliery Youth (who had the youngest player of the day in their ranks in Harry Drawn) and Enderby Youth all delivered high quality programmes in a contest that once again showcased the excellence of each competitor.
All action winner
In the Junior Ensemble, Wardle Juniors under Gwen Smith delivered a super ‘all action’ programme that included '1914 March', 'Eventide' and 'Bandstand Boogie' to take the title.
Runner-up was Shirland Training, who showcased their talented ‘Best Soloist’ award winning tenor horn soloist, Luke Newbury in their programme, whilst excellent renditions from Youth Brass 1000 and Wigston Enterprise were just edged out on this occasion.
Prior to the results, judges John Doyle and Mark Walters spoke with high praise about what they had just listened to, commenting not just on the enthusiasm and commitment of all those present, but the real quality of performances too.
Having not arrived back until 10.30pm on Sunday night, it wasn't until Monday when 4BR caught up with Wardle Academy's Director of Performing Arts, Janet Emsley, who understandably spoke with great pride about the achievements of both bands.
“Naturally, we're absolutely delighted to have gone to Skegness and been victorious in both competitions under Lee and Gwen,” she said.
“The Butlins weekend is always an enjoyable time and our young players can relax as well as concentrate on competing. We work hard and encourage players to give of their best and they are all a huge credit to the Academy.”
It also proved to be a memorable weekend for Lee Rigg, as he was also part of the Jager Maestros Oompah Band that brought the house down in Reds late on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Gwen Smith’s Juniors will now turn their attentions to the Action Youth Entertainment contest in a couple of weeks, whilst Lee's Academy ensemble will focus on the National Youth Championships in April, closely followed by the European Youth Contest in Freiburg.
As always at Butlins, there was a great deal to enjoy with the entertainment provided from the likes of the Jager Maestro Oompah Band, the King’s Division Brass Band and the Neo Brass Ensemble, to the usual light night revelry in the many bars and the excellent contest organising of Brian Eggleshaw and his team.
There was also a reminder of contributions past, present and future to the event with the presentation of awards to Alan Needham and the late Sidney Belshaw, whilst the list of test pieces for 2016 was also announced.
Retrospectives of the action at Butlins will appear on 4BR later in the week.
We are playing so well at the moment, but we are also determined to build on the success we enjoyed in 2014. This is a great way to do that with a solid victory hereFlowers MD, Paul Holland
(Set Test + Own Choice) = Total
Test Piece: Facets of the Heart (Tom Davoren)
Adjudicators: Stephen Roberts & Michael Fowles (Set Work) Stephen Roberts & Chad Shoopman (Entertainment)
1. Flowers (Paul Holland): 1/1 = 2
2. Virtuosi GUS (Adam Cooke): 2/5 = 7*
3. Woodfalls (Paul Lovatt-Cooper): 3/4 = 7*
4. Redbridge Brass (Alan Duguid): 4/3 = 7*
5. Friary Guildford (Chris King): 8/2 = 10
6. Thoresby Colliery (Leigh Baker): 5/7 = 12
7. East Yorkshire Motor Services (Alan Morrison): 7/6 = 13
8. Wantage A (Phillip Bailey): 6/8 = 14
9. Aveley & Newham (Richard Ward): 9/9 = 18
*Set Work placing takes precedence in event of tie.
Highest Placed Mining Band: Thoresby Colliery (Leigh Baker)
Most Entertaining Band: Friary Guildford
Best Bass section: Friary Guildford
Geoff Dove Soloist Award: David Childs (Flowers)
Saturday 17th January
Test Piece: Three Folk Songs Settings for Brass Band (Andrew Boysen Jnr. arr Mike Kilmartin)
Adjudicators: David Thornton & Chad Shoopman
1. Unite the Union (City of Sheffield) (David Hirst)
2. Oakland University Brass (Kenneth Kroesche)
3. Jackfield (Elcock Reisen) (Simon Platford)
4. Enderby (Simon Jones)
5. Hebden Bridge (Trevor Halliwell)
6. Becontree Brass (Nigel Taken)
7. Fulham Brass (John Ward)
8. Ipswich & Norwich Co-op (Ian Johnson)
9. Haverhill Silver (Mark Ager)
10. Langley (Cliff Parker)
11. Longridge (Mark Peacock)
12. City of Coventry (Stephen Cooper)
13. Leicester Co-operative SMW (Graham Jacklin)
14. Diggle (Alan Wycherley)
15. Mossley (Duncan Byers)
16. Gresley Colliery (Simon Jones)
17. Whitworth Vale & Healey (John Binns)
18. Shirebrook Miners Welfare (Mark Wilcockson)
19. Harborough (Chris Groom))
Highest Placed Mining Band: Leicester Co-operative SMW (Graham Jacklin)
Saturday 17th January
Test Piece: Phoenix (David Holling)
Adjudicators: Alwyn Green & David Horsfield
1. Eccles Borough (Mareika Gray)
2. Haydock (Mark Quinn)
3. Colchester (David Maddocks)
4. Amington (Bob Stradling)
5. Emley Brass (Garry Hallas)
6. Kippax (Keiron Anderson)
7. Cawston (David Stowell)
8. Ibstock Brick Brass (Simon Willis)
9. Pemberton Old Wigan DW ‘B’ (Peter Ashley)
10. Rushden Town (John Hudson)
11. Dronfield Genquip (Simon Kerwin)
12. Shirland Welfare (Lynden Cooper)
13. Tilbury (Andrew Austin)
Highest Placed Mining Band: Haydock (Mark Quinn)
Saturday 17th January
Venue: Royal Arthur Suite
Test Piece: Woodland Pictures (Percy Fletcher arr. Nigel Hall)
Adjudicators: Kevin Wadsworth & Mark Walters
1. Stamford Brass (Robert Prew)
2. Golborne (Matthew Whitfield)
3. Hucknall & Linby (Paul Whyley)
4. Ifton Colliery (Wayne Ruston)
5. Coppull & Standish (Matt Stringer)
6. Boarshurst Silver (James Garlick)
7. Worsbrough Brass (John Roberts)
8. Foss Dyke (Simon Oates)
9. Old Hall Brass (John North)
10. Crofton Silver (Kevin Belcher)
11. Dodworth Colliery (M.W.) (Eliot J Darwin)
12. BMP Goodshaw (Mike Cotter)
13. Dunston Silver (Steven Archer)
14. Great Yarmouth Brass (Colin Swaep)
15. Greenfield (Tom Haslam)
16. Maltby Miners Welfare (Terry Clifford)
17. Melton Band (Graham Sutton)
18. Kingsway Printers Cleethorpes (Steven Askew)
Highest Placed Mining Band: Golborne (Matthew Whitfield)
Saturday 17th January
Venue: Centre Stage
Test Piece: Five French Masters (Chris North)
Adjudicators: David Ashworth & John Doyle
1. Sale Brass (Joshua Hughes)
2. Skelmerdale Prize (David Chapman)
3. Whitwell Brass (Bob Woffinden)
4. Sherwood Forest Brass (Christine Lippeatt)
5. Brighton & Hove City Brass (Matt Hackett)
6. Ynyshir (Gary Davies)
7. Pleasley Colliery Welfare (Keith Buxton)
8. Thurcroft Welfare (Matthew Wright)
9. Syston (Dennis Powell)
10. Banovallum Brass (Steve Ingham)
11. East Coast Brass (Paul Speed)
12. Woodbridge Excelsior (C J Lewis-Garnham)
Highest Placed Mining Band: Whitwell Brass (Bob Woffinden)
Youth & Junior Ensemble Results
Sunday 18th January
Adjudicator: John Doyle & Mark Walters
1. Wardle Academy (Lee Rigg)
2. Youth Brass 2000 (Chris Jeans)
3. Gresley Colliery Youth (Duncan Jackson)
4. Enderby Youth (Trevor Hounsome)
Best Soloist: Laura Conway (cornet) — Wardle Academy
Adjudicator: John Doyle & Mark Walters
1. Wardle Junior (Gwen Smith)
2. Shirland Training (Lynden Cooper)
3. Youth Brass 1000 (Cathy Fountain)
4. Wigston Enterprise (Pat Allsopp)
Best Soloist: Luke Newbury (horn) — Shirland Training
Youngest Player: Harry Drawn (Gresley Colliery Youth)