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Report & Results: 2017 British Open Championship

Valaisia Brass Band makes history in taking the 165th British Open Championship title home to Switzerland.

Valaisia Open Win 2017
  Arsene Duc MD with Valaisia Brass Band


Valaisia Brass Band created history at Symphony Hall in Birmingham as they became the first European band to claim the British Open title.

The announcement of their victory sent shock waves of both joy and surprise through the auditorium, as the audience quickly comprehended the magnitude of their achievement.

Longitudinal line

Following Eikanger's victory at the European Championships in May, the longitudinal line of elite banding domination has taken another move east from the shores of the UK. Switzerland is now the home of the 165th winner of the most famous brass band contest in the world.

Their proud Band President Gregoire Barras clutched his face in disbelief as he slowly stepped forward to accept the iconic trophy, as a delirious contingent of supporters and players erupted in a canton of celebration on the Grand Tier of the hall.

They now become only the third non-British band, following the Newcastle Steel Works (Australia) in 1924 and the National Brass Band of New Zealand in 1953, to win the iconic Gold Shield.

Grown men cry

Led by inspirational MD Arsene Duc, Valaisia gave a performance of the popular set-work, 'Fraternity' by Thierry Deleruyelle that according to adjudicator Stephen Roberts in his pre-results speech to the audience, had, "...made three grown men cry like babies in the box."

The trio felt that it was an "outstandingly beautiful performance" — an opinion reinforced by their written remarks, which glowed with overwhelming approval.

"A FANTASTIC performance — so full of emotional charge and splendid detail in the fast passages. Many congratulations to you all," wrote Stephen Roberts.

A succinct Ray Farr wrote; "Fabulous. I have a tear! Terrific — Bravo!", whilst Paul Cosh described it as; "Simply wonderful. Stunning. Thank you so much. So emotional. Bravo!!"

And despite the usual weighty opinions of other supporters, critics and listeners on the day, few would begrudge the veracity of Valaisia's triumph. A brilliant band had become a most worthy champion. It will also be hoped that they will be able to return in 2018 to defend their title.

So proud

"I cannot quite believe it," Arsene Duc said as she stood behind the trophy which will stay in the UK for the time being before arrangements can hopefully be put in place to see it flown to its new safe haven in one of the country's famous bank vaults.

He added: "It's just incredible. I'm so proud of my band. It's an achievement for all their great work. It has been an honour to come here and play and an honour to win the title."

Impressive Scots

Whilst the Symphony Hall stage became a temporary Swiss musical enclave, elsewhere there was an equally vibrant outpouring of joy, as the mightily impressive Grand Shield champion Whitburn celebrated their runner-up finish under French conductor Florent Didier.

Once again the judges were fulsome in their praise, with adjectives such as 'fabulous', 'terrific', 'brilliant' and 'breathtaking' liberally sprinkled throughout the Scot's written adjudications.

Riveting

Meanwhile, defending champion Cory could not have done anything more to have become the first band since Black Dyke in 2006 to retain the title.

Their riveting performance under Philip Harper certainly found favour in a packed hall, but didn't quite resonate as much with the adjudicators in the box — although once again the trio found so much to commend in their account.

"...refined and dramatically musical", Stephen Roberts wrote, whilst Paul Cosh summed it up by stating, "...played with just the right amount of passion. Bravo!! Teriffic." Ray Farr also simply called it "Terrific."

Musically satisfying

Behind them, Brighouse & Rastrick maintained their recent fine record at the event in rounding off a long but hugely enjoyable contest day in coming fourth under Prof David King.

Earlier Foden's banished any thoughts of potential relegation to the Grand Shield to end fifth, with an account that many listeners felt was the most musically satisfying of the day under Bramwell Tovey.

The final top-six place was claimed by Grimethorpe, with principal cornet Roger Webster once again underlying his credentials by taking the Stanley Wainwright award as the 'Best Soloist' — a little something to take home to show his wife along with a birthday present he admitted he still had to buy!

Engaging interpretations

On a day when a number of bands produced fine performances and engaging interpretations (emphasising Stephen Roberts' assertion in his pre-results address that the overall standard had been outstanding from beginning to end) the top-ten slots went to Carlton Main Frickley, Tredegar, Desford and Leyland with renditions just marred by minor errors.

Carlton Main's Connor Lennon was rewarded for his fine personal contribution by being presented with the Brian Evans 'Best Soprano' trophy, with Desford's Steve Walsh claiming the Geoffrey Whitham 'Best Euphonium' accolade.

Dyke shock wave

Elsewhere, the post contest shock waves were still being felt in the heart of Birmingham as it was revealed that former champion Black Dyke had ended seventeenth, their lowest placing at the event since their 14th place in 1996, whilst there was disappointment for Jaguar Land Rover and Milnrow who were relegated to the Grand Shield.

Just before the announcement of the results, the composer Thierry Deleruyelle received warm applause from the audience in recognition of their appreciation of a set-work that was so musically engaging to listen to — and a little later he revealed to 4BR that he hoped to write another work for the medium in the near future. It will be eagerly awaited.

There was also a neat touch of humour from Sir Roger Gifford as he alluded to the 'Post-Brexit' pan-European scope of the British Open (Eikanger are due to compete in 2018), who made the presentations of the Iles Medal and Mortimer Medal to Martin Ellerby and Anna Hughes-Williams.

Less than humourous

Unfortunately however, there were some very noticeable, less than humourous, foul mouthed interventions close to, and on stage, during and following the results that were witnessed and reported to the contest organisers — crassly bolstered by alcohol and an entitlement attitude that has no place in banding at any level.

Fortunately though, the overwhelming impression left after a historic victory for Valaisia Brass Band at a wonderfully organised event was one of joy, and of a band that fully respected the honour they felt in representing their country at a contest that now fully embraces the ethos behind its 'Open' title.

Iwan Fox

Valaisia gave a performance of 'Fraternity' by Thierry Deleruyelle that according to adjudicator Stephen Roberts in his pre-results speech to the audience, had, "...made three grown men cry like babies in the box"4BR

Result:

Test Piece: Fraternity (Thierry Deleruylle)

Adjudicators: Paul Cosh, Ray Farr, Stephen Roberts

1. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc)
2. Whitburn (Florent Didier)
3. Cory (Philip Harper)
4. Brighouse & Rastrick (Prof David King)
5. Foden's (Bramwell Tovey)
6. Grimethorpe Colliery (Allan Withington)
7. Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Erik Janssen)
8. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)
9. Desford Colliery (Leicestershire Miners Trust Fund) (Michael Fowles)
10. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)
11. Fairey (Garry Cutt)
12. Rothwell Temperance (David Roberts)
13. Wingates (Paul Andrews)
14. Flowers (David Childs)
15. *Milnrow (Mark Bentham)
16. Co-operative Funeralcare (Allan Ramsay)
17. Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas J. Childs)
18. *Jaguar Land Rover (Dave Lea)

*Relegated to Grand Shield: Jaguar Land Rover and Milnrow

*to be officially confirmed

Stanley Wainwright Memorial Trophy: Roger Webster (cornet): Grimethorpe Colliery
Brian Evans Memorial Trophy: Connor Lennon (Carlton Main Frickley)
The Geoffrey Whitham Memorial Trophy: Steven Walsh (Desford)

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