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Report & Results: 2018 UniBrass Trophy

The students of the Royal Northern College of Music retain their hold on the UniBrass Trophy

  The RNCM students celebrate their victory at the UniBrass Championships

On a day when a fantastically focussed Lizzie Yarnold retained her Winter Olympic title in Pyeongchang, the equally brilliant student musicians of the Royal Northern College of Music did likewise in York with a performance that also reflected a very British sense of determination.

Their 'Manchester' themed programme led by 'Best Student Conductor' award winner Alexander Webb saw them draw inspiration from the elements of collective response that has hallmarked their home city's history — from celebration and commerce as well as despair and reconciliation, to once again lift the quirky UniBrass Trophy in triumph.

Clear victory

It gave them a clear-cut six point victory over an impressive set of rivals — led by the excellent Royal Birmingham Conservatoire under Ian Porthouse, who came runner-up for the third year in succession, with the University of Huddersfield led by Jonathan Beatty ending third for the second time in a row.

The final top-six slots went to the solid trio of the University of Manchester, University of Birmingham and University of Nottingham, although seventh placed University of Warwick missed out of a potential fifth place ater incurring four time penalty points.


The RNCM opened with the march 'ORB' before euphonium star Adam Bokarias gave a splendid account of Jinjun Lee's 'Cottonopolis'. The moving hymn tune setting of 'Manchester', which reflected on the loss of lives from the horrific bombing in the city in 2017 led into the spirited finale of Andy Duncan's 'A Manchester Tale'.

It was a commanding display of articulate brass band music making that deservedly took the overall honours as well as the prizes for 'Best Soloist', 'Most Entertaining Band', 'Best March' and 'Best Student Conductor'.

Adjudicators Sandy Smith and Alexandra Kenyon later stated that they were impressed by the 'sound, style and professionalism' that the RNCM showcased throughout their set to the large and appreciative audience. Few who heard them would have disagreed.

Fine rendition

Behind them, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire also provided further evidence that it is producing musicians of the very highest quality.

A fine rendition of 'A London Overture' featured a raft of cadenzas that Sandy Smith later admitted made him feel his years, such was the confidence displayed by soloists that were not even born when he played it at the European Championships with Black Dyke in 1991.

Aided by a fine 'Miss Blue Bonnet' cornet solo by Wilson Taylor and the pulsating opener 'Activate', Birmingham secured second place in some comfort.

The final podium slot went to the University of Huddersfield with a traditionally tailored set that opened with a fizzing 'Los Hermanos de Bop' a cultured, 'Prelude on Lavernham' and a barn-storming finisher in 'Glorifico Aeternum'.


There was a great deal to savour from each of the ten well-led competitors with a wide variety of music performed — from the serious test piece items such as 'Blitz' (played with considerable aplomb by the University of Manchester) to 'Birdland' and 'It's Raining Men' (delivered with equal spirit by Durham and Nottingham).

In the end though none came better than the students of the RNCM who just like the splendid Lizzy Yarnold once again showed that winning a major title once is not enough...

Steve Jack

It was a commanding display of articulate brass band music making that deservedly took the overall honours as well as the prizes for 'Best Soloist', 'Most Entertaining Band', 'Best March' and 'Best Student Conductor'4BR


Adjudicators: Sandy Smith & Alex Kenyon

1. Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) (Alexander Webb) -146
2. Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (Ian Porthouse) — 140
3. University of Huddersfield (Jonathan Beatty) — 137
4. University of Manchester (James Heathcote) — 131
5. University of Birmingham — 127
6. University of Nottingham (George Newbould & Tom Peterken) — 126
7. University of Warwick (Paul McGrath) — 126*
8. Durham University (Jonathan Fenwick) — 124
9. University of Sheffield (Lee Dunkley) — 120**
10. Bangor University (Elspeth Malcolm) — 120

* Deducted 4 points due to time infringement
** Deducted 1 point due to time infringement

Best Soloist: Adam Bokaris (euphonium) — RNCM ('Cottonopolis' — Jinjun Lee)
Most Entertaining: RNCM
Best March: RNCM — 'ORB'
Best Percussion: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Student Conductor: RNCM

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