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Report & Result: 2019 Butlins Mineworkers Championships: Championship Section

4BR Editor Iwan Fox reports on Desford's success in regaining the Mineworkers Championship with a consistent display of high class test-piece and entertainment talents in Skegness.

Butlins
  All smiles and cheers for Desford Colliery as they are crowned 2019 Butlins Mineworkers Champion

Desford's mercurial contesting reputation may well be consigned to history if their victory, built on high-class consistency at the Butlins Mineworkers Championship, becomes the ingrained ethos behind their future competitive intent.

If so, such was the stamp of quality about their performances in both the test-piece and entertainment disciplines at the Skegness Resort that the rest of 2019 and beyond could well be marked by repeated podium success.

Class apart

Over the two days they were a class apart from their rivals; £11,000 of prize-money cash secured by a classy rendition of 'Carnival' overture that sparkled with colour and energy, and an entertainment set that was a display case of expertly curated borrowed invention.

And whilst there have been a few false dawns of optimism with Desford over the years, the arrival of Michael Fowles has brought an obvious level of thoroughness to their contest preparations which has allowed a group of experienced top-flight performers to shine.

On this impressive evidence it looks set to continue.

The Dvorak overture set out their stall; the florid technicalities played with clarity and brilliance (aided by the excellent 'Best Soloist' Gary Wyatt) to supplement the controlled infusion of drama, whilst the occasional mishap didn't leave a permanent tarnish mark on the MD's cultured musical picture.

The following day saw them tighten their vice-like grip on the ornate heft of the Warwick Vase trophy.

The familiar strains of 'Malaquena' settled any potential nerves before a crafty touch of unfamiliar inventiveness (to the packed audience at least) saw Nick Hudson on sublime 'Starfish' form leading into an evocative 'Karma Naan' Indian detour, a touch of sophisticated Pat Metheny jazz and a dollop of evangelical religious zeal to close.

The substantial winning margin did not flatter them.

Spirited Friary

Behind Desford came well-beaten rivals — although ones that were led by a brilliantly spirited Friary Brass Band (the Guildford name has now been dropped), led by Chris King.

They responded to a mediocre rendition of 'Benvenuto Cellini' by producing an inspired 'Friary Fairytale' set that deservedly claimed the top spot (and the £1000 bonus) in the 'Most Entertaining' element and came third in music quality.

A mix of pantomime and pathos, with a steak of clever humour to go with the musical substance (with just the right pinch of adult double-entendre to go with items from The Beatles, Elton John and Whitney Houston) it was aimed to put a big cheesy smile on the faces of listeners and judges alike (Alan Morrison and Mike Kilroy calling it 'fantastic entertainment' and even 'Genius').

It did just that — with gorgonzola topping to spare.

A trombone tale inspired by the search for true love, and written in the best 'The play what I wrote' Ernie Wise mode by the MD, it was played with admirable 'straightness' by the leading lady Isobel Daws (was gave a splendid rendition of 'Thoughts of Love' to win the 'Best Soloist' prize and £300), aided by comic cameos by the players (especially the coiffured tuba).

Pipped

This was thoroughly engaging fayre perfectly pitched to mirror the Butlins ethos of entertainment. As a result it gained just reward from both sets of judges (Alan Fernie and Brian Rostron judged the music on both days), enabling Friary to pip Woodfalls and grab £6,000 in the process.

They in turn were perhaps a touch unlucky in the overall scheme of things, as Dr Robert Childs balanced a cultured 'Carnival' overture on the Saturday with an entertainment set focused with a more vintage inspiration the following day.

Maybe their 'comedy' take on 'Cops & Robbers' showed its age like an old lag out on day release from Wormwood Scrubs, but elsewhere it was impressive stuff — especially a touching 'Little Prayer', the sparkling 'Battleground' duet featuring Jan Boler and Fabian Bloch and the robust 'Triumph' finisher.

Not vintage

No title triumph and only a few signs of vintage Flowers over the two days (although they gave a splendid Friday evening concert), as the renewed partnership with Paul Holland saw the defending champion stutter to a disappointing fourth place.

Their hard earned reputation for high class consistency will surely return as the season unfolds, but they would have had little cause for complaint after an undistinguished account of 'Benvenuto Cellini' left them with too much ground to make up on their rivals.

Their Brass in Concert 'Freedom' set had familiar substance and purpose, but that damage had been done on the Berlioz, whilst some unforced errors and mishaps on the Sunday sealed their fate.

Meanwhile, the 2019 rebuilding process will surely gain greater substance with Virtuosi GUS, after Chris Jeans carefully managed his youthful resources to end fifth. A workmanlike 'Carnival' overture was added to with a considered entertainment set, topped by a quite sublime piece of cornet artistry by James Fountain.

Glimpses

Redbridge also showed glimpses of their potential under Richard Ward, although they never quite had 'Carnival' under control on the Saturday and unfortunately, due to a breakdown in communications with the Butlins tech team, were unable to exert much control over the multi-media graphics to start their entertainment set the following day.

The well thought out Moon Landing anniversary initially lost its trajectory much like Apollo 13, and although it splashed down successfully to close, it was not without its 'make do and mend' approach to some of the items.

For Haverhill, the Skegness experience this year was a mixture of highs and lows — with a purposeful and admirably directed 'Carnival' overture (that came third) under Paul Filby, counterbalanced by a hit and miss 'Greek' entertainment set (although they were also unfortunate that their multi-media presentation package couldn't be utilised by the Butlins technicians).

However, it did show that an improving top-flight band now has a firm grip on the coattails of their Stevenage rivals.

There has been an ongoing debate in recent years that despite Butlins substantial investment in prize money for this particular contest (close on £21,000), it continues to fail to attract the highest ranked bands in the UK.

That may well be for a variety of differing reasons, although as Stan Lippeatt's excellent test-piece choices and Desford's renewed competitive vigour showed, reputations at Skegness count for little: It will always be hard graft and musical inspiration that wins the big bucks.

Iwan Fox

Over the two days they were a class apart from their rivals; £11,000 secured by a classy rendition of 'Carnival' overture that sparkled with colour and energy, and an entertainment set that was a display case of expertly curated borrowed invention4BR

Result:

Championship Section:

Adjudicators:
Alan Fernie & Brian Rostron (Test Piece)
Alan Fernie & Brian Rostron (Entertainment Music)
Mike Kilroy & Alan Morrison (Entertainment)

(Test Piece + Entertainment (music) + Entertainment*) = Total
*takes precedence

1. Desford Colliery (LMTF) (Michael Fowles): 1/1/2 = 4
2. Friary Brass Band (Chris King): 6/3/1* = 10
3. Woodfalls (Dr Robert Childs): 2/4/4* = 10
4. Flowers (Paul Holland): 7/2/3 = 12
5. Virtuosi GUS (Chris Jeans): 5/5/5 = 15
6. Redbridge Brass (Richard Ward): 4/6/6 = 16
7. Haverhill Silver (Paul Filby): 3/7/7 = 17

Highest Placed Mining Band: Desford Colliery (LMTF)
Most Entertaining Band: Friary Brass
Geoff Dove Soloist Award: Isobel Daws (trombone) — Friary Brass
Test Piece Solo Award: Gary Wyatt (cornet) — Desford Colliery (LMTF)

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Andrew White

MA(Ed Man), B Ed (Hons), BBCM, ADNCB, PGCE, Cert Ed
Conductor, Arranger, Adjudicator & Educationist