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Report & Result: 2019 Australian National Championship

Sydney City Brass and MD Jason Katsikaris send emotional shockwaves through Australian banding as they claim maiden national victory in Brisbane.

  Sydney City Brass claim an emotional National victory to send shockwaves through Australian banding.

A new name will be engraved on the plinth of the famous Australian National Championship Trophy, after recently formed Sydney City Brass claimed the iconic Fireman's Helmet in thrilling fashion under MD Jason Katsikaris.

Their maiden victory in Brisbane will have sent shock waves throughout the Australian banding movement, as undoubtedly will their inspirational MD's valedictory speech from the stage of the refurbished City Hall.

It was a highly emotional response to what he first dryly described was a "controversial" win, although it was his description of the unwarranted 'moronic' abusive he and his band had received from on-line 'trolls', as he called them, that brought supportive cheers from those present.


And whilst the euphemism 'tired and emotional' (he admitted to having a 'few drinks') may be best used to describe his colourful comments, they were still generously received by the audience, who allowed him leeway despite the choice expletives.

"Oh sh*t! Well this was a controversial win wasn't it?" he said, before praising his band for their efforts and admitting that the personal driving force in his mind was try and equal anything he knew rivals Brisbane Excelsior could do.

"My players did everything I asked of them. I told them in the rehearsal room that this was Steven's competition. It was his gig. If we didn't win I would have been totally happy.

If you come to compete be prepared to be judged. I knew some things wouldn't find favour but Steven is an amazing musician, so I'm glad they did."

Then, with his emotions clearly bubbling to the surface he proudly proclaimed his heartfelt admiration for what he called the 'community' of brass band people, before pointedly describing the on-line abusive received as coming from 'trolls' who were "shit".

To loud applause he added, "Don't troll you morons!"

He left the stage with the Fireman's Helmet trophy in his arms with the coda ending, "Guys. I f**king love you!"

Graded to play in the A Grade level on their debut and containing many experienced players, as well as guest principal cornet Harmen Vanhoorne from Belgium, they produced a quartet of high quality renditions over the two days; especially of the set-work, Kenneth Downie's 'Handel in the Band', which was described by adjudicator Steven Mead as an "astonishingly fantastic performance".

Yawning margin

That set the foundation for their ultimate success, as their hymn tune and march selection of 'The President' were backed by an evocative account of their own-choice of 'Fraternity' to claim the honours by a yawning ten-point margin from nearest rival WA Brass from Perth.

They in turn equalled their best finish at the contest on their return to the event for the first time since 2013. MD David Bremner steered them ahead of pre-contest favourites and eight-time champion Brisbane Excelsior Brass led by Howard Taylor.

The consistency of WA Brass was seen in their performances of the set-work and their own-choice of 'Titan's Progress', whilst Brisbane's approach didn't quite resonate in the box with Steven Mead as it did with many in the hall.

They topped the hymn tune element but could only manage third in the test and march elements and a lowly sixth with their own-choice selection of 'Fraternity'.

Fourth placed Darebin City certainly caught Steve's ear with their rendition of 'Hypercube' and the march 'Le Tricot Rouge' as they bounced back to form on the second day to eventually end fourth, whilst the other top-six places went to the consistent Brisbane Brass and South Brisbane Federal.

Mead impressed

Steven Mead, who used an amended version of his criteria based system in his adjudicating process, was certainly impressed by the standard of playing he heard over the two days — and not just with Sydney's set work performance and several others which he said were "very good".

Although he did make a point of stating that some bands had somewhat dangerously ignored tempo markings in the Downie work, and some of the sacred works lacked defined clarity of linear phrasing, his admiration of the quality of the individual contributions on show (he heaped rich praise on each section from soprano to percussion) meant that he was "knocked out by the standard of the playing" in the set-work.

He also felt that there "was some magnificent playing" on the own-choice selections, ones that he said were certainly "not over ambitious" with "some brave choices" giving rise to "some even braver playing". He ended by saying that the performances over the two days "had impressed the hell" out of him.

None more so than the new champions, Sydney City Brass, who if their inspirational MD was anything to go by, were going to enjoy a long night of troll free celebration.

B Grade

In the B Grade, adjudicator Barry Gott was equally forthright with his opinions on what he had heard from the 16 competitors.

"I'm still looking for Pandora," he said in jovial reference to both Benjamin Tubb's "wonderful work" which was a testing test of musicality (especially for main solo lines) and the lack of sensuality of the flugel playing which was supposed to evoke what he said was a woman, "...who couldn't keep her hands off things".

That said however he was still very impressed by "some wonderful performances" over the two days, although he was still critical of MDs who hadn't done their homework on researching the words of hymn tunes to understand the correct phrasing, and the need for a calm focus on the march performances — especially after the excitement of their own-choice renditions.

Everyone though had done "a great job" he said — the best of which came from eventual champions Waratah Brass Newcastle led by Stephen Grice who claimed the national title for the first time since 1992.

Their own-choice selection of 'Tallis Variations' saw them claw back vital points on their nearest rivals Geelong West Brass Band, with their performance of the march 'Praise' by Wilfred Heaton helping push them to a narrow two-point winning margin.

Third place went to Toronto Brass, with the top-six places taken by Box Hill City Band, Brisbane Brass No.2 and Gunnedah Shire Band.

Other grades

Elsewhere there was a comprehensive clean sweep victory for Wonthaggi Citizens' Band conducted by Craig Marinus in the C Grade contest. They topped the hymn, march, own-choice and set-work disciplines to retain their title ahead of Bankstown City Brass and Nambour & Maroochy District — Sunshine Brass.

In the D Grade there was a first national success for Queensland based Far Northern Brass Band conducted by Nathan Wiltshire, as they claimed victory over rivals Eaglehawk Citizens' Brass Band and Thuringowa Brass Band in a keenly fought contest.

The Junior Brass B & C titles were taken by Sunshine Coast Youth Band — Bright as Brass, conducted by Elena Katahanas and Brisbane State High School Brass Ensemble led by Dr Heather McWilliams.

My players did everything I asked of them. I told them in the rehearsal room that this was Steven's competition. It was his gig. If we didn't win I would have been totally happyJason Katsikaris


A Grade:

Adjudicator: Steven Mead
Set Work: Handel in the Band (Kenneth Downie)
Hymn/Test Piece/Own Choice/March = Total

1. Sydney City Brass (Jason Katsikaris): 91/191/193/96 = 571
2. WA Brass (David Bremner): 89/189/191/92 = 561
3. Brisbane Excelsior (Howard Taylor): 92/188/185/94 = 559
4. Darebin City Brass — Preston Brass (Andrew Snell): 84/180/194/95 = 553
5. Brisbane Brass (Peter Luff): 90/186/187/88 = 551
6. South Brisbane Federal Band (Tom Paulin): 86/176/188/90 = 540
7. Glenorchy City Concert Brass (Simon Reade): 88/178/178/93 = 537
8. Kew Band (Broden Ford): 83/183/181/89 = 536
9. Warringah Concert Brass (John Saunders): 85/182/177/91 = 535
10. Cairns Brass No 1 (Jon Christodoulides): 87/173/183/87 = 530
11. Willoughby Brass (Philip Anderson): 82/172/175/86 = 515

B Grade:

Adjudicator: Barrie Gott
Set Work: The Legend of Pandora (Benjamin Tubb)
Hymn/ Test Piece/Own Choice/March = Total

1. Waratah Brass Newcastle (Stephen Grice): 85/187/184/96 = 552
2. Geelong West Brass Band (Jeff Steele): 96/184/176/94 = 550
3. Toronto Brass (Tim O'Hearn): 97/168/182/95 = 542
4. Box Hill City Band (Simon Brown): 95/181/168/90 = 534
5. Brisbane Brass No.2 (Richard Madden): 89/175/180/89 = 533
6. Gunnedah Shire Band (Anthony Rowe): 93/185/170/83 = 531
7. City of Greater Dandenong Band (Jamie Lawson): 83/174/178/93 = 528
8. Townsville Brass (Mark Smith): 86/178/174/85 = 523
9. Parramatta City Brass (Jonathon Gatt): 82/171/172/92 = 517
10. City of Launceston RSL Band (Simon Partridge): 94/180/156/84 = 514
11. Marion City Band (Veronica Boulton): 91/164/166/91 = 512
12. Darebin City Brass — Northern Brass (Mac Nethercot): 92/169/154/87 = 502
13. Surfers Paradise Brass (Scott King): 90/159/158/88 = 495
14. Windsor Brass (Dale Hosking): 87/162/164/81 = 494
15. Sunnybank Brass (Kelsie McCullough): 84/165/162/82 = 493
16. Canberra Brass (Kevin Knapp): 88/158/160/86 = 492

C Grade:

Adjudicator: Brian Hurdley
Set Work: A Summer Rhapsody (Kerry Thomas)
Hymn/ Test Piece/Own Choice/March = Total

1. Wonthaggi Citizens' Band (Craig Marinus): 91/190/189/91 = 561
2. Bankstown City Brass (Ken Bradley): 90/187/186/88 = 551
3. Nambour & Maroochy District — Sunshine Brass (Nelson Oakley): 89/188/184/89 = 550
4. Capricornia Silver Band (Rod Haynes): 84/179/187/90 = 540
5. Warriparinga Brass (Veronica Boulton): 88/185/180/86 = 539
6. Maitland City Brass Band (Luke Bradbery): 85/181/182/87 = 535
7. Brisbane Brass No.3 (Elena Katahanas): 86/183/178/84 = 531
8. Creswick Brass Band (Katrina Bird): 87/177/173/83 = 520
9. South West Sydney Brass (Eddie Claxton): 83/174/176/85 = 518

D Grade:

Adjudicator: Ashley Gittens
Set Work: Brass Vengeance (Jared McCunnie)
Hymn/ Test Piece/Own Choice/March = Total

1. Far Northern Brass Band (Nathan Wiltshire): 90/190/188/88 = 556
2. Eaglehawk Citizens' Brass Band (Ken Wellard): 88/192/187/86 = 553
3. Thuringowa Brass Band (Greg Finlay): 89/189/185/87 = 550

Junior B Grade:

Adjudicator: Louisa Lawless
Set Work: A Malvern Suite (Philip Sparke)
Hymn/ Test Piece/Own Choice/March = Total

1. Sunshine Coast Youth Band — Bright as Brass (Elena Katahanas): 88/193/191/83 = 555
2. North West Junior Band (Geoff Dell): 87/192/192/82 = 553

Junior C Grade:

Adjudicator: Louisa Lawless
Set Work: Music for Greenwich (Edward Gregson)
Hymn/ Test Piece/Own Choice/March = Total

1. Brisbane State High School Brass Ensemble (Dr Heather McWilliams): 86/187/179/85 = 537
2. Brisbane Brass Juniors (Sean McKenzie): 84/185/178/84 = 531

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