Blackpool's liquid reserves of Newcastle Brown Ale would surely have been severely depleted on Saturday evening following the celebrations of the players and supporters of the newly crowned Grand Shield champion, NASUWT Riverside Band.
Such was the delight of everyone associated with the ensemble from Chester le Street in County Durham that the bars in the Winter Gardens could have sold it in Jeroboam sized bottles.
Drama and pathos
Led by the inspirational figure of Prof Nicholas Childs, they secured a deserved victory with an impressive rendition of Thierry Deleruyelle's 'Fraternity' — one shaped with an evocative sense of drama and pathos by the Black Dyke Director of Music and delivered with confidence and cultured understanding by his band.
"It's incredible," their long serving cornet player Tony Thompson told 4BR. "Nick Childs has literally taken us to another level. Everything he did with us was about encouragement and belief. He has given us 100% and the players have responded. I can't thank him enough."
Prof Childs, who joined in the celebrations on stage, and who now has a modern day record four Grand Shield titles to his name, paid a heartfelt tribute in return.
"They are such a great band to work with — committed, determined and fun. People like Tony represent all that's good in banding and I'm delighted for them. They've been building towards this working with conductors for a while now, and will be a band to watch out for at the British Open and the Nationals."
Tony Thompson later revealed that the band (who were fifth here last year and won the North of England Area title in 2017 and 2018) had also overcome a pre-contest scare, as one their tuba players had to be taken to hospital in Blackpool on Friday night feeling unwell.
"Thankfully, everything was OK, but he still can't remember two hours of Friday evening. We've told him not to worry though as after tonight we don't think many of us will remember a great deal either!"
There was however plenty to recall for the judges about the quality of what they had heard in the box throughout an engaging day of contesting — and not just from the winners who will be joined in the line-up for the British Open in September by Scottish champion, the cooperation Band.
Just missing out on an immediate return to Symphony Hall was Rothwell Temperance in third, whilst The GUS Band was fourth. The remaining top-six places went to Woodfalls and Pemberton Old Wigan DW.
In his pre-results address to the audience (and the hall was well populated throughout the day), Steve Sykes thanked the competitors for their efforts. "There was some terrific playing today," he said.
"Some bands really set their stalls out, especially in the two faster sections and with the dynamics. The early euph and horns solos were excellent and there were some outstanding cornet solos."
However, using the analogy of a football penalty shoot-out, he added: "The cookie crumbled in the slow, exposed sections for us. Players have to turn into different animals when the music requires those skills. You can practice them at home, but it only counts on the stage with everyone watching you. That was the key today."
That analysis was backed by Garry Cutt who later told 4BR: "The top four bands were all very good. They were clear for us, with the winners just having that extra sense of control and musicality in the slower sections. That was a fine performance to win the contest."
Their written remarks for NASUWT Riverside also backed their assertions. "Very enjoyable from all — well directed", Steve wrote, pinpointing "the magic dynamics". Garry was also impressed. "Glorious!" he wrote in describing the final section, before adding the observation that it had been, "A performance of merit. Well thought out."
Victory for NASUWT Riverside was certainly hard fought — with a high quality marker set by Woodfalls led by Dr Robert Childs off the number 1 draw.
Aided by cultured lead lines (Garry Cutt later revealed that principal cornet Jan Boler was a close second in the 'Best Instrumentalist' stakes) and controlled dynamics, they eventually finished fifth.
It was Rothwell Temperance though who led in the box at the halfway break; their richly emotive account, full of drama and huge, warmly hued sounds ending third — an immediate return for David Roberts' band to Symphony Hall perhaps just undermined by a few early solo lead insecurities.
They had been followed by a rejuvenated GUS Band, impressing many neutrals in the hall with their elegant, warmly burnished rendition under MD Chris Jeans (aided by some glorious cornet work from James Fountain) to finish fourth.
However, the impressive duos hopes of booking their places at the British Open were dashed; first by NASUWT Riverside, as Prof Childs once again brought narrative clarity to his interpretation of the story of the 1906 French mining disaster (in same way as he did with Krohnengen in winning the Norwegian First Division National title earlier in the year).
A fine opening led into sections of detailed industry, explosive mayhem and despair, before the mood changed to reverence and uplifting hopefulness — the final section played with hymnal warmth.
Close behind came the cooperation Band, led with imposing musical authority by Michael Fowles.
He also evoked the required balance between foreboding, destruction, despair and hope aided by splendid solo work (the pick, an exceptional 'Best Instrumentalist' contribution from principal cornet Jim Hayes) and ensemble playing (with notable percussion) that had a stamp of ingrained quality about it from start to finish. Their immediate return to the British Open was richly deserved.
In between the eventual qualifiers came another in-form band, as Pemberton Old Wigan DW under Ben Dixon snatched sixth place ahead of slightly error strewn accounts from Rainford and Reg Vardy, whilst a neatly portrayed rendition from Friary Brass was ninth with Milnrow making up the top-ten.
Behind them the likes of Hepworth and City of Hull may have left Blackpool slightly disappointed their restrained accounts didn't quite end higher, whilst others will have known that in such as keenly contested event, an increasing litany of unforced errors put pay to their chances.
'Fraternity' was certainly a very stern test, and whilst a number of bands (including the winners) made use of the registration rules to bring in help, the overall standard at the top end of the results table spoke of intensive preparation work and understanding from MDs.
The best bands were rewarded more for their considered musical approach than their ability to 'fill' gaps with hired help.
And although the standard did fall away towards in the bottom third, each contender gave a performance of merit — especially in the appreciation of dynamic contrast, pacing and the approach to the final 'Fraternity Prayer' which was played with reverence rather than crass triumphalism.
There would have been few complaints however from the relegated quartet of Skelmanthorpe, Jaguar Land Rover, Thoresby Colliery and Filton Concert Brass on this occasion.
Meanwhile, the only complaints from the newly crowned 2019 Grand Shield champion will be the sore heads that they will have nursed with pride back to their Chester-le-Street home, whilst the bar managers of Blackpool will have to figure out how to restock their supplies of the legendary celebratory brown ale rocket fuel.
Nick Childs has literally taken us to another level. Everything he did with us was about encouragement and belief. He has given us 100% and the players have responded. I can't thank him enoughTony Thompson
The Grand Shield:
Test Piece: Fraternity (Thierry Deleruyelle)
Adjudicators: Garry Cutt & Steve Sykes
1. NASUWT Riverside (Prof Nicholas Childs) *
2. the cooperation Band (Michael Fowles)*
3. Rothwell Temperance (David Roberts)
4. The GUS Band (Chris Jeans)
5. Woodfalls (Dr Robert Childs)
6. Pemberton Old Wigan DW (Ben Dixon)
7. Rainford (Gareth Brindle)
8. Reg Vardy (Russell Gray)
9. Friary Brass Band (Chris King)
10. Milnrow (Dennis Hadfield)
11. Hepworth (Dr David Thornton)
12. City of Hull (Stig Maersk)
13. St Dennis (Darren R Hawken)
14. Oldham Band (Lees) (John Collins)
15. Camborne Town (Kevin Mackenzie)
16. Redbridge (Jeremy Wise)
17. Filton Concert Brass (Tom Davoren)**
18. Thoresby Colliery (Ian McElligott)**
19. Jaguar Land Rover (Nigel Seaman)**
20. Skelmanthorpe (Martin Heartfield)**
Best Instrumentalist: Jim Hayes (solo cornet) — the cooperation band
*Promoted to the British Open
**Relegated to the Senior Cup