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Report & Results: 2016 Midlands Regional Championships

Titles for Virtuosi GUS, Jackfield (Elcock Reisen), Ibstock, Pleasley Colliery Welfare and Cleobury Mortomer in Bedworth.

Virtuosi GUS

 

Bands with a growing sense of high-class self-confidence certainly made their mark at the Midlands Regional Championship.

They were headed by Virtuosi GUS who defended the top section title in a manner that spoke volumes for their increasingly impressive major contest credentials under MD Adam Cooke; raising the ornate People Challenge Cup for a 24th time and claiming a hat-trick of victories in the process.

Little argument

It was a performance that brokered little argument- especially from the box, where Steve Sykes and Jim Davies enjoyed a contest of substantive quality from a number of sources — including a persuasive 'Cambridge Variations' from Albert Hall qualifiers Thoresby Colliery that was a fascinating contrast of tempos, styles and textures under Ian McElligott.

So too Desford, who missed out in third with a fevered, audacious account under Thomas Wyss that many felt, despite its occasional raggedness had put a qualifying scorch mark on the Sparke score that would send them to Kensington for a third successive year.

Refined expression

It was not to be, as the judges opted for the refined expression of their rivals — a decision which may have accounted for the sixth place of the fancied Jaguar Land Rover, who ended behind a brace of solidly portrayed accounts from Ratby Co-operative and Derwent Brass.

All three showed their top flight credentials to fine, if contrasting effect — with Keith Leonard and Michael Fowles opting for more considered approaches to tempos and dynamics, whilst Dave Lee took a leaf out of one of his sponsors cars — sticking the foot to the metal in a thrill a minute ride.

Behind the top-six the standard fell away, despite hard-working efforts from the likes of Spal Sovereign Brass and Newstead Brass, who were grateful to Black Dyke tuba star Phil Goodwin who led them in the absence of the hospitalised Duncan Beckley.

Generous

The judge's generous remarks made it clear what they were looking for — hinting between the lines where the destination of the two qualification places lay.

Virtuosi GUS, with the benefit of wonderful solo lines (especially Thomas Fountain on principal cornet), a precise ensemble, and a perfectly paced momentum to the close, gave them it in spades, with Thoresby a length or two behind.

Cooke stamp

"We're delighted to return to the Albert Hall once again as Area Champion," Band Chairman Nigel Love said. "The musical partnership with Adam has been built over the past three years and now we're reaping the rewards.

He's such an impressive conductor and has stamped his identity on the band — something shown by this performance."

Nigel also spoke of his delight that the band is promoting youth as a central core to their success.

"We're very fortunate to have a clutch of some of the most talented young players in the country — led by Thomas. He was exceptional — but his friends match him all the way. They are all remarkable players who are giving us such an exciting future."

The pressure was certainly on the defending champion as the last band to play in a contest which had begun with low key performances, but came to life with a marker of considered substance from Thoresby Colliery that repelled more excitable rivals.

Enjoying this

However, with Jim Davies writing; "You are enjoying this — and so am I", as well as expressing his opinion that he felt the principal cornet should have gained a 'Best Soloist' award if there had been one, a Virtuosi GUS hat-trick victory was secured.

The final summing up of both men simply read; 'Thank you for an excellent performance' and '...congratulations to all'.

They will now head to the Grand Shield as one of the pre-contest favourites, whilst a delighted Thoresby will also take huge encouragement from their Albert Hall return (the first time since 2011) — a magnificent result given the recent upheavals following the closure of the coal mine that had supported them over the years.

In contrast, the rest were left to reflect on missed chances, missed opportunities and perhaps in some cases, a little bit of missed contesting luck.

First Section:

Despite it rich literary history the Midlands bands came no closer to mastering Edward Gregson's 'Essay' than any other examinees throughout the country.

However, there were notable efforts on a work whose transparency has laid bare qualification hopes from Perth to Torquay, Swansea to Stevenage; the best in a contest that showed just where the top end standard of First Section lay in Bedworth, coming from defending champion Jackfield Elcock (Reisen).

Took time

It was also a contest that took its time to produce the type of performances the two experienced invigilators in David Roberrs and Chris Wormald were looking for; the first ten of the seventeen rivals failing to find a way into the top-six.

That changed with Jackfield, as MD Simon Platford used his years of top-flight experience to draw out the discourse in the opening 'Dialogue', followed by a melancholic feel to the 'Soliloquy' and spikiness of the final 'Epigram.'

Quiet smile

"I think Simon knew we had played well as soon as we walked off stage," Band spokesperson, Darrin Smith later told 4BR. "He had that quiet smile of satisfaction on his face that told us he was pleased.

We've enjoyed 'Essay' — despite it being a very tough to master, so to see him give us that little sign made us feel confident about the result."

Staying helped

Darrin added: "Staying in the First Section despite winning the title last year has been a huge help — allowing us to grow in confidence and to make a bit of Regional history in becoming the first band since Kibworth to successfully retain the Area title.

We now feel we can do really well at Cheltenham and of making a mark on promotion to the Championship Section in 2017."

Fine account

Joining them in September will be Blidworth Welfare, who rounded the contest off with fine account under Martin Heartfield that showed that relegation hadn't diminished their inherent Championship qualities, whilst there was delight for Bedworth Brass and David Maplestone (who certainly enjoyed a successful weekend) as they returned to the finals for the third time in four years.

The judges certainly made their opinion clear — saying that they agreed on every position from 1 to 17, so few complaints then from bands who fell foul of the austere architecture of a work that has lost none of its bite despite reaching middle age.

A trio of mid-way performances from Wigston, Hathern and Langley eventually filled the remaining top-six places, with hard working efforts from Kibworth and Shirebrook just behind.

However, the rest of the field found that 'Essay' posed musical questions that they found increasingly difficult to answer.

Second Section:

Philip Harper's colourful Cornish love story certainly brought the best out of the bands in the Second Section, where judges Paul Norley and Gordon Higginbottom found themselves having the difficult task of picking a brace of qualifiers from a net full of well directed performances.

In the end they opted for an excellent rendition full of vitality from Ibstock Brick Brass conducted by Simon Willis, with Glossop Old fending off the advances of Rushden Town and Hucknall & Linby to join them in Cheltenham.

Impressive win

It was an impressive win for Ibstock off the number 1 draw, and one that spokesperson Dave Wright hopes will see them continue to build under their inspirational MD — especially if they can keep playing works by the Cory MD!

"Simon has boosted everyone's confidence in the last couple of years," Dave said. "We've built a solid playing foundation now and we felt this result had been coming for a little while.

Oddly though we always seem to do well on pieces by Philip Harper — going back to the year 2000 when we won on his 'Sword, Jewel and Mirror' and then came third on 'Olympus' in 2012. Perhaps we can ask him to write the piece for the National Finals!"

Hook, line and sinker

They would be delighted if he did, after producing a rendition that brought to life the tale of the singing fisherman falling for the beguiling charms of the mermaid to land the title hook, line and sinker.

It was a clear victory according to the judges, with Glossop Old taking second place despite a few insecurities that just tarnished a well-judged account, whilst the more robust approaches of Rushden Town and Hucknall & Linby may just have lost crucial points due to moments of poor intonation.

Neat portrayals

Behind them came a brace of neatly portrayed accounts from Long Eaton Silver Prize and City of Coventry, who pushed the more inconsistent renditions of the hard working Avonbank (Evesham) and Burbage Buxton out of a top-six place.

For the winners though all thoughts and prayers are now focussed on Cheltenham as Dave Wright added: "Since we moved to our new home at the old Ebenezer Church in Coalville I give a secret prayer before each contest that we'll do well. Perhaps someone up there is finally listening!"

Third Section:

If there was one contest where a few eyebrows were raised, it came in the Third Section where a number of bands left for home wondering how they upset the judges on Michael Ball's 'A Cambrian Suite'.

However, the experienced duo of Paul Norley and Gordon Higginbottom knew what they were looking for and stuck to their guns to produce a result that certainly found favour with the trio of qualifiers — and especially the delighted winners.

Variable

That may have had something to do with the overall standard — which was variable to say the least — but also with some of the more ambitious, colourful approaches from MDs who took liberal risks with dynamics and tempos; ones clearly marked in the score.

The one band that did stick as close to the prescribed marking was eventual winner Pleasey Colliery, who rounded off the contest under Geoff Benson with a rendition that gave Paul and Gordon just what they were looking for — much to the delight of the MD.

Key

"That was the key," Geoff said. "The score is so clearly marked and the composer has such a reputation for his clear musical indications. I stuck to that, knowing we could emphasise style and balance, tempo changes and dynamic contrasts without over-blowing in a hall that doesn't suit that approach.

I was a bit surprised not many others did the same — but not surprised when the judges spoke and the result was announced."

He added: "What pleased me most was that they said we played with panache. That was so good to read about my great bunch of players."

Finalists

Joining them in Cheltenham will be Stourport on Severn, who continued their upward curve of progress by securing their second appearance in three years under Oliver Wilson, whilst a delighted Melton gained a first National Finals appearance in the living memory of supporters of one of the oldest brass bands in the country.

Behind them came a group who perhaps were left to rue their approaches: Newhall, Stamford Brass and Resdev Market Rasen ending a few places below what many thought may have been their reward for their confident renditions, whilst Ifton Colliery may want to write off the contest day as one when it just wasn't meant to be as they ended in fifteenth place.

Fourth Section:

Although they were not to know it at the time, the destination of the three qualification places for Cheltenham were sorted out by the judges David Roberts and Chris Wormald in pretty rapid fashion on Sunday afternoon.

Four of the first five bands eventually ended up in the top-six, headed by the impressive Cleobury Mortimer Concert directed by an animated David Maplestone, who drew every ounce of colour and character out of Peter Graham's musical take on the famous Jules Verne adventure story.

Excellent

Off the number 2 draw they were excellent — claiming a first Midlands Regional title in considerable style with a performance described as 'outstanding' by the judges.

Despite fine efforts nobody could quite catch their Phileas Fogg coat-tails, although with Moulton 77 following them on stage to come third, and Syston straight after them to end runner-up, they were pushed all way by their immediate rivals.

With Corby Silver also producing a solid rendition off the number 5 draw to end sixth, it wasn't until the latter stages when Cubbington Silver and University of Warwick (led by Simon Hogg minus the luxuriant moustache he sported at the recent UniBrass Championships) that the top three were challenged — although not quite successfully enough to nab one of the all important podium places.

Can-Can

What was also a feature of a contest that held the interest from start to finish was the different approaches taken by conductors — some opting for a high impact playing from the word go, whilst others built up momentum from the 'Can-Can' of Paris through to the final triumphant ride back to the London.

None though could quite match Cleobury, despite a fine effort from Audley Brass eventually ended seventh, whilst others also left their mark with supporters in the hall but not with two experienced musical travellers in the box.

Superb

Once again the Midlands event was superbly administered by Lesley Bentley and her team of volunteers — especially given the number of bands that had to be accommodated in two separate halls.

Hopefully, all that hard work will be reflected in success at the National Finals from qualifiers who head to London and Cheltenham with high class confidence coursing through their veins.

Thanks to Chris Thomas, Ryan Richards and Chris Musgrave

He's such an impressive conductor and has stamped his identity on the band — something shown by this performanceNigel Love, Virtuosi GUS Band Chairman

Results:

Championship Section:

Test Piece: Cambridge Variations (Philip Sparke)
Adjudicators: Steve Sykes and Jim Davies

1. Virtuosi GUS (Adam Cooke)*
2. Thoresby Colliery (Ian McElligott)*
3. Desford Colliery LCIWTF (Thomas Wyss)
4. Ratby Co-operative (Michael Fowles)
5. Derwent Brass (Keith Leonard)
6. Jaguar Land Rover (Dave Lea)
7. Spal Sovereign Brass (Trevor Jones)
8. Newstead Brass (Phil Goodwin)
9. Staffordshire (Leigh Baker)
10. Bilton Silver (Rugby) (David Stowell)
11. Leicestershire Co-operative (Graham Jacklin)
12. Shirley (Dave Bishop Rowe)

*Top two bands qualify for National Final

First Section:

Test Piece: Essay (Edward Gregson)
Saturday 12th March
Adjudicators: David Roberts and Chris Wormald

1. Jackfield (Elcock Reisen) (Simon Platford)*
2. Blidworth Welfare (Martin Heartfield)*
3. Bedworth Brass (David Maplestone)*
4. Langley (Cliff Parker)
5. Hathern (David Newman)
6. Wigston (Garry Sleath)
7. Kibworth (David Holling)
8. Shirebrook Miners Welfare (Mark Wilcockson)
9. Harborough (Chris Groom)
10. Foresters Brass 2000 (Jack Capstaff)
11. Enderby (Simon Greswell)
12. Gresley Colliery (Dave Purkiss)
13. Oddfellows Brass (Dave Holling)
14. Carlton Brass (Paul Watson)
15. Ireland Colliery Chesterfield (Richard Windle)
16. Bakewell Silver (Roger Jepson)
17. Daventry Brass (Neil Brownless)

*Top three bands qualify for National Final

Second Section:

Test Piece: Mermaid of Zennor (Philip Harper)
Adjudicators: Paul Norley and Gordon Higginbottom

1. Ibstock Brick Brass (Simon Willis)*
2. Glossop Old (Les Webb)*
3. Rushden Town (Adele Hudson)
4. Hucknall & Linby MC (Paul Whyley)
5. Long Eaton Silver Prize (Sharon Stansfield)
6. City of Coventry (Stephen Cooper)
7. Avonbank (Evesham) (Ceri Thomas)
8. Burbage Buxton (Steve Critchlow)
9. Raunds Temperance (Robin Norman)
10. Brackley District (Alexander Webb)
11. Foss Dyke (Simon Oates)
12. Shirland Welfare (Lynden Cooper)

*Top two bands qualify for National Final

Third Section:

Test Piece: A Cambrian Suite (Michael Ball)
Saturday 12th March
Adjudicators: Paul Norley and Gordon Higginbottom

1. Pleasley Colliery Welfare (Geoff Benson)*
2. Stourport-on-Severn (Oliver Wilson)*
3. Melton (Graham Sutton)*
4. Newhall (Kevin Holdgate)
5. Stamford Brass (Robert Prew)
6. (Resdev) Market Rasen (David Dernley)
7. Amington (Malcolm Read)
8. City of Birmingham (Iain Masson)
9. Arrow Valley Brass (Andy Culshaw)
10. Wellington (Telford) (Mark Parry)
11. Trentham Brass (Mike Caveney)
12. Towcester Studio (Neil Brownless)
13. Rolls Royce (Derby) (Graham Cardwell)
14. Fairfield (Buxton) (Charles Kitchen)
15. Ifton Colliery (Wayne Ruston)
16. Matlock (Geoff Hawley)
17. Shipston Town (Howard Gibbs)

*Top three bands qualify for National Final

Fourth Section:

Test Piece: The Journal of Phileas Fogg (Peter Graham)
Adjudicators: David Roberts and Chris Wormald

1. Cleobury Mortimer Concert (David Maplestone)*
2. Syston (Chris Banks)*
3. Moulton 77 (Nicholas Garman)*
4. University of Warwick (Simon Hogg)
5. Cubbington Silver (Mark Phillips)
6. Corby Silver (Cathy Fountain)
7. Audley Brass (Tom Hancock)
8. Porthywaen Silver (Dougie Graham)
9. Ratby Co-operative Mid (Geoff Newman)
10. Bestwood Welfare Black Diamonds (Tony Wilson)
11. WEM Jubilee (Roger Thorne)
12. Malvern Hills District (Chris License)
13. Whitwell Brass (Robert Woffinden)
14. Skegness Silver (Steve Walker)
15. Croft Silver (Ian Needham)
16. Kirkby Colliery Welfare (Neville Buxton)
17. Ilkeston Brass (Jeff Shaw)
18. Bilton Silver (Rugby) Training (Jack Fisher)

*Top three bands qualify for National Final

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