A thoroughly engaging Second Section contest eventually saw 'battle experience' count as a trio of musical generals in John Maines, Melvin White and John Berryman took the qualification podium honours on 'Rhapsody in Brass'.
It was a particularly enjoyable musical conflict — although despite its venerable age, Dean Goffin's iconic score still caused immense problems, with adjudicators Paul Norley and Stephen Roberts giving an early indication of what they may have been looking for 24 hours later on 'Pageantry' with their sympathetic remarks.
Intellectually stimulating music
Their twin observations about style, transparency, refinement and elegance — Stephen calling it 'intellectually stimulating music' when speaking to 4BR, ensured that there was also an unanimous consistency about their results — with the qualification performances in particular showing a deep understanding and musical respect for the pace, dynamic and style required in each of the movements.
The best of these came from a delighted Bodmin — a band that has gone through a number of bruising battles over recent years, but which, much like Monty's Eighth Army in North Africa, has been rejuvenated under the leadership of its vastly experienced MD, John Maines.
Speaking later to their tuba player Dave Dobson, 4BR was told that the victory had given the Cornish band another huge boost following recent results and the move back to their band club home.
"This is huge," Dave said. "John has been magnificent and has inspired us to improve at each contest. I think we all felt this one was coming, especially after Butlins this year, but to gain a first Area victory since 1999 when we won the top section was an amazing experience — especially for the younger players."
He added: "Things are really on the up — from our move back to our band club, to seeing so many young players develop through our ranks. It's exciting times once more for Bodmin — and we can't wait to try and win the National title in Cheltenham."
Joining them there was an equally delighted Otterbourne Brass, who continued their recent run of fine form under Melvin White to qualify for the first time since 2012, whilst a thrilled Helston Town also made a long awaited return as they booked their place under John Berryman for the first time since 2008.
"Those three performances did stand out for us," adjudicator Paul Norley later told 4BR. "Although not perfect, each captured the right style and the MDs knew how to pace and control things dynamically. There was some fine solo playing on show too."
Stephen agreed: "It's such intellectually stimulating music to perform. I'm sure every band will have benefitted from playing it. My congratulations go to the top bands — as they really got to stylistic grips with the score."
With both judges also talking about consistency, few people would have disagreed that the title was heading to one of the eventual trio as they displayed admirable control and collective confidence.
However, they were pushed by the likes of Andover Town, who very nearly forced their way into the reckoning as the last band of the day, whilst the remaining top-six places were claimed by colourfully engaging performances from Camborne Junior Contesting and City of Bristol Brass. Behind them came a series of performances that varied a little too much in execution to have pushed further up the results table than they did.
A special mention however to St Pinnock directed by John Ward, who were stopped in their tracks not by the advancing forces of Rommel's Afrika Korps, but by the bizarre automatic coloured flashing of the stage lights, which went into 'disco-mode' at the end of their second movement.
After a considerable delay for the stage-hands to sort things out, they bravely completed a performance that will long live in their contest battle memory banks.
Things are really on the up — from our move back to our band club, to seeing so many young players develop through our ranks. It's exciting times once more for Bodmin — and we can't wait to try and win the National title in CheltenhamDave Dobson
Test Piece: 'Rhapsody in Brass' (Dean Goffin)
Adjudicators: Paul Norley and Stephen Roberts
1. Bodmin Town (John Maines)*
2. Otterbourne Brass (Melvin White)*
3. Helston Town (John Berryman)*
4. Andover Town (Steve Large)
5. Camborne Junior Contesting (Alan Pope)
6. City of Bristol Brass (Bryn James)
7. Poole Borough (Martin Portman)
8. Bream Silver (Philip Turner)
9. Downton (Paul Williams)
10. Soundhouse Brass (Lee Clayson)
11. Phoenix Brass (Crewkerne) (Tom Griffin)
12. St. Pinnock (John Ward)
13. Weston Brass (Bryn James)
14. Denmead Brass (Estelle Flood)
15. Shrewton Silver (Michael Dunford)
16. New Forest Brass (Ian Luxford)
17. Ocean Brass (Martin Humphries)
*Top three bands qualify for National Final in Cheltenham