The ultimate Salute to Youth?
It’s perhaps hard to think what Gilbert Vinter would have made of today‘s 17 year old teenagers (the age of his son when he wrote ‘Salute to Youth’).
1961 was an era when National Service had yet to end, the contraceptive pill was first being swallowed and The Beatles were still a few years away from taking America by storm. It was the fag end of the post war generation when Britain never had it so good.
Long trousers and tie
‘Resilience’, ‘Romance’ and ‘Relaxation’ had to be undertaken in long trousers and a tie for young men involved in brass bands. Women were something you found out about after the wedding ring was placed on the finger.
These were the last of the innocent times.
As the poet Philip Larkin famously wrote: Sexual intercourse began in 1963; (which was rather late for me); between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles' first LP4BR
As the poet Philip Larkin famously wrote: “Sexual intercourse began in 1963; (which was rather late for me); between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles' first LP."
Fast forward to 2017 and what would he have come up with for a test piece? Whining self aggrandisement, one night stands and quick sniff of a legal high: How times have changed.
Thankfully, Vinter’s genius has never faded with time, and whilst the inspiration behind the three movements to ‘Salute to Youth’ might be dated, the writing itself remains as fresh and inventive as if it were penned yesterday.
2016 Champion: Filton Concert Brass
Where else can you find an instruction that your relaxation should go ‘as fast as possible’ or your resilience should be ‘heroic’? And where else can romance be both ‘sweet’ and ‘majestic’? The technical demands should be well within the skill sets of the bands in the Spanish Hall, but stylistically it could be a different matter.
Bit of mayhem
When the piece was used as the Championship Section Area set-work in 2009, it still managed to cause a fair bit of mayhem - from MDs adding pedal notes right left and centre to cornet players taking the tempo of the last movement as if they were boy racers in the seat of a souped-up old Ford Escort. Unsolicited speed and crass dynamics will destroy the inherent characteristics of Vinter’s wonderful writing.
A modern day youthful take on Vinter's classic came from Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla
Interestingly, one of the most intriguing interpretations we have ever heard of the piece came from a young Lithuanian conductor called Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla at the European Conductors Competition in Stavanger in 2008 - the last movement of which was taken at a considered tempo that was at the bottom end of the minimum 84 beat marking. She’s now the conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Who will win?
Plenty to play for as 19 well-matched bands look to claim one of the four promotion places to the Senior Cup.
The Scots have enjoyed success here over the last few years (with Kingdom Brass and Newtongrange taking the honours) and they send a trio of top flight contenders more than capable of returning home with silverware and qualification places to their name.
All are led by experienced MDs - especially a certain Mr Richard Evans, who would have enjoyed the 1960s more than most!4BR
Bo’ness & Carriden and Dalmellington showed their quality at the Scottish Championships in coming 3rd and 4th and Unison Kinneil is starting to build once more. All are led by experienced MDs - especially a certain Mr Richard Evans, who would have enjoyed the 1960s more than most!
Meanwhile, Downshire Brass and Laganvale make the trip across the Irish Sea boosted by solid form of late, with the latter coming second on the piece at the Brass Band League contest.
No stopping youthful enjoyment...
There is also a spiky Celtic challenge over from Wales, with BTM and Tylorstown. It wasn’t that long ago that BTM was competing at the British Open and is starting to mature solidly with plenty of talented youngsters in the ranks, whilst Tylorstown gave the piece a podium finish run-out at the recent Welsh League contest in Merthyr Tydfil.
The North West is certainly well represented with a strong continent led by 2016 Wychavon double winners Eccles Borough, alongside the ambitious Roberts Bakery (conducted by Foden’s Mark Wilkinson) and Longridge, who played the piece in claiming a podium finish at the recent Buxton contest.
Yorkshire’s hopes rest with Brass at the Guild winners Hatfield and Drighlington - both led by MDs who will know this score well, whilst the Midlands send the determined duo of Newstead Brass and SPAL Sovereign Brass.
The eager top-flight competitors of East London Brass, and the emerging Aveley & Newham and Medway make the long trip up from the London & Southern Counties, with Lydbrook heading up the M5 and M6 from the West of England and Shepherd Group heading over the Pennines from the North boosted by their victory in the Area First Section contest in Durham.
A keenly fought contest in prospect on a work that could bring the best out of a number of bands.
Much then will depend on the additional musical input of the MDs, and we can’t think of anyone better to add that little extra sheen than Richard Evans - if his players can produce the sort of stylish performance they gave on ‘Pageantry’ at the Scottish Championships.
Lydbrook are the sort of no nonsense band that could also shine alongside East London Brass and the other strong Scottish contenders of Bo’ness & Carriden.
If any of them slip up though, it could leave the door open for the likes of Hatfield, Roberts Bakery and our dark horse pair of Newstead Brass and Longridge.
3. East London Brass
4. Bo’ness & Carriden
6. Roberts Bakery
Dark Horses: Newstead Brass & Longridge