A resurgent Leyland Band claimed their first North West Regional title since 2005 on Sunday evening under the inspired baton of Swiss conductor Michael Bach.
Their engrossing rendition of ‘Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ saw them capture the People Challenge Trophy for a ninth time to add the Area title to their Brass in Concert victory at Gateshead late last year.
It was a winning performance to savour for the audience packed into the Opera House—one that saw the exciting Swiss maestro expose the beating black humoured heart of Derek Bourgeois’s remarkable work, with a malleable sense of musicality that took the breath away.
"It’s a great composition and one I have loved working on with such a fine band," Michael told 4BR. "I knew I had to draw the music out of the score as it can sometimes get lost in the amazing technical challenges.
I wanted to show just what I thought the composer was thinking about in the title—the humour as well as the beautiful lyricism that can sometimes be over shadowed by the fast pace of the music."
It was the MD’s ability to exquisitely shape the lyrical contrasts, without losing the composer’s deliberately ‘diabolical’ homage to Dana’s 1970 Eurovision Song Contest winner ‘All Kind’s of Everything’, that marked it out from their rivals—especially for adjudicator Jim Davies.
"I had no doubt about the winner," he said. "There was some wonderful playing on show today. The best bands certainly didn’t disappoint despite the 'Devil' eating up a few of them in places. The winner’s brought out so much of the beautiful music."
Leyland soprano player John Doyle was equally delighted. "What a conductor. We’ve enjoyed a remarkable connection with him since he stepped into the bandroom.
Rehearsals have been electric. You can tell just why so many people have been saying how good he is. He brought something out of the piece that was very special today."
30 year double
The triumph also marked a remarkable double for stalwart players Gary Westwood and Andy Blackledge as they savoured the taste of a regional title 30 years after their first in 1982.
"We didn’t think we would be around this long," Gary laughed. "A new era has begun at Leyland—and it’s every bit as exciting as the one we were first part of 30 years ago. This is such a young and talented band. I think we can now go a long way, especially with Michael at the helm."
It’s a great composition and one I have loved working on with such a fine band. I knew I had to draw the music out of the score as it can sometimes get lost in the amazing technical challengesMichael Bach
For runner up Fairey, there was disappointment at missing out on their first Area success for a decade, but Band Manger Martin Gernon was gracious in defeat.
"Our congratulations go to Leyland. We knew any band would deserve to win today after the way we played under Ian Porthouse."
He added: "We delivered a very high class performance, so although we are disappointed not to have won, we know we are approaching a level of consistency that should see us battle for major honours this season."
Foden’s also offered their congratulations. Euphonium star Glyn Williams told 4BR: "We felt we produced a quality performance, but it wasn’t to be. Six wins in a row is a remarkable achievement, so it had to come to an end at some time. We have plenty to build on, but our congratulations go to Leyland."
There were delighted smiles on the faces of the players of Co-operative Milnrow after they confirmed their growing status as a top section contender in coming fourth.
"I couldn’t has asked for anything more," Marieka Gray told 4BR. "We’re a young band that is growing in confidence and quality. We can take a great deal from this result and have plenty to look forward to this year."
There is plenty for Mr and Mrs Gray to look forward to as well, with the forthcoming arrival of their first child.
"It was great to have Russell there playing for me," Marieka added, as hubby played his part in full as principal cornet and impromptu DIY man as he lent a hand with a misfiring conductor’s stand.
"His input has been brilliant—although I think he’ll have to improve his DIY skills when the baby arrives!"
Last year’s qualifier Pemberton Old Wigan DW couldn’t quite do enough to gain a London return, despite a powerful performance under the direction of Mark Bentham, whilst there was delight for Blackburn & Darwen as they claimed their second successive top six finish directed by Nick Sheppard.
Neil Samuel led the ambitious Rainford to victory in the First Section to claim a place at Cheltenham and the Championship Section in 2013 with a powerful performance of ‘Mountain Views’.
It will be their second finals appearance in three years as they crowned their remarkable rise from the Second Section under the baton of their MD.
"All the credit goes to the players," Neil told 4BR. "They’ve worked so hard in the past year or so that this really is the culmination of their efforts."
Neil also revealed that although ‘Mountain Views’ wasn’t the sternest technical test, he ensured his band didn’t under estimate its challenges.
"I think that was the key. We worked hard on the piece and that enabled us to bring out the music. We’ve been lucky to have added experienced players into the band in the past year, such as Danny and Morvern Sinclair from Black Dyke and Mark Jones from Leyland, so that certainly helped too."
The future looks good, with more hard work to come—although the MD is keen to emphasise the enjoyment factor too.
"That’s the other secret to our success I think," he added. "I learnt a great deal from Richard Evans during my time at Leyland—and he always emphasised that the hard graft should go with the enjoyment of banding. We made sure of that on Sunday night!"
Four very good
Adjudicator Malcolm Brownbill gave a detailed appraisal of the competitors in the Empress Ballroom.
"There were four very good performances," he said. "Two bands will go home disappointed, but I had to go into a great amount of detail to sort the prize winners out.
The bands that managed to find the melodic line from beginning to end, and provide musical shape and balance, which was so important in this acoustic, were the ones who were most successful."
The second qualifier was Wardle Anderson Brass, who delivered an impressive account under the direction of Sean Conway to claim their fourth finals appearance in seven years, whilst the disappointment came for Poulton le Fyde in third and defending champion Robert’s Bakery in fourth, who just missed out on this occasion.
The remaining top six places were taken by the fancied contenders of Oldham (Lees) and Freckleton.
There was a seaside double for Mossley in the Second Section, as Duncan Byers led his band to their first Area title since 2001, adding to their recent Butlins win at Skegness.
They will be joined at Cheltenham by Haslingden & Helmshore conducted by David Holland, whilst Delph in third just missed out on a trip south under Phil Goodwin.
"I can’t quite believe it," Duncan told 4BR as he clutched the championship trophy.
"This was a difficult piece to play, but the band has been boosted by the Butlins win and performed with such confidence on stage today. It’s been a rewarding experience working on the test piece both for myself and the players."
Mossley will now head to the Tameside contest looking to make it three wins out of three in 2012—although the MD is not taking anything for granted.
"That’s the next challenge. The players want to keep improving and keep enjoying their banding, but we won’t get ahead of ourselves. The hard work starts again next rehearsal, although the celebrations will start as soon as we get off stage!"
Adjudicator Derek Broadbent congratulated the competitors for the way in which they tackled the difficult set work, although his witty analysis also ensured they were left in no doubt what separated the best from the rest.
"This was a real test for the players and the conductors," he said. "It’s a difficult piece with plenty of tricky parts—and most of you found them!"
He was quick to add though: "My heart goes out to the euphonium players—what a demanding part so soon in the piece. Most bands acquitted themselves well in that opening movement and the best found control and shape in the second, where there was the opportunity to play more than just a series of notes.
A few were in too much of a hurry in the third movement, although the best brought out the breezy sense of joyfulness in the music."
He reserved a singular piece of praise for the victors however: "The winners today were a little head and shoulders above the rest."
The remaining top six places went to Uppermill who delivered a solid marker off the number 1 draw, followed by Flixton in fifth and Hoover (Bolton) in sixth.
There was also a double celebration in the Third Section, as Besses Boys under James Holt built on last year’s Fourth Section success to head to Cheltenham once again, thanks to a gold medal winning performance of Philip Harper’s, ‘Olympus’.
They will be joined by runner up, Whitworth Vale & Healey directed by John Binns and third placed Trinity Girls conducted by Stuart Barton.
MD James Holt was still coming to terms with the victory when he spoke to 4BR on Monday morning.
"I can’t quite believe it," he said. "This was a real step up in class following promotion, but we have worked so hard since Cheltenham that I knew we could do well again. To win is still a bit of a shock, but I thought we were in with a shout as soon as we came off stage."
James also revealed that their recent appearance at the Brass at the Guild Hall contest had given them a foundation on which to build for this victory.
"It was the ideal preparation," he added. "We played the piece there and came third, but it showed just what we needed to work on. The players are so keen to improve. 90% of the band is under 18 years of age, so for them to put in such hard work whilst many are concentrating on exams is amazing."
Now the hard graft starts with the fundraising. "Last year some of the players cycled from our bandroom to Cheltenham to raise money, so I don’t know what they will do this time—although the idea of cycling across the English Channel on pedalos may have been influenced by the effects of our celebrations," he laughed.
Adjudicator Kevin Wadsworth ensured there was plenty to debate following the results, although he was crystal clear in his detailed analysis to what separated the bands out.
"It was a very interesting contest. It was a piece full of little pitfalls, whilst two comments I made continually today concerned subtlety and the placing spacing of semi quavers," he commented.
"As some MDs knew, in this acoustic there has to be a subtle approach to dynamics and some lacked it, whilst the placing of the semi quavers had to be very precise—otherwise their effect was lost."
He concluded with a neat connection and dry wit to the Olympic theme: "Congratulations to the gold, silver and bronze medals winners. They were very good, although I hope the other bands will look at my remarks and analyse them, and don’t just think I was a being a miserable Yorkshire git!"
Just missing out on a trip to Cheltenham was Hazel Grove in fourth, with Farnworth & Walkden in fifth and Cheshire Constabulary in sixth.
In the massive Fourth Section of 25 bands, it was Golborne conducted by Paul Andrews who caught the ear of adjudicator Derek Southcott to claim a first North West Area title, with a musical performance of ‘English Folk Song Suite’.
The victory was the result of an innovative approach by the band, as they teamed up with Paul for an 8 week ‘professional development plan’ after he had started helping the band out over the Christmas period last year.
Paul explained: "It was the chance to try something new with an idea I’ve developed to help bands like Golborne who want to make long term improvements to their performances.
The 8 week plan is detailed and precise, and it worked because every player and back room member took it on board and worked at it from start to finish."
That meant bringing a championship level attitude to every detail of their contest preparation—and the result was that first Area win in living memory!
"The project is now over for me, but not for the band," Paul added. "I’m sure they can go on and enjoy even more success if they can build on what we have put in place together. I wish them well, as they have been a great bunch to work with."
Adjudicator Derek Southcott certainly enjoyed the winner’s performance calling it ‘outstanding’, whilst he also praised the efforts of all the competitors, especially the qualifiers.
Golborne will be joined at Cheltenham by Parr (Richardson Ltd) St Helens, Darwen Brass and Hawk Green.
Test Piece: 'The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea'(Derek Bourgeois)
Commence: 2.30pm approx after Second Section
Adjudicator: Jim Davies
1. Leyland (Michael Bach), 10*
2. Fairey (Ian Porthouse), 5**
3. Foden’s (Allan Withington), 4*
4. Co-op Milnrow (Marieka Gray), 11
5. Pemberton Old Wigan DW (Mark Bentham), 8
6. Blackburn & Darwen (Nick Sheppard), 7
7. Co-operative Funeralcare NW (Jef Sparkes), 2
8. Wingates (Andrew Berryman), 1
9. Bollington Brass (Peter Christian), 6
10. VBS Poynton (Colin Short), 3
11. Ashton-Under-Lyne (Simon Stonehouse), 9
w, Longridge, Mark Peacock
Youngest Player: George Wright (Bollington)
*Leyland & Foden's qualify for National Finals
** Fairey pre-qualified
Test Piece: 'Mountain Views' (Bertrand Moren)
Start: 3.15pm approx after Third Section
Adjudicator: Malcolm Brownbill
1. Rainford (Neil Samuel), 3*
2. Wardle Anderson Brass (Sean Conway), 8*
3. Poulton-le-Fylde (John Wood), 7
4. Roberts Bakery (Colin Cranson), 9
5. Oldham (Lees) (John Collins), 6
6. Freckleton (Paul Dalton), 1
7. Morecambe (Andrew Warriner), 11
8. Haydock (Mark Quinn), 5
9. Diggle (James Shepherd), 4
10. Silk Brass (James Cant), 2
11. Manx Concert Brass (Ian Clague MBE), 10
* Qualifiers for National Final
Test Piece: 'Cross Patonce' (Goff Richards)
Adjudicator: Derek Broadbent
1. Mossley (Duncan Byers),8*
2. Haslingden & Helmshore (David Holland),7*
3. Delph (Philip Goodwin),13
4. Uppermill (Alan Widdop),1
5. Flixton (Stephen Curtis),11
6. Hoover (Bolton) (Trevor Halliwell),12
7. Crewe Brass (Jamie Meredith),2
8. Dobcross Silver (Kenny Pain),14
9. Eccleston Brass (Danny Brooks),3
10. Tyldesley (Robert Taylor),5
11. Besses o'th' Barn (Geoff Bradley),10
12. Middleton (Martyn Evans),9
13. Greenall’s (Karl Stott),4
14. Douglas Town (Ken Mitchell),6
* Qualifiers for National Final
Test Piece: 'Olympus' (Philip Harper)
1st Draw: 8.45am
2nd Draw: 11.15am
Adjudicator: Kevin Wadsworth
1. Besses Boys (James Holt), 17*
2. Whitworth Vale & Healey (John Binns),7*
3. Trinity Girls (Stuart Barton),9*
4. Hazel Grove (Nigel Beasley), 18
5. Farnworth & Walkden (Peter Ashley),6
6. Cheshire Constabulary (David Woollam), 14
7. Rivington & Adlington (Brian Harper), 15
8. Pemberton Old Wigan DW 'B' (Peter Ashley),10
9. Lostock Hall Memorial (Graham Martin),4
10. Blackpool Brass (Tariq Ahmed),8
11. Eccles Borough (Marieka Gray), 11
12. Boarshurst Silver (David Ashworth),5
13. Skelmersdale Prize (David Chapman),2
14. Nelson Brass (Roy Waite), 1
15. Stalybridge Old (G. Smith), 16
16. Old Hall Brass (John North),3
17. Eagley (Neil Parkinson), 13
18. Formby (Anthony Higham), 12
* Qualifiers for National Final
Test Piece: 'English Folk Song Suite' (Ralph Vaughan Williams)
1st Draw: 9.30am
2nd Draw: 12.30pm
Adjudicator: Derek Southcott
1.Golborne (Paul Andrews),21*
2. Parr (Richardson Ltd) St. Helens (John Ludden),20*
3. Darwen Brass (Steve Hartley),5*
4. Hawk Green (Marple) (Neil Hewson),13*
5. Ramsey Town (Robert Quane),19
6. Pilling Jubilee Silver (Steve Simpson),3
7. Littleborough (Adrian Woodhead),8
8. Rode Hall Silver (Nigel Butler),1
9. Greenfield (Tom Haslam),15
10. BMP Europe Goodshaw (David Warren),6
11. Sale Brass (John Dickinson),16
12. Dobcross Youth (John Parker),24
13. Ellenbrook & Boothstown (Craig Mann),7
14. Mereside Brass (Mike Phenton),2
15. Thornton Cleveleys (Steve Simpson), 18
16. Blackley (Daniel Price),25
17. City of Chester (Philip Mottershead),14
18. Coppull & Standish (Matthew Stringer),23
19. Tarleton Brass (Gillian Bould),9
20. Denton Brass (Alan Wycherley),22
21. Valley Brass (Haydock) (David Chadwick),10
22. Port Sunlight Lyceum Brass (Cyril Dare),17
23. Whaley Bridge (Marcus Jones),4
24. Lees (Eric Landon),11
25. Tottington Public (Michael Turner),12
* Qualifiers for National Final