Regent Community Brass claimed their first ever Area title in winning a highly entertaining Fourth Section contest in Stevenage on Sunday afternoon.
It rounded off a memorable weekend for the band organisation based just a corner kick away from Wembley Stadium in North London, as their senior counterparts also qualified for Cheltenham in the First Section 24 hours earlier.
Not to be outdone though, the offshoot band, formed in 2012, joined them thanks to a colourful rendition of Alan Fernie's 'St Andrew's Variations' that certainly gave the judges Alan Duguid and Steve Pritchard-Jones just what they were looking for in the box.
"The winners did stand out for us from a top-six that we felt were pretty good," Alan later told 4BR.
"The overall standard was quite variable as you would expect at this level, and it was a question of consistency of approach and delivery for us. We heard everything in the box with the dry acoustic.
There were some odd tempo choices at times which cost bands, but at the top end in particular it was a question of enhancing the basics with good transition changes, accurate intonation and stylistic nuance."
Contrasting musicality and style
That stand-out performance for the duo came fairly early in the draw, as Regent Community Brass led by Chris Bearman played sixth in the 18 band field. "They were a clear winner for us," Alan added. "Their performance had contrasting musicality and style to go with all the solid contest basics you look for. It was fine playing and very well directed."
Joining them in Cheltenham will be City of Norwich Brass conducted by Andrew Craze, and Watford led by Ian Graves, who also gave the judges something a little extra to push ahead of the solid performances from fellow top-six finishers, Cottenham Brass, Bradwell Silver and Royston Town.
It will be City of Norwich's second appearance at the Finals, where they will hope to repeat their victory of 2015, whilst it will mark Watford's first appearance since 2006.
Not much to separate
"There wasn't much to separate the bands in second and third, although we felt they were clear of the others in the top-six," Alan Duguid confirmed. "Below them it started to get a bit more difficult as some bands produced better quicker sections than slower ones and vice-versa.
It's a great piece for bands at this level and each delivered performances of merit, so we had to give a great deal of thought about each placing."
The early contest marker came from Cottenham Brass, followed quickly by the eventual winners, sixth placed Royston Town and podium qualifiers Watford, with only two bands from the second half of the draw (Bradwell at 12 and Norwich at 14) making an impression on the final results.
However, there was much to enjoy throughout the day from each of the competitors in a contest that showed the growing strength in depth of banding at the level in the region.
A number of bands certainly made a mark with listeners in the hall if not the box, although enthusiasm and endeavour perhaps got in the way of precision and balance in some cases, whilst some MDs did make some very idiosyncratic choices with tempos in particular.
None was more cohesive in musical thought and consistent in execution for the judges though than Regent Brass Community, as they can now look forward to what they hope could be an equally memorable weekend for their organisation in Cheltenham in September.
They (Regent Community Brass) were a clear winner for us. Their performance had contrasting musicality and style to go with all the solid contest basics you look for. It was fine playing and very well directedAdjudicator, Alan Duguid
Test Piece: St Andrews Variations' (Alan Fernie)
Adjudicators: Alan Duguid and Steve Pritchard-Jones
1. Regent Community Brass (Chris Bearman)*
2. City of Norwich Brass (Andrew Craze)*
3. Watford (Ian Graves)*
4. Cottenham Brass (Peter Mackley)
5. Bradwell Silver (Brian Keech)
6. Royston Town (Steve Earley)
7. Woodbridge Excelsior (Chris Lewis-Garnham)
8. Hadstock Silver (Di Pannell)
9. Crystal Palace (Michael Gray)
10. Wantage Academy (Nikki Jones)
11. Abbey Brass (Rob Tompkins)
12. Witney Town (Rhys Owens)
13. Letchworth Garden City
14. Great Yarmouth (Colin Swaep)
15. Pangbourne & District Silver (Stewart Lewins)
16. Snowdown Colliery (Andy Collins)
17. Bletchington Silver (Sheldon Barwick)
18. North London Brass (Martyn Stogden)
*Top three qualify bands for National Final at Cheltenham