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Fodens out to claim Four in a Row.

What a week it’s been for the Fodens Courtois Band. The number one ranked band in the UK have been coming to terms with losing their sponsors, the instrument makers Courtois SA and Fred Rhodes Ltd and still have had to concentrate on trying to win the North West Regional Championships for a fourth consecutive time. Whatever the outcome on Sunday at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, Fodens future seems to be more than a little “jazzed up” at the moment.

Whatever the precarious nature of their immediate future, the current band stands as one of the strongest ensembles in the country at present and has just been feted for their extraordinary performance at the Royal Northern College of Music where they gave an exhilarating account of Edward Gregson’s “Trumpets of the Angels” – an amazing piece of brass writing that requires seven trumpet soloists performing quasi cadenzas of ever more breathtaking virtuosity.

The current band therefore are on a high, and under the baton of James Gourlay will surely be one of the favourites to lift not only the North West title, but the National title come November. As the band came third at the Nationals in 2000, they are automatically qualified for this years Finals, but the urge to equal the record of the great CWS Manchester of winning four area titles in a row will spur them on.

Bramwell Tovey has been engaged to conduct the band at the Finals, but James Gourlay has been specifically brought in for the Area, not only because he has already tasted success on the test piece, Jazz, when he led Williams Fairey to victory at the All England Masters in 1997, but because he is a master conductor – one who brings a musicality to everything he wags his baton (or pencil in his case) at.

The band have recovered from losing Nicholas Childs to Black Dyke to such an extent that they have already won last years Brass in Concert title under the direction of Ray Farr, and were considered by many to be very unlucky in not winning both the British Open and National Championships under Bram Tovey last year.

Fodens are accustomed to taking bad luck in large doses however, and their record of successes of just one National title in over 40 years and no British Open win since 1964 has been scant reward for a band that has at times been as brittle as they are brilliant. The Howard Snell years saw the band continually cast as the bridesmaid at the two major contests, even though winning the Masters and European seem to come so much easier. Today, they set out on yet another musical adventure under an equally talented conductor – perhaps Sunday will be the start of a new era of unprecedented success.

The current band line up is as follows:

Principal Cornet:
Mark Wilkinson – nearly ten years on the end now and rightly regarded as one of the safest top men in the business.

Solo Cornets:
Peter Coulson, Tim Walters and Mike Eccles – a very strong team indeed. Will miss Colin Short who has gone on the back row for the Area as the “old head”.

Alan Wycherly – “The Prince” of sop players seems to have been given an extra lease of life since joining from Leylands – a quite brilliant player.

Morven Gilchrist – one of the most talented young cornet players around – could be the star of the day playing the difficult rep part.

Back Row:
Maureen Cameron, Laura Littler, Nick Lees and Colin Short – top class bunch – very strong blowing section.

Helen Fox – has made a big impression since joining from Marple where she was a fine Principal Cornet .

Rob Fulcher, Helen Gilder and Andy Howard- Smith – an underrated section . Rob Fulcher has been around a long time and has been a very consistent performer. Good back up below as well.

Glyn Williams and Neil Jackson. Glyn is a quite outstanding player on solo euph as well as any other instrument you care to mention following his virtuoso performance at last years Brass in Concert. Gets good back up from Neil Jackson ex Ever Ready below him.

Steven Parsons and Bryan Hurdley. – yep that’s right. Bryan Hurdley, resident conductor and occasional second baritone – sectionals would have been interesting.

John Barber, Peter Taylor and Toby Bannon – quality players all. John Barber should enjoy the piece as he excels in the jazz medium. Toby Bannon is a great Bass Trom – nice guy too.

Phil Green, Toby Hobson, Dean Morley and Brett Wharton – the best bass end around – and have been for some time. Phil Green is a high class player and leader, whilst Toby Hobson and Brett Wharton are top players in their own right The star is “Deano” though – the best Bb tuba player, larger drinker, comic turn and committed bandsman in the world catch one of his unique performances if you can!

Mark Landon, Chris Hall, Adam Smith and Chris Bastock – as good a team as any, and one that has overcome the departure from regular playing of Simone Rebello with some style.

James Gourlay – the most musically eloquent conductor currently plying his trade in the banding world at the moment. Idiosyncratic but always elegant – his readings of test pieces are always interesting and invariably successful. A man to watch and a band to listen to.

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