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West of England Championships: 4BarsRest take a closer look at the competing bands in the championship section. Also featuring Bodmin Town Band.

So were all off to the seaside once again. In a bid to 'tour the region' the bandwagon rolls back into Torquay for the final flurry of this year's area. Although a depature from the favoured Colston Hall at Bristol is a case for fond memories, the Riviera Centre looks set to host an interesting battle this year.

Last year's winners Flowers look set to put together another strong performance under Richard Evans, and are tipped to be this year's favourites for the title. This is a band that quietly goes about it's business, but who have over the years put together any number of fine contest performances at the Area. They have any number of top quality "corner men" and with Tricky Dickie at the helm, they will be guarenteed to provide an exciting and musical performance. The band to beat?

Hot on their tails last year were Bodmin. Steve Sykes captains the ship this year, with John Hitchens on Euph looking to keep the habit of appearing at London and Mark Letcher, Solo Horn, and Chris North on soprano, players to look out for. They also boast one of the best flugel players anywhere in the country with Tim Whitehead - a real class act. Winners in 1999 and runners-up last year, Bodmin haven't been out of the top three since 1996 and shouldn't find themselves in that position this year either. Steve Sykes has already been in the "box" to judge others on Jazz, so it will be interesting to hear how his own interpretation goes - this should be one to watch.

Mount Charles look for their first London appearance in the top flight after recent very good performances at Truro and Yeovil. Not a fantastic record at the Areas over the last few years, but a band that has made many friends as well as taking prizes wherever they compete of late. The 1999 Pontins Champions have Bryan Hurdley at the helm, who has worked with many of he countries top bands over the years and has done sterling work in getting Mount Charles to the position of being real contenders.With Ian Thomas and Robert Jose the key end men who would bet against them, as they are a band on a definate upward curve at the moment. Dark horses perhaps?

Camborne enlist Frank Renton, already a winner with Travelsphere (GUS to you and me in old money), but out of the prizes by some way with Kirkintilloch in Scotland. On his day however, he brings a rare touch of class to any performance and so Camborne could be putting up a fair old fight for a qualifying place and even the title tis year. Sean Thomas makes his swan song for the band on Euph, while Chris Leonard on pricipal cornet aims to repeat the form he showed at the Pontins Championships late last year where he was the outstanding solo cornet of the day. With Graham Barker on horn and a whole new line up on the trombone section fortune could shine on the West Cornwall outfit after a somewhat turbulent year. Should they get through, bear in mind that apart form the now defunct Sunlife Band Camborne have the best finals record from this area.

Woodfalls will be aiming to recapture the form that saw them run out as Champions in 1998, when Melvin White took them to the title. This year they have gone for a man with a record at the Area's that has no real equal - Peter Parkes, who has worked with the band on a number of occassions. Third place last year signalled a return to form and this has been shown in a series of consistent rather than spectacular results at contests this year. An interesting combination could see them getting in amongst the prizes again. Albourne and Bournemouth Concert are two bands who will be hoping to see an improvement on recent years, with the experienced Leonard Adams at the helm for Bournemouth, a band that last tasted success at the contest with a third place in 1997. Another hard working band, they may feel 2001 is the year they repeat that success.

Albourne are seen by many to be a band that could make a mark given a bit of luck. David Williams is a very good conductor who has done the rounds in the West Country over the years with some success. 2001 could be a year or so too soon for a young band, but you never know?

Hyde Band has made remarkable progress since 1991, when they found themselves competing for the Fourth Section title. Building on some excellent work of Peter Wise they have finally made it to the hardest section of all, and will find Jazz a real test of character and strength. However, they have made a sensible and constructive move of engaging Jeremy Wise to take them at the contest, and this should enable them to display their strengths without trying to emulate other bigger blowing ensembles.

The remaining three are considered by those in the know as the outsiders for the title, but are interesting nevertheless. Forest of Dean Brass and Swindon Pegasus Brass may find it hard work in Torquay come Sunday, but they will surely be going there not to just make up the numbers, whilst Yeovil Town could spring a shock or two. Under the baton of Young Conductor of the Year 1998, Philip Bailey, who also tasted success with Tredegar, the band has continued on it's upward progress that was started a little while ago by Steve Sykes. Some good recent performances could see Yeovil take more than a few scalps and may just see them edge towards the top three.

So it's an interesting Area this year, with plenty of big names conducting and plenty of good players around the stand. Will Flowers start a period of domination aka Sunlife, or will the Cornish lads have their say? Whatever the weather, Torquay is surely going to be the sunniest place on earth come Sunday for someone.

Our featured band are Bodmin Town, now entering their 75th year of existence and now firmly established as one of the West of England’s premier ensembles.

The 1990’s were a decade of consolidated improvement for the band, which benefited from the work of a variety of visiting Musical Directors that all made a significant contribution to the bands overall climb up the rankings.

The band has an enviable record at the West of England Area’s over the past few years with them winning the title in 1999, second in 1997 and again last year and third in 1998. Nick Childs conducted the band on each of these occasions, and it was the man from Black Dyke that really has been the catalyst for the success the band now enjoys. They won the Yeovil Entertainment Contest in 1999 and again in 2000 and just missed out on making it a hat trick this year, whilst they have maintained good results nationally in the English Masters, Pontins and the Grand Shield.

This year they have Steve Sykes at the helm, not only for the Area but also for the Masters and Grand Shield where they will be hoping to qualify for the British Open for the first time in their history. The band has been close on occasions, and this certainly could be the year for success.

The band is superbly organised and run and has both a thriving youth band and learners section to keep the seniors in a supply of talent for many years to come. They can also boast one of the best out door Prom Concerts anywhere in the UK on August Bank Holiday Weekend, where they play in the beautiful park outside the bandhall, complete with fireworks and buffets to an audience of near on a thousand people each year - it’s a great occasion.

So here’s their line up for their tilt at trying to regain the Area title:

Soprano: Chris North
Joined the band just after Christmas as resident conductor and takes the flourishing youth and learners section as well.

Principal Cornet: Aaron Harvey
One of the most experienced top men in the area contest, he has led the band superbly now for over ten years.

Solo Cornets: Miriam Whitehead, Ryun Retallack, Sarah Bunting.
An experienced back up on the front row, with Miriam and Ryun being with the band a number of years. Sarah completes a very solid and quality team.

Repiano: Mark Leigh
Has come back for a second spell with the band and is thoroughly enjoying his playing.

Flugel: Tim Whitehead
One of the most experienced and longest serving players in the band – and also one of the best flugels around. The band manager to boot!

Back Row Cornets: Mike Pickett, Robert Sandow, Jo Purdy, Katie Bullock
A good mix of age and experience here, with Mike doing his stuff for more years than he cares to mention and Jo lending a relaxed and wise head to help two of the most promising young players in the band.

Horns: Mark Letcher, Kirsty MaCauley, Michelle Hudson
A real strong team of players, with Mark established one of the best horn players around and Kirsty and recently married Michelle giving good support.

Euphoniums and Baritones: John Hitchings, Mark Bray, Gavin Knowles, Garry Lannie.
A very experienced team of top quality players. The euphoniums can rightly be considered as strong as anyone on the day and the baritones are just as powerful. A real plus point for the band.

Trombones: Colin Barratt, Darren Hawkin, Jonathan Hooper.
Colin is now in his fifth year as solo trombone and has one of the brightest young players in Cornwall giving him support on second trombone. Jonathan Hooper makes a quality sound in the depths.

Basses: Shaun Woodland, Adrian Davies, Kevin Bragg, Alistair Whitehead.
An experienced bunch of good-looking boys (!) make for a very solid foundation for the band. Shaun Woodland is as good as they come on top Eb and the rest of his team make a pretty good noise as well.

Percussion: Norrell Calver, Jonathan Camps, Mark Old, Paul Rowe
A three man one woman team for the band for “Jazz” and a section that has impressed at entertainment contests over the past few years. A real plus point again for this piece.

Conductor: Steve Sykes
The big man with the big personality has quietly been going about making a very good reputation as a conductor and adjudicator of late, with him having the task of sorting out the top sections at both Yorkshire and London. Brings with him a bucket load of experience of top level playing and a very sensible approach to working bands hard and well. As made some very clear points about how he has felt he likes the piece to sound and it should be well worth listening to.

Jeremy Squibb

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