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The Senior Cup 2001 - Runners and Riders

Saturday 5th May
Pavillion Theatre
Winter Gardens, Blackpool

We’ve done it for the Grand Shield so we had to do it for the newly reconstituted Senior Cup. It tells you something about how the banding press have taken the contest to heart that the big story of the contest has been the fact that a fuss was being made about the missing trophy – not exactly interested then were they?

That’s a pity, because the contest should be a close run thing with 20 bands of much the same standard that can be found across the ballroom at the Winter Gardens playing for the Grand Shield. The test piece is a “new” version of Granville Bantock’s “Prometheus Unbound”, which was originally used as the test piece for the 1933 National Championships, won by Fodens Motor Works Band (whatever became of them?). Why the organisers have found the need to fiddle with the music by adding yet more percussion parts is beyond us. The music should be left to stand on it’s merits – regardless of a lack of a timp part. If the original is not considered good enough – then leave it alone and pick a different piece.

Having said all that, it should still prove a challenge, although technically all the bands on show should be able to more than play the piece. Balance, intonation, quality of tone and no overblowing will be the key areas we feel, and areas that will cull more than a few bands from the podium placings. The top 6 bands will be promoted to the Shield. Here’s our run down then.

Ireland sends over two entries in 1st Old Boys Association and Laganvale and both are welcome entries. Banding in Ireland seems to be a bit of a mystery to most of us, and the overall standard is not perhaps the highest, but these two bands will surely put up good solid shows. Not quite good enough for the top three, but an outside chance of making the top six for both.

Wales also has a good strong entry with no fewer than five entries on show. Northop under Ian Porthouse are the form Welsh band at the moment on the back of third place at the Area and have the band sound that should suit the piece, whilst Cwmaman, 5th at the Area have made the sensible choice of having Graham O’Conner at the helm – a man with an enviable record of achievement and success at Grand Shield contest. Parc and Dare are a famous name now starting to return to better days after a good showing in Swansea a month ago where they came 6th, whilst Mid Rhondda will be hoping that last place there was just a temporary blip.

The interesting inclusion of nationally ranked First Section, Seindorf Beaumaris from North Wales shouldn’t be discounted. They are a fine young band who won the Area title with comfort and are in reality a good quality top section outfit, and should take more than a few notable scalps. Northop and Beaumaris have the best chance for us, with Cwmaman close behind.

Scotland gets in on the act with Kingdom Brass and Newtongrange making the long trip southwest to Blackpool. Newtongrange came 6th at the Area with Ray Farr at the helm and so will have a new man with the baton to lead their charge as Ray appears with Ever Ready in the Shield Contest. However, they are an experienced band at this level and should feature strongly. Kingdom Brass also lose the conductor who took them to a well deserved 4th place at the Area, with Thomas Wyss taking Point of Ayr in the Shield, but again this is a band on an upward curve of success and could well make an impression against the opposition.

Yorkshire provides four bands that should be in at the death. Skelmanthorpe with Kevin Wadsworth came 5th at the Area beating many more fancied bands into the bargain with a performance that emphasised the bands strengths of tonal quality and balance. Hepworth meanwhile came 9th which was an improvement over their disappointing 18th place at Pontins late last year. Andy Duncan has done a lot of hard graft with the band and they are certainly on an upwards curve which could see them feature highly on the day. Yorkshire Cooperatives came 11th at Bradford, beating Sellers into bottom spot – which is a bit odd as we rate Sellers chances quite highly in the Grand Shield. John Roberts will have his work cut out to get a top six place here, but they came 2nd at the Rochdale Contest this year just behind Stalybridge who are also in the Shield, so they may spring a surprise. Lindley are another First Section outfit that puts in decent shows on the contest stage. They came 9th at Pontins beating many higher ranked bands and the Areas saw them take 4th place in the 1st Section in a strong contest. Skelmanthorpe and Hepworth for us then towards the top end with the other two in midfield.

The Midlands field a strong contingent with Thoresby RJB the real front runners. 2nd place at the Area just behind Travelsphere (GUS) was a real achievement and one that was well deserved. Stan Lippeatt has worked hard to get the band back on track and they will be coming to the Senior Cup as one of the favourites and a little miffed at not being in the Shield Contest itself. Real contenders for us.

Wooley Pritchard Sovereign and Staffordshire came 5th and 6th at the Area respectively, which were good results for both. However, both bands were very disappointing at Pontins late last year when they could only manage 13th and 15th so at national contests they have both got a bit to prove of late. Both are capable of showing well, but it may be a scrap between them for one of the minor places.

Kibworth and Ratby are nationally ranked in the First Section and at the Area they filled the top two places with some comfort. Kibworth will have the experienced John Berryman at the helm and that should be a real plus point at the contest. They came 7th at Pontins and beat higher ranked bands in the bargain and are like their MD in the way they play – neat and tidy. Should do well. Ratby may not be quite good enough to challenge at the very top, but could feature around the fringes.

Lancashire and London gets just the one entry each this year in the form of Freckleton and City of Oxford. Freckleton are a young band who performed way above expectation at the North West Area where they took a very well deserved 4th place and beat bands such as Besses, Wingates, Stalybridge and Aston under Lyne – all of whom are competing in the Shield. This could be a good omen for them as they have a talented group of young soloists and are very sensibly directed.

City of Oxford also come to the contest on the back of a good result, even though they were later disqualified from their 3rd place at the London Area for fielding an ineligible player. Their usual conductor, Nigel Taken is not at the helm for this one though and a midfield place possibly beckons as at Pontins last year where they came a lowly joint 15th.

That’s the bands then. No real form from past Senior Cups to go by as this is the first time since 1982 that the contest has taken place. As the competition itself will be taking place at the same time as the Grand Shield, both are only a stones throw from each other in the Winter Garden complex, so it’s well worth popping in and out of both to see bands and compare the standards.

We’ll have someone at both so we’ll put our necks on the line now and give you our possible top 6.

4BarsRest prediction.

Thoresby RJB

Dark Horses: Beaumaris.

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