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The Rovers Return: Find out what our roving reporter found out in the bar at the recent British Open Championships in Birmingham.

If you ever want to find out any gossip about brass bands then head for the nearest bar.

That’s the job as roving reporter for 4BarsRest, and just as I suspected, the passage of time and the effects of alcohol meant that there were more than a few strong opinions floating in the wind. I’m sure that there were times during the day that there were more people in the first floor bar than there were in the hall and this was confirmed when I took my place in the cheap seats not far from the adjudicators box for band number one.

Frank Renton had drawn the short straw, but had unearthed a pearl on soprano in the form of an unheard of player by the name of Alan Morrison! Bleeding heck – this man could blow a bit and set Travelsphere up for a pretty good show. Even more interesting however was the solo trombone who displayed a red bellend (on his trombone I would add) which looked like the backside of one of those baboons that David Attenborough sidles up to. Strange.

Anyway, I managed to hear Frank explaining he was exultant with his performance and that he thought the band weren’t too bad either, but he knew they were up against it to come high in the prize list. He was right and when I spoke to a few of the players they agreed to. It was a performance that they felt was a bit unsettled, but they felt they couldn’t have done any better really off number one. They are praying in Kettering for a late draw in London.

Fairey’s put up a pretty good show, but had too many slips and there were more oohs and aahs from the audience than you would get in a cheap German porn film when the splits started to really show. In the bar afterwards they seem happy but you had the feeling that they knew they hadn’t done enough. Mr. Snell was reported to be “fairly happy”, which means “God help us at next rehearsal” in code.

Fodens were brilliant. Not just for me but for the majority of the audience. There was that swell and hum after they played when people turned to the person next to them or behind them to inform each other of what they just heard. Outside I managed to overhear Bram Gay say that he thought it was a superb performance, and it was evident from the faces of the players that they thought they had played a stormer. As the bloke next to me in the bar commented, “I’ve got them a nose, head and red jacket ahead of everyone.” This was a bit unfortunate as Mr. Tovey has the type of nose best suited to a middleweight boxer, and he said this after band number 5, which already meant they hadn’t won the title.

It was also reported back to me that Mr. Gay, who didn’t appear on stage was more than a little disappointed afterwards with the result and allegedly stated that he would have found it hard not to show his feelings at the result if he were. For once, the 4BR team told me, they wholeheartedly agreed with him.

And so it went on and on and on. CWS had the best looking Principal cornet of the day by a mile (hope the wife’s not reading this) and Leyland had a Principal Cornet who appeared to have his arm in plaster, yet still played very well. Carlton Main did a bit of standing up.

Back in the bar I met up with Zak Dingle off Emmerdale Farm (a soap opera for all you intellectuals out there who say they don’t watch it but really do because of the lesbian love triangle). Zak’s grandfather in real life by all accounts wrote “The Nightingale” which was named after his grandmother (Jenny not Florence as you would have thought). Nice chap and a bit of a brass band fanatic, the only problem was he smelt of pigs.

Back in the hall (which was still only 2/3rds full for YBS and Dyke) the audience was really enjoying the test piece and remarks I heard were all in the positive for Bram Gay’s transcription (that’s an arrangement in old money). Players and conductors also liked it – except sop players who really earned their money. It was a change I heard from someone to be able to go home actually whistling the tune.

There was general consensus that it was a fine test piece and an even bigger consensus that the solo prize should go to a soprano player and Peter Roberts in particular, who played at a level that most of us can only dream about. He was the only player on the day to attempt a top Eb towards the end and make it come off, without it sounding like the noise you hear when you stick a small hot new potato up a donkey’s backside. He was brilliant.

A couple of the fancied bands had a bit of an off day with Tredegar, Brighouse and CWS leaving the stage with faces as long as a Derby winner. Not a great weekend for them. On the other hand there was Whitburn and Mr. McCann giving a very fine show hat had the old Scot’s Warbler even breaking into a smile at one point. Very scary.

There was still plenty of talk of how they had allegedly been shafted in Troon a few weeks before, so it was nice to see them have a bit of well deserved luck, especially as they finished well ahead of their rivals north of the border.

Grimethorpe gave a trademark performance of no nonsense brass banding that had a bloke in the bar afterwards suggest, “F**king great stuff. The best brass band performance since Grimey wuz robbed last year!” As he was wearing a Grimethorpe blazer and sporting a Yorkshire accent as broad as Geoffrey Boycott’s forward defensive stroke, I thought he may be a little biased – but as he was about the same size as a rugby league second row forward, I nodded meekly and quickly drank up my half of shandy. Still he wasn’t far wrong.

Back in the hall (still not full even for the reigning champions) the word was that it was between the “big four” of YBS, Cory, Dyke and Fodens with Grimey in with a shout. I foolishly stated that I would parade naked in my band jacket at next rehearsal if Fodens weren’t in it and lo and behold, guess what happened!

Jim Scott had got up talked a little about not much in particular, but what he did say led me and most of the audience to believe we could be seeing the Open prize go back to Sandbach for the first time since 1964. How wrong we were.

No real problems with the winners or the top three for that matter, but there was a general sense of disappointment both in the hall and in the bar afterwards as it was revealed Fodens came 7th. It knocked a little of the gloss off YBS and their win, which was a pity.

All this and Peter Roberts didn’t get the soloist prize either, which for me and the rest of the row of people I was sitting with seemed more than a little odd. That’s contesting for you.

Back to the bar and the same old stories of disaster, criminal doings and dodgy goingons floated on the miasma of beer fumes and Benson and Hedges. Some stories I couldn’t possibly tell you for fear of physical retribution, but if you really want to know, then just get yourself off to the nearest pub after the Nationals – it’s an education.

So that was it for me in my undercover role. A great day, fine test piece and a pretty good result (except for Fodens) and an autograph off Zak Dingle. Who could ask for more.

4BarsRest are very grateful to Cliff Pask for his fine efforts on our behalf throughout the day. His bar bill has financially crippled us, although we look forward to the pictures of him at the Aveley and Newham band rehearsal.

NB. This article was ghost written and the views expressed are those of 4BarsRest and not necessarily those of the roving reporter.

© 4BarsRest

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