Nationals 2001: The 10 Greatest Winning Performances
at the Nationals.
We had to think long and hard about our top ten for this, especially
as in reality any band that has actually won the title could in
theory say they won it with a great performance.
Well give our list first and then at the bottom our reasons
why some were included when others werent. All we say is that
we considered not just the standard of the actual playing but the
circumstances and context of each wining performance, from the band
as a unit, the players and the conductor and the outside influences
that made the win the more memorable.
Hope you enjoy our selection. If you agree or disagree then drop
us a line to say why.
1. Black Dyke Mills Le Roi dYs 1959.
Conducted by Major George Wilcocks.
The brass band worlds equivalent of the 1966 World Cup Final.
Ask any person over the age of 40 what was the greatest ever performance
heard in their lives, and theyll tell you Black Dyke 1959.
It has become immersed in legend and myth and more than a little
romantic licence, but Murphy, Whitham, Slinger and company won the
title by three clear points from Carlton Main and Fodens and took
the cup and the 200 guineas prize money back to Queensbury for the
first time in eight years.
Geoff Whitham became immortalised and the Black Dyke legend was
2. Grimethorpe Colliery Band The New Jerusalem 1992
Conducted by Frank Renton
Never has the brass band world been put under such a spotlight
before and never has a brass band been under so much scrutiny. Grimethorpe
Colliery was being shut and the media had the whiff of a fairy
tale story of working class endeavour overcoming Tory inspired
economic stupidity. All it needed for it to come true was for Grimey
to win the contest and they didnt disappoint.
Playing off number 17 they produced the performance of their lives
to take the title with 99 points and to win by a point from Desford
who were on the verge of a fifth consecutive win. Tears, cameras,
jubilation and the greatest pyrrhic victory of them all.
3. Fodens Motor Works An Epic Symphony 1938.
Conducted by Fred Mortimer.
The unique Double Treble. The 1930s saw Fodens
become the greatest brass band of their generation under Fred Mortimer
and the myth says that on the journey to London each year they had
a draw amongst each other to choose which band would come second
to them at the contest!
Drawn 15 out of a field of 20 they produced a performance that
had one of the adjudicators state in his written remarks,
I have no more superlatives
. The band was awarded
98 marks and the players got £2 each off the owner of the
company. It was more remarkable as 20 of the players had been together
for more than 10 years. That they never competed at the Open during
the same time just added to the mystic of the band, and the War
robbed them perhaps of being invincible for a further five or more
4. Fairey Aviation Overture for An Epic Occasion 1945
Conducted by Harry Mortimer.
The final proof that the conducting baton had been passed from
father to son and that the eldest born was now the dominant figure
in the banding world.
Faireys were a new band that had announced themselves by
winning the Open during the War years (although it must be said
in less strong fields than had been the custom). They came to the
Nationals with Mortimer Senior conducing the Luton Band and Harry
with Faireys and a reputation to uphold.
Faireys won by 5 points, whilst Fred came nowhere and only
twice more did the father compete against the son in London
both without beating him. Faireys became an immense force,
whilst Harry became the new giant of the movement.
5. Irwell Springs Labour and Love 1913
Conducted by William Halliwell
Strange you may think to put in a performance that today no one
could possibly remember, but its not how the band played,
but what the band played that makes 1913 the candidate for inclusion.
Labour and Love was the first original brass band composition used
at a contest and as such paved the way for other notable composers
of their generation to take brass bands more seriously and to write
extended works that have since become the bedrock of the movements
repertoire. If it werent for Percy Fletcher we wouldnt
have had Elgar, Howells, Ireland and many more.
Irwell were a fine band who had won the contest in 1905 and 1908
and were runners up in 1910 and 1912. Under William Halliwell they
played number 5 in a field of 22 and beat St. Hilda Colliery and
Black Dyke to take the 1000 Guinea Trophy and 40-guinea prize money.
Irwells place in the history books was secure.
6. CWS (Manchester) The Force of Destiny 1962.
Conducted by Alex Mortimer
Although they won the contest the following year as well (and by
three points), it is this winning performance that is regarded as
perhaps their greatest and one of the most memorable to have been
heard at the Finals.
Alex Mortimer had forged his reputation with the band by winning
the Open in 1960 and during the next few years CWS (Manchester)
under his baton were one of the finest bands in the land. Drawn
last but one on the stage and conducting from a wheelchair he inspired
his band to produce a performance that secured victory and a place
in the annals of mythic history making.
His band had players such as Derek Garside, Lyndon Baglin and Brian
Evans in its ranks and their picture hangs with pride at the famous
7. Black Dyke Mills Connotations 1977
Conducted by Major Peter Parkes
Not only was this a performance that secured Dyke their Hat
trick of National wins, but it was a performance that left
no one in doubt that they were perhaps the finest band of their
generation and that percussion was finally an integral part of the
brass band set up.
Connotations saw Dyke win by the massive margin of 5 clear points
from Grimethorpe and the rest of the field (they won the previous
two contests by three points) and saw them win The Double
Double of Open and Nationals as well. They were nigh on unbeatable
with a band of brilliant players and Peter Parkes in his pomp. The
test piece was final confirmation that the inclusion of integral
percussion was no longer a novelty item but a major new development
which has since been utilised to the full. Many have thanked or
cursed Edward Gregson ever since.
8. Cory Fantasy for Brass Band 1974
Conducted by Major Arthur Kenney
Why not the hat trick years of 1982 1984 or the Millennium
victory of 2000? Because 1974 announced that The Cory Band had finally
arrived as a major title winning force in the banding scene, and
that all their subsequent successes that culminated in the hat trick
a decade later stemmed from this first victory.
The years prior to the win had seen the South Wales band achieve
victories at the Mineworkers Finals and Granada Band of the Year
as well as close shaves at winning the Nationals and Open, but they
never quite could win a Major. With their own Major
Kenney at the helm they became the first winners to take the title
out of England with a two-point victory from Grimethorpe and Elgar
For the next ten years the band was a major force and with the
pocket genius back at the helm they achieved the hat trick as the
band and conductor reached their zenith. After this it was another
18 years before they reached the same heights again.
9. Williams Fairey The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea 1993.
Conducted by Peter Parkes
Perhaps the last really truly crushing victory over the opposition
at the National Finals. 1993 saw Faireys take the title and
with it secure the Double as for the second time in
just about a month they played the rest of the banding world off
The Open victory was commanding enough, but this one was simply
awesome and came from a band and a conductor that perhaps reached
their peak together. The three-point victory over Tredegar and the
rest of the 21 bands was never in doubt and they went on the secure
the European title as well later the next year. At this time in
1993 they were a veritable street ahead of any other band in the
It also marked the last occasion that Peter Parkes had his hands
on a National title and perhaps signalled the end of one of the
most successful periods of conducting success at major championships
there has ever been.
10. Black Dyke Mills A Kensington Concerto 1972
Conducted by Geoffrey Brand.
The victory that signalled the end of one great era and the beginning
of a new one for Black Dyke and the banding movement as a whole.
Black Dyke won with a band that was mature and brilliant and reflected
accurately the way in which brass bands had become enclosed and
parochial in nature and musical outlook at the and of the 1960s
and early 1970s. This was banding without music students from
the colleges, female players, percussion features and avant garde
composers. Dyke took the title by a clear three-point margin over
GUS and gave Geoffrey Brand his second Nationals success.
Dykes victory was the last of a post war age that had encompassed
little change a brilliantly traditional victory by a brilliantly
traditional band. Within a few years everything had changed
students, women, percussion, band loyalty. By the time they won
again in 1975, the new Black Dyke era had begun.
Thats our Top 10 What do you think?
As we stated at the beginning, its not just about the playing
of the band on the stage that makes for us a great winning performance,
but the context in which it was done. Thats why we have included
Irwell Springs and Grimethorpe they were occasions when the
importance of the event as a whole and its consequences far outstripped
the actual playing performance.
We had to give it to Dyke and 1959 as our top winner as it has
now taken on almost mythical qualities, whilst the CWS (Manchester)
victory isnt too far behind in the romantic legend stakes.
Dyke in 1972 and 1977 encapsulated perhaps the end and beginning
of two banding eras, whilst Fairey in 1993 was the last time a band
for us has really spanked everyone else into defeat. Cory in 1974
was the beginning of a ten year ascent that culminated in a hat
trick and subsequent rapid decline, whilst Fodens in 1938 can perhaps
be seen in the same context. By the time Faireys won in 1945,
the son had beaten the father and was now the dominant force.
No Desford, Munn and Feltons or Brighouse for us as we felt
that even though they were winning performances, they didnt
quite stir us in the way the others did but if you think
we were wrong, them drop us a line and let us know what you think.