Nationals 2001: The
Cory Double The National Championships 2000
Who would have thought it? It had taken 148 years for a Welsh band
to win the British Open title and 74 years up to 1974 for one to
win the National Championships, but within two months last year,
the Buy As You View Cory Band won the one and did the other for
a fifth time.
The historic victory in Birmingham in the September had filled
the band with a sense of purpose that many felt was not misplaced,
as they were always going to be one of the favourites to win the
National, due to their capacity to play loudly with a rounded sound
the prerequisites for success at the Royal Albert Hall. All
they needed was a good draw and a little bit of luck.
Saturday, October 21st revealed both the nature of the opposition,
the judges and a test piece of quite immense technical challenges.
The opposition was not quite as strong as the field in Birmingham
as the traditional route through the qualifying heats around Britain
had culled more than a fair share bands and some such as
Black Dyke would surely have been contenders. Still it was a pretty
strong field with plenty of rivals more than capable of winning
the top prize.
The judges were a trio of the tried and tested in the shape of
David Read, William Relton and John Wallace, so there was little
concern that a dud result could be on the cards, whilst
the set test was a new composition by Peter Graham entitled Harrisons
The piece had been universally welcomed by both players and conductors
and featured passages of technical complexity combined with quieter
reflective moments that made the piece a real tour de force.
In addition, it featured a section that had nearly all members of
the band take up small chimes of various sizes to imitate the chiming
of the timepiece that the music tried to picture. This was a story
about the sea, and as the day went on it became almost an analogy
of the events that unfolded.
The draw revealed nothing more than we always knew that
some bands would be happier than others. Cory had got 12, YBS a
fine 17, Brighouse an even better 18, Fodens 15, Travelsphere 10
and Grimethorpe the dreaded number 2. The honour of kicking off
proceedings went to the Scottish and CWS (Glasgow).
CWS had booked Nicholas Childs to lead the assault and the new
man at Black Dyke brought an immense sense of style and drama to
a real marker of a show. With Roger Webster on solo cornet for a
last outing before he too went on a return ticket to Dyke the band
gave an exceptional account and found themselves as the leading
contenders for over a third of the contest. 191 points off number
one was a superb effort.
Next up Grimethorpe and with Garry Cutt at the tiller they were
a band that had just come third at the Open and was on something
of a crest of a wave. Unfortunately they got snagged on the reef
and partial sunk to a very poor 10th place. It could and should
have been so much better. Ever Ready were also a band that had high
hopes, but the thought of a number three draw had already scupperred
them before they even took to the stage and a performance that never
rose above three knots saw them sink into the midfield of the crowded
Armada and they came 13th.
Flowers took to the waves next with Captain Richard Evans at the
helm, but his was a bravura performance in the midst of a ship that
was fatally holed below the plimsoll line and they limped back into
the safety of a home port in 16th place. The crowd must have thought
that the overall standard wasnt brilliant when Fishburn gave
an error riddled performance that had adjudicator John Wallace remark
that someone should have shot the percussionists. It wasnt
that bad, but it wasnt that good either and they found themselves
at the bottom of Davey Jones Locker in last place, next to the corpse
of Point of Ayr band who had withdrawn before the contest.
First City Brass came on stage resplendent in multi coloured shirts
and determined to show that London bands could compete with everyone
else given half a chance. Jeremy Wise used years of experience to
play to his bands strengths without ever over committing themselves
and they got just reward for a safe bit of navigation through the
treacherous waters to come a well deserved 9th. Unison Kinneil however
were blown out of the water like the General Belgrano and sunk somewhat
without trace in a sea full of flotsam and jetsam. Last but one
was a fair reflection of a disappointing performance.
So with a third of the contest gone, CWS (Glasgow) were comfortably
ahead of the field and by a considerable margin in the judges
ears. The audience was somewhat dumbfounded by the performances
of many of the bands and had yet to hear a real show that they could
consider worthy of the title. Glasgow were good, but surely it was
a performance that could be beaten?
Ransomes came to the contest on a bit of a downer to say the least.
The Open had seen them give a poor performance that ultimately led
to them losing their coveted place at the contest for 2001, so they
approached the Nationals with the attitude to show people that they
were a fine band. This they jolly well did. It may have helped that
they played after the judges had heard a series of pretty poor shows,
but in retrospect it was a very fine reading and a very dramatic
performance of musical note. The use of large long bells, partial
submerged in buckets of water which were raised and lowered when
hit gave an eerie sense to the musical picture of a sea full of
drowning men and Russell Gray gave the music time and space to be
heard in the bellowing dynamics of the Royal Albert Hall. It was
a thoroughly fine performance that merited a high mark.
Surely Williams Fairey would be even better, especially as they
were smarting after a performance at the Open that should and could
have been so much better than its fourth placing. This time however
the performance never lived up to its brilliant start and
the playing was riddled with more holes and leaks than boat full
of Chinese refugees on the High Sea. It signaled the end of James
Gourlays captaincy of the good ship Fairey and they slunk
to a disappointing 8th place.
Travelsphere under Melvin White were also a band that got stuck
in its moorings before it could set sail onto calmer waters
and the band was literally all at sea for far too long
at the beginning before they recovered their sea legs to come in
12th. It was a pretty uncomfortable voyage for players and conductor
alike and led to the Captain having to lose his stripes and command.
Desford and the most experienced Captain in the form of Admiral
Peter Parkes also found choppy seas early on and started to take
on water straight from the start. It was sounding pretty uncomfortable
until the Major (sorry Admiral) steered them to the relative
safety of 11th place. Both Desford and Travelsphere could have expected
better when they first set off, but in the end both were glad they
didnt sink like a brick like some less fortunate travellers.
BAYV Cory took the stage with a sense of purpose (and if any of
them had been listening to any other performances, with a real sense
that they could play all of them off the stage without a problem).
Within a minute it was obvious the hull of the good ship Cory was
made of reinforced steel as the demanding semi quaver opening was
rattled off with style and clarity - It was like hearing a machine
gun go off. With the first technical part safely tucked away in
the hold, they performed to a level that no other band until then
was capable and the performance was notable for the lack of splits
and blobs and a real sense of movement. There wasnt a weak
spot in sight and the Robert Childs led his ship at full steam into
an ending that was exciting as it was powerful. It was no surprise
that this was the performance to beat.
Tredegar had the hard task of following them on and they too gave
a performance of real musical merit and technical sparkle. It shipped
a bit of water in the quieter movements and a few of the sailors
had a bit of a wobble, but overall it was a voyage that confirmed
excellent seaworthiness. 5th place was a fine return and confirmed
that the band had recovered from losing many of their crew to their
fellow rivals earlier in the year.
Bodmin set sail straight afterwards and although they had their
moments they never really got to grips with the music and struggled
through to land in 15th place. Gareth Pritchard however was a model
of good sense and many of the players performed well, but the band
as a whole lacked enough steam in the boilers to really make a mark.
Bramwell Tovey was the man who had the opportunity to give Fodens
Courtois their second win in three years and for many in the audience
he gave a musical reading that was stunning. There were moments
of unease in some of the solo lines at times, but the overall picture
was simply breathtaking and it was only the small blips and blobs
that robbed them of victory. Against the performance of BAYV Cory
it was as different as the Cutty Sark against the SS Great Britain.
Fodens had the beauty and grace but Cory had the power and fortitude.
The latter won the day.
Leyland came and went like a ghost ship lost in the Bermuda Triangle
a veritable Marie Celeste of a performance that had the structure
of something fine but lacked the able body of seamen that could
have manned a real forthright challenge. They came a distant 14th.
There were now just three bands remaining and two were of the dreadnought
capacity to sink Corys possible triumphant Ark Royal. Yorkshire
Building Society were the European and Masters Champions, but had
been stung in defeat at the Open where they came 6th off an early
number 3 draw. David King shored up the rigging and set sail, but
within moments of hitting the high seas his crew had come a cropper
and his ship listed from port to starboard with unease. The harder
they tried the more water they shipped and although they corrected
course the mistakes made where calamitous and they couldnt
recover. Somehow you felt the conductor knew it and he left the
stage at a hornpipe tempo to find his changes blown away in the
storm. 17th was unfair, but it didnt really matter. His band
didnt do enough to win.
Brighouse and Rastrick had got the draw they wanted and had proved
in the past three years that on their day (and in the past three
years the third weekend in October nearly always contained their
day) they were unbeatable. Perhaps that sense pervaded their performance,
as they played with a sense of abandonment that left them with too
much to make up in the last third of the piece. They too had lost
their chance and fourth place was a place higher than in reality
Aveley took the stage as last band on the day, but the major prizes
had already been decided. Cory it seemed could not be defeated and
like a stately galleon they had ridden over the storms and heavy
swells without losing a man or shedding a sail. Aveley played very
well and had their moments, which pleased both the audience and
the men in the box to come a well-deserved 7th place, but by the
end of their show people were already filling in their choices for
the top six prizes.
The judges had plenty of work to do, so BAYV Cory took the stage
again to perform a mini concert that featured David Childs on euphonium,
whilst his father twirled his baton with one eye and mind on the
possibility of becoming the first Welshman to win the twin titles
in one year.
A few short speeches later and the prizes were announced. Polite
applause met the announcement of CWS (Glasgow) in 6th as many people
still thought it was a performance of real merit from number one,
whilst an appreciative cheer or two met Tredegar and 5th place.
The top four and automatic invites came to Brighouse in 4th, which
surprised many and 3rd went to Fodens, who were the most musical
of the day, but who had too many holes in the hull to take the ultimate
Now the last two. Cory, YBS, Fairey and Leyland were still to be
announced, so many thought at least two of the heavyweights would
miss out. Second place with 196 points went to band number 8
Ransomes. There was a hush and then the murmur of chatter and discussion
as people comprehended a bit of a shock. Not that it wasnt
deserved they thought, but second?
So the Champion Band of Great Britain in the Millennium Year was
. 12 the Buy As You View Cory Band. Pandemonium
in the Hall and a Welsh band as Double Champions. Just three months
previous, who would have thought it? The so-called name bands of
England were left like a Pearl Harbour of sunken hopes and aspirations
as YBS came 17th, Faireys 8th and Grimethorpe 10th. Buy As
You View Cory were the National Champions and masters of the high