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The 4BarsRest Awards 2001

OK – so it’s the season for everyone from Smash Hits to the BBC to hand out a variety of gongs, sculptures and free lunches to an assortment of the good, great and down right sexy - so we thought we’d better get in on the act and give our own awards to the very best in the banding world for 2001.

Eight categories:

We’ve given the four main nominations we think deserve to win, but there will be an opportunity for you to give your own nomination is you disagree with us. We’ve given our reasons and we stick by them. Send us your votes and we’ll announce the winners before Christmas and hopefully we’ll be able to present the winners with something to recognise their achievements.

As this is such a long article, we suggest you click the green 'bandroom copy' link to your right, print off and read at your leisure before voting

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Vote here

Voting closes
Sunday 16 Dec 2001
@ midnight


Band of the Year:

It’s been a fairly great year in terms of individual performances from the very top bands, but for us there are four main nominations that stick out as being worthy of taking the award. In alphabetical order they are:

Black Dyke Band
Six long barren years came to end with Dyke winning the National Championships at the Royal Albert Hall this year and in doing so they have reclaimed their reputation as the band to beat – a reputation that was under considerable threat during those years without a title. 2001 saw them take the Yorkshire Area title, come runners up at the Open and then win the Nationals with Nicholas Childs moulding them back to the force they were all those years ago. It could be a permanent renaissance.

Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag

The standard bearers of all that is good and at times great in European banding, Eikanger has remained throughout 2001 as the best band in Norway and one of the best bands in Europe – bar none. They won their National Championships in superb style and went on to record further contest success at the SIDDIS contest later in the year. In addition their concert repertoire has remained at the very cutting edge of brass writing and performing and they are fearless in their approach to contemporary music. The 2002 European sees them return to challenge for a crown they so nearly won for a third time at Birmingham in the Millennium.

The Fodens Band
Even though in title terms 2001 saw the band from Sandbach draw a blank, 2001 also saw them give a series of contest performances that were universally regarded as real musical highlights. The bands association with Bramwell Tovey was a revelation, bringing an orchestral breadth of style that many though impossible for a brass band to achieve. They were runners up at the Regional Championships and were 4th at the Masters, but it was their performances at the Open (where they came 7th) and the Nationals where they were runners up that so impressed us. At both venues they were a fine band led by a conducting maestro and the audiences at both were treated to musical delights.

Yorkshire Building Society
What a year 2001 was – European Champions and British Open Champions, runners up at the Masters and Yorkshire Area and third place at the Nationals – yet YBS ended it somewhat downcast, such are their expectations and record of achievement over the past few years. They were brilliant and different and put their necks on the line by performing to the very edge of their immense abilities wherever they contested. The wins at the Open and European were examples of strength of character that other bands can only envy and at the Masters they were somewhat cruelly robbed of the title by dent of a “rogue” marking from one of the judges. They remain however, the benchmark band – if you can beat them then you most probably have won the contest

That’s our four nominations but we are open to other suggestions. The likes of Williams Fairey, BAYV Cory, Trieze Etoiles and Brighouse all were worthy of a mention as should Grimethorpe, Whitburn, Kirkintilloch and Leyland. All have been bands on the upward curve and could have easily made our top four list.

Conductor of the Year:

Four fine talents impressed us the most in 2001, even though we could have easily put forward a different four or more without a problem. We took into account the achievements of their bands when they were directing operations at the helm and the overall standard they have maintained in their musical approach (regardless of the result at the contest) when directing their charges. These are our four then.

Nicholas Childs
You’ve got to hand it to Nick Childs – given the opportunity to take over at the most demanding and famous brass band in the world he has moulded them into a force once again on the contest stage and further enhanced their reputation on the concert platform and the recording studio. The success in winning the National has shown the revitalisation of the band has been completed and you get the feeling that Black Dyke are back and the band to beat – 2002 could be an immense year.

Garry Cutt
There has never been any doubt that Garry Cutt has been one of the very best band trainers in the business and given the chance to direct a top class outfit his musicianship has shone like a beacon. His direction of Grimethorpe and Leyland during 2001 has been a highlight for us with performances and readings of complex scores that have been musical gems. Grimethorpe were superb at the Open and equally as good at Spennymoor, whilst Leyland were outstanding under his control at the North West Area. 2001 has shown his talents to the full.

Bramwell Tovey
Only two appearances this for the man from Vancouver via Hanwell and GUS, but what two appearances they were. First was an electric performance from both him and Fodens at the Open where they were very unlucky to gain reward (and that’s being charitable) and then there was his inspired reading at the Nationals that so very nearly saw him grasp the title from Black Dyke and Nicholas Childs. His readings have been revelations whilst he oozes style and musicianship – we cannot afford to lose him from the banding world.

David King
Never has a conductor put himself on the line so often as David King – and never has a conductor come out so often on top when the pressure is on. 2001 reminded us yet again of his immense talent and commitment to his band, whilst his readings are full of nuance and detail and chock full of music. This means that sometimes the judges don’t agree with his interpretations, but he wows the audiences wherever he goes. The European and Open successes were testimony to his character as well as his undoubted talent.

Player of the Year:

Four truly great players – all of whom would be worthy winners of our prize. There have been many a fine contest and concert performance from any number of top class players this year, but we think these four have shone out even against some of the best brass players in world let alone the UK.

Nick Hudson
Truly great trombone playing all year from the man who now occupies the top chair at Williams Fairey. His performances on both the contest and concert stage during 2001 have been immense and his solo spot during the Best of British post-Open concert was the highlight of a very long day. It was worth the entry fee alone such was the quality of the musicianship he displayed.

David Thornton
The Euphonium player of the year has been a rock of consistent brilliance with Black Dyke throughout the year and has given superb performances at each major contest and concert he has played. Dyke has a worthy successor to Robert Childs and a man who could very well be the finest player of his generation. All this and he’s a lovely bloke as well.

Roger Webster
The man who came back to Black Dyke has been the catalyst for their success during 2001, leading from the front with superb musicianship - be it on the contest stage or concert platform. His solo playing is just one facet of his world-class talent and he leads by example at all times. Dyke has the very best man for the job sitting in the hot seat.

Peter Roberts
A man without equal on his chosen instrument. 2001 has seen Peter Roberts yet again perform at an incredible standard on the contest and concert platform. At the Open he was simply awesome whilst his solo playing at the European was something people will talk about for years to come. He is untouchable.

Contest Performance of the Year

There has been many a fine performance during the year from many bands at many levels and it has been a difficult choice for us to narrow it down just to the four we have chosen. However, we think these four have stood out (and we have not just looked at winning performances either) and have shown top class bands and top class conductors at the very peak of their form.

Buy As You View Cory
Montreux Wind Dances – European Championships

This was an immensely difficult set test, but Cory was the only band on the day to give a true performance of its undoubted merits. The last movement in particular very nearly destroyed others but Cory were simply outstanding. It was an immense performance from the Welshmen and Robert Childs in particular and such was its effect that it drained them just enough to allow YBS to pip them to the overall title later in the day.

Les Preludes – British Open

What a performance – but what a result. There were undoubted slips and blobs and a bit of tuning trouble with the opening, but no other band on the day for us came close to the overall picture created by conductor and players alike. At times it was like hearing an orchestral brass ensemble such was the breadth and style of their approach to the music. Les Preludes was a great test but not a great piece of music – Fodens and Tovey made it sound the opposite.

Black Dyke
Albion – National Championships of Great Britain

With immense pressure upon their shoulders, Black Dyke and Nicholas Childs give one of the most thrilling and compelling contest performances for many a year on Albion. Such was their complete control from start to finish that there wasn’t a squeak of protest from any quarter of the hall when they were announced as winners and the judges confided to us that they were very clear winners. Against one of the strongest fields at the Nationals for many years, this was the measure of their performance and achievement.

Yorkshire Building Society

Pageantry – All England Masters

It’s not strange that we’ve chosen this performance ahead of their two title winning performances in 2001, but the Masters showed YBS at their very best for us (even though one of the judges didn’t agree with us and the majority of the audience). We placed it ahead of the two others because it revealed YBS as a band that was in complete mastery of a classic brass band test piece – yet made it sound fresh and vibrant without ever losing any of it’s subtlety and nuance. This was what made it so special for us.


CD of the Year

Plenty to choose from here for us and we did look at recordings that we haven’t tried to flog you on the site. We think our choice is eclectic enough, but the thing that made them stand out for us was that they were undertaken with a very secure knowledge of what they wanted to achieve – thus we have discounted many that we felt were very good but lacked an identifiable aim of purpose. These are our four then.

Purcell Variations
Brighouse and Rastrick
Conducted by David Hirst and Stephen Cobb
Egon Recordings – SFZ 101

A superb release of some of the immensely satisfying music of Kenneth Downie – a highly talented and committed man who pieces seek to clarify his Christian beliefs through beautifully realised melodies. Brighouse are on top form and the quality of the recording is very high, but it’s the music that speaks so clearly and makes the release such an inspired joy for both those with religious and non-religious ideals.

Summon the Heroes
Kirkintilloch Band
Conducted by Frank Renton
Egon Recordings – SFZ 102

Kirkintilloch have had a fine 2001 on the contesting stage and from the quality of this recording you can see why. An intelligent programme of music – geared to the easy yet informed listener, which offers repertoire that is musically satisfying and enjoyable. It’s a shining example of how to play to your strengths without ever losing sight of original aim of entertaining. A bit of a gem.

Eric Ball – The Undaunted
Grimethorpe Colliery RJB Band
Conducted by Elgar Howarth
Doyen Recording CD 108

One master paying homage to another. Howarth displays an almost reverential approach to Eric Ball’s music without ever cheapening or reducing the musical integrity of the compositions. Grimethorpe are on fine form and the production values are very high, but it is the way in which Howarth uncovers and reveals the hidden layers of the music that makes this so very special. No one else could have come close to doing it.

Butterworth – The music of Arthur Butterworth
Black Dyke Band
Conducted by Nicholas Childs
Doyen Recording CD 130

A magnificent musical appraisal of a hidden genius of the brass band world. Butterworth has been almost criminally overlooked in recent years, but this recording should restore his deserved reputation as a brass composer of the highest strata. Dyke is on superb form and the recording values are top class, but once again it’s the aims of the CD that have been realised in full. One of the most important releases for many years we said – and we stick by that.


Lower Section Band of the Year

Oh so many to choose from and we are sure nobody will agree in full with our four for consideration, but these four for us all had the hallmarks of bands that are being directed well with players of quality and musicianship. More importantly for us, they are bands that have played to their strengths and have not tried to blow the roof off. Balanced, in tune and together – if only many top section bands could have done the same during the year.

Pennine Brass
Ian Porthouse and his charges have had a very good year and culminated their success in winning the French Open Championships. They were there or thereabouts at every contest we heard them at and displayed a rounded balanced sound without ever overblowing. The direction was top notch and the players clearly responded to his wishes on the stage. They were beaten on a number of occasions but the long term outlook for them is very rosy.

Peter Hawke Garages Lindley
Neil Jowett and his band won the Senior Cup and Pontins Championships in 2001 with performances of real merit and style that were beacons of common sense and musicality in what appeared a sea of overblowing raucous opposition. The Senior Cup performance on Prometheus Unbound was superbly balanced and controlled whilst the win at Pontins on Purcell Variations showed that the band has a very talented group of players that will do well in the higher section next year.

City of Bristol
Bryn James has quietly worked a minor miracle in the veritable banding desert of the West of England with City of Bristol, but their form throughout 2001 in the Second Section has shown that there is plenty of talent there when it can be harnessed. Some super shows that revealed a clever musical brain and a band with a lovely rounded balanced sound saw them come 2nd at the Nationals and 2nd at Pontins, whilst only last week they were 2nd again – only this time they defeated Flowers band in the process. A fine band and conductor in the making.

Shirland Welfare Training
One of the highlights of the banding year for us at 4BR was listening to Marie Smith and her very young band performing Sir Malcolm Arnold’s “Attleborough Suite” in winning the Fourth Section National title in Preston. It was such a delight – balanced, controlled, in tune and very musical. If only other players and conductors were there to listen to it. It came as no surprise that the band also won the Mineworkers Championship as well for they are a very classy outfit that benefits immensely from a sensible and sympathetic MD in Marie Smith at the helm – plus she wears the best sparkly tops in the banding world.



Test Piece of the Year

Plenty of new and old music to consider for this category – not only in the top section but also in the lower sections. The nicest thing to report is that 2001saw contest organisers making inspired choices (long may it continue) of music that was not only challenging for the players but enjoyable for the audience as well. Full marks to the Regionals, European, Pontins as well as the usual Majors. Our four then are.

Montreux Wind Dances
Carl Rutti
European Championships

A fine piece given an even finer performance by BAYV Cory – Wind Dances was different and challenging but musically satisfying for players, conductors and audience alike. It should be used again and again not only in Europe but possibly as a Regional set test and we should make every effort to encourage Mr Rutti to write more for us.

Jan van der Roost
National Championships of Great Britain

Another piece that was different and challenging for players, conductors and audience alike (and we just don’t mean the choreography). Albion was a superbly realised piece that harnessed everything that bands could do very well into a test piece that required a top class band to be on top class form throughout to make it come off. One the day there was one superb performance, but nearly all the bands made it sound exciting and vibrant – what more can we ask for?

Les Preludes
Liszt transcribed by Bram Gay
British Open

A masterly transcription by Bram Gay that had all the traditionalists whistling the tunes all the way home form the Symphony Hall in September. In many ways it highlighted how little the movement had progressed yet also showed that it is the mastery of the basics of brass playing that leaves the best players and bands still struggling. A superb achievement that asked as many new questions about the brass band as a musical entity as it answered.

Attleborough Suite

Sir Malcolm Arnold
Fourth Section National Finals

An absolute gem of a piece. Based on his Second Little Suite for Orchestra this was a brilliant choice for the Fourth Section. Superbly crafted and styled with wit and humour throughout, Arnold’s Suite was the highlight of a fine weekends music making in Preston. It asked so many basic questions of bands that even a top section outfit would have found it musically challenging. Why can’t all lower section music be as good as this?


Special 4BarsRest Award

No real criteria for this one – just an award to the person we think this year has been a beacon of intelligent thought provoking musical output. We could have gone for a player, a conductor, administrator or even adjudicator, but we felt this man had done more than most to offer constructive and well-informed opinion about the state of the banding world than anyone else.

His articles have been positive, his criticisms articulate and well founded and his opinions are based on quality research and musical integrity – and no little experience.

Thus we have given our award to Alan Jenkins of the Brass Band World Magazine. His article about racial interaction and multi culturalism in the aftermath of the race riots in northern England was as good as any we have had the pleasure to read anywhere - let alone in the banding press, whilst his coverage of the major contests and reflections on the days competition are trenchant and though provoking.

We may not always agree with him, but he remains the best writer by far and the best advocate for brass bands that we have in the written press. We spent two days with him at the National Finals in Preston where he was a delight and such good company. No jealousy, no protective secrecy and plenty of jokes, waspish humour and detailed musical insight. It was a masterclass lesson for us.

Alan gets our award and our best wishes. We hope he continues to write for many years to come.

© 4BarsRest

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