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The British Open Brass Band Championships.
82nd Spring Brass Band Festival
The Winter Gardens Blackpool
Saturday, May 11th 2002

Review: Grand Shield
Qualifying Contest for the 2003 British Open
Test Piece: Checkmate, Bliss arr Eric Ball
Date Posted: 09.05.02

Welcome everyone to the sun, sea and six packs of the jewel of the North West - Blackpool. Never can there be a better place to have a brass band contest can there?

4BR have packed our sunglasses, thermal vests and scores of the test pieces to come up and enjoy what should be a great weekend of brass band contesting. Three fine line-ups of bands should see three close run contests and we'll be there throughout to bring you the best coverage that we can.

We have teamed up with an independent panel of adjudicators who will be sitting in the audience at each contest to give their written remarks on each performance. We'll then post them up on the site, so that you can see how the bands have fared, and we will be giving the verdicts of the these judges before the announcement of the official results so that you can see how whether or not the judges in the box agreed with us. Should be interesting eh?

Hope you enjoy what we are trying to do. There may be the odd glitch or mistake, but we'll to keep you involved in the weekends contesting as best we can.

The Competing bands:

Ashton Under Lyne, John Maines
Aveley and Newham, Nigel Taken
Besses o’ th’ Barn, Lynda Nicholson
BT, Michael Fowles
Bodmin Town, Russell Gray
Cwmaman, John Hudson
First City Brass, Jeremy Wise
Fishburn, Graham O’Connor
Flowers, Philip Harper
JAG Mount Charles, Bryan Hurdley
Kibworth, John Berryman
Marple, Derek Broadbent
Newtongrange, Ray Farr
Peter Hawke Garages Lindley, Neil Jowett
Ransome, Peter Parkes
Rothwell Temperance, David Roberts
Seindorf Beaumaris, Gwyn Evans
Sellers International, Philip McCann
Skelmanthorpe, Kevin Wadsworth
Wingates, James Gourlay

The Grand Shield is traditionally seen as one of the hardest contests in the banding calendar to win and the 2002 contest should be no exception. Just look at the list of bands that have won through to the British Open over the past ten years or so and you’ll see that only bands of quality get the tickets for the big prize.

YBS, Cory, CWS Glasgow and Whitburn to name but a few have had to win here to get an invite to the Open and the list of good quality bands that have just scrapped into the Open by dent of coming second is just as impressive. You have to be a good band on top form to gain reward.

This year sees 19 very well matched outfits (First City have withdrawn) all striving for a place at Symphony Hall and it could well be one of the closest contests for many a year. No one band stands out as being favourites and there are as many as twelve that we can list that are more than capable of lifting the top prize itself and repeating Kirkintilloch’s triumph of 2001. So here is the recent form guide of the bands:

Ashton Under Lyne have done fairly well here over the past two years and came 5th in 2000 and 7th last year. They recently came 2nd in the 1st section at the Regional Championships and won the Tameside contest in April, so hope they come on a run of form. The experienced John Maines directs this year’s assault.

Aveley and Newham are a band that should be well in with a shout – if they play to form and they were disappointed to come 5th here last year. Not a great start to the year at Yeovil where they came 9th, but they recovered form somewhat to qualify yet again for London by coming 2nd at the Regional Championships. They have the talent and this could be the year they finally get to Birmingham.

Besses O’ th’ Barn will be directed for the first time at a major contest by Lynda Nicholson, and the former Principal Cornet at Desford and inspirational conductor of the St. Helens Youth Band will be hoping to prove her worth here. Not a bad start to the year for the famous band with 4th place at the North West Regional, but they will be hoping to improve on last year’s 11th place and even pip their 3rd spot of 2000 to get the trip to Birmingham.

BT will be directed Michael Fowles and they will surely be hoping to see an upturn in fortunes after coming 8th at Yeovil and then 9th at the strong North West Regional. 12th here last year means they may have a lot to do if they are to make a mark, but Mike Fowles is a talented MD and they have plenty of good players around the stand. They need to play well though to make the trip.

Bodmin are a band that has a very good record here in the past three years, with 3rd place and just missing out on the Open in both 1999 and last year. In 2000 they came 9th – but they appear to like this contest. A good start to the year at Yeovil where they came 2nd was replaced by the disappointment of 7th place at the West of England Regional Championship. They should be strong contenders again though and will have Russell Gray at the helm to direct their assault.

Cwmaman Institute came 3rd at the Senior Cup last year and since then have steadily improved contest by contest and put up a fine show at the Welsh Regional Championships to come 4th and also played well at Ebbw Vale a few weeks ago (on this test piece) to come 3rd behind Tredegar and BTM. John Hudson is a fine MD and knows the qualification game inside out (he took Tredegar back to the Open here in 1994). Plenty of quality players and a fine spirit, they could well be a dark horse.

Fishburn have been going through the mill a bit of late, and we can only hope that the unfortunate incidents of the North East Regional Championships are behind them. They came 3rd there, but it was their first outing with Graham O’Connor, who has a very handy knack of qualifying at thus contest over the years and this could be their ace up the sleeve this time. Plenty of talent and a very wise old head to direct operations – they could well spring a surprise and could well feature higher than the 10th place of last year.

Flowers were winners of the Grand Shield back in 1998 and went on to perform with much credit at the Open before falling back after coming last at the Open in 2001. On their day, Flowers can be an outstanding band, with superb players around the stand and exciting direction from the MD - 3rd place at Yeovil this year being a case in point. However sometimes they do overcook things – 3rd place at this year’s Regional Championships being a case in point, so it will be interesting to hear how they tackle the test piece. Could and should feature very highly, but you never quite know. One to make sure you listen to though.

What to make of JAG Mount Charles eh? We tipped them to win at the West of England Championships but it seems we put the kiss of death on them and they performed below par to come 4th. Given that they had been riding high on the successes of last year and at Yeovil, this was a major disappointment and they will be keen to show the banding world that they are a real force to be reckoned with. Bryan Hurdley is experienced enough to know what to do, but can his players respond? 14th last year and 8th in 2000 isn’t a great record. Interesting.

Kibworth were a band we took a liking to last year after they gave a series of very musical and well-balanced performances under the direction of John Berryman. They could however only manage 8th place in the 1st section in the Midlands Regional in March and so they will be keen to get back to form. John Berryman will bring sense and shape to the performance, but this is a hard contest to make a mark at and it could just be beyond them this time around. They qualified for the Grand Shield by coming 6th in the Senior Cup last year.

Marple were British Open Champions in 1996, but now find themselves back in the qualification pool after being relegated from the Open last year. A finer bunch of people you will never meet, but the years since that triumph have been hard and it could be even harder for them to return. 7th at the North West Regional Championships was a very encouraging start though and they should at least consolidate in the top half without too many problems. Derek Broadbent directs, and we hope he remembers to put in the last note this time.

Newtongrange have Ray Farr directing operations and they came 5th at the Senior Cup last year to gain their shot at the big time here this time around. 3rd place in Scotland a few months ago was a good indicator that on their day and with Ray Farr at the helm they could well feature highly. Lots of quality around the stand and with Ray Farr fresh from the European, they will be keen to take emulate Whitburn and CWS Glasgow and take the Shield back north of the border.

Peter Hawke Garages Lindley were one of the most successful bands of 2001, but 2002 has seen them taste disappointment. The winners of the Senior Cup and Pontins last year could only manage 4th place in the 1st Section at the Midlands Regional Championships, so they will be keen to show that this was only a temporary blip in form. Lots of quality and a fine MD they could feature – but they are up against a stronger field than last year’s Senior Cup.

The Ransome Band should be one of the favourites to take the title here – especially as they have engaged Peter Parkes to direct their assault. Here is a man who knows about victory and actually took Whitburn to the title back in 1991. Ransome have dropped a little in form since coming 2nd at the Nationals a couple of years ago, but they still have plenty of top quality players around the stand and should be more than capable of presenting a very strong challenge. 5th place at the Midlands Regional was a major let down – as was relegation from the Open; so don’t be surprised if they come out al guns blazing. Ones to look out for.

Rothwell Temperance and David Roberts are another band that on their day can perform as well as anyone here and they certainly have a raft of players (especially soloists) that could be their strongest card. 7th at the Yorkshire Regionals wasn’t a bad result, and in fact they could well have come higher, but they will have to be on form to get higher than the 7th place here of 2000 and 8th place last year, when they didn’t perform as hoped. Could well feature.

No other band could be coming to the contest with hopes as high as Seindorf Beuamaris, who were 2nd at the Senior Cup last year and just a few months ago startled the Welsh Regional Championship with a top class show to come runners up to BAYV Cory and qualify for London. They beat a number of top line bands that day, but it will be interesting to see if the personnel they had on show that day (including Andrew Berryman on trombone) is still on the books. They are still a very strong blowing line up though and with plenty of stamina this could be a piece well up their street. Don’t be surprised if they feature highly once more.

Sellers International are a band reborn under Philip McCann and are surely one of the pre match favourites to do very well here. Excellent solo players and strong back up ensemble, they came 4th here last year and 13th the year before, but a recent 6th place at the Yorkshire Area and a fine outing late last year at Spennymoor shows what they can achieve when they put their minds to it. Possibly the band to beat?

Ntl Skelmanthorpe qualified for the Grand shield by coming 4th at the Senior Cup last year, but they were disappointing at the recent Yorkshire Regional Championships and could only manage 11th place. Kevin Wadsworth continues to work the band hard and they do have the quality to do well, but the standard of bands around them could well mean consolidation rather than triumph this time around.

Wingates have opted for the considerable talents of James Gourlay to head their assault and to possibly repeat their triumph here in 1996. On their day they too are another band that can mix it with the best and they put up a fine show in the North West Regional Championships to come 5th. Some really top class performers around the stand and with James Gourlay to direct, they will be strong contenders and will be very keen to make an improvement on their recent record here that has seen them come 6th in 2000 and 9th last year. Well worth a listen to.

As we have said: The Grand Shield is possibly the hardest contest of all to win, and the two bands that do finally get the nod from the men in the box will have surely deserved it. Plenty of good quality hard working outfits this year should make it a close run thing, but there are a few bands that really do have the technique and sound to make the most of a hard blowing test piece. Add a bit of experience from the men in the middle and you can possibly see where the two qualifiers will come from.

4BarsRest Prediction:

1. Sellers International
2. Ransome
3. Wingates
4. Flowers
5. Besses O’ th’ Barn
6. Aveley and Newham

Dark Horse: JAG Mount Charles

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