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Whit Friday: A personal retrospective

John James joins the Rainford Silver Band on a coach a trip round the walks and Guernsey Concert Brass on their memorable weekend.

Travelling east towards the A669 from Oldham with its number of contests on its path this was to be the first destination for the Rainford Band as the coach left the bandroom at just turned 4pm on a warm and pleasant evening.

The journey wasn’t without its troubles as the three lanes of the M60 ground to a standstill at the Birch Services due to an accident at next Junction. Half an hour and 100 yards of progress did not bode well for the plan to play at six venues that evening.

Rainford weren’t the only band to suffer at the hand of transport problems as Parr Band too had their coach break down on their planned route. In a nice turn of fortune though they did eventually get things underway and playing ‘Ravenswood’ as the last band in the 71 band spectacular in Delph they finished the night on a high and took the highest non-Championship award.

Getting back to the progress of the Rainford Band the traffic slowly started to move and at 6pm (2 hours after leaving the bandroom) and they were soon able to leave the motorway and head for their first venue at Greenacres.

Joining the queue of bands waiting to play as the 14th band registered, the Middleton Band was just striking off on their short march up to the pub car park where the contest march would be played.

Kibworth Band followed and continued their evening pursuit of a prize when after the short burst of ‘Pathfinder’ they chose the contest march ‘Roll Away Bet’. They however were not the only prestigious outfit in the queue that Rainford had to follow as both Sunline International Navigation (‘Punchinello’ then ‘Senator) and Black Dyke (‘Punchinello’ then ‘Knight Templar) were set to play before them. Mossley Hollins H.S. (‘Pathfinder’ then ‘Westward Ho’) preceded Black Dyke as Roger Webster and Nick Childs made their way to the contest arena as Dyke ‘Punchinello’d’ they way to join them and then performed with stunning accuracy.

Rainford followed the ‘black and gold’ to their first stage playing ‘Pathfinder’ before giving a performance of ‘Ravenswood’ whilst dynamically well observed probably had a number of loose moments throughout its performance and this was perhaps justly reflected in being placed 28th in the field of 42. As the band set off to play at their next venue they left in readiness Shirland Welfare Training, Meltham & Meltham Mills and the Skelmersdale Band.

Leaving Greenacres a right turn saw the coach travel the 3 minutes or so round to Lees. As the coach dropped down to the registration point it was with amazement that their seemed to be not one coach or band in sight. Nobody quite believed this as Lees usually has a regular steady stem of bands waiting to play.

This was most certainly a good turn of events for the band as it meant that they caught up some of the time lost from the Motorway hold up.

Forming up and marching instantaneously they then contested in the side street that had attracted a goodly listening crowd. Their was not a cat in hells chance of a deportment prize ever going the Rainford way as they misread the double tap and rather than finishing cleanly the street march almost collapsed in its conclusion some taking the 1st time bar whilst others the 2nd !!!!

That may have been the case on the street but there was no getting away from the fact that the performance of ‘Ravenswood’ whilst not without the odd slip in the solo line and an odd moment or two of loose ensemble it was more than a just a notch up on that at Greenacres. 14th band of the night to play and 17th place out of 38 bands.

In 2002 Rainford had their best result at Lees finished 19 of 47 bands and there was speculation after the event that the change in set-up at Greenacres event, which in truth was very well thought out with the bands taking a different exit route, may have in part influenced the direction the bands steered on leaving the village leaving Lees a little less congested.

Up the road to Grotton where St. Keverene Village Youth in their black outfits with gold trim were playing ‘Black Knight’ with great confidence to take 19th place.

Rainford set up to march when the cry came out “clear the road – coach coming” but quickly reforming they completed their Station Road performance with a creditable 21st place from 44 bands considering that the opening wasn’t, should we say, the cleanest you will ever hear! This is no place to name and shame suffice to say it wasn’t yours truly, who having a change from the usual percussion, was bashing out questionable afterbeats on third cornet!

So onward and upward the coach progressed to the next in the line of venues Lydgate. This venue was extremely popular and the masses of people taking in the lovely weather that evening were being treated to some absolutely first rate playing. This was probably the first real queue that the band found itself in as the Blackburn & Darwen senior & B Bands, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Failsworth and High Peak, amongst, others were waiting their turns to play.

This venue where the band played safely rather than spectacularly netted joint 27th place of the 51 bands playing and really a fair result. So with Lydgate done for another year the coach headed towards Delph.

The band had speculated on whether to play at Friezland given that it was lower section only competition but the clock was now moving on and with many of the band members keen to play in the unique atmosphere of the Delph contest it was thought a trip to Friezland, at this stage, would probably have been one mile too many so the decision to move on was the general consensus.

The village of Delph was seething and had an atmosphere that is difficult to put into words. The warmth, buzz and tingle in the air washing over the main street like the ebb and flow of a river.

With the police horses leading the way the band marched to constant ringing applause as they moved towards what would be their final performance and the best of the evening. Joint 17th out of 71 bands appearing, the playing and result was the most satisfying by far.

It had become the norm for the band to finish the night at Dobcross whether or not they were in time to register. On this occasion time waiting at Delph left it too short to play but with the band in relaxed mood and with a wonderful friendly atmosphere in the Dobcross Band Club to enjoy the players mingled with bandsmen and women from other outfits, not least of which were good friends from the Greenhalls Band.

It was hear that they also met the Guernsey Concert Brass who were enjoying their second visit to the Whit Friday circuit, their last visit being six years ago.

The Guernsey band arrived on Thursday, and visited Dobcross Band Club before an early night to prepare for the big day. This year the band took part in the church procession in the morning at Uppermill, a very enjoyable experience even if some members were left reeling at just how long a church procession it turned out to be!

After a quick wash and brush up and back out again for the marching contest, the band played at Broadoak, Scouthead, Friezland, Greenfield, Delph, Denshaw and Dobcross and were delighted to win the fourth section prizes at Delph, Denshaw and Broadoak.

Musical director Simon Applegate chose his own arrangement of ‘Simply The Best’ for marching down and a superb arrangement of a military march entitled ‘The Triumph of Right’ as their contest piece. The band were overwhelmed at the warmth of their welcome at all the villages and the rousing cheers of support were hugely appreciated as the band swung off to what was obviously a very popular choice for the marching down item.

Not content to rest on their laurels the band took part in a concert on Saturday evening at Uppermill Civic Hall with the Armagh Old Boys Band from Northern Ireland and the wonderfully entertaining Lana Clough and her Frankfurters band ! Lana was the high spot of a very enjoyable evening and her efforts to teach some band members the basics of thigh slapping will be long remembered back on the island. On Sunday the band finished their weekend with a concert at Dobcross Band Club and were very honoured to be joined by Angelo Bearpark who played a beautiful rendition of Solitaire and the Post Horn Galop, a very popular choice with the audience.

With the arrangements handled by Phil Beckwith of Champion Brass who organised the trip etc. the band returned to Guernsey on Monday with excellent memories of a truly amazing welcome and a wonderful weekend.

John James: Copyright 4BARSREST


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