John James has a long look back at the year that was 2003 - a year
that had plenty of things to remember. Here is the review of January
and February. Remember "Prague" anyone?
The turn of the year is traditionally a time for optimism. With
the passing of the winter solstice and the days getting longer the
Spring Festival may not have been right around the corner but across
the banding world the optimism for success in the pending Regionals
certainly was being felt as the test pieces were beginning to come
For the Williams Fairey Band though the turn of the year was to
severely test their optimism. It was announced that the 2002 National
Champions had lost their sponsorship and with it came real concerns
about their ability to compete in the 2003 European Championships.
We at 4BarsRest had announced our annual awards for 2002 and nursing
our traditional hangover were making our New Year resolution to
try and make the site in 2003 even more comprehensive than before.
Even our unquenchable optimism for the movement was a little more
guarded than usual as stories reached the movement laced with uncertainties
for the future. A Bill, prepared by the Department of Culture, Media
and Sport, had been introduced to the House of Lords that would
see the regulation of facilities providing entertainment and concerns
extended around the movement of the damaging effects that it could
potentially inflict on concert planning and promotional events.
Kapitol Promotions having been awarded the contract to run the
entire National Championship contest programme from July 2004 announced
that the venue for the Lower Sections in the September 2004 at the
Harrogate International Centre. The Executive Committee of the British
Federation of Brass Bands were obviously disappointed at losing
the contract to manage the Championships but an announcement that
Alan Hope had been appointed as regional co-ordinator to liase with
the eight Regional officers and the membership of a new music panel
consisting of secretary Alan Hope, Richard Evans, Paul Hindmarsh,
C.Brian Buckley and John Maines, responsible for selecting the test
pieces for the Regional and National Finals, was very quickly revealed.
The Kapitol announcements coincided with the first rumblings of
unease filtering through at the choice of the Judith Bingham piece
'Prague' for the Championship Section and these were to grow stronger
as the days passed.
Regional issues seemed to be everywhere as the work of the registry,
in issuing computer validated Registration Reports provoked reaction
from some of the Regional Committees who chose to issue the old
style signature sheets in tandem. The discussions with the Regional
Committees that had raised concerns about validity and accuracy
of these reports got a touch heated but it all turned out to be
a bit of 'storm in a teacup' as the concerns seemed to be dispelled
as quickly as they were raised; a testimony to the hard work of
Colin Morrison and the registry team.
Early doors in 2003 saw some of the principal cornet chairs in
the 'top flight' go on a bit of a merry-go-round. Alan Morrison's
move from Travelsphere to Brighouse followed Nick Paynes move from
'Briggus' to Sellers International Band. Matt Baker took up the
principal chair with Travelsphere following Alan Morrison's departure
which left just an announcement to come from Besses' as to who would
replace Alex Thomas on principal following his moved to YBS on repiano
Having been promised for a while, the 4BR rankings extended to
the top 100 and that saw Fodens Richardson sat at the top of the
list with Buy as you View Cory, and Black Dyke following them. The
highest new entry in the New Year rankings was Swiss outfit Brass
Band Fribourg in at 54th whilst the highest new entry from the UK
was Kibworth in at number 77. Coincidentally another Midlands band
Newstead Welfare had also made a strong climb up the rankings table
On the back of these moves and rankings came the announcement from
Grimethorpe that they were to miss the British Open Championships
in September as they had accepted an offer to appear with the BBC
at their Last Night of the Proms in London's Hyde Park.
One could be lulled into a feeling that January 2003 was just a
succession of changes and low points but this was far from the truth.
Aldborne began the year in fine style in collaboration with internationally
renowned composer David Fanshawe recording 'Fanfare to Planet Earth'
and 'The Millennium March', pieces transcribed by Peter Graham from
the composer's original orchestral scores.
To be administered by the NYBB council, it was announced that a
National Children's Brass Band of Great Britain (NCBB) was to be
launched and this news came as Gwent Youth Band Festival, the oldest
Youth Band contest in the world took place on the 25th January.
In Section 3 Ebbw Vale Junior & Herefordshire Youth were highly
commended while Glynneath Silver and Abergavenny took Sections 1
and 2 respectively.
The Rochdale Brass Band Festival opened the contest year in the
North West where, continuing with the winning ways they had left
off in 2002, Moston & Beswick (Manchester) took the spoils in
the Championship/1st Section whilst Haslingden & Helmshore,
Boarshurst Silver & Wardle & District Anderson Brass took
the lower sections prizes.
On the eastern side of the country the postponed 2002 Wansbeck
Entertainment Contest was finally held and Ever Ready took the top
place with Felling and Ellington Colliery captured the other section
Camborne Town Band Solo and Quartet Contest was again a big success
attracting players from the Cory Youth Band as well as the top young
Cornish players and Porthleven Band did themselves proud taking
both the 14 & under and the Open Quartet prizes. In the Besson
Youth Solo and Quartet Championships, Campbeltown Brass must have
felt it was well worth the three-hour drive to Glasgow when they
lifted seven prizes at that contest.
Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band announced a three year sponsorship
deal with Yorkshire company 'Ben Bailey Holmes' and with one of
its former players at the helm, William Rushworth together with
Kirsty Abbots on principal cornet they began to strengthen their
playing staff and looked forward to 2003 with a relish and true
They were not the only band to have a 'toasty' January as another
Yorkshire band 2nd Section Strata Brass (formerly The Weaver Group
Band) also announced a three year extension to their sponsorship
deal and JAG Mount Charles confirmed a further 12 months sponsorship
agreement for themselves.
In a bold and most optimistic style January closed out with an
announcement from the Scottish Brass Band Association of a major
new Championship Contest. Christened the Scottish Open Brass Band
Championships its inauguration was set to take place in Glasgow's
Royal Concert Hall on 30th November 2003 when the top 6 bands from
the Scottish Regionals would compete with 10 invited bands from
the rest of the U.K. This contest would be complimented with a Scottish
Youth Brass Band Championships to be held on the same day in the
nearby Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama. In confident
style they also gave the announcement they were looking to give
a major face-lift to its Solo and Ensemble Championships.
The early days in February were very much the domain of the Youth
The Action Research Youth Entertainment Championships were held
in Blackpool where Eric Landon guided Rochdale Borough Brass Band
in a most convincing performance to take the title and the National
Youth Championships of Great Britain closely followed this.
A busy Royal Northern College of Music was witness to some outstanding
playing as Rochdale were runners-up on this occasion to West Lothian
Schools Brass Band. This Premier Section was just one of five sections
that went to; Schools Section - Tapton Schools Brass Band; County
Section - Stockport Schools Brass Band; Community Section - JAG
Mount Charles Youth Band & St.Helens Youth Training Band completing
the prize list in the Junior Section.
Continuing the Youth theme Chris Wormald encouraged his young charges
in the Smithills Schools Senior Band as they took part in a 10-hour
sponsored rehearsal in raising money for a planned tour to New Zealand,
whilst on the senior front Desford took up their cases and completed
a successful tour of Holland.
As the dust was settling on the details of Kapitol's National contract
news was released from the British Federation of Brass Bands that
Robert Morgan, having become acting Chairman following the retirement
of David Stanley, would be standing for the substantive position
at the forthcoming AGM. This news was offset though by the announcement
that General Secretary of the BFBB Norman Jones would be stepping
down however it was understood that he would continue to help up
to and through the National Finals in Dundee.
In a news month dominated with the Middle East situation in Iraq
and the Fire Service unrest the Registry also took the decision
to allow borrowed players at the forthcoming Regionals in a move
to help bands with service personnel in their ranks.
The memory of Eric Ball was beginning to have a major impact on
contest management as many musical advisors were beginning to choose
works by this celebrated figure it being the Centenary Year of his
birth. A Centenary Concert, in his memory, was also announced to
be held in the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham close to his birth
date at which Black Dyke and the international Staff Band of the
Salvation Army would jointly celebrate his life in music.
Fairey Band were still looking for sponsorship and they were not
the only band that had a problem with attendance at the European
Championships as Swedish Band Gothenburg withdrew finding the high
cost of attending the Finals prohibitive.
Whilst the problems for Phil Spector, being involved in a murder
inquiry as a woman was found shot at the music legends home hit
the music headlines another high profile music name hit the financial
news. Boosey & Hawkes Instrument Division was acquired by Rutland
Fund Management who set up a new company 'The Music Group Limited'
to oversee this venture including a new facility for brass bands
called Besson Band-Aid. Headed up by Robert and Nicholas Childs,
the service was seen as a way of providing anyone involved in a
brass band the opportunity to seek expert advice on any banding
issues or problems.
This change to B&H was not the only one, as the business restructure
also brought not only speculation as to the future of the famous
company but also discussion as to their rights over the Welsh Brass
Band Registry. It turned out that B&H had no rights at all having
never owned any part of this body and therefore the Welsh Registry
would continue to exist and be managed as an autonomous body.
The concerns over the amendment to the Licensing Bill reached the
ears of the Secretary of State who went on record to allay worries
regarding the consequences of the Bill assuring the movement that
in no way did they wish to introduce Legislation that would compromise
the brass band movement.
The longevity of our bands was highlighted at both ends of the
spectrum. Jeremy Wise closed down First City Brass as commitment
issues and dwindling player numbers became unmanageable yet on the
other hand Linthwaite Band were making preparations to celebrate
their 150 years in existence. A new band was formed following the
idea planted from last years Whit Marches. Comprising 29 members
mainly drawn from Kettering, Leicester & Derby SA Bands, Salvo
Brass planned to give their inaugural concert the following month
and whilst proud of it's SA standing it was not identified as such
to avoid any conflict of interest.
As the month unfolded attention was focused with much interest
on the City of Exeter where an Industrial Tribunal decided to rule
in favour of the band, when a case sighting wrongful dismissal was
brought by conductor Philip Bailey against the Yeovil Band.
To round out the month in general and in the push to try and make
the site in 2003 even more comprehensive we launched our innovative
"Classified Ads" section for bands and players.
It was a busy time on the contesting front.
Flowers took the prestigious Yeovil Entertainment Contest with
JAG Mount Charles in 2nd place and Jeremy Wise had a better time
with a groundbreaking entertainment contest. The results of this
inaugural Milton Keynes Entertainment Contest was Section A; Stansted
Silver (Scratch band) and Section B; Moulton 77. The Coleford Entertainment
Contest that was taken by City of Bristol also complimented the
entertainment contest arena.
The bands competing in the N.E. Midlands Contest really announced
their presence in 2003; United Co-op Crewe, Silk Brass Carlton Brass
and Bakewell Silver all taking early wins.
Brass at the Guild saw Lynda Nicholson adjudicate at her first
contest awarding the developing Nelson Brass the title in Section
D. Meanwhile in the rest of the contest Wire Brass maintained their
strong platform in Section B, Wingates won a strong Section A and
Greenfield captured Section C.
The Oxfordshire & District Brass Band Association Winter Contest
(Test Piece and March) saw pots taken by Wantage Silver, Swindon
Pegasus, Syston, Jubilee Brass, Marsh Gibbon & Yarnton.
In the North East, Fishburn, Cockerton Silver, Ferryhill Town and
the strong 2002 outfit Lockwood Brass all picked up early wins at
the Durham BBA Grading Contest.
The Dutch National Champions, Brass Band Groningen won the first
important contest of the year in the Netherlands repeating last
years win at the Friesland Festival entertainment contest. In the
rest of the division the prizes went with - Section B Soli Deo Gloria,
Section C De Nije Bazun, Section D Brassband Haarlem.
The Besson Scottish Solo & Ensemble Championships were completed
at Howden Park Centre, Livingston. This first Scottish Ensemble
Championships commenced by Johnstone Band, who had the distinction
of being the first to take the stage in this new contest, gave a
good performance that was followed by Whitburn who were in absolutely
superb form to take the trophy. Gregor Stewart (Trombone, Scottish
Co-op) took the solo award.
In North Wales a large entry took part in the Association’s
Annual Solos & Quartets Contest and this was reflected in the
110th SCABA Quartet/Ensemble Contest where thirteen bands were represented.
The North of Ireland Brass Band League Entertainments, Solo and
Quartet Contests were competed as was the well established Rivington
and Adlington Band Slow Melody and Junior Quartet Contest. Porthleven
Town Band Solo and Quartet Contest and the newly implemented slow
melody contest held by Haydock Band completed a number of contests
of this nature in February.
After all the early contests were compiled Ever Ready were the
only top 20 band to make notable progress in the rankings, however,
the Norwegian Championships had a considerable influence with Stavanger,
Manger and Sandefjord all making giant leaps up the table. In the
elite division Stavanger Brass Band and David King took the Norwegian
Crown with Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag (Nicholas J. Childs),
Sandefjord Brass Symposium (Garry Cutt) & Manger Musikklag (Allan
Withington) taking the other places. Fodens Richardson having just
returned from a successful and enjoyable trip to Armagh, Northern
Ireland, sat at the very top of the list with Buy as you View Cory,
and Black Dyke retaining the other top three spots in the overall
To complete the Norwegian Championships Division 1 was taken by
Tertnes Brass (John Hinckley) Division 2 - Brøttum Musikkforening
(Thorbjørn Lunde), Division 3 Fræna Musikkorps (Jens
Kr. Mordal) and Division 4 Tertnes Amatørkorps conducted
by International euphonium soloist Tormod R. Flaten.
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