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2003 Remembered

John James continues his look back at 2003. August and September were two very busy months as the Open saw YBS add another odd year victory to their CV and bands from all around the UK made their way to Dundee for a great weekend.

August 2003

The summer season in full flow for most of the bands in the country but still time to take in some competitions. The Brass In The Park saw overall champions Yorkshire Co-operatives lead home Johnstone Silver with sectional awards also going to Best 2nd Section Band: Newmilns & Galston Best 3rd Section Band: Jedforest Instrumental and Best 4th Section Band: Peebles Burgh Silver.

Staying in Scotland, Kirkintilloch conducted by Craig Anderson won the Land O’ Burns Entertainment Contest at Troon while in Wales at the National Eisteddfod the results went with Championship/1st Section Pontardulais, 2nd Section – Deiniolen : 3rd Section - Beaumaris “B” : 4th Section - Menai Bridge. The results were complimented by Peter Jones, the solo trombone player of the Besses O' th' Barn winning the prestigious composition competition.

A number of main awards were announced with Philip McCann informed that he would be the recipient of the 2003 Mortimer Medal following the All England Masters Award he received in May. Bram Tovey was to be the 2003 recipient of the famous Iles Medal awarded by the Worshipful Company of Musicians and BAYV Cory's euph player David Childs was awarded one of the RNCM'S Gold Medals for 2003.

Not many weeks went by without a conductor and a band parting company and this month it was to be Ransome Band from the Midlands who were the latest to seek new conducting pastures as they announced the departure of Brian Grant.

Remaining with the top section Foden’s Richardson accepted an invitation to compete in the inaugural US Open Brass Band Championships to be held in Chicago in November 2003 and this coincided with the news that they together with Fairey's, Dyke and Household Troops would all feature major works in forthcoming Northern Festival.

John Maines became the new MD at Versatile Brass as Roy Curran departed and the Longridge Band appointed David Thornton as associate Musical Director to Brett Baker with the band.

Bands all across were forging ties on the continent. Jackfield Elcock Reisen Band from Shropshire hosted guest band 'Stadtmusik Mellingen' from Switzerland, SWT Woodfalls Band toured Switzerland and Ratby Co-operative Band returned from a very enjoyable trip to France, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria. Members of the Killamarsh Silver Band and Dronfield Band arranged performances at a series of prestigious including Brussels, Bruges and Ghent and the North Powys Youth Band returned form a successful tour to Barcelona

Celebrations were held as The City of Chester Band reached 150 years and they decided to revive an earlier tradition of walking the famous Roman Walls and this news reached us at the same time as UDI Aberdeen City Band's name bit the dust and out of the ashes the Granite City Brass emerged.

The National Finals were only days away but the fund raising continued as the members of Sandhurst Band got saddle sore cycling 25 miles in order to raise funds for their trip.

September 2003

A truly busy month indeed matching May for its volume of news and results.

The 4th Exmouth Festival of Brass best overall performance and entertainment prize went to Soundhouse Brass (Plymouth) whilst Wetherby & District Silver took top honours at Hardraw Scar Contest. The 2nd United Co-op Brass Band Entertainment Contest held in Buxton saw Vernon BS Poynton take 1st Prize with Easington Colliery ‘easing’ into second place.

Wingates Band conducted by Roy Curran took the Entertainment Contest Prize from Flowers on offer at Wychavon and in the process took home the £2000 top prize as well. The best in Section prizes went to First Section - Bedworth Brass : Second Section - Wire Brass : Third Section - Beaumaris B : Fourth Section - Trinity Girls. Flowers also took the runners-up place in Porthcawl contest to the BTM Band conducted by David Stowell who were crowned the South Wales Miners Eistedfod Champions.

September is the preserve of two massive contests The Lower Section National Finals and, of course, the British Open.

In Birmingham YBS landed the big shield while Whitburn storm to second place and Dyke filled the third spot. Described by one of the adjudicators as "One of the great contest performances" YBS won back the Open title and in the process carried on a sequence of "odd year" victories that stretch back to their first win in 1997.

Unfortunately we were not lucky enough to have the powers at the BBC behind us to broadcasting highlights of the British Open contest this year. Thanks mainly to Paul Hindmarsh we have in the past had support but not his year alas.

Yorkshire Building Society’s great victory took them back to the top of the 4BR rankings table but with a gap that was quite small. Whitburn's fabulous 2nd place, the finest Scottish result at the Open in its 151 year history, took them to 7th place with other significant movers being Ever Ready, Yorkshire Imps Urquhart Travel and Illinois Brass Band.

The 2003 Lower Section National Finals were excellent value for money and much of the credit for the success must go to the organisational abilities of the BFBB who now hand over the reins to Kapitol Promotions.

The Concert Hall, Dundee's Caird Hall was a delightful venue which to both to perform and listen to the Championships. The Fourth section test piece, Call of the Sea by Eric Ball was first up and the winning performance came from Wardle and District Anderson Brass. In the prizes came Long Eaton Silver, Grange Moor Brass, Trinity Girls, Lockwood and Harlech.
Diggle played in sparkling style to win the Nationals Third section title with Four Preludes (Eric Ball). Roy Newsome and Duncan Beckley awarded the other places to Hoover (Bolton), Carlton Brass, St. Dennis, Sandhurst Silver and Conwy Town.

The Nationals, Second section played Sunset Rhapsody (Eric Ball) and to be truthful, the Second Section was the one contest of the Finals that caused us the most head scratching but at the end of the day Hatfield Coal Power took the title with Bollington Brass, Lanner & District Silver, Langbaurgh Brass, Arbroath Instrumental and Houghton Brass taking the places.

And so to the First Section and once again there were some fine performances, especially from the winners BHK (UK) Horden. James Scott and Roy Newsome adjudicated on A Kensington Concerto (Eric Ball) where the Nationals First section unfolded as BHK (UK) Ltd Horden, United Norwest Co-op Milnrow, United Co-op (Crewe), Knottingley Silver, Zone One Brass and Barrow Shipyard.

As with tradition the Regional 2004 test pieces were announced - The Championship set work being “Tristan Encounters” by Martin Ellerby The First Section will get to perform Bramwell Tovey’s “Coventry Variations” which was written in 1986 by the composer for the GUS band. Second Section bands have the very interesting choice of “Kaleidoscope” by Philip Sparke, which is a piece based upon five variations on the Brugg Song, a traditional song of the Swiss town of the same name. Third Section sees the bands having to get to grips with Gilbert Vinter’s “Vizcaya”, which was written in 1967. Finally, the Fourth Section bands will have to play Edward Gregson’s “Partita” - his three movement work which takes its inspiration from the 13th century plain song “Dies Irae”. The movements are entitled, “Intrada”, “Chorale and Variations” and “March”.

The 4BR rankings saw no movement in the top 50 but the first publication of the top 150 showed that some of the bands that did well in Dundee climbed into the rankings. BHK UK Ltd. Horden's victory took them to 76th position with the Hatfield Coal Power 2nd section victory lifting them to 109th position. 3rd and 4th section winners Diggle and Wardle respectively were still just outside the top 150.

The Great Northern Brass Arts Festival at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester again a huge success featured an exhibition about Belle Vue and its years as the venue for brass band championship and this important event came at a similar time to the Thoresby Colliery Band engaged by the Government to perform at the opening ceremony of the memorial garden for the victims of the tragic events in America two years previous.

The Llanrug Band from Wales were to be featured in a BBC Wales two part television programme and this "fly on the bandroom wall" is due to be screened in the near future.

The National Champions of Great Britain, the Fairey Band had better news as they secured a 4 year sponsorship deal that would mean that they would now be called the Fairey FP (Music) Band and this sponsorship also came at a time when Pemberton Old Wigan Bands celebrated a sponsorship deal with JJB Sports.

The steady movement of MD’s saw Richard Grantham has announced his departure after 12 successful years as Musical Director of the Cottingham Band and Kevin Steward has resign from Ratby Cooperative after 10 years at the helm

It had been a busy time for Foresters Friendly Society Brass who took part in the World Music Festival in the South of France and the following week the Guernsey annual “Battle of the Flowers” event. Great Yarmouth Brass celebrated their 30th Anniversary and the The Salvation Army’s Star Lake music camp held in Bloomingdale New Jersey attracted some huge names in the world of brass

The Scottish Brass Band Association announced that the adjudicators for the Scottish Open Championships would be Ian Brownbill, Robert Childs and Stephen Roberts and they would be overseeing performances of Philip Wilby's "Paganini Variations" as the set work for the contest.

Brisbane Excelsior from Queensland, Australia, under the musical direction of Howard Taylor won the A Grade NSW Championships for 2003. Runners-up this year was St Mary’s Band Club with in third place Willoughby (winners of the Own Choice section).

SP&S released a DVD/Video of the European 2003 which is unquestionably a stunning product in the world of brass recordings whilst we at 4BR following on from the phenomenal success of last years "Guess the Top 6" launched a brand new competition for this years National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall when the winner would receive a brand new Yamaha Maestro cornet.

To round out the month the Bands in the Park Contest (Quickstep March/hymn/contest march),Borders Slow Melody Contest and Corsham Band Solo, Quartet and Ensemble Contest were completed. Overseas the Prestige des Cuivres (International Philip Jones competition for tuba, euphonium and brass ensembles), 5th European Open Championships and 14th Swiss Open Contest kept our European brass contemporaries busy as well. Major Peter Parkes added yet another "Major" National Championship to his amazing CV, when he directed Brass Band Treize Etoiles to the Swiss Open Championship. Runners up were Brass Band Bürgermusik Luzern.

John James
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