2006 All England Masters International - Postcard


Cambridge is that kind of town and it certainly gives the Masters an unique atmosphere, even if the local waitress makes you feel a bit of a dumbo.

It comes to something when your waitress for your Sunday night out evening meal blithely informs you that she is studying the philosophy and art of the Italian Renaissance as she takes your order.

Especially given that for the most part, hard up students are usually found asking whether or not you "Wanna go big with that?" at your local McRubbish outlet.

Cambridge is that kind of town. It maybe an incongruous place to hold a traditional brass band contest, but over the years it has produced some truly great brass band moments.

Each one of Fodens five wins here has been pretty special too. From the golden period under Howard Snell to the Russell Gray inspired victory a few years ago, Fodens have found Cambridge to be a pretty good hunting ground. Not on Sunday it wasn't though.

Sometimes a contest throws up a result that leaves the vast majority of those who heard what they thought was the winning performance scratching their heads as they leave the hall. Unfortunately, Fodens do seem to be on the end of their fair share of them. Remember ‘Les Preludes' or the ‘Maunsell Forts'?

Here they kicked a black cat, broke a mirror or two in the dressing rooms and walked onto the stage under an errant ladder.  Luck certainly wasn't on their side was it?

Where did I put that Lottery ticket? Paul Argyle waits for his magic number to come up

As superstitions go, Paul Argyle, Rothwell's fine soprano player could be forgiven into thinking that the only thing he missed out on this weekend was the National Lottery given his brilliant run of good fortune.

After giving a superb account of himself with his band, he left the stage to find out that at the exact time he was pushing and panting through his series of difficult cadenzas, his girlfriend was also giving it more grunt than a pack of Welsh front row forwards top produce their baby boy, Harry.  What a priceless gift that was eh?

It was a good job though that Paul's better half was safely ensconced in hospital in Leeds, for if both Reg Vardy and Sellers had produced absolutely thrilling performances then two of their own members may have found themselves adding to their bands personnel lineups.

Joanne Winspear was on excellent form on flugel horn for Reg Vardy, even if the band couldn't get a uniform to fit her in her condition, whilst one of the Sellers percussion team played like a Trojan and whacked out the bass drum like a Roman Galley beater, despite her advanced stage of motherhood.

The two of them deserved medals of honour, for if it was two blokes then you could have guaranteed the band sergeant would have had to produce a sick note at the draw and asked for a substitute player.

Finally, the sartorial elegance of the MDs was a little bit different this year too. Dave Barringer took to the stage in shirt and tie and ready for action, whilst Russell Gray continued on his new found course of displaying intriguingly designed neckwear with another natty number from the Marks and Spencer psychedelic collection.

The Man in Black? Phillip Harper wins the in the fashion stake too

The prize though went to Phillip Harper who took to the stage in a very sinister looking black polo jumper that made him look like a rather elongated version of the Milk Tray Man.  He delivered the goods just as well.

Cambridge has so much to offer the brass band lover. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, although the hall can be hotter than a Turkish bath at times. This year there was the added media coverage from Swiss Television who were following Treize Etoile around as well as the sight and sounds of the upbeat Aussies from Brisbane Excelsior, who proved be great tourists.

It's not everyday you get to hear so many accents in a bar than you can here.  And its not everyday you get a 4 foot 8 inch waitress making you feel completely out of your depth when ordering you steak and chips. That's what makes Cambridge and the Masters such a great contest.

Iwan Fox


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