2008 National Youth Band Championships - Community Championship: Retrospective


There was great deal of expectation before this contest - and it all lived up to the hype with plenty of fantastic playing.

Winning pose: Camborne and Alan Pope do it again
Picture: Nikki Stirzaker

There was a great deal of expectation about this contest prior to the event, and we hinted that if things went to form, then the bands that have been in fine fettle of late could well feature in the prizes - and that was how it turned out.

The standard of the 15 bands (it should have been 17 but Aberystwyth and Dobcross withdrew) was excellent, so that a contest lasting over eight hours did pass extremely quickly.

Enjoyed experience

The judges, James Scott and Simone Rebello certainly enjoyed the experience, as did Katrina Marzella from Brass Band World and your reviewer, and anyone who did manage to make it to the end of the musical marathon would have left, just like that quartet, a touch exhausted but very well entertained. 

One of the things that made the contest so enjoyable was that once a band had played they invariably returned to the Bruntwood Theatre to listen to the other competitors - offering support and encouragement.  Unlike contesting at higher levels, it’s the norm here, and it made for a great atmosphere later in the day.  

Excellent MCs

With loads of encouragement from the two excellent MCs Peter Bates and David Hayward, who did a great job, the amount of commitment put in by the bands wasn’t lost on the adjudicators.  Simone’s summary was great stuff; apologising in the nicest way that the judges couldn’t declare everybody a winner but encouraging everyone to take their remarks on board constructively to help them become better players in the future.

The number of bands in the section was by far the biggest of the day and it does make for a bit of a headache – although a nice one for the organisers. Some MD’s did share their thoughts that it’s time for a bit of a re-think as to the structure of the section, and their message was simple: the BFBB need to talk to the bands to find out what they think is right and wrong with the current contest set up.

The challenge in this section was performing a set work and an own choice programme lasting no longer than 20 minutes. 


Peter Graham’s ‘Dimensions’ proved to be an accessible piece and which featured a number of excellent euphonium players on show. The band’s who were able to bring the music to the fore with clarity and dynamic contrast particularly in the slower section found favour with the adjudicators, and although the top three claimed the main prizes, the top five were awarded Gold Certificates, giving an indication of their thoughts on the what they’d been listening to.

With their own choice selections, most of the bands played to their strengths with familiar repertoire, and as a result there was some excellent playing to be heard - none more so than from soloists, each one of whom gave what can only be described as at times, outstanding performances.


Camborne Youth
led by Alan Pope were simply superb and won this contest by, it has to be said, quite a margin. 

You’ve to give it to Alan for the way he pulls the best out of his band.  Chatting afterwards he made the point that doing well in such a large field was a challenge in itself and he paid fulsome tribute to his talented band for their efforts as well as thanking the band’s Musical Advisor Alan Morrison for his contribution in preparing the troops.

Victory here meant five wins on the trot for the Cornish outfit - they conquered the Junior Section between 2004-2006 and last year took the Community title.  There was no question about it this time either – this was a performance that was worthy of the Premier Section.

What stood out was the consistency of their execution.  Being able to do this with the set work and own choice isn’t easy but Camborne produced the goods when it mattered and all you could do was sit back and enjoy.

The opening of ‘Fanfare and Flourishes’ was full of energy before Samuel Eddy and Rebecca Merritt joined forces on soprano and flugel to deliver a fine performance of ‘Piu Jesu’. ‘Dimensions’ was also so well delivered with excellent attention to detail and dynamics and the winning programme was rounded off with John Miles’ ‘Music’ with everything kept under a tight reign from the middle.

Excellent performances

In our pre-contest predictions, we made the point that we felt there wouldn’t be too much to choose between Youth Brass 2000 and Sellers International - and these were the two bands who finished second and third, both giving excellent performances.

Youth Brass 2000 led by Chris Jeans focussed on the music of Peter Graham, top and tailing the test piece with ‘Amazonia’ from his ‘Windows of the World’ and ‘Shine as the Light’

‘Amazonia’ was performed minus MD and the band settled quickly into its stride. Although there was the odd moment in ‘Shine as the Light’, it was a good closing number for them too.  Where they really did excel though was in the test piece that was hallmarked by consistency of execution throughout. 

The control showed in the central slow section was superb and credit must go to Sarah Lenton, the band’s solo euphonium for her contribution throughout.

Mark Bousie’s Sellers International Youth became the first band of the day to catch the ears of the adjudicators with a solid show that centred on the music of Peter Meechan. 

Pete’s ‘Fanfare for a Festival’ featured the cornet section whilst the band’s principal cornet Jo Murray (who was recently the Principal Cornet at the NYBBGB’s Easter Course) performed ‘Apex’ with purposeful clarity before closing with 'Curtain Call’, premiered by the band at the Youth Entertainment Contest in February.   The MD kept things tight throughout and they were the first band to really bring the detail out of ‘Dimensions’. 

Having received Gold Awards but narrowly missing out on a top three finish last year, breaking into the top three for both events this year is an indication of the continuous improvement within the band.


The two other bands to receive Gold Awards were Carnoustie and District Youth and Mount Charles Youth.

Carnoustie were making their debut and had Richard Evans (in appropriate sartorial elegance) at the helm. 

This was great stuff and as you’d expect from Maestro Evans leading a band, it had all the necessary bravura and flair, but also control as well. Nothing was ever over done from the opening of Alan Fernie’s ‘Alba’, through to Ailsa Russell’s fine display in ‘Cappricio Brilliante’, the test piece and the MD’s trademark – a swagger march, in this case, ‘The New Colonial’

The players certainly enjoyed their experience and thanked the MD afterwards. 11 of  them will soon team up again later this year for the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland’s trip to Japan led by Richard himself. 

Mount Charles’s programme was also influenced by a fine composing talent – their conductor, Simon Dobson.  ‘Little Hymn’ showcased a quartet of players that demonstrated a delicacy of sound, whilst their finale, ‘Showstopper’ was an up-tempo number that features various sections of the band.

They’d opened up with a solid performance of ‘Dimensions’, but their finest moment came from Yasmin Stevens, the band’s flugel horn soloist, whose control and delivery in Jan Magne Førde’s ‘Domen’ deservedly gave her the prize for the Best Instrumentalist within the section.

Six silver contenders

Six bands were awarded Silver Awards for their performances.

The 2007 Community Section Champion Dallmellington Junior made their debut here and they were conducted by Ian Taylor in one of the most flamboyant styles your reviewer has seen in a long time - and that is saying something! 

Fair play to the MD, he manoeuvred himself around the band getting every ounce of effort from his troops, and it paid dividends.  The march ‘Bright and Breezy’ contained plenty of energy, whilst David McClean on tenor horn gave a fine account of the ‘Lark in the Clear Air’ prior to an impressive set work. 


Meanwhile, Samantha Harrison’s Elland Silver continue to impress on the contesting stage and having won the Junior Section last year faired very well here.  Philip Varley led the band in fine style but it was his colleague Matthew Shaw who gave an impressive performance of ‘Georgia on my Mind’ whilst Peter Graham’s ‘Hine e Hine’ was one of the few quiet pieces selected during the contest.

With Aberystwyth withdrawing it was Horbury Victoria who had the unenviable task of opening the contest – which they did in fine style.  Star of the show for 4BR was Charlie Welsh on principal cornet and in particular his rendition of ‘Let Me Try Again’.

Nigel Birch’s Lions Youth featured Neil Raisbeck on horn in a piece composed by his brother, Ian entitled ‘Caprice’.  The Cheshire outfit’s strongest part of their programme though was the test piece where plenty of control was on display particularly in the second section.

Familiar ground

meanwhile stayed on familiar ground with three movements from ‘Cry of the Celts’, although the performance here didn’t have the impetus it had at Blackpool at the Action Research contest in February.  ‘Dimensions’ was steady stuff though with some fine moments mixed in with some uncomfortable ones.

Tewit Youth also opted to play selected movements from a complete work, in this instance, the first three from ‘The Armed Man’ that wasn’t bad at all. It did have a few uncertain moments, but nothing that detracted from some good music making, and the same can be said for their test piece too.

Bronze Awards

That just left the four bands who were presented with Bronze Awards: Astley, Chalford, Enderby and Macclesfield Youth.

The Lancastrian outfit, Astley Youth, didn’t quite hit their straps on the day.  Toby Hobson’s outfit, opened nicely with Rimmer’s ‘Victor’s Return’ whilst Michael Collier gave a very good account of himself in ‘Sugar Blues’.

Chalford under Steve Tubb put together a varied programme that didn’t perhaps gel as much as they’d hoped.  The MD’s arrangement of ‘Shine’ was performed with boundless energy, as was their opening ‘Clog Dance’, but the highlight for us was Katie Godwin’s flugel playing in Philip Harper’s ‘Beneath the Willows’ where the soloist produced a lovely warm sound.

Enderby from the Midlands meanwhile opted for just two pieces: Jacob de Haan’s ‘Oregon’ and the set test and we’ve certainly heard them play better than on this occasion (Blackpool in February) and perhaps some alternatives to ‘Oregon’ may have been more appropriate.

Macclesfield Youth and Louise Renshaw, like all the other bands, gave a fine account of themselves.  The test piece did just that, test them, but they coped admirably with the music.  Their other two contributions were a robust ‘Punchinello’ and Bass Trombonist, Tom Gilbertson starring in a growling ‘Mini the Moocher’.


With the marathon finally at an end there was still the matter of the presentation of the awards. 

Ian Mason, on behalf of the Co-operative, the main sponsors of the contest, made a presentation to Louise Renshaw from Macclesfield Youth for the sterling work that the band does within its local community and beyond.  Also acknowledged by the BFBB was Kathleen Harrison who received the Brian Hicks Memorial Shield for her continued service to the various ensembles attached to Elland Silver. 

They were fitting and deserved presentations to two of the movements hardest working and progressive band trainers and rounded off a highly enjoyable, if slightly exhausting contest.

Malcolm Wood. 


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