The third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson once said: 'I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it'.
Many other people have said similar things down the years – including the great golfer Gary Player, but you wouldn't mind betting that Rochdale Borough Youth's MD, Eric Landon was perhaps thinking along those lines as he made his way home on Sunday evening.
On the flip side, Youth Brass 2000’s Chris Jeans will have been thinking exactly the opposite.
You wouldn’t have wanted to be near his golf stroke on Monday morning, that’s for sure.
Luck is a capricious mistress, and both conductors have been around long enough to share its good and not so good outcomes, but neither will perhaps be too happy with the way fortune smiled or scowled on them in Blackpool.
Sunday's contest provided a wonderful day's entertainment, but as the results were announced it became clear that the fabulous playing of both their bands was to be overshadowed by a referral to the rulebook – or not as the case maybe.
Places not points
The decision to place the bands in order of merit rather than give a points allocation was a new approach this year and seemed well thought out.
However, not even Gary Walczak, the hard working event organiser could have envisaged that Youth Brass 2000 going 17 seconds over the allotted 20 minutes playing time plus a buffer of two minutes to accommodate applause would create such problems.
Not when it seemed perverse that the run over was due to the appreciation shown by the audience for the efforts of the band concerned.
Having a time allocation set from the moment the competing band’s compere starts talking to the time the band ends its final note, may on paper look fair enough, but it has one huge drawback: It involves the audience in the determination of penalty points, not just the bands themselves.
Rules are rules – however strange they may be – and this one appears to stranger than most, but the ambiguity of the situation seems to have been exacerbated according to a spokesperson for Youth Brass 2000.
Their last minute decision to include a musical tribute to Peter Parkes, following the news of his death was accepted by the organisers, but certainly led to them dangerously narrowing that all important ‘applause’ buffer margin.
It was a risk they accepted they had taken, as the spokesperson told 4BR: “We asked if we could play the tribute and were pleased we were able to so, although we felt we still had plenty of time in hand. We knew these rules before we started so when the news came that we had gone over the limit we accepted the penalty.”
Drop in places
As a result, a fine programme that was given first place both for musical content and entertainment by Jim Davies and David Barringer was amended to 2nd in each category.
As the spokesperson added: “We fully accept that we were to be penalised, but it became apparent that we were then penalised a second time with Rochdale and Elland being promoted individually by a place for music and entertainment, resulting in a tie and Rochdale gaining first place overall.”
It seems this is where they believe the ambiguity lies.
“We cannot see anywhere in the rules given to us before the contest that other bands would be promoted due to an imposed penalty. There is no mention of this at all.
The action taken by the organisers was not clearly defined before the contest, and seems to have been done arbitrarily.
If we knew this, our decision to play the additional music would most probably have been different.”
An appeal is therefore forthcoming. “We fully congratulate Rochdale on their victory, but due process must be seen to have occurred. Making decisions such as this without explaining the process seems bizarre to say the least.
We have lodged an appeal in the hope clarification, if not a change in the results, is forthcoming for all bands in future events.”
Open and transparent
Meanwhile event organiser Gary Walzack told 4BR that any appeal will be looked at in an open and transparent manner.
“We are aware that an appeal may be made. The process is fair and equitable and those involved will be informed of any decision made in due course. At present all we can say on the matter is that it if an appeal is lodged within 14 days it will be dealt with in an open and transparent manner – very much in line with the ethos of the contest itself.”
The amended result meant that Rochdale, Youth Brass 2000 and Elland Silver Youth all finished in a tie, with the musical element taking precedence over the entertainment placing.
Rochdale therefore won the title for a seventh time in eleven appearances, although perhaps not the way they would have wanted.
For their part, the adjudicator's clearly made the point that bands needed to check the rules and be meticulous in their preparation, but even they couldn’t have envisaged when giving Youth Brass five of the individual awards on offer as well as those two first places, that the result was to be altered in such a way.
Jim Davies (Music) and Captain Dave Barranger (Entertainment) had a fabulous day and heaped praise as well as constructive criticism on all competitors.
Innovation and creativity were the buzz words and Dave Barringer lauded praise on the band's by telling them they'd shown the senior counterparts just how they should approach the entertainment genre.
Despite the eventual outcome, the battle between the top three bands was very close.
Landon and Evans
Rochdale Borough Youth had won this contest six times since 2002 and the creative thinking of MD, Eric Landon once again proved influential in their seventh victory.
He is to this contest what Richard Evans has been to Brass in Concert – a born brass band entertainment specialist.
The 'Birds and the Bees' theme was superbly conceived with fabulous playing on show from start to finish.
From 'Birdland' through to 'Bye, Bye, Blackbird', the ensemble playing was slick, effective and at times brilliantly comical, helped by great presentation skills.
Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Ugly Duckling' featured bass players Matthew Beasely and James Kenny (both suitably attired) and was brought off with such aplomb to gain the 'Most Entertaining Item' prize, whilst the 'Blight of the Fumble Bee', complete with cornet players dressed as errant worker drones was equally cleverly conceived and executed.
Anyone attending The Sage in November and witnessing this programme should just sit back and enjoy it.
Youth Brass 2000 under Chris Jeans opted for a whistle stop world tour, and having won at Butlins recently, they upped their game with what was at times a truly stunning performance.
Missing out on the title in the way they did will be a bitter pill to swallow, but they will be back – even if they may not be so inclined to take what was a well meaning and poignant musical risk.
Thankfully, what wasn’t effected was the five individual awards they claimed; including ‘Best March’ for 'Capitol Square’, ‘Best Stage Deportment’, ‘Best Soprano’, ‘Best Horn’ and ‘Best Soloist’ for James Fountain, who produced a stunning ‘Napoli’, which may have taken up 80% of the band’s diminished applause buffer in the process!
Defending champion, Elland Silver Youth under Samantha Harrison set the early high quality marker with a fabulous take on Saint-Saens 'Carnival of the Animals', arranged by Murray Greig, which formed part of their highly entertaining programme at The Sage last November.
Superbly played with immaculate stage choreography, which saw them come first in the entertainment category, Samantha couldn’t have asked for anything more from her troops, who gave it everything.
They were a hairsbreadth away from overall victory themselves.
The joy of witchcraft
Enderby opted for the magical world of witchcraft with another cleverly delivered programme that saw them finish fourth.
You couldn't take your eyes of the stage as there was so much happening visually, but it was also matched with excellent musical accompaniment.
Only the outstanding quality of the top three bands saw them end where they did overall. They were excellent.
Wardle and Houghton impress
Both Wardle High School Youth and Houghton finished on a combined score of 11 points after two varied but highly enjoyable performances – although Wardle took the nod for 5th thanks to the higher music placing.
Lee Rigg worked tirelessly to bring the best out of his band that included a fine vocalist, whilst Brian Lamb's tribute to the musicals from Houghton proved to be a quality marker to beat off the number one draw.
Macclesfield Youth and Louise Renshaw returned to the contest after a year away and went home with their best ever finish of seventh, much to the delight of their delighted band rep on stage at the results.
The highlight of the 'weather’ theme was a cracking march, 'The Thunderer' with everyone standing in Whit Friday formation.
Bass player Michael Skidmore demonstrated his potential with a top notch, 'The Sun Has Got His Hat On', and on this form the band can look forward with confidence to the forthcoming National Youth Championships.
The bottom three of Bolton Youth, Sellers International and Poynton Youth all produced programmes that just lacked the crucial element of consistency in execution as they sought to bring variety to their enjoyable sets.
Bolton Youth and Martin Kay opted for a well conceived ‘Musicals’ theme, whilst the highlight of Sellers inventive programme conducted by Simon Kerwin was the beautiful solo voice of Jamie Smith on cornet in 'Danny Boy', which really pulled at the heart strings.
Finally, Poynton Youth and Andy Hirst played safe with an American theme that served them well last year, and it certainly had its moments but wasn't helped by a time penalty.
The lure of The Sage
The link up with the senior Brass in Concert event means that there is a great additional incentive for the competing bands here, and every one of the contenders gave thoroughly enjoyable performances as they strove for victory.
The only pity this year is that in an effort to modernise and become progressive, the organisers may have forgotten to do the same with the rulebook.
Malcolm Wood and Iwan Fox