Talk to Yorkshire brass band supporters about just how good their bands are and they reply straight from the heart: It’s their greatest strength as well as their most obvious weakness.
Temple of excellence
The pride in their achievements permeates every nook and cranny of St George’s Hall in Bradford – their very own Victorian temple of brass band excellence.
At times you can’t stop them babbling on about just how good they are – and it seems not without good reason.
However, they can be blinded in the ‘one eye’ by the brilliance of their very best exponents, who will thrill the packed auditorium late (and it could be very late) on Sunday evening.
Despite the famous National Trophy residing in the county for a fifth successive year, not everything is quite as worthy of a heartfelt boast or two at lower section level.
For a third successive year not one Harrogate qualifier returned home with a title to its name – and only one managed a podium finish.
Yorkshire may well boast seven Albert Hall winners since the turn of the Millennium, but that’s one more than the entire efforts of all four lower section qualifiers during the same period of time.
The Third and Fourth Sections have produced just one National winner since 2000 (you have to go back to 1993 for the last time a Third Section band won) – and that was in 2006.
Their great rivals across the Pennines have produced 11 in the same period as well as 35 top six finishers to Yorkshire’s 11.
The best in Bradford are brilliant – but there doesn’t appear to be such great strength in depth.
The lifeblood that keeps Yorkshire’s banding heart beating has been of a pretty thin mix of late.
That though may be about to change, although a 12 band Championship Section (reduced by one this year by the withdrawal of Old Silkstone) remains one of the root causes of Yorkshire’s lower section malaise.
There have been encouraging results recently from bands on their travels in the lower sections – with City of Sheffield and Dronfield (who now fly the White Rose flag above their bandroom after their move from the Midlands) taking Butlins titles, with rivals close on their coat tails.
That Yorkshire banding blood may not be as diluted as some may think.
There is further good news in that the region has lost only lost 2 bands since 2010, although it is still disturbing that those include long established competitors such as Old Silkstone, Holme and Yorkshire Co-op as well as Gawthorpe, Cornerstone, West Yorkshire Police, Haworth and Dearne Valley.
Thankfully, Dronfield has popped over the border, whilst the great work of Peggy Tomlinson and her volunteers has seen them bring back City of Bradford, Horbury Victoria, Golcar and Yorkshire Traction Honley.
As always there will be a great deal of interest from all corners of the banding globe to what goes on at St George’s Hall, (Peggy heads a very slick operation) although it is safe to assume the BBC won’t be following Dinnington again, (brass bands seem to be off the BBCs whimsy radar at the moment) and unlikely the renowned journalist Matthew Engel will be back to do a follow up for the 'Financial Times' after last year’s eyebrow raising First Section contest.
Everyone else though will be there for certain – and waiting for the heartfelt expressions of Yorkshire pride as the results are announced too.
Nothing will stop the locals from doing that.