A contest that saw a number of well constructed performances from the 17 competing bands was won by one that had that little bit of extra class and quality in Daventry Brass.
Bob Stradling’s band captured the essential spirit of Philip Harper’s ‘Olympus’ to such an extent that by its close it won the contest by a clear margin.
Joining them in Cheltenham will be Long Eaton Silver and Ibstock Brick Brass, both of whom showed considerable quality in beating off the challenge of a host of purposeful accounts that snapped at their heels.
The victors fully deserved their place at the top of the prize winning podium after delivering a performance that combined technical security and refreshing musicality.
The filmatic inspiration behind the Harper score does lend itself to a touch of self confident bombast (an essential characteristic it must be said to become an Olympic champion), but it also rewards those who base that confidence on having done the hard slog and ground work preparation.
Drive and purpose
That was clearly the case with Daventry with a rendition that had drive and purpose allied to lyricism and security.
It was a clear and deserving winner, with middle sections that were of a quality nobody came close to matching.
Full of detail
The same applied to Long Eaton in second place, who lived up to its title by pocketing the runner up spot with a well delivered account under the baton of Sharon Stansfield.
Solid, secure and full of detail, it may not have had that extra sheen of burnished quality of the winner, but it wasn’t far behind.
For Ibstock Brick Brass, a wonderful, if slightly unexpected return to form under the baton of Huw Thomas. His sensible approach enabled his band to keep control of dynamics and pace.
Whilst rivals fell by the wayside, especially in the lip sapping finale, the rather neatly retained their form to claim the third qualification place on offer.
In what would have been something of a photo finish in the box for Malcolm Brownbill and Barry Thompson, it was just enough to beat off the challenge of three well directed performances from City of Birmingham, West Mercia Police and Arrow Valley, who eventually had to settle for a top six mention off the stage.
Each had their extended moments where they must have felt that they were heading to Cheltenham, but in the end Ibstock’s control just beat them to the line.
All three will have left a little disappointed at the end result, but well pleased with their efforts.
These are three very competent bands.
Inconsistency was the key element in seeing off the chances of a top six finish for the likes of Stourport, Shipston, Rushden and Rolls Royce (Derby), as each delivered performances of merit that on another day may have just benefitted from a little less desire to try and force their way to the finishing tape.
As with the bands that ended behind them in the results table, the cracks and fissures that undermined chances were more obvious, with ensemble intonation the real problem in the middle ‘temple’ and 'flame’ sections.
The loud stuff from Wem Jubilee, Stamford Brass, Hucknall & Linby and Cubbington Silver was secure and at times thrilling in its intensity, but when the dynamic level dropped so did the ability to play with confidence.
These were solid bands just lacking that little bit of stylistic polish and musicality on the day.
The bottom three of Fairfield (Buxton), Rushden Windmill and Croft Silver struggled, but the performances were not that far away from what was required to make more of a mark on a day when the very best bands claimed their places at Cheltenham in some degree of comfort.
Podium finishes and even gold medal chances at Cheltenham are on the cards if the qualifiers produce this type of competitive form once again.