2017 Australian National Championships
As it happened

All the action from the 2017 Australian National Championships — as it happened.

Sunday 16, 17:46:05


4BR talks to winning MD Conrad Curry

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2017 Australian National Champion: Central Coast Brass

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Winning MD Conrad Curry with the famous National Trophy

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Central Coast MD Conrad Curry with his winning team of girls

A Grade:

Adjudicator: Nigel Seaman
Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Central Coast Brass (Conrad Curry): 96+196+186+81=559
2. Footscray-Yarraville (Phillipa Edwards): 95+194+183+85=557
3. Darebin City Brass — Preston Band (Andrew Snell): 89+190+189+88=556
4. South Brisbane Federal (Owen Clarke): 90+193+181+86=550
5. Glenorchy City Concert Brass (Simon Reade): 90+188+187+82=547
6. Willoughby Band (Josh Mann): 86+184+185+84=539
7. Kensington & Norwood (Philip Paine): 87+187+176+83=533

Parade of Bands:
Winners: South Brisbane Federal
Drum Major: Michael Adams (South Brisbane Federal)
Overall Aggregate Award (Parade of Bands & Contest): South Brisbane Federal

B Grade:

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Winners Boroondara with their MD Danny van Bergen hugging the trophy

Adjudicator: Dr Kevin Cameron
Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Boroondara Brass (Danny van Bergen): 83+178+184+84= 529
2. Cairns Brass (Jon Christodoulides): 81+174+180+88=523
3. Marion City (Veronica Boulton): 80+170+174+86=510
4. Gunnedah Shire Band (Anthony Rowe): 84+166+173+85=508
5. Geelong West Brass Band (Jeff Steele): 79+168+176+82=505
6. City of Greater Dandenong Band (Michael Mathers): 77+160+172+78=487
7. Brisbane Brass No.2 (Rob McWilliams): 78+160+170+78=486
8. Box Hill City Band (Simon Brown): 79+164+160+81=484
9. City of Launceston RSL Band (Steven English): 77+158+168+80=483
10. Darebin City Brass — Northern Brass (Jamie Lawson): 78+156+164+74=472
11. Sunnybank & District Brass Band (Danny Dielkens): 77+158+152+72=459
12. Canberra Brass (Viv Martin): 75+156+150+77=458
13. Parramatta City Band (Jonathan Gatt): 74+148+154+75=451
14. Toronto Brass (Tim O'Hearn): 72+152+149+74=447

Parade of Bands:
Winners: City of Greater Dandenong
Drum Major: Glen Warriner (Sunnybank & District Brass)

C Grade:

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New champions Latrobe Federal Band

Adjudicator: Monte Mumford
Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Latrobe Federal Band (Geoff Dell): 85+185+178+79=527
2. Warriparinga Brass (Veronica Boulton): 75+170+170+92=507
3. City of Burnie Brass Band (Robert Bentley): 63+155+190+91=499
4. Glenorchy City Community Brass (Dean Hunt OAM): 60+162+175+73=470
5. Boroondara Harmony Brass (Douglas Lewis): 68+165+158+75=466
6. Ulverstone Municipal Band (Thomas Lamb): 57+155+180+72=464
7. Bankstown City Brass (Ken Bradley): 62+150+160+65=437
8. Sunshine Brass (Courtney Duncan): 48+140+165+62=415

Parade of Bands:
Winners: City of Burnie Brass Band
Drum Major:

D Grade:

Adjudicator: Nigel Seman
Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Croydon Brass Band (Melinga Benger): 91+192+189+83=555
2. Hobart Brass Band (Robyn Males): 86+191+187+85=549
3. Sunshine Coast — Bold as Brass (Kevin Brown): 87+190+186+82=545
4. City of Devonport Brass (Tessa Lee): 89+189+184+80=542
5. Hyde Street Youth Band (Jee Kromhof): 83+186+183+79=531

Parade of Bands:
Winners: Hyde Street Youth Band (VIC)
Drum Major:

Junior A Grade:

Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Gunnedah Shire Band (Anthony Rowe): 65+175+172+87=499

Junior B Grade:

Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Sunshine Coast Youth Band — Bright as Brass (Kevin Brown): 83+168+170+80=501

Junior C Grade:

Points: Hymn/Set Test/Own Choice/Stage March = Total

1. Hyde Street Youth Band (Jee Kromhof): 72+160+170+90=492
2. Ulverstone Municipal Band (Thomas Lamb): 68+165+165=66

Sunday 16, 17:23:34

Results ceremony

Adjudicator Nigel Seaman now addressing the enthusiastic audience!

Sunday 16, 17:08:34

4BR Editor's final round up

It been a much better contest today — although some of the band's may have over stretched themselves with their test piece choices. The march choices were pretty good, although one or two bands did sound a tad knackered when they played them.

Darebin could well lead the way today with their solid quality ahead of Footscray-Yarraville, Central Coast and Glenorchy. Behind them come South Brisbane, Willoughby and Kensington & Norwood.

Own Choice:

1. Darebin City Brass
2. Footscray-Yarraville
3. Central Coast Brass
4. Glenorchy
5. South Brisbane Federal
6. Willoughby
7. Kensington & Norwood.

Overall Prediction:

Given it is four disciplines and not the two that make the final result, we think overall it may, and we say, may, pan out as follows...

1. Central Coast Brass
2. Darebin City Brass
3. Footscray & Yaraville
4. Glenorchy
5. South Brisbane Federal
6. Kensington & Norwood
7. Willoughby

Sunday 16, 17:07:57

Alan Edmond's thoughts...

5. Glenorchy City Concert Brass

Music of the Spheres: Nice horn to open — never an easy start. Well played. New tempo starts well but some unevenness. Muted semis work well. Good effort from sop and soloists as the MD lets the music flow. The tempo builds as we head for home. A big blow to the end this.

The Contestor: Upbeat and it trips a few players up along the way. You'd be forgiven for thinking they had a plane to catch, but being a Tassie band that can't be the case! A bit less tempo would have helped.

6. Footscray-Yarraville City Band

Of Distant Memories: Nice sounds to start. Good tempos and well controlled ensemble. Good soloists with lovely cornet sound. Fantastic sop dep to bring in last minute. Well done Mr Britt. Band sounds like it's enjoying this! Good bell effects lead to a musically satisfying close. Someone buy the sop player a pint!

Night Templar: A nice rendition of a real classic. Nicely flowing along in its groove and time for the star sop to flourish one last time.

7. Willoughby Band

Metropolis 1927: Good opening as it pulses along. Those lip slurs are always tricky. Nice music in the slow section and good effort from all the solo interludes. Lovely sounds from a very musical flugel. The slow and steady build up begins and although it's maybe dropped a couple of tempo notches the ensemble is still together.

The President: A subdued and controlled 'President' — that's not something you say everyday! Good dynamics and tempo allow the cornet duet to get through.

Sunday 16, 16:26:17

Grade A:

7. Willoughby Band (Josh Mann)

March: The President (William German)
Test Piece: Metropolis 1927 (Peter Graham)

Metropolis 1927 (Peter Graham)

Fritz Lang's 1927 science fiction film Metropolis is considered a masterpiece of cinematic vision.

Set in a future dystopian world, it highlights the lives of two contrasting communities living in vast city landscapes: Those above ground whose life of privilege and pleasure is serviced by the subterranean drone workers whose role is to maintain and operate the machines which provide power.

Although Lang's film can be considered a type of 20th century morality play, it is also something of a Marxist/Leninist critique on the corrosive underbelly of the inter-war German Weimer Republic.

Although the work does not attempt to precis the plot, such as it is, nor promote the message of the original, it does reflect the composer's appreciation of Lang's noirish visual style and set designs — from the brooding machine rooms, decadent nightclubs and gothic cathedral to the paradoxically beautiful creations such as the famous female 'Maschinenmensch' robot.

'Metropolis 1927' is a brilliantly theatrical musical take on that inspiration; with its slightly acidic, dark tonality and clever snapshot imagery — from air-raid sirens to Dixie jazz combo, leading the listener through the urban landscape to what is hoped is a triumphant conclusion of lasting happiness.

Iwan Fox

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The deceptive musical tricks of Graham's inventive score were bravely attempted here — some coming off, some not — from the Bernsteinesque opening to the 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' musical shadowing in the central section.

Some of the individual playing was bravura stuff — especially sop, flugel and euph, with others were not far behind. A different band from yesterday you have to say. Not everything sat comfortably in the technique stake at times, but musically it was coherent and well shaped — even the Dixieland insert. The finale was controlled and well delivered too.

The band may just have given their all as the march sounded a tad tired and error prone. Not quite as Presidential as they may have wanted.

Sunday 16, 15:41:36

Grade A:

6. Footscray — Yarraville City Band (Philllipa Edwards)

March: Knight Templar (George Allan)
Test Piece: Of Distant Memories (Music in an Olden Style) (Edward Gregson)

Of Distant Memories (Music in an Olden Style) (Edward Gregson)

Gregson's work was commissioned in 2013 to mark the centenary of the first 'original' test-piece used at the National Championships of Great Britain.

It has since gained widespread critical acclaim; a masterfully created tone-poem of adaptive facadism that pays homage to pioneering composers such as Fletcher, Holst, Bliss, Howells and Vaughan Williams, who gave the banding movement a foundation of distinguished works on which to build.

It is a distinctive recall of reminiscences from the midsts of contesting time, written within a contemporary structure that presents the listener with an outward valence of familiarity; subconscious memories which trigger an inner amalgamation of modern configurations.

Gregson's 'contemporary colouristic terms' are certainly far removed from the original palette shadings of 'A Moorside Suite' and 'Severn Suite', but are never garish or disrespectful.

There are affectionate nods to 'Labour and Love' and 'Epic Symphony' amongst others, but Gregson also revels in other elements of sublime detail; little motifs and interventions that add a spark of sharply focused, intellectual wit — from a snippet of Alban Berg to a touch of Leonard Bernstein.

Tradition is retained, but not at the expense of flexibility — an engrossing feature throughout a wonderful work.

Iwan Fox

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We don't know what has gone on with the draw here today — but this is the second change in the running order that they didnt tell anyone in the audience about!

Whatever the reason, Footscray made the most of it with a splendidly hard working rendition of Gregson's affectionate homage that flowed with lyrical intent and purpose. MD did the same and the no-nonsense approach saw her players* responding in kind.

It perhaps didn't quite have that sheen of highest class polish, but it certainly had bold solidity in the majority of the solo lines and the music was paced and shaped with a careful eye to the dynamic and tempo. Just the odd rough edge, but there was much to enjoy with the approach and execution — all the way to a super end that was very nearly cracked by the over-enthusiast timp player.

*Special mention to Martin Britt who stepped in at the last moment after the band's sop split his lip.

A fine, bouncy rendition of 'Knight Templar' would have put a smile on Donald Trump's face let alone the top man in Oz. Neat stuff that will add further to their points haul today you feel.

Sunday 16, 15:33:53

Alan Edmond's halfway thoughts...

1. Darebin City Brass — Preston Band

The Arabian: Nice to hear the march played first. Not a march I've played but a performance full of Rimmer style.

As if a Voice Were in Them: Nice sounds as Wordsworth prepares his Alpine ascent. Lovely lyrical cornet melody. We're off as the various nooks, crannies and rock faces interject with each other. Detailed, controlled and balanced. The final push mostly goes to plan. Softer shoes next time cornets! Builds to an exciting climax. Great show!

2. Central Coast Brass

Trance: Nice melodic lines and we soon hear a heartbeat moving to the dark world of screams and effects. It invokes some wonderful sounds. Nice cornet/euph duet with effective accompaniment. Great marimba, more please! Great rhythms. And great sop. Driving tubas keep take us to a fantastic last note. A great show on a very difficult piece.

Roll Away Bet: Full of style and super dynamics. Bands keep finding these wonderful old marches. Well played.

3. South Brisbane Federal

Bold start. Have the mics been turned up? Lots of notes going in but not quite the musical picture we heard earlier. The slow solo section seems a bit loud and mono-dynamic. Nice cornet and sop though! Alps appear very square with perfect right angles. Not many craggy outcrops. Good build as we get to the top.

The Bombardier: A real good old fashioned march here. Good sounds, style and great principal cornet.

4. Kensington & Norwood

Of Distant Memories: The opening sounds a bit of a struggle. I want to be positive but this wonderful music was clearly a few steps too far for the band. I heard some great performances earlier in the B grade with bands playing pieces that matched their capabilities.

The Cataract: A nice Lithgow quickstep rounds off K&N's contribution.

Sunday 16, 14:55:07

A Grade:

5. Glenorchy City Concert Brass (Simon Reade)

March: The Contestor (T J Powell)
Test Piece: Music of the Spheres (Philip Sparke)

Music of the Spheres (Philip Sparke)

'Music of the Spheres' was written late 2003/early 2004 and reflects the composer's fascination with the origins of the universe and deep space in general.

The title was formulated by Pythagoras and his belief that the cosmos was ruled by laws that govern the ratios of note frequencies of the musical scale. ('Harmonia' in Ancient Greek, which means scale or tuning rather than harmony — Greek music was monophonic).

He also believed that these ratios corresponded to the distances from the sun of the then six known planets and that each produced a musical note which combined to weave a continuous heavenly melody (which, unfortunately, we humans cannot hear.)

Sparke takes us on a colourful trip through the constellations and musical astronomy of the night skies — from the Big Bang opening and fizzing comets and asteroids to the glorious harmonious conclusion that brings the work to its blockbuster end.

Iwan Fox

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Although never quite reaching the heavenly stars, this was a performance that certainly spent a great deal of time in the earthly stratosphere, thanks to the solidity of all the main soloists and the MDs sensible, clearly thought out direction.

The little niggles and errors were noticeable, but there was also a great deal of good ensemble playing throughout. That provided the stanchions on which the musicality grew in stature and contrast — from the broad lyricism to the fizzing asteroids — led by banzai sop.

The controlled build in the final section was so nicely shaped and there was just enough stamina left to burn for an explosive ending to a performance of rich merit.

What a pity that the frenetic march wasn't in the same league though — lacking swagger and having more slips in the first 25 bars than the whole of the test piece. It recovered, but the high error count and messy ensemble could be very costly in the great scheme of things.

Sunday 16, 14:28:45

A Grade:

4. Kensington & Norwood (Philip Paine)

March: The Cataract (A F Lithgow)
Test Piece: Of Distant Memories (Music in an Olden Style) (Edward Gregson)

Of Distant Memories (Music in an Olden Style) (Edward Gregson)

Gregson's work was commissioned in 2013 to mark the centenary of the first 'original' test-piece used at the National Championships of Great Britain.

It has since gained widespread critical acclaim; a masterfully created tone-poem of adaptive facadism that pays homage to pioneering composers such as Fletcher, Holst, Bliss, Howells and Vaughan Williams, who gave the banding movement a foundation of distinguished works on which to build.

It is a distinctive recall of reminiscences from the midsts of contesting time, written within a contemporary structure that presents the listener with an outward valence of familiarity; subconscious memories which trigger an inner amalgamation of modern configurations.

Gregson's contemporary colouristic terms are certainly far removed from the original palette shadings of 'A Moorside Suite' and 'Severn Suite', but are never garish or disrespectful.

There are affectionate nods to 'Labour and Love' and 'Epic Symphony' amongst others, but Gregson also revels in other elements of sublime detail; little motifs and interventions that add a spark of sharply focused, intellectual wit — from a snippet of Alban Berg to a touch of Leonard Bernstein.

Tradition is retained, but not at the expense of flexibility — an engrossing feature throughout a wonderful work.

Iwan Fox

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Unfortunately a hard grafted, artisan performance of Gregson's masterful homage struggled from start to finish, and was so uneven in execution. It also needed more tonal warmth to elicit those affectionate memories.

The MD kept the music flowing, but the problems were obvious and numerous, despite brave efforts from some leading lines. The facade was cracked and undermined long before the end as the band never sounded comfortable with the work's technical or musical aspects. A brave effort, but this was a piece that was at the very edge of their capabilities today.

The bold old march was a delight though — played with such stylish intent and purpose. A little gem of southern hemipshere musicality.

Sunday 16, 13:38:21

Grade A:

3. South Brisbane Federal (Owen Clarke)

March: The Bombardier (T J Powell)
Test Piece: As if a voice were in them (Oliver Waespi)

As if a voice were in them... (Oliver Waespi)

Waespi's work is inspired by William Wordsworth's poem evoking the beauty, majesty and dark, imposing power of the force of nature as he saw it when visiting the Simplon Pass high in the Alps in 1790.

It's complex, powerful, technically brilliant and musically uplifting music, evoking the poem to perfection — from the simple folk tune on leaving the Swiss village in which he stayed before his trek, to the imposing vistas that he enjoyed on reaching the top of the Simplon Pass itself.

As if a voice were in them, the sick sight
And giddy prospect of the raving stream,
The unfettered clouds and region of the heavens,
Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light

Iwan Fox

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The second musical ascent of Waespi's magnificent work is another that never reaches the summit of its ambitions.

There were moments when it linked together and drove to capture both the simple beauty and the majesty of the writing, but the blues section in particular lacked the essential thumping sensuality — it was far too rigid. The individual slips and strains are obvious, although the solo cornet is excellent.

The clack of shoes and stands sounded like mountain goats looking for high pasture on a rocky outcrop, but the choir work was well handled and the build to the climax had a sense of broad purpose.

It did get laboured after this though — as if musical hypoxia had set in to rob energy. A very tired band headed to the close.

'The Bombardier' is played with a neat touch of Welsh swagger and hywl — all puffed out pride and neat cornet led footwork. The trio in particular was excellent with even the third cornets giving it the old Gareth Edwards hoof. Good stuff that.

Sunday 16, 12:59:24

Grade A:

2. Central Coast Brass (Conrad Curry)

March: Roll Away Bet (J Ord Hume)
Test Piece: Trance (Thomas Doss)

Trance (Thomas Doss)

This work is musically based on J S Bach's hymn, 'Wie schon leuchtet der Abendstern' (How beautifully the morning star shines) — although it's literary inspiration is much darker and certainly more disturbing. The dichotomy is stark to say the least.

It starts hesitantly — an eerie musical box of memories that plays in the mind of a young, pregnant woman. Her thoughts are beset by doubts and fears about the unborn baby that screams and pleads to her for life from within her womb.

However, only she can hear its voice and is terrified by the prospect — one that could be curtailed by a decision she could now make.

The unborn child feels these doubts and its mother's trepidation, but continues to try and bond with her.

Gradually, with every single psychosomatic scream, a relationship starts to build, as she instinctively perceives another life-force — one with an increasing heartbeat linked to her own.

While dancing faster and faster into a trance, she imagines how her child eventually grows into an adult, or not...depending on the decision she now has to take.

Iwan Fox

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You do wonder if you are on the musical Freudian couch with the Doss work, and the band give it a fair old go, but there are more questions rather than answers here.

The dichoctomy is never fully realised — the darkness not disturbing enough, the light not nearly luminescent. It's just about all there, but it never drags you into its visceral heart. Some cracking moments and some sumptious tuba playing, but that yearning, disturbed mindset never reaches X rated levels.

It's not the sum of its exotic parts — and the build to the terrifying climax doesn't send a shiver of apprehension down the spine. Plenty of endeavour to close, but you are left wondering, but not really caring too much whether the woman made the right decision or not.

'Roll Away Bet' — with its Edwardian empire motifs is played with controlled verve though — a thump of swagger and wit. This is music of an age when a quarter of the globe was coloured pink and the colonies knew their place. Smashing stuff (even with odd pedal note?)

Sunday 16, 12:32:33

Grade A:

1. Darebin City Brass — Preston Band (Andrew Snell)

March: The Arabian (William Rimmer)
Test Piece: As if a voice were in them... (Oliver Waespi)

As if a voice were in them... (Oliver Waespi)

Waespi's work is inspired by William Wordsworth's poem evoking the beauty, majesty and dark, imposing power of the force of nature as he saw it when visiting the Simplon Pass high in the Alps in 1790.

It's complex, powerful, technically brilliant and musically uplifting music that evokes the poem to perfection — from the simple folk tune on leaving the Swiss village in which he stayed before his trek, to the imposing vistas that he enjoys on reaching the top of the Simplon Pass itself.

As if a voice were in them, the sick sight
And giddy prospect of the raving stream,
The unfettered clouds and region of the heavens,
Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light

Iwan Fox

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Darebin open with the exotic tones of Rimmer's march, 'The Arabian' — a curious work of touching genius. Don't know how many Arabs William Rimmer actually met before writing this, but it evokes a bit of downtown Bagdad all right.

It's a decent effort on Waespi's superb work of musical topography — full of endeavour, energy and vibrancy.

Some of the severe technical aspects didn't quite come off though, but there was dark drama and a touch of majesty about the music when needed. Not quite sure about the thumping bluesy section which was stiff instead of pulsating with sensuality, whilst some solo lines strained.

The simple beauty was lost in places (not helped by the sound of the players walking noisily across the stage to their choir positions. Why not take your shoes off?). The splendid writing came to life though as we headed to the close — full blooded and determined as Wordsworth, the band and the MD took in the majestic, poetic vistas before him.

Sunday 16, 12:26:48

A Grade:

The seven bands that will battle to try and claim the title of 2017 Australian National Champion will be presenting their own-choice test-piece and march selections in a few minutes time.

As we said earlier there are some ambitious choices with the likes of 'As if a voice were in them', 'Trance', 'Music of the Spheres', 'Of Distant Memories' and 'Metropolis 1927'. Adjudicator Nigel Seaman should have plenty of food for musical thought then...


1. Darebin City Brass — Preston Band (Andrew Snell)
2. Central Coast Brass (Conrad Curry)
3. South Brisbane Federal (Owen Clarke)
4. Glenorchy City Concert Brass (Simon Reade)*
5. Kensington & Norwood Brass (Philip Paine)*
6. Willoughby Band (Josh Mann)
7. Footscray — Yarraville City Band (Phillipa Edwards)

*Changed places due to time constraints.

Sunday 16, 11:53:32

A touch of the Hannibals

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The Hannibal quartet from Boroondara Brass

We have just enjoyed a piece of sheer bonkersness by Swiss composer Mario Burki — who writes great music for lower section bands — including one we heard in the Fourth Section a few years ago in Monteux called 'Flight' about a hair-raising trip in a small plane over the Swiss Alps in bad weather.

This one is called 'Hannibal' and seems to be a portrait of him as a cross between Jack Sparrow, Gladiator, Darth Vadar and Clint Eastwood as the spaghetti western 'Man with no Name' — all topped with choral accompaniment. All that was missing was a herd of elephants...

Honkingly bizarre and brilliantly played by a smashing young band in Boroondara Brass from Victoria conducted by Danny van Bergen. Bravo!

Sunday 16, 11:08:00

Action at the Albert...

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Canberra Brass with MD Viv Marin

The early morning action at the Albert Hall (a wonderful piece of 1890's civic building — that has a superb water powered organ at its head) is being provided by the band's in the B Grade.

So far we have heard a couple of renditions of 'The Plantagenets', 'Tallis Variations' and now 'English Heritage' — all at the top end of ambition, but not totally out of reach for the hard working MDs and fully committed players.

One thing that does strike you though is that the bands have quite narrow dynamic ranges — with no real turbo boost fortissimos. It's quite pleasing to hear in a way.

Sunday 16, 10:43:46

Ambitious choices in the top flight...

After a rather underwhelming A Grade set-work discipline on Friday, it is going to be interesting to hear whether or not musical ambition exceeds hard-nosed reality this afternoon.

There are certainly some pretty imposing works on offer — from a brace of Oliver Waespi's 'As if a voice were in them...' to 'Trance', 'Metropolis 1927', 'Music of the Spheres', and a couple of 'Of Distant Memories'.

They take some playing in anyone's book — and after the rather obvious struggles on 'Harrison's Dream', you do wonder whether they have bitten off a little bit more than they can chew....

We will see...

Sunday 16, 10:33:42

Sunday in Launceston

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Box Hill City Band with MD Simon Brown

It's the final day of band action here at the Australian National Championships in the lovley city of Launceston — and it is when the main titles are going to be decided.

Friday saw the band's perform their hymn tune and set-works, yesterday was the parade of bands, and today is the march and own-choice selections.

We will tell a little bit more about them as the day unfolds, but first we are in the rather splendid Albert Hall listening to the bands in the B Grade making a pretty good fist of their own-choice selections and march choices.

Saturday 15, 18:59:08

4BR meets Bill Broughton

4BR meets the great Bill Broughton, President of the National Band Council of Australia — a musician who has played for, and with some of the true greats of the music world — from Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand to the pro-bands on television programmes such as 'Kojack' and 'Bonanza'.

This amazing man also has a passion for encouraging young players to enjoy a lifetime of music making and friendship in banding.

Saturday 15, 18:45:35

4BR talks to composer Jared McCunnie

4BR talks to 19 year old composer Jared McCunnie who has his first major work premiered at the Australian National Championships this weekend.

Jared is one of a number of talented young composers wanted to write extensively for brass bands — and hope to come to the UK to study in the near future.

'Buckley', which will be played as an own-choice work by a band in the B Grade, is inspired by the incredible life of William Buckley a solider of fortune — or more accurately, misfortune.

His name has since become synonymous in the country with bad luck, after he was injured in the Napoleonic Wars, was deported for theft, made a failed prison break attempt, was saved by an aboriginal tribe who he lived with for the next 30 years, only to decide to return to Tasmania where he was treated with disdain and ridicule before dying totally impoverished.

Saturday 15, 12:30:51

Talking about banding with Greg Aitken of Brass Music Specialists

4BR talks to Greg Aitken of leading retailers Brass Music Specialists about the current state of Australian banding, the moves that are being made to protect its future — and a little plug for a new instrument import that is already making a mark.

Saturday 15, 12:19:01

A little bit of banding history...

4BR has been out and about in the city of Launceston to find a little bit more about one of the giants of Southern Hemipshere banding in the late 19th and early 20th century — the great composer, arranger and conductor Alex F Lithgow — the 'March King' of New Zealand and Australian banding.

Saturday 15, 08:44:03

Interesting views...

There were plenty of interesting and realistic views being aired last night in the bar about the standard of playing in the top section in particular yesterday.

Just about everyone we spoke to thought 'Harrison's Dream' was too difficult — the technical challenges just beyond even the best competitors. That said — there was also a great deal of pride about their efforts, although they acknowledged that perhaps there needs to be a debate about where the general level of Australian banding really is.

The good news is that there is a great deal of successful community work in getting youngsters involved, although the main problem lies when they reach university age, when by moving away they lose connection to their own home bands or are able to connect to new ones in university towns.

However, there is a real desire to keep Australian banding moving forward, so plans are starting to be implemented to help.

Saturday 15, 08:34:44

Good morning from Launceston on day 2...

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A view over Launceston

A little more overcast today here in Tasmania for what should be an enjoyable day of music making with the parade of bands, concert band performances and the junior brass bands.

The A to D Grade bands have to take part in the Street March (but have the rest of the day off) which is more a great PR exercise than anything else nowadays (years gone by they had to follow a set pattern of march movements, which counted towards the title). There are still prizes up for grabs though — especially the prestigious Drill Major title.

We will be out and about to see what's on offer and to catch a bit more of a flavour of things, so keep your eyes peeled.

Friday 14, 17:15:13

A Grade end of first day round up and prediction:

Well that was a curious old contest to say the least. The standard varied greatly — from the good to the very average. Nobody really managed to master 'Harrison's Dream' although the best today came fairly close. At the other end it was more than hard work.

The 'hymns' were anything but — and some of the choices seemed to place unwarranted pressure on players before the rigours of the set-work. Why not something simple and effective rather than complex, confusing and almost calamitous.

Still — Central Coast for us gave a brace of performances that had an extra touch of quality, whilst the contrast in approaches from Darebin and South Brisbane were almost diametrically the opposite of each other. Glenorchy are close behind, but then it's anyone's game.

4BR Halfway prediction:

1. Central Coast
2. Darebin
3. South Brisbane Federal
4. Glenorchy
5. Footscray & Yaraville
6. Kensington & Norwood
7. Willoughby

Friday 14, 16:36:55

Grade A:

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7. Darebin City Brass — Preston Brass (Andrew Snell)

Hymn Tune: The King of Love my Shepherd is (Trad arr. M. Kilmartin)

Another inventive take on the 'hymn' setting — one that grew in intensity and evangelical purpose before finding its eventual rest. A bit different that .

Well now — if you are going to set off at a fair old lick then you have to keep it up — and despite the obvious lack of cohesion and precision that came from it, the MD did just that — from 168 to 192 as marked. The problem was that it sounded frenetic. Just 5% off would have made it sound terrific instead of edgy.

Again though — MD kept his eye on the score in the largo and cantabile (no sop cover) — directing things with purpose. Just needed a touch more serenity to have really worked, and the chime bar 'bells' made for a very odd moment. It was a bit Hi Di HI 'Hello Campers'. The reprise was back on the pace though and driven with percussive led purpose to its climax, repose and final, dramatic cut off end.

Alan Edmond's thoughts...

Hymn: Another new arrangement for me but lovely well balanced sounds and music, just a shame about the slips.

Harrison's Dream: Good start and tempo is right on the money. Nice little interlude and we're off again at whip cracking pace. Exciting stuff, it feels around 180 but all the notes seem to be going in! Great solos and atmosphere again around the stands. The reprise is off again but we are hearing some new detail. Super build to an excellent end. Another performance that captured the spirit of the music. Bravo!

Friday 14, 15:59:33

Grade A:

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6. Glenorchy City Concert Brass (Simon Reade)

Hymn Tune: I Know Thou Art Mine (Leonard Ballantine)

The commendable approach to the 'hymn' — if you could really call it that — was warm, full bodied and confident. MD shaped this very tastefully indeed — all the way to a wonderful close.

What a pity the technical aspects of the set-work were at the limit for the band, as the MD drew a fine interpretation from the score. Musically liberal, with the largo and cantabile sections given a persuasive malleability, it was just marred by unforced errors.

The cantabile section was almost deathly melancholic — enhanced by the effective bells and build to reprise. This was where the obvious technical weaknesses lay, but the growing pulse and sense of drama led to a fine climax and languid repose. The close was a little over-wrought but effective — even with that ringing tam tam.

Alan Edmond's thoughts...

Hymn: Not a piece I'm familiar with but it focuses more on the middle of the band which hopefully lets the cornets save some energy for the set piece.

Harrison's Dream: Impressive start led by all in the percussion section! Tuba struggles a little but we are back up to tempo and back on track again. The octave jump section again proves a stiff test and we lose some momentum in the first of the solo excerpts. Well done sop, lovely sounds on top of the band. Nice bell effects build so well that the reprise is almost anti-climatic in the first few bars. Builds well with nice sounds to the end.

Friday 14, 15:21:05

Grade A:

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5. Central Coast Brass (Conrad Curry)

Hymn Tune: The Day Thou Gavest (C C Scholefield arr. Wilby)

A lovely arrangement well played. Some moments of unease, but the musical flow was shaped with care and tenderness even to the bold climax. The repose just hinted at unease, but it was effectively delivered.

At last we hear a performance of the set-test that had the boldness of purpose to grapple with the technical and musical cores of such a demanding work. Not everything came off, but the intent was marked and so was the confidence.

The solo work — sop to tuba, had a real touch of quality, and MD brought dynamic and tempo contrasts to bear. Serene tenderness was just marred by a few scratches, but bells had that spookiness required and the build to reprise was super. Great underlying pulse by tubas gave the music an incessant pulse (although nearly destroyed by bonkers bass drum) to a fine climax and subtle repose. The close had a dark drama — although not sure again about that ringing tam tam.

Alan Edmond's thoughts...

Hymn: Lovely sounds and what a foundation from Mr Morley and co! Well shaped music with superb singing soprano that appears to be coming from a certain Martin Britt. Superb!

Harrison's Dream: Great tempo and superb woodblock where EVERY note is heard. Excellent block cornet sounds and trombones. This is great ensemble playing — compact and together. Lovely horn again sets the atmosphere. The band is in its groove here and passing the solos around the stands with aplomb. Sop, euph, bari, horn — superb, great control of the most difficult section in the piece. We're off again and just as impressive as the beginning. We are hearing all the detail from the bass section, well done. Throw in a nice big juicy bass trombone for good measure! A fine build to the end. Another extended tam-tam last note. I must get a new score!

Well played and superbly directed from the middle — I enjoyed that!

Friday 14, 14:52:46

A Grade:

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4. South Brisbane Federal Band (Owen Clarke)

Hymn Tune: The Light of the World (Dean Goffin)

What a lovely piece (although it certainly isn't a hymn — more a mini tone poem) and well played too. A lesson in fine brass band scoring that elicited tastefully warm, lyrical playing from the band.

A MD who used his noggin and players who used their experienced to make the most of their strengths and limit weaknesses. A well managed account (tempos were tempered) that although having its problems it never succumbed to them thanks to the MD knowing the limitations.

The largo and cantabile flowed with musicality (and neat sub work for sop) and euph was splendid (and we saw his little personal sign of encouragement on his stand). The bells were rather underwhelming and the reprise was scrappy, but the relentless pulse and pace grew to a fine climax and repose.

The ending was managed with control, detail and balance.

Aland Edmond's thoughts...

Light of the World: Nice sounds but a bit hard to make an informed judgement due to internet drop outs.

Harrison's Dream: Again nice sounds and rhythm but dropouts and repeating of the internet coverage interrupts the continuity.

Great unison trombones! Good control just a few slips again detract in the upper register and octave jumps. Nice warm cornet sounds. Good build up to the end, maybe some intonation issues as the last note crescendos.

Friday 14, 14:51:26

Halfway point thoughts...

That has been a bit of an eye-opener for the bands and audience here in Launceston. The three so far have struggled — really struggled at times with their 'hymn' selections and especially with 'Harrison's Dream'.

Not one band has come close to playing it yet — as its technical and musical challenges have tested to the limit — and beyond. Hopefully better to come in the second half, but at the moment Footscray-Yarraville lead a very average top flight contest.

Friday 14, 13:54:38

A Grade:

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3. Kensington & Norwood Brass (Philip Paine)

Hymn Tune: O Magnum Mysterium (Morten Lauridsen arr. Littlemore)

A brave choice with the 'hymn' — with the standing sextet leading the way. Some of the phrasing was untidy and nerves were evident, but there was an understated sombreness about the playing that was effective.

Another performance of the set-work that stretched to the limit and beyond at times. The technical unevenness was obvious in the ensemble, although there were some fine individual moments from the euph and horn in the 'disturbed' waltz section.

Never sounded melancholic in the largo or cantabile (but what a fine euph) — and neither serene or tender as it strained to follow. The bells were effective, but heralded more disjointed playing in the reprise. The relentless pulse kept the music flowing, but it was a very tired band that reached the climax and repose. The close was rather circumspect and untuneful.

Alan Edmond's thoughts...

Magnum Mysterium, lovely arrangement which is difficult to play at a concert never mind a contest! Nice sounds and lovely playing from the quintet of soloists, just some nerves show towards the end.

Harrison's Dream — A bit steadier tempo here as the MD looks to keep a tight control of his ship. The exposed slow section shows a few frailties. Lovely sounding sop and horn shine through. Good assortment of bells here as we set sail for home. We can hear more detail this time as it builds to the close.

Friday 14, 13:27:55

Additional comments...

We know that plenty of people are listening to the A Grade at home, so we have decided to get one of them in on the act with their thoughts about the performances.

Alan Edmond is our man listening in Perth in Western Australia, and we will be catching up with him at the break via Skype.

Friday 14, 13:24:35

A Grade:

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2. Footscray-Yarraville City Band (Phillipa Edwards)

Hymn Tune: Dear Lord and Father of Mankind (C H Parry arr. Bolton & Banks)

The band and MD certainly took to the stage with a steely look of determination about themselves — but the warmth of the lyrical phrasing in their hymn tune was a fine contrast. Some little moments of unease, but a simple choice well executed.

The set-test is given a purposeful account — and at the right tempos to open through to the largo. Not everything is secure or accurate though. MD gives the music a fine malleable flow, but it is so uneven in execution that it lacks that sense of melancholic loss. Sop does his camoulflage work well although the bells are an odd assortment.

The reprise is taken at pace, but it is untidy and uneven in its relentlessness. A tired band makes the climax and repose, and just has enough left in the tank for a well structured close. A question over the overhanging tam-tam though?

Alan Edmond's thoughts:

Much more sonorous sounding band this — and well balanced. Great foundation from the basses. Good start and excellent rhythm from woodblock and timpani. Lovely melodic slow playing with just the odd tuba slip detracts. Well controlled in all the cross rhythms, this ship is cutting through the waves and knows exactly where it is going! This is upbeat and pulsing forward nicely.

Some small slips from the soloists just take a little gloss off the lovely flow in the cantabile. Good reprise, even if all the semis don't get through. Lovely controlled build to big ending. The gong hangs on for a long time after the last note. That's not in my old score, has it changed?

Friday 14, 13:00:18

A Grade:

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1. Willoughby Band (Josh Martin)

Hymn Tune: Reflections in Nature (Robert Redhead)

The rhapsodic feel to the hymn tune is curious. Why play pieces that immediately put players under so much pressure? Why not something more simple and perhaps much more effective? It's OK but the question marks are obvious.

Harrison's Dream really was a test of character — right from the start in fact. Never sounded at technical ease and lacked precision and cohesion. MD did well to keep things on horological track. The sombre melancholy of the largo and following cantabile were bravely attempted (no sop camouflage) and the little bells were effective.

The return to the tempo prima was a real struggle though — it only just hung together in places. A fine climax led to a quiet repose, but tired close in a performance that never really convinced.

Alan Edmond's thoughts:

Seventeen years on from the Nationals in the RAH in London and Harrison's Dream is still a tough test!

Rhythm in the opening section is vital — the slips started things rocking a little here. Good accounts from the horn and euph in the slow section, but a touch of scrappiness in the accompanying upper lines was evident.

Energetic reprise, but the flowing semis weren't always even and flowing as it built to the end.

Friday 14, 12:39:14

Draw: A Grade

Test: Harrison's Dream, Peter Graham
Adjudicator: Nigel Seaman
Commences: 1pm

1. Willoughby Band (Josh Martin)
2. Footscray-Yarraville City Band (Phillips Edwards)
3. Kensignton & Norwood Brass (Philip Paine)
4, South Brisbane Federal Band (Owen Clarke)
5. Central Coast Brass (Conrad Curry)
6, Glenorchy City Concert Brass (Simon Reade)
7. Darebin City Brass (Andrew Snell)

Friday 14, 12:37:22

Harrison's Dream (Peter Graham)

The seven bands in the top section will have to tackle Peter Graham's evocative test-piece, inspired by the story behind the 18th century quest to solving the problem of calculating longitude.

John Harrison was the man, who after 40 years of of obsessive work finally cracked the problem by constructing a clock that was so accurate that it meant that a precise reading at sea, in relation to the time at a given home point, could be calculated.

He won £20,000 for his efforts — much, much more than the prize on offer at the Royal Albert Hall when the piece was used at the National Finals in 2000.

It's a work that has immense technical challenges as well as musical ones — from the fearsome opening that should be started by the back row cornets, to the central section that reflects on the loss of over 1500 lives on one fateful night in 1707, in which the souls of the drowned are heard by the chiming of various sized hand held bells.

The relentless pursuit of the answer is also etched in time — with the incessant tick of the clock as Harrison finally reaches his quest.

Friday 14, 12:30:51

Interview with Martin Britt

Friday 14, 11:21:55

D Grade round-up:

Five bands in two hours and fifteen minutes. Any more and we would have needed all 80 days from Jules Verne to complete things.

The standard wasn't that great — but the enthusiasm and endeavour on show was splendid, especially with so many youngsters playing. All the bands were well balanced and didn't overblow, whilst the MDs all tried to bring a bit of character out of the score. The basic errors though we're noticeable.

More off them on Sunday with their own-choice and march selections.

Now we have a break for an hour and a half before we return for the top section at 1.00pm local time.

Friday 14, 10:53:09

D Grade:

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5. Hobart Brass Band (Robyn Males)

Hymn Tune: I Vow to Thee, My Country (Gustav Holst arr. Sparke)

A touch of Holst just takes time to find its planetary feet, but the simple arrangement by Philip Sparke is a masterclass of less is more and helps the band greatly.

The test-piece is given a pacy crack — with the MD certainly not afraid to crack the whip in terms of tempo. We shoot from London via Paris, Vienna, a touch of the Cossacks and a bit of bully in Spain as if on the Eurostar train. The trip home via a local Hobart Chinese take-away for a small bowl of musical fried rice is neatly done too.

Friday 14, 10:24:43

D Grade:

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4. Croydon Brass Band (Melina Benger)

Hymn Tune: Lloyd (Cuthbert Howard arr. Fernie)

A neatly packaged hymn tune has the same contrasts in colour as the band's shirts. No nonsense stuff that was backed by a well balanced sound.

It leads into a sensible take on the test-piece. Nothing overdone, although it perhaps needed a bit more spark to the character in places. It's a leisurely 80 day trip but well handled to round off a performance of solid common sense.

Friday 14, 09:52:38

D Grade:

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3. Sunshine Coast — Bold as Brass (Kevin Brown)

Hymn Tune: Lloyd (Cuthbert Howard arr. Fernie)

What a great start — putting a real fizz bomb of a show on the test piece. That would have had Jules Verne looking to write a sequel. Lots of stylish, confident playing from the young leads in particular. MD caught the spirit of this and so did his band.

They round off their set with a neatly portrayed hymn tune too — shaped and phrased so nicely.

Friday 14, 09:26:03

D Grade:

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2. City of Devonport Brass (Tessa Lee)

Hymn Tune: Holy, Holy, Holy (John Bacchus Dyke arr. Curnow)

We have a bit of a break before the start as a baritone player seems to have got lost on his way to the stage!

It's a small ensemble (just 20 players including what appears to be at least three deps) but they do a sterling job on the neat arrangement of 'Nicea'.

MD also does a cracking job encouraging and cajoling her players, who respond with plenty of stylish playing as we head from Pall Mall, via the Moulin Rouge, Seville, down town Baghdad, a touch of the Cossacks and that odd detour home.

Friday 14, 08:59:56

D Grade:

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1. Hyde Street Youth Band (Jee Kromhof)

Hymn: Evening Song (C C Scholefield arr. de Haan)

No National Anthem to start the day off here (has Tasmania gone republican we wonder?) but we do get a curious take on the hymn tune — more a rhapsodic tone poem than three verses from the Red Hymn book.

It's well played from a young band led by a very encouraging MD. Nicely shaped with some lovely little lead lines spread around the stands. The young bugle call lad on solo cornet really pinged it out.

The band really enjoy Peter Graham's 'Around the World in 80 Days' travelogue — played with bags of spirit and style. MD is conducting like David Niven too — a picture of elegance in brown shiny shoes. Great touch of bull ring Spain before the Aussie detour to make it back home to London to round off a performance bubbling with youthful enthusiasm.

Friday 14, 08:57:33

D Grade: Draw

Adjudicator: Nigel Seaman
Set Work: The Journal of Phileas Fogg (Peter Graham)

1. Hyde Street Youth Band (Jee Kromhof)
2. City of Devonport Brass (Tessa Lee)
3. Sunshine Coast — Bold as Brass (Kevin Brown)
4. Croydon Brass Band (Melina Benger)
5. Hobart Brass Band (Robyn Marles)

Friday 14, 08:53:32

Interview with adjudicator Nigel Seaman

Friday 14, 08:26:56

At the hall...

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The stage is set...

As ELO would sing if they were here in Launceston today: 'Sun is shining in the sky, there a'int a cloud in sight'. It's a lovely morning in Tasmania and the hard working organisers are already putting he finishing touches to their last minute preparations in the hall.

Don't think it will be full this morning for the D Grade bands but you never know.

There are five bands taking part with their set work and hymn today followed by the seven bands in the top section doing the same.

More details to follow as soon as we can find an official programme!

Friday 14, 07:03:58

Good morning from Launceston

As always at a brass band contest somewhere in the world, we managed to meet up with great people (including another couple of Celts) for a few beers, hear a band putting last minute touches to their preparations and enjoy plenty of chat.

We also had a look around the city and dipped into the splendid Princess Theatre where the Championship Section contest will take place later today. It was built in 1911 and has that Edwardian feel of Empire about it.

Nigel Seaman flew out earlier this week and has a busy couple of weekends ahead of him — both here and in Wellington where he will also be adjudicating at the New Zealand Championships
- and he is sure to enjoy himself as well.

The action kicks off at 9.00am local time with the D Grade — so just enough time for breakfast before we head to the hall.

Friday 14, 00:15:37

Late night chat with the irrepressible Kennedy bothers...

4BR catches up with the two Kennedy brothers who have been out in Australia and enjoyed their banding for many years — although you wouldn't guess by their accents.

Thursday 13, 15:33:03

The boys are back in town...

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The Princess Theatre in Launceston

The 4BR team is finally reunited after our long flights from Blaenavon and Perth and we will have now find out more of Launceston — which is the third oldest city in Australia. It's is also pronounced with the emphasis on the middle syllable — unlike its original namesake in Cornwall.

There are plenty of old style buildings still to be seen — including the Princess Theatre (above) which will be the main centre of contesting activity.

It all kicks off at 9.00am tomorrow morning — so until then we may sample some of the local delights.

Wednesday 12, 23:45:57

Plenty to look forward to...

The old 4BR team of Fox and Banwell will team up again for the Australian National Championships — the last time we did it in this neck of the woods was in Perth in 2013. That was a lovely place to visit — and the Championships were a delight.

This time we are in Tasmania with plenty to look forward to with an interesting line up of bands and test pieces on offer.

It will also be interesting to find out more about the state of Australian banding at the moment...

Wednesday 12, 23:40:16

Nearly there...

It's been a long old journey, but we are nearly in Tasmania. The first leg from 4BR HQ in Wales to Heathrow was a breeze thanks to the delights of National Express coaches, as was London to Dubai courtesy of Quantas.

Plenty of time to indulge in a bit of reading — and after the 4BR Editor struggled through the history of the Spanish Civil War on his way to New Zealand last year, this time it was a fantastic book by journalist David Walsh entitled 'Seven Deadly Sins' — and his pursuit to expose the despicable cycling cheat that was Lance Armstrong.

It is a book to make you wince at Armstrong's sheer will power to implement his lies.

All that and a kind Welsh expat booking lady on the Quantas desk made sure I had a back row of seats all to myself from Dubai to Melbourne. Next stop Launceston tomorrow morning....

Wednesday 12, 13:18:41

En route

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View from economy. Next stop Melbourne — then Launceston, Tasmania. Time to get the book out then.


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Waltham St. Lawrence Silver Band

July 13 • Our welcoming non-contesting band, based near Maidenhead, Bracknell and Reading, seeks: . Solo Euphonium . 1st Horn . Percussion, kit and tuned: we have a lovely pair of timps! . Solo Cornet to complete the front-row line-up. 2nd Cornet

Newtown Silver Band

July 12 • Musical Director. Following the retirement of our current Musical Director after 40 years of loyal service the band is seeking a new Musical Director to take the band forward. We are a 3rd section band with a busy programme and enthusiastic members. .

Epping Forest Band

July 12 • Required: We are a friendly 2nd section band in Essex. We are in need of a Tenor Horn , cornet (position negotiable) and a Kit player. We have our own band room and full percussion is provided

Jonathan Pippen

Conductor, Adjudicator, Trombone Soloist & Clinician


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