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2018 British Open Championship
Preview & Prediction

4BR Editor Iwan Fox looks forward to the 166th British Open Championship at Symphony Hall — and wonders who could perhaps come out on top on 'A Brussels Requiem'.

Open
A bastion of tradition and an initiator of progress... 

The British Open Championship may well be considered as a bastion of banding tradition, but it continues to be the initiator of a great deal of progressive thinking.

It’s now well over a century since its contest registration rules were first implemented, and 94 years since it opened the Belle Vue doors to welcome its first overseas winner. In the 1940’s it used multiple test-piece choices and in 1958 it even employed a play-off rerun between the top-six bands to decide the eventual winner.

Competitors have performed brand new commissions and banding classics, full blown arrangements, snipped originals and even ‘Fusions’ of old and new (as was the case in 1986). 

It remains a contest with its organisational finger firmly on the pulse of the banding body politic; a light touch form of management that seeks endorsement from those that respect its heritage but who are also well aware of the need to encompass proactive change.

Little wonder Symphony Hall is sold out once again.

Brussels
A Brussels Requiem looks forward to a brighter future...

Martin and Karyn Mortimer, alongside Contest Controller Frank Hodges are also well aware of the vacuous side-line critics and snake-oil salesmen alike that promise the event a future of untold riches if they sign up for the brass banding equivalent of the South Sea Bubble. 

Whatever you may have seen or heard from various sources, the official endorsement of how the British Open will commercially and artistically develop over the coming years will come from the British Open itself - not through ambiguous sales claims from those who have no link to the event.

That said, this year there will be cameras in the hall courtesy of the Twofour television production company which is looking to produce a future four part brass band series for the Sky Arts channel.  

Little wonder they sought an official invitation to film things.

Hard to beat

This year the attractions are hard to beat: 19 world class bands take to the stage on Saturday morning (10.00am start) to perform a fine work by Bert Appermont which will surely engage the non-terrestrial audience packed into the plush auditorium seats.

Who will eventually be crowned champion on ‘A Brussels Requiem’ will rest in the hands of three experienced and respected musicians (to be announced on the day) - but whoever gets their hands on the magnificent Gold Shield trophy will have certainly deserved it. You don’t get to top the pile at this event by luck.

The global scope of the British Open is obvious and compelling. And despite the UK’s impending political retreat from Europe, the timely inclusion of bands from the continent has given it a huge boost of prestige as well as interest.

The global scope of the British Open is obvious and compelling. And despite the UK’s impending political retreat from Europe, the timely inclusion of bands from the continent has given it a huge boost of prestige as well as interest.

Valaisia
Arsene Duc led Valaisia to victory in 2017

Remarkable ensembles

Valaisia’s 2017 victory under Arsene Duc was a thrilling endorsement of that decision - one that is further underlined this year by the inclusion of Eikanger Bjorsvik (as the leading non-UK band from the 2017 European Championship) led by Bjarte Engeset.

These are remarkable ensembles in any company - blessed with outstanding conductors and soloists moulded into cohesive ensemble units that have simply frightening levels of technical prowess and musical flexibility.  

Valaisia certainly enjoyed their Symphony Hall debut and could well be the favourite to triumph once again, whilst the Norwegians of Eikanger will surely not misjudge the razor sharp acoustic here as they did somewhat at the equally dry Tivoli Vredenburg at the Europeans in May.   

If both play to form, their rivals may need bottled oxygen to beat them to the summit.

Valaisia certainly enjoyed their Symphony Hall debut and could well be the favourite to triumph once again, whilst the Norwegians of Eikanger will surely not misjudge the razor sharp acoustic here as they did somewhat at the equally dry Tivoli Vredenburg at the Europeans in May.   

The UK challenge will need to be at its very best then if the trophy is to return to England - or further west to Wales.

Cory
Can Philip Harper weave his magic with Cory?

Cory will surely raise their proud standard on high on a work that could suit Philip Harper’s musicality to a tee. No other band in the contesting world has come close to producing the level of consistent excellence as the Welsh champion in recent years - so little wonder the pre-contest bookies odds are stacked in their favour.  

Many people making their way to the contest may think that these are the obvious contenders to battle it out for glory - but there are plenty of others more than capable of delivering title winning knockout punch.

40 years and counting...

It will be 40 years almost to the day that Brighouse & Rastrick last tasted Open success – and very nearly 15 since David King led a winning band.  

This will be his tenth appearance with the West Riding outfit, and given he has led them to two runner-up slots in the last three years, perhaps that frustrating wait will finally end this weekend. If they play like they did in winning the National title they will be there or thereabouts for sure.

King
Will Prof King raise his arm in triumph this year?

Foden’s record is not to be sniffed at either; just one finish outside the top-six in the last decade - including two wins.

They’ve linked-up with the effervescent Michael Bach, and that could be a combination that could strike gold in more ways than one. They shouldn’t be missed.

Pondasher expectations

Neither should Black Dyke - and not just because after last year’s 17th place finish the joists on the relegation trapdoor to the Grand Shield are creaking.  It would be almost incomprehensible to think they could end up in Blackpool next May – but nothing can be taken for granted. 

Prof Childs is used to the immense pressure that comes with Pondasher expectations – and more often than not comes up trumps. Their victory at the Yorkshire Area this year had the indelible stamp of quality that if repeated here could see them triumph once more.

Prof Childs is used to the immense pressure that comes with Pondasher expectations – and more often than not comes up trumps. Their victory at the Yorkshire Area this year had the indelible stamp of quality that if repeated here could see them triumph once more.

And how sweet a success would that be? 

Dark horses

Two of the fancied Celtic dark horses come in the form of two time champion Tredegar and last year’s runner-up, Whitburn.

Ian Porthouse’s band hasn’t hit the type of recent Symphony Hall form that saw them claim the victories of 2010 and 2013, but as was shown at the Albert Hall last year, Tredegar remain a formidable combination when things click into musical place - and this might be a piece that suits their approach.

Wghiburn
Can the Auld Alliance of Whitburn and Florent Didier come close to victory again?

So too Whitburn, who under French conductor Florent Didier came so close last year to becoming the first Scottish band to claim the title.

That ‘Auld Alliance’ returns - and given the type of confidence they now portray on the major contest stage, they are to be feared by every one of their rivals.

Without a care

Two former winners in Fairey and Grimethorpe cannot be discounted either - although the Open hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Stockport band of late despite consistent performances under Prof Garry Cutt. 

Grimethorpe being Grimethorpe could very well walk away with the title under Allan Withington without a care in the world – and what a memorable way that would be to round off a weekend that sees them also provide the entertainment on Friday night by accompanying a special showing of the film ‘Brassed Off!”  

The cameras will be there again on Saturday, so who would bet against them?

Hammonds
Hammonds have already won an impressive Shield this year 

It may be something of a major surprise if the 2018 title doesn’t head in one of the above banding directions, but it would be tempting fate to write off the chances of others.

Rothwell Temperance (due a bit of contesting serendipity), Carlton Main Frickley, Desford, Leyland and Flowers have all shown in the recent past that they are more than capable of posting top-six finishes at major contests, whilst Grand Shield champion Hammonds and qualifiers Aldbourne can throw a heavyweight punch or two onto the chins of rivals.   

It may be something of a major surprise if the 2018 title doesn’t head in one of the above banding directions, but it would be tempting fate to write off the chances of others.

Wingates and Co-operative Funeralcare may have one eye on a potential return to the Grand Shield is luck doesn’t go their way, but they are also bands that can mix it in top class company on the very best of their form.

Coverage

4BR will joining up with our friends at CU Brass and Brass Band World magazine to bring you a full day of live coverage from the heart of Symphony Hall.

It's going to be a different this year, so make sure you join us to enjoy the atmosphere and reports on the action as it unfolds - all the way to results and the declaration of the 2018 champion.

Iwan Fox 

 


4BR Prediction:

Such a difficult contest to predict given the quality of the competitors, but the trio of Valaisia, Cory and Eikanger just seem to have a well merited edge over their rivals. 

Which one of them comes out on top is anyone’s guess – but the Swiss could become the first band to successfully defend the title since Black Dyke in 2006. Cory will surely push them all the way alongside their Viking counterparts.

If there is any hint of fallibility though it could clear the path for the likes of Brighouse & Rastrick, Foden’s or Black Dyke, with our dark horses of Whitburn and Tredegar close behind.

1. Valaisia
2. Cory
3. Eikanger Bjorsvik
4. Brighouse & Rastrick
5. Foden’s
6. Black Dyke

Dark Horses: Whitburn, Tredegar
Potential top 10 finishers: Fairey, Grimethorpe Colliery    



Enderby Band - Enderby Band Christmas Concert

Monday 17 December • Enderby Church. Corner of Leicester Lane/Blaby Road. Enderby. Leicestershire LE19 4AR


Foden's Band - Little Lever High School

Tuesday 18 December • Little Lever High School ,Church Street, Little Lever, Bolton, BL3 1BT


The Wigston Band - The Wigston Band Christmas Concert

Thursday 20 December • St Thomas Church, South Wigston LE18 4TA


Regent Hall Concerts - Royal Greenwich Brass Band

Thursday 20 December • St Alfege Church. 3 Greenwich Church Street SE10 9BJ


The Wigston Band -

Thursday 20 December • St Thomas Church, South Wigston LE18 4TA


Haslingden & Helmshore Brass Band

December 18 • Haslingden & Helmshore, North West 1st Section Brass Band. . MD Mr. Simon Cowen (Principal Trombone with RLPO) . Require 2 front row Cornet players & Percussionist to complete the band. . A very sensible mix of engagements with rehearsals every Tuesday 8pm


Meltham and Meltham Mills Brass Band

December 18 • We have a vacancy for a Soprano and BBb Bass to complete the line up for the areas. Nice Schilke Sop sat waiting for the right person! The band currently competes in the 2nd Section and has a full program of concerts and contests.


The Corsham Band

December 18 • The band are currently looking for an experienced Back Row Cornet Player to join our friendly and enthusiastic team. Second or Third Cornet position available.


Rob Nesbitt

BSc, PG Cert. Ed.
Cartoonist , illustrator, writer