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2019 Yorkshire Regional Championships
Previews & Predictions

4BR Editor Iwan Fox looks forward to a febrile competitive atmosphere at a warm and welcoming Huddersfield Town Hall on the weekend.

banneres
All the seats will be full once again at Yorkshire...

Given the current metrological conditions in parts of the UK, it seems almost incomprehensible that this time last year there were doubts as to whether the Yorkshire Regional Championships would take place.

Most of northern England was smothered in a thick blanket of snow - the M62 connecting Huddersfield to the rest of the banding world blocked by drifts, the Trans-Pennine Express rail link more like its Trans-Siberian counterpart.

This year players could turn up in Bermuda shorts and flip-flops. 

No gritters needed

However, whatever global warming throws at the banding movement, Peggy Tomlinson and her formidable Yorkshire Regional Committee take it all in their stride. 

Last year they were ready to man the gritters to ensure those hardiest of hardy Yorkshire folk made it to Huddersfield Town Hall not to miss a single note of the qualifying action. This year they could be mixing Pina-coladas and handing out protective sun tan lotion.

Fingers crossed then that all will be well with the weather, as it promises to be yet another memorable weekend of qualification battles. 

Last year they were ready to man the gritters to ensure those hardiest of hardy Yorkshire folk made it to Huddersfield Town Hall not to miss a single note of the qualifying action. This year they could be mixing Pina-coladas and handing out protective sun tan lotion.

snow
Hopefully no sign of snow in Yorkshire... or in Wales this year... 

Yorkshire pride

Yorkshire enjoyed a decent, but not outstanding 2018 at London and Cheltenham; Brighouse & Rastrick and Black Dyke claiming pre-qualification finishes at the Albert Hall with Barnsley Brass securing the Third Section honours.

And although there were three other top-six finishes (Grimethorpe, Crofton and Dronfield), given that their North West rivals boasted three National Championship wins a little bit of Yorkshire pride needs to be restored later this year.    

The action starts on Saturday morning with the Third Section (9.15am) followed by the Fourth (approx 1. 30pm) and the First (approx 4.30pm), whilst on Sunday the Second Section (10.15am) is followed by the Championship (3.15pm) - which as always is close to being sold out. 

You will need to be pretty sharp (and perhaps lucky) to get tickets for that one.

Hopefully, weather permitting the 4BR editor will be able to round up the huskies in south Wales to make it there.


DSyke
2018 Champion: Black Dyke

Championship Section:
Sunday 3rd March
Adjudicators: Stephen Roberts and Steve Sykes

Draw: 1.15pm
Commence: 3.15pm

Black Dyke (Prof. Nicholas J Childs)
Brighouse & Rastrick (Dr David Thornton)
Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Ian Porthouse)
City of Bradford (Lee Skipsey)
Elland Silver (Daniel Brooks)
Grimethorpe Colliery (Allan Withington)
Hammonds Saltaire (Morgan Griffiths)
Hepworth (Mark Bentham)
Marsden Silver (Andrew Lofthouse)
Rothwell Temperance (David Roberts)
Skelmanthorpe (Martin Heartfield)
Strata (Jonathan Bates)
Unite the Union (John Roberts)

The adjective ‘febrile’ is being used to describe the current atmosphere found in that other great Victorian architectural venue in Westminster at present, although it will almost certainly sum things up here come Sunday evening.

There is always a fevered sense of anticipation about this contest - one that this year is given extra spice as Black Dyke seek to become the first band to win four consecutive Yorkshire titles.  

The Queensbury outfit currently shares the hat-trick honours with their counterparts of 1964-1966 and Yorkshire Imps of 1975-1977, so what would Prof Nicholas Childs give to secure a majority vote on his ‘Seascapes’ plans this weekend?  

To do that they will have to master what is already proving to be a deceptively difficult work.

No hiding place

Ray Steadman-Allen’s ensemble composition is full of rich textures, balances and colour rather than brazen technique, over-emphasised dynamics and pacing. It made for intriguing listening in Blackpool. 

And whilst the acoustic at Huddersfield Town Hall is more generous than the Opera House at the Winter Gardens, it still won’t provide a hiding place for poor ensemble cohesion or ill-defined detail - not when you have the experienced duo of Stephen Roberts and Steve Sykes in the box (and both conducted the piece when it was used at the 1988 National Final).
 
Like the rabid back-benchers of Parliament, all the shouting and barking of supporters come the last chord of these particular musical arguments won’t persuade these two honourable members to change their minds on their opinions.

Like the rabid back-benchers of Parliament, all the shouting and barking of supporters come the last chord of these particular musical arguments won’t persuade these two honourable members to change their minds on their opinions.

4BR Prediction:

13 contenders take to the stage (and it would take Winston Churchill to argue that Yorkshire has that many true top section bands), led by the defending champion.   

Black Dyke sounded relaxed (and much more balanced) at their recent RNCM Brass Band Festival outing and with their place in Kensington already assured they could be the band to beat. The MD also seems to have been rejuvenated by a winter break of his own. History beckons.

Who can stop them?

Their great rivals would love to do just that, and Brighouse were also very good at the RNCM event.  No Prof David King at the helm, but Dr David Thornton is fast becoming an impressive musical driving force with the West Riding band – one that could well see him lead them to a first title success since 2014.

With these two pre-qualified there is a great deal to play for - with a brace of Albert Hall places up for grabs. 
 
Many neutrals felt Carlton Main were unlucky not to have made it through last year, so they will be hoping they get a little bit of contesting serendipity this time around, whilst Rothwell Temperance also seems to pick the short straw here when it comes to good fortune.

Lots of eyes and ears though on Grimethorpe - and you never know. Allan Withington’s band could deliver something very special. 

Hammonds has become a solid top-flight contender and could well return to London for the second time in three years, whilst Lee Skipsey and City of Bradford (who won at the recent Brass at the Guild contest) will also hope for a repeat of 2017.

Good to see Mark Bentham back with a resurgent Hepworth, who could be a bit of a dark horse. 

1. Black Dyke
2. Brighouse & Rastrick
3. Grimethorpe Colliery
4. Carlton Main Frickley
5. Rothwell Temperance
6. Hammonds 

Dark Horse: Hepworth


Strata
2018 Champion: Strata Brass

First Section:
Saturday 2nd March
Adjudicators: Gary Davies and Howard J Evans

Draw: 3.00pm
Commence: 4.30pm approx

Crofton Silver (Dean Jones)
Drighlington (Neil Robinson)
Hatfield & Askern Colliery (Stanley Lippeatt)
Hebden Bridge (David Hamilton)
Knottingley Silver (Kevin Belcher)
Lindley (Robert Westacott)
Old Silkstone (John Hopkinson)
Prospect Brass Skelmanthorpe (Duncan Beckley)
Stannington (Derek Renshaw)
Wakefield Metropolitan (Peter Kench)
Yorkshire Imperial Urquhart Travel (Simon Gresswell)

The First Section hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for Yorkshire’s representatives at Cheltenham in recent years. 

Since Unite the Union’s win in 2012 there has only been one podium finish (2014) and two other top-six finishes (2013 & 2017). Last year’s contenders were 12th and 17th. 

Many different arguments and reasons for that perhaps, but with more bands in the top section than there is taking the stage here, it does make you wonder. Whoever gets through on Saturday courtesy of Gary Davies and Howard Evans needs to restore Yorkshire pride. 

‘Symphony of Marches’ has worn its age well; its 55 year-old mix of obvious brilliance, opaque wit and inferred funereal despair still more than capable of inflicting deep bite marks on the musical backsides of conductors who feel the need to reinvent  Gilbert Vinter’s ‘march’ inspired ideals.   

Those who opted for the latter approach in Blackpool came a cropper.  It is proving to be a much trickier test than many may have initially thought. 

‘Symphony of Marches’ has worn its age well; its 55 year-old mix of obvious brilliance, opaque wit and inferred funereal despair still more than capable of inflicting deep bite marks on the musical backsides of conductors who feel the need to reinvent  Gilbert Vinter’s ‘march’ inspired ideals.   

4BR Prediction:

11 well-matched bands with not a great deal of 2019 form to go on as a potential guide to who will eventually claim the two qualification places.

Yorkshire Imps and Knottingley didn’t enjoy much luck at Butlins and only Hatfield & Askern Colliery tested the podium waters at Preston (and again in winning at the recent NEMBBA contest).  Crofton also tried their luck there in coming fourth - so not a great deal to go on.

That said, Stannington, Drighlington and our dark horse of Wakefield Metropolitan have put in solid shows here over the last few years, so they could well be in the mix as they emerge from their winter contest hibernation. 

A bit of a finger in the wind one this - but in for a penny...

1. Hatfield & Askern Colliery
2. Yorkshire Imperial Urquhart Travel
3. Stannington
4. Knottingley
5. Drighlington
6. Crofton

Dark Horse: Wakefield Metropolitan


Crofton
2018 Champion: Crofton Silver

Second Section:
Sunday 3rd March
Adjudicators: Howard J Evans and Christopher Houlding

Draw: 8.45am
Commence: 10.15am

Barnsley Brass (William Rushworth)
BD1 Brass (Lee Skipsey)
Chapeltown (Sam Fisher)
Clifton & Lightcliffe (John Clay)
Dronfield Genquip (Damian Wileman)
Hade Edge (Jonathan Beatty)
Horbury Victoria (Duncan Beckley)
Meltham & Meltham Mills (Tom Haslam)
Slaithwaite (Ryan Watkins)
South Yorkshire Police (Leigh Baker)
Worsbrough Brass (Dr. Alexander Parker)

Darrol Barry’s ‘Rise of the Phoenix’ may be a work that evokes memories of the great film scores of namesake John Barry with it suave feel of all things ‘James Bond meets Mack & Mabel’, but as was shown in Blackpool, it’s also one that can kill off qualification prospects quicker than Odd Job and his bowler hat. 

Any Yorkshire spies who were there will surely have reported back on the clear criticisms of Derek Broadbent in respect to the ingrained rhythmic inaccuracies which undermined a number of performances (flugel and cornet solo lines especially).  

And just in case any bands were wondering - a certain Howard Evans (in the box with Chris Houlding here) was sat incognito at the back of the hall at the Winter Gardens listening very intently.   

Those elements (as well as balance and intonation) will have to be addressed then in the last few rehearsals before the contenders take to the stage. 

Get it right and Cheltenham beckons, where Yorkshire’s representatives have a solid record of achievement in recent years - including victory for Stannington in 2016 and at least one band in the top-six since 2015.   

Darrol Barry’s ‘Rise of the Phoenix’ may be a work that evokes memories of the great film scores of namesake John Barry with it suave feel of all things ‘James Bond meets Mack & Mabel’, but as was shown in Blackpool, it’s also one that can kill off qualification prospects quicker than Odd Job and his bowler hat. 

4BR Prediction:

A hard one to call as the current 2019 form guide is a touch anaemic - although on paper the 11 contenders appear to be evenly matched.

Hade Edge recently won the NEMBBA contest (after coming 5th at Butlins), whilst Dronfield Genquip came a lowly 14th at Skegness. BD1 Brass tested the waters at Brass at the Guild and Chapeltown came third at the NEMBBA contest. Going back a few months and Horbury Victoria took the Bolsover title.

That’s about it really - so who will win? 

Hade Edge could be the band to beat with Horbury Victoria always a solid competitor under Duncan Beckley. 

Chapeltown, South Yorkshire Police, BD1 Brass and Clifton & Lightcliffe (who the piece was written for) should press them hard with our dark horse of 2018 Third Section National Champion Barnsley Brass, who could well top the lot. 

1. Hade Edge
2. Horbury Victoria
3. Chapeltown
4. BD1 Brass
5. South Yorkshire Police
6. Clifton & Lightcliffe 

Dark Horse: Barnsley Brass


Barnsley
2018 Champion: Barnsley Brass went on to win the National title under MD William Rushworth

Third Section: 
Saturday 2nd March
Adjudicators: Sheona Wade and David Thornton

Draw: 7.45am
Commence: 9.15am

Armthorpe Elmfield (R. Kilcoyne)
Clifton & Lightcliffe B (John Clay)
Deepcar (Cathryn Rogers)
Dinnington (Lee Dunkley)
Emley (Garry Hallas)
Gawthorpe Brass 85 (John Edward)
Huddersfield & Ripponden (Adam Bell)
Kippax (Stephen Tighe)
Lofthouse 2000 (Andrew Whitaker)
Oughtibridge (Gavin Somerset)
Rockingham (Adam Whittle)
Wetherby Silver (Derek Wharley)

An adherence to good banding basics could well prove the key to success in the Third Section, where Gustav Holst’s lovely ‘First Suite in Eb’ has proved to be an almost perfect test of ambition and musicality.

Whoever gets through will have their work cut out to emulate last year’s representatives who came first and second at Cheltenham - whilst the region has maintained a stranglehold on the title since 2016, with wins for Crofton Silver followed by BD1 Brass and Barnsley Brass.  

The work certainly asks questions of players in all sections - as well as the MD; the flow of the opening ‘Chaconne’ having to be balanced with the light touch of the ‘Intermezzo’ and the brio of the final ‘March’.  

Heavy handedness in terms of dynamics and tempi robs the musical picture, whilst those who can evoke a little bit of Edwardian nobility in the playing may just gain reward from Sheona Wade and David Thornton in the box.

Heavy handedness in terms of dynamics and tempi robs the musical picture, whilst those who can evoke a little bit of Edwardian nobility in the playing may just gain reward from Sheona Wade and David Thornton in the box.

4BR Prediction:

Another hard one to call, but a few little form guide pointers with the likes of Emley perhaps the band to beat after a solid show at Brass at the Guild.  

Huddersfield & Ripponden were fifth there, whilst Kippax enjoyed a solid run-out at the Durham BBA Festival and Dinnington claimed a podium finish at the recent NEMBBA contest.

What that all adds up to is anyone’s guess, but we will soon find out which bands have kept something back in reserve for the big day with the likes Rockingham and Lofthouse 2000 solid contenders alongside our dark horse of Gawthorpe Brass 85.   

1. Emley 
2. Rockingham
3. Lofthouse 2000
4. Kippax
5. Huddersfield & Ripponden
6. Dinnington 

Dark Horse: Gawthorpe Brass 85


Gawthore
2018 Champion: Gawthorpe Brass 85

Fourth Section:
Saturday 2nd March
Adjudicators: Alan Duguid and Sandy Smith

Draw: 12 noon
Commence: 1.30pm approx

Barnsley Metropolitan (Alex Francis)
Dodworth Colliery M.W. (Eliot Darwin)
Friendly Band (Sowerby Bridge) (James Beecham)
Garforth (John Thompson)
Linthwaite (Paul Kershaw)
Loxley Silver (Richard Windle)
Maltby Miners (Terry Clifford)
Thurcroft Welfare (Matthew Wright)

Just eight bands will take to the stage in the Fourth Section.  

Much like the North West and other regions, the numerical imbalance between sections has the potential to completely undermine the fabric of banding in the area. 

There were 11 bands taking part last year, 10 the year before. In contrast, in 1999 it was 13, in 1989 there were 24.   

What should be a pyramid structure of progressive excellence is being turned on its head throughout the country. It is slowly rotting away the foundations.

The last time Yorkshire claimed the National title was in 2006, and since them it has been slim pickings - the last top-six finish in 2015. This is a proud and historic banding region, but the warning bells have been ringing for some time now.

Hopefully they will be ringing out in triumph come Cheltenham, but we will first have to find out who gets through on Saturday afternoon by catching the ears of Alan Duguid and Sandy Smith in the box.

Ray Steadman-Allen’s ‘Stantonbury Festival’ is a cracking piece to find out who can do the banding basics best - a trio of movements that ask questions of technique as well as musicality, from the opening fortissimo crotchets to the joyful dance feel to the ‘Allegro’ to close.

Ray Steadman-Allen’s ‘Stantonbury Festival’ is a cracking piece to find out who can do the banding basics best - a trio of movements that ask questions of technique as well as musicality, from the opening fortissimo crotchets to the joyful dance feel to the ‘Allegro’ to close.

4BR Prediction:

If the 2019 form guide is anything to go by then Maltby Miners could be the band to beat after a fine runner-up finish at Butlins was followed by a solid run-out at the recent NEMBBA contest. 

Dodworth Colliery MW also enjoyed Skegness and could be in the mix once again, whilst you could throw a Yorkshire Pudding over how close the others could be in such a small field - from Barnsley Metropolitan to Thurcroft Welfare.

1. Maltby Miners
2. Dodworth Colliery MW
3. Barnsley Metropolitan
4. Garforth
5. Friendly Band (Sowerby Bridge)
6. Thurcroft Welfare

Dark Horses: Linthwaite and Loxley Silver

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