2019 Midlands Regional Championships
Previews & Predictions

4BR Editor Iwan Fox looks forward to the qualification action in Bedworth and Kenilworth on the weekend.

Fun and games in Bedworth this weekend...

Much is made of the banding self confidence to be found in Yorkshire and the fervor to be enjoyed in Blackpool at regional championship events, but the Midlands is every bit as passionate about their Area contesting readiness as anywhere in the country.

Perhaps more so in fact, as this year alone, 40 of the 78 competitors have already played in at least one contest before this weekend. Bands have taken to the stages at Butlins, Brass at the Guild, the Oxford and NEMBBA events and the Welsh Open.


The Midlands is also a hotbed of brass banding, although unlike others it perhaps goes more quietly about its business – all the while with its overall numbers stacking up pretty well - 76 in 2016, 79 in 2017 and 78 last year. And where others have shriveled, the Fourth Section here is a healthy size 21. 

It should make for some great contests to enjoy at Bedworth Civic Hall and the new venue (for the Third and Fourth Sections) of Kenilworth School. Even that has a brass band name that conjures up great contesting memories.

Lesley Bentley’s team does a great job coping with the logistics, and while Bedworth may not have the glamour of Huddersfield (relatively speaking of course) or the faded grandeur of the Winter Gardens, these venues do their job rather well.

 And where others have shriveled, the Fourth Section here is a healthy size 21. 

2018 was also a solid year of achievement at the Nationals for the region’s representatives: GUS and Desford gaining midfield finishes at the Albert Hall, Staffordshire coming close to winning the First Section in Cheltenham, Market Rasen claiming a podium finish in the Third and Stamford taking the Fourth in glorious fashion.

Lots to shout about then if they wanted to…

2018 Champion: GUS 

Championship Section:
Test Piece: Seascapes (Ray Steadman-Allen)

Civic Hall
Sunday 10th March
Adjudicators: Brett Baker and Derek Broadbent
Draw: 12.30pm
Commences: at the conclusion of Second Section

Blidworth Welfare (Simon Oates)
Derwent Brass (Jack Capstaff)
Desford Colliery (Michael Fowles)
Foresters Brass (John Davis)
Hathern (John Hudson)
Jaguar Land Rover (Nigel Seaman)
Langley (Cliff Parker)
Ratby Co-operative (Mareika Gray)
Rushden Town (Adele Hudson)
Spal Sovereign Brass (Trevor Jones)
Thoresby Colliery (Ian McElligott)
GUS (Chris Jeans)

‘Seascapes’ does level the playing field somewhat between the 12 competing bands, as the acoustic at the Civic Hall isn’t one that generally favours the loudest, brashest bands.  

Adjudicators Derek Broadbent and Brett Baker also know this piece well, and know exactly where its pitfalls lie: Breathless technique and dynamic force should be replaced by blend, balance and musical craft as the contenders in Huddersfield and Blackpool found out.  
The question remains though: Will anyone stop GUS from making it an unprecedented double hat-trick of Area titles?

Despite their fluctuating form at other major events, the defending champion has shown little sign of loosening its grip on the People Challenge Trophy here. 

Some have come close, but you have to go back to 2013 to find the last time they failed to head to London as champions. It’s one heck of a record.

The question remains though: Will anyone stop GUS from making it an unprecedented double hat-trick of Area titles?

4BR Prediction

So can they make it six in a row under their new MD Chris Jeans? 

Not if they play as they did at Butlins earlier this season, where the partnership took some time to find a test-piece connection.  However, despite being in something of a rebuilding phase at present, the underlying quality remains.  They will take some beating.

The favorites are surely Desford - and a Desford that has a new found level of top class consistency that has been shown not just in winning the Butlins title, but in last year’s solid appearances at the British Open and London.  

If they can repeat their Skegness form under Michael Fowles a first title since 2012 could well be theirs to celebrate.

Hard to see past the duo for the two qualification spots, although 2017 runner-up Thoresby  (third last year) could be the band to spoil things. Their second place finish at Brass at the Guild showed that they were preparing well under Ian McElligott.  A few more weeks have passed to add that extra qualification polish.

Ratby Co-operative, Derwent Brass and Blidworth should fancy their chances of a repeat top-six finish, whilst there will be a great deal of interest in the new partnership of Jaguar Land Rover and Nigel Seaman. They could be the dark horse of a closely matched batch of contenders looking for a podium finish or better.

1. Desford Colliery
2. GUS
3. Thoresby Colliery
4. Ratby Co-operative
5. Derwent Brass
6. Blidworth Welfare

Dark Horse: Jaguar Land Rover

2018 Champion: Staffordshire

First Section:
Test Piece: Symphony of Marches (Gilbert Vinter)

Civic Hall
Saturday 9th March
Adjudicators: Alan Morrison and John Winterflood
Split Draws: 10.00am and 12 noon
Commences: 11.00am

Bedworth Brass (Wayne Ruston)
Bilton Silver (Rugby) (David Stowell)
Burbage (Buxton) (Steve Critchlow)
Carlton Brass (Gary Wyatt)
Enderby (Ryan Richards)
Glossop Old (Luke Palister)
Harborough (Brad Turnbull)
Hucknall & Linby MC (Paul Whyley)
Jackfield (David Maplestone)
Kibworth (John Hudson)
Leicestershire Co-op (Brendan Caddy)
Newstead Brass (Jim Davies)
Oddfellows Brass (Dave Hollings)
Shirebrook MW Unison (Jim Henson)
Shirley (David Hirst)
Staffordshire (Craig Williams)

With the risk of sounding like we are repeating ourselves - ‘Symphony of Marches’ has been once heck of a test of musicianship as well as a sobering reality check to misplaced over-ambition. 

Too many performances in Blackpool and Huddersfield were blighted by damning errors of judgment; bizarre tempo choices, indeterminate dynamic balances and simple mathematical miscalculations tarnished performances. 

And as we have said elsewhere: ‘Brioso’ 126 in the third movement isn’t a presto gallop, whilst ‘brilliant and hard’ to start doesn’t mean ‘blow your knackers off’. 

The demi-semi quavers in the first bar of the second movement should in theory be the same value as the semi-quavers in the opening bar of the piece. 

Few have accomplished all three - let alone meet the other challenges that are so obvious in their transparency that misinformed conductors see right through them.

Gilbert Vinter knew what he wanted. Pay it the respect it deserves and all becomes crystal clear in the race for the two qualification places on offer from Alan Morrison and John Winterflood.

And as we have said elsewhere: ‘Brioso’ 126 in the third movement isn’t a presto gallop, whilst ‘brilliant and hard’ to start doesn’t mean ‘blow your knackers off’.  4BR Prediction:

4BR Prediction:

A number of the contenders have already tested their early season form - 11 of the 16 in fact taking to the stages at Butlins, the Welsh Open, Oxford and NEMBBA contests.   

However, the band that they may all be looking over their shoulders at could be the one that hasn’t yet made an appearance - last year’s First Section National runner-up, Staffordshire. 

They were very good at Cheltenham and if MD Craig Williams has built on that in the last few months they could well fancy their chances of heading back there again.

Relegated Jackfield has shown that they will be in decent shape after two impressive top-six appearances at Butlins and the Welsh Open, whilst another of last year’s qualifiers, Enderby could chase them to the qualification line alongside Newstead Brass.

Carlton Brass and Hucknall & Linby had encouraging results at the NEMBBA contest which may prove beneficial here, whilst our dark horse is Bedworth Brass. 

1. Staffordshire
2. Jackfield
3. Enderby
4. Newstead Brass
5. Carlton Brass
6. Hucknall & Linby 

Dark Horse: Bedworth Brass

2018 Champion: Hucknall & Linby

Second Section:
Test Piece: Rise of the Phoenix (Darrol Barry)

Civic Hall
Sunday 10th March
Adjudicators:  Gary Davies & Steve Pritchard-Jones
Split Draws: 9.00am and 10.30am
Commences: 10.00am 

Avonbank Evesham (Dave Lea)
Bakewell Silver (Andy Davey)
City of Coventry (Stephen Cooper)
Foss Dyke (Mike Howley)
Gresley Colliery (Craig Stevens)
Ibstock Brick Brass (Simon Willis)
Ireland Colliery Chesterfield (Lindon Bolt)
Market Rasen (David Dernley)
Rolls Royce (Derby) (Graham Cardwell)
Shirland Welfare (Lynden Cooper)
Stourport on Severn (Oliver Wilson)
Tintwistle (Andrew Mallon)
Wigston (Chris Small)

‘Rise of the Phoenix’ is proving to be the surprise hit of the 2019 regional test-pieces.  

Where Gilbert Vinter’s ‘Symphony of Marches’ has found bands wanting, Darrol Barry’s work, so cleverly crafted to incorporate easily identifiable pastiche tropes like a stereotypical James Bond villain stroking a white Persian cat, has been found them asking for more like Oliver Twist with an empty porridge bowl.

It’s a type of commercial ‘concert’ music that purists can easily turn their noses up at – but by golly it ain’t half enjoyable and effective.  Technically not the hardest of pieces to be found at this level, it still has enough in it to test individual players (two lyrical solos for flugel and cornet and cracking parts for bass trom and percussion), as well as the ensemble.

It is of course James Bond meets ‘Mack & Mabel’, but what’s so wrong with that. It would make for a cracking film.

Darrol Barry’s work, so cleverly crafted to incorporate easily identifiable pastiche tropes like a stereotypical James Bond villain stroking a white Persian cat, has been found them asking for more like Oliver Twist with an empty porridge bowl.

4BR Prediction:

There are 13 bands looking for the two Cheltenham qualification places on offer courtesy of  Steve Pritchard Jones and Gary Davies in the box. 

Both have plenty of conducting experience at this level so bands will know that they will have to get the basics in place before adding the hidden ‘Bond’ inspired extras.

One again the bands here have been busy testing their early season form - nine of the 13 having ventured out before this weekend.  

Shirland Welfare enjoyed their trip to Skegness as they claimed a deserved victory, whilst they also gave a solid account of themselves at the NEMBBA contest. 

Four other bands also made the trip to the Skyline resort and did well - with Ibstock third, Gresley fourth and City of Coventry sixth. 

Rolls Royce (who qualified for Cheltenham last year) showed their rivals here a clean pair of heels at the NEMBBA contest where they were runner-up, whilst City of Coventry and Wigston also took to the stage at the recent Oxford contest.

This could be the closest contest of the weekend, but we have put our money on Shirland Welfare and Rolls Royce (Derby) to claim the qualification places, just ahead of Gresley Colliery, Ibstock Brick Brass, City of Coventry and Ireland Colliery (Chesterfield). Our dark horse is Foss Dyke. 

1. Shirland Welfare
2. Rolls Royce (Derby)
3. Ibstock Brick Brass 
4. Gresley Colliery
5. City of Coventry 
6. Ireland Colliery (Chesterfield)

Dark Horse: Foss Dyke

Market Rasen went onto claim third place at the National Final

Third Section:
Test Piece: First Suite in Eb (Gustav Holst arr. Sydney Herbert)

Kenilworth School, Kenilworth
Saturday 9th March
Adjudicators: Gary Davies and Steve Pritchard-Jones
Split Draw: 10.00am and 12 noon
Commences: 11.00am

Amington (Alan Gifford)
Arrow Valley (Andy Culshaw)
Audley Brass (Tom Hancock)
Cleobury Mortimer (Colin Hogg)
Corby Silver (Catherine Fountain)
Cubbington (Mark Phillips)
Daventry (Bob Stradling)
Long Eaton (Sharon Stansfield)
Newhall (Kevin Holdgate)
Pleasley Colliery Welfare (Geof Benson)
Raunds Temperance (Jonathan Pippen)
Stamford Brass (Julian Bright)
Syston (Gary Smallwood)
Towcester Studio (Neil Brownless)
Trentham Brass (Mike Cavaney)
Wellington Telford (Stephen Rhodes)

A new venue always poses questions for competing bands - and especially those who have to take to the stage early in the draw. 

Hopefully, the competitors will have some idea of what to expect when they take to the stage at Kenilworth School, as Gustav Holst’s ‘First Suite in Eb’ asks immediate questions about dynamic balance and textual cohesion from the first bar of the flowing ‘Chaconne’. 

It’s followed by the delicacy of the central ‘Intermezzo’ and the noble ‘March’ to close. Although the writing looks easy it is anything but - and especially in an unfamiliar acoustic.

Gustav Holst’s ‘First Suite in Eb’ asks immediate questions about dynamic balance and textual cohesion from the first bar of the flowing ‘Chaconne’. 

4BR Prediction:

Plenty for the 16 bands, as well as adjudicators Steve Pritchard-Jones and Gary Davies, to enjoy and work out then.  

Once again the competitors have not been resting on their early season laurels, with 11 already tasting competitive action - six at Butlins.

Raunds Temperance came away from the Skyline resort crowned champion, and they could well be the band to beat under Jonathan Pippen. Audley Brass (who was runner-up last year) and Pleasley Colliery (who were eighth) also claimed top-six finishes in Skegness and will be keen to build on that impressive form.

Cubbington, Amington and Stamford Brass ended lower down the results table, but will be eager to pose a substantial challenge for a podium finish, whilst Long Eaton showed good form in winning the recent NEMBBA contest, with Trentham runner-up.

Meanwhile, Arrow Valley, Towcester Studio and Syston dipped their toes into the waters at the Oxford contest, but will want to build on those performances if they are to make a mark here.

Raunds Temperance look like the pre-contest favourites, with Cleobury Mortimer and Long Eaton close behind. Audley Brass, Pleasley Colliery and Trentham Brass look decent value at the bookies for a top-six finish, but the one to look out for could well be Stamford Brass.

They endured a pretty awful contest day at Butlins, but if they have put that behind them, they could go from last to first.

1. Raunds Temperance
2. Cleobury Mortimer
3. Long Eaton
4. Audley Brass
5. Pleasley Colliery
6. Trentham Brass

Dark Horse: Stamford Brass

2018 National Champion: Stamford Brass

Fourth Section:
Test Piece: Stantonbury Festival (Ray Steadman-Allen)

Kenilworth School, Kenilworth
Sunday 10th March
Adjudicators:  Benjamin Richeton and John Winterflood 
Split Draws: 10.00am and 12 noon
Commence: 11.00am

Bestwood Welfare Black Diamonds (tba)
Bilton Silver (Evolution) (Jack Fisher)
Brackley & District (Mark Probert)
City of Birmingham (Ben Hewlett-Davies)
Coventry Festival (Allan Wheelhouse)
Croft Silver (Ian Needham)
Dunchurch (Paul Whitmore)
Fairfield (Buxton) (Charles Kitchen)
Kirkby Colliery Welfare (Neville Buxton)
Malvern Hills District (Chris License)
Matlock (Chris Banks)
Melton (Graham Sutton)
Moulton 77 (Colin Jones)
Newark Town (Brian Newland)
Ratby Co-operative Mid (Gary Perrin)
Sherwood Forest Brass (Christine Lippeatt)
Shipston Town (Howard Gibbs)
Skegness (Steve Walker)
University of Warwick (Simon Hogg)
Wem Jubilee (David Thomas)
Whitwell Brass (Ryan Stacey)

It’s good to report that the number of competitors in the Fourth Section remains pretty stable around the 21 mark (it was 25 in 1999 but went down to 17 at one point).

Hopefully the new venue will persuade even more to return in future, but for the time being those seeking the three qualification places of offer from adjudicators John Winterflood and Benjamin Ritcheton will have to claim them by mastering Ray Steadman-Allen’s cleverly crafted ‘Stantonbury Festival’.

It’s a piece that asks a lot of the competitors - a neat balance of the florid and technical and the lyrical and restrained. 

The best bands will be able to build something of musical note from the basic foundations that need to be put in place. 
Last year’s qualifiers did well at Cheltenham; Stamford Brass winning in fine style and Croft Silver and City of Birmingham showing encouraging promise despite their eventual midfield finishes.

It’s a piece that asks a lot of the competitors - a neat balance of the florid and technical and the lyrical and restrained.  

4BR Prediction:

A little bit of 2019 form to go on, with both Matlock and Shipston Town enjoying success on the RSA piece at the recent Oxford and NEMBBA contests respectively. They will look to add to those honours on Sunday.   

Both City of Birmingham and Croft Silver will be looking for another crack at the Cheltenham finals, whilst Melton and Kirkby Colliery Welfare could just pip rivals for a top-six place.  Our dark horse is Ratby Co-operative Mid.  

1. Matlock
2. Shipston Town
3. Croft Silver
4. City of Birmingham
5. Melton
6. Kirkby Colliery Welfare

Dark Horse: Ratby Co-operative Mid

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