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2019 British Open
Preview & prediction

The sound of a new champion will resonate around the banding world this year as the British Open goes global...

World
The 2019 British Open is being connected to all corners of the banding globe

The British Open Championship has always offered a warm welcome to the wider musical world.

It has taken incremental competitive steps of course: It wasn’t until 1861 that a band from outside Yorkshire or Lancashire took to the Belle Vue stage (London Victoria Amateurs). The Scots were embraced in 1866 (Dumfries Volunteers) although the Welsh not until 1885 (Vayrol).

The Australians of Newcastle Steel Works arrived in 1924, promptly winning the contest much to dismay of those who felt the sun would never set in this particular part of the British Empire, whilst they were followed by National Band of New Zealand in 1953, who went and did the same thing.

Since then the event has seen competitors from Northern Ireland (1958), the USA (2003), Switzerland (2015), Belgium (2016) and Norway (2017). 

The Australians of Newcastle Steel Works arrived in 1924, promptly winning the contest much to dismay of those who felt the sun would never set in this particular part of the British Empire

Open
There was a time when the competitors themselves were local lads...

Sold out

With such global appeal, little wonder the 2262 seats for this year’s event were sold out in just over five hours. 

It has led to the decision of Martin and Karyn Mortimer to live-stream the contest around the world - with coverage provided by World of Brass with support from event sponsors Besson. It is being hosted by Stagecast, a specialist provider of live streaming events and presented alongside 4BR.

It could very well secure the future of the event for the next 167 years.


There is not an empty seat to be had...

Niche market

Its success however, much like the incremental competitive evolvement of the British Open itself, is one based on balancing the potential of increased audience demand with the long term benefits it brings for both the contest and the bands themselves.

However, any person who believes there are untold riches to be quickly plundered from broadcasting 8 hours or more of continuous brass band contesting to what they think may be tens of thousands of people around the globe would be greatly mistaken.

This is very much the first step in testing the waters of a very niche market indeed.

This is very much the first step in testing the waters of a very niche market indeed.

Plenty to look forward to wherever you happen to be on the weekend though – from your seat at Symphony Hall to your sofa in Christchurch, New Zealand, watching on a mobile phone in Aberdeen or in front of your PC in Albuquerque. 

Aural elegance

Peter Graham’s test-piece ‘Dynasty’ has certainly surprised conductors and players alike since landing on rehearsal stands.

It’s not quite been what many would have expected. Forget the whizz-bang pyrotechnics, technical overloads and heavy metal volume: This is a 15 minute celebration of musicality and tonal refinement, artistry and a very particular form of aural elegance.

Graham
The man behind the test-piece: Peter Graham

Easy genius

The tests of technique are considered, the solo spotlights in particular crying out for a touch of expressive sensitivity. The ensemble playing is a rich but lithe mixture of homogenous texture and timbre; dynamics are controlled, the sound shimmering with intensity yet never over-sugared with lachrymose artifice or crass pliability.

It is a dynastic monument to sound. In fact - all the things that the Mortimer dynasty itself was famous for:  It may sound easy, but then genius always does.

And while the three very experienced judges will have plenty to consider in the confines of the box, the world-wide audience are guaranteed to be able to sit back and lap up 18 performances of the highest class. 

It is a dynastic monument to sound. In fact - all the things that the Mortimer dynasty itself was famous for:  It may sound easy, but then genius always does.

2019 champion?

So who will be crowned the 2019 champion?

It’s an intriguing one to consider this year.

The usual suspects will of course head to Symphony Hall brimming with confidence, but also wary of the possibility that however well they think they may have played they could find themselves beaten by a performance of sheer musical inspiration.

Cory
The defending champions: Cory

Defending champion Cory will of course be short-odds money under Philip Harper. The European, Brass in Concert and Band of the Year title holders are blessed with superb soloists and a remarkable ability to be collectively inspired by their MD. 

Once again they will be the band to beat. 

Alchemy

If it is a particular form of musical alchemy that will bring success then there should be quite a few bets placed on National Champion Foden’s (remember the considered musical approach they took in claiming the Albert Hall title last year). 

Russell Gray will surely have enjoyed getting to grips with this score – the result of which could bring them a victory to honour their great contesting ancestors.

If it is a particular form of musical alchemy that will bring success then there should be quite a few bets placed on National Champion Foden’s (remember the considered musical approach they took in claiming the Albert Hall title last year). 

King
Can Prof David King bring a first Open title back to West Riding since 1978?

A Brighouse & Rastrick Open victory has been long overdue for West Riding band fans (1978 in fact), although they have come very close to ending their hoodoo in recent years under Prof David King – including a fine third place finish last year off the number 3 draw.

Could this be the occasion where that long wait finally comes to an end?

Intriguing question

Fans of Black Dyke will head to Birmingham buoyed with confidence after the Queensbury band rediscovered their best form at the Band of the Year contest under Prof Nicholas Childs. 

There they played with panache and precision – two elements that should serve them well here as they look for their first triumph since 2014. 


There is a smile back on the face of Black Dyke fans too...

An intriguing question to be answered on Saturday is whether this type of very traditional tonal brass band music will suit the brilliance of 2017 champion Valaisia. 

Arsene Duc’s band has all the attributes to reclaim the title, but after a rather underwhelming European Championship appearance some doubts emerged. They will be determined to prove the critics and naysayers wrong.  

Michelin star meat and drink

If its traditional qualities that find favour in the box then one band that could give everyone a run for their money could be Fairey under Garry Cutt.

He would have been licking his lips when he started delving into the score at rehearsals - as this is Michelin star meat and drink to his musical talents.

He would have been licking his lips when he started delving into the score at rehearsals - as this is Michelin star meat and drink to his musical talents.

Cutt
Meat and drink to the Fairey MD?

Dark horses

As for the dark horses?

Carlton Main Frickley has a trump card like no other in their ranks. Kirsty Abbotts is their equivalent of the Australian batsman Steve Smith – a remarkable player that everyone admires, even rivals.

Add to that MD Luc Vertommen’s expertise on Peter Graham scores and they could well post a top-six finish or better for the first time since 2011.

VERTOMMEN
Luc Vertommen leads the dark horses of Carlton Main Frickley

Tredegar has been a bit hit and miss at Symphony Hall of late – although the hits have been memorable ones with their two victories under Ian Porthouse. 

They were polished at the Band of the Year contest where they came third, so more of that form and their names could be mentioned in prize winning dispatches again.

Trap door

Grimethorpe and Whitburn make up our dark horse bets – the former going through one of its occasional periods of unrest but now back on track under the baton of Dr David Thornton.  At their best they can thrill like no other - so maybe time for them to do so again?

Whitburn are well aware that they could hear the creak of the relegation trap-door opening up beneath them if they fail to flourish this year under Florent Didier. 

The embedded quality hasn’t disappeared since they came runner-up here in 2017, so a bit of draw luck should see them comfortably home.

Whitburn are well aware that they could hear the creak of the relegation trap-door opening up beneath them if they fail to flourish this year under Florent Didier.

There will be a lot of bands here that feel they are in with the opportunity to force their way into the top end of the prizes if they play to the very best of their form, and the likes of Flowers with Paul Holland back at the helm (excuse the pun), Desford and last year’s sixth placed finishers Leyland outfits that could do that and more.


Grand Shield winners: NASUWT Riverside

Impressive

The Grand Shield winners NASUWT Riverside has certainly become an impressive high quality contesting outfit and will keen to make their mark on their debuts under the experienced David Roberts, whilst fellow qualifiers the cooperation band led by Phillip McCann has been in a rich seam of form this season. Bands not to miss then. 

Aldbourne will hope the brilliant Belgian Ivan Meylemans will help in their quest to push towards a top 10 finish after their impressive debut last year, whilst Wingates and Hammonds are quality bands led by excellent conductors in Paul Andrews and Morgan Griffiths who can also pull away from any potential relegation worries if they hit top form.

Iwan Fox


Who will win?

It’s not often you can say the best sounding band will have won a major contest, but it may be true this year on Peter Graham’s test-piece. 

The very best will surely meet its considered technical demands with an added level of refined aplomb from soloists and ensemble alike.

It may therefore come down to those conductors who can inspire their bands to create a modern day version (although not pastiche mimicry) of that luminous intensity of tonality that was the hallmark of Harry Mortimer as a player and the great Foden’s Band of the 1930s.

And that for us may just be Brighouse by a hairsbreadth from Cory and Black Dyke, with the other contenders close on their heels.    

4BR Prediction:

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

Dark Horses: Carlton Main, Tredegar, Grimethorpe, Whitburn 

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Black Dyke Band - Sheffield Citadel Salavation Army

Thursday 21 November • 12 Psalter Lane, Sheffield S11 8YN


Regent Hall Concerts - Symphonic Brass Ensemble of the Band of the Royal

Friday 22 November • Regent Hall (The Salvation Army). 275 Oxford Street Opp. RESERVED. London . W1C 2DJ W1C 2DJ


Derwent Brass - Southwell Choral Society

Saturday 23 November • Southwell Minster, Church St, Southwell, Nottingham NG25 0HD


Woodfalls Band - Salisbury Chamber Chorus

Saturday 23 November • St Thomas Church St Thomas's Sq, SP1 1BA Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 1BA


Kettering Citadel S A Band - International Staff Band of the Salvation Army

Saturday 23 November • The Salvation Army,. 66, Rockingham Road,. Kettering, Northamptonshire NN16 8JU


Ibstock Brick Brass

November 18 • Ibstock Brick Brass are looking for cornet players to join their line up going into contest season. Position negotiable. Based in Coalville, Ibstock rehearsal on a Monday and Thursday Night.


Ascot Brass

November 18 • Principle trombone and Solo Horn required. Ascot Brass is a progressive friendly non contesting band rehearing Monday evenings in Maidenhead Berkshire. Details of the band can be found on our web site www.ascotrass.org.uk


Fishburn band

November 18 • We presently have a position for a Bb bass player and a Bass trombone. Friendly band with own band room close to the A1 motorway, junction 60 or 61 and handy for A19 Teeside. If you are looking to progress with your playing then get in touch.


Phil Lawrence

ARCM PGRNCM MFTCL ARCM B.Mus.
Composer and conductor


               

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