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2019 National Championship of Great Britain
Section 4 - Preview & prediction

4BR Editor Iwan Fox looks forward to what promises to be a stern, but enjoyable test for the 18 bands in trying to claim the Fourth Section title.

Chelenham

Section 4:
Saturday 14th September
Draw: 8.15am
Commence: 9.30am

Test Piece: Beecher Variations (Stephen Bulla)
Adjudicators: Ian Brownbill, Paul Holland, Craig Roberts

Barnsley Metropolitan (Alex Francis): Yorkshire
Beaumaris (Scott Lloyd): Wales
Burneside (Laurie Johnston): North of England
Cottenham (Peter Mackley): L&SC
Great Yarmouth (Colin Swaep): L&SC
Gwaen Cae Gurwen (Robert Burnett): Wales
Maltby Miners Welfare (Terry Clifford): Yorkshire
Melton (Graham Sutton): Midlands
Nailsworth Silver (Steve Ruck): West of England
Newland Concert (Simon Railton): Scotland
Ratby Co-operative Mid (Gary Perrin): Midlands
Redruth Town (Andrew Craze): West of England
Rode Hall Silver (Nigel Butler): North West
Sale (Matthew Hindle): North West
Shipston Town (Howard Gibbs): Midlands
Simon Langton (Keith Twyman): L&SC
Tewit Silver (Martin Hall): North of England
Wroughton Silver (Simon Jones): West of England

Stamford
2018 Champion Stamford Brass returns this year in the Third Section

Stephen Bulla's expertly crafted 'Beecher Variations' provides the challenging test for the 18 bands in the Fourth Section. 

Despite its rather equine sounding inspiration (which would have been really appropriate at Aintree rather than Cheltenham) the musical fences to be negotiated to claim the National title have been constructed with considered care.

Hopefully none of the challengers will be unseated during its 12 or so minutes of well paced running.

Hymn tune

It was written in 2015 as a joint commission for the Fourth Division of the Netherlands National Championships and the Buffalo Silver Band from New York in celebration of its centenary.

It takes the form of a theme and variations on the 1870 hymn tune by John Zundel, which was named in honour of his pastor, Henry Ward Beecher.

It was published as a setting for Charles Wesley's 'Love Divine, All Loves Excelling' and is also known unsurprisingly as 'Zundel'.

Bulla
Stephen Bulla (left) has gained fans and plaudits for his works 

Bulla (as he does with all his works) elegantly develops a series of different styles and emotions - from the expressive to the triumphant.  

A well led band with a cohesive ensemble, confident soloists and a sense of stylish intent will do very well on this – but it will take some playing.   

The opening combines rhythmic accuracy with flowing melody (a feature that continues throughout), with an energetic allegro, fleet-footed but not frenetic to follow.  As the variations develop there are tests for the leading solo voices and a luminous Adagietto luttuoso with sweet soprano and tender euphonium. 

A lightness of stylish touch is required in the faster movements, leading to a jubilant gear change with fanfare trombones a feature. The build to the close is drawn and paced carefully, building in tonal intensity and speed before the breaks are put on for the final few bars.  

A well led band with a cohesive ensemble, confident soloists and a sense of stylish intent will do very well on this – but it will take some playing.   

Evenly matched field

It’s an evenly matched field of contenders who take to the Centaur stage on Saturday morning, with just one of the original qualifiers (Barrhead Burgh) a non-runner.

On paper it may be a bit closer (although last year the top-six finishers were from different regions), with plenty of contenders who will certainly fancy their chances of impressing the experienced adjudication trio of Ian Brownbill, Paul Holland and Craig Roberts. 

Over the last few years the contest has been won by some impressive bands, with Stamford Brass following a long line of champions last year who have claimed victory by a comfortable margin.  They return in the Third Section this year, whilst three of last year’s contenders line-up in the starting gate again.  

On paper it may be a bit closer (although last year the top-six finishers were from different regions), with plenty of contenders who will certainly fancy their chances of impressing the experienced adjudication trio of Ian Brownbill, Paul Holland and Craig Roberts. 

Each has played and conducted at the National Finals on numerous occasions (Paul notching up a victory in 2007) so they know exactly what it takes to mould a winning performance.  

Ratby
Midlands champion: Ratby Cooperative Mid

Midlands

Hopes of another Midlands victory rests with the competitive looking trio of Area champion Ratby Co-operative Mid, Melton and Shipston Town. 

Ratby is making their Finals debut and head to Cheltenham in good form after also winning the Denby Pottery event, whilst Melton returns for the first time since 2016 under long serving MD, Graham Sutton. Shipston is in decent form with victory at the Oxfordshire contest earlier in the season.

North

One of the favourites will surely be Tewit Silver, who was a fine runner-up under MD Martin Hall 12 months ago. 

After winning the Butlins Championship in January the band went on to claim the North of England Area and Holme Valley honours, so should attract quite a few punters at the banding bookies. 

Joining them on the long trip south is Burneside, making their first Finals appearance since 2013 and having tested themselves at the Kirkby Lonsdale contest in June.

Tewit
Tewit Silver

Yorkshire

Yorkshire’s hopes of a first victory since 2006 rest with impressive challengers in Area champion Maltby Miners and Barnsley Metropolitan.

Maltby has already enjoyed a fine 2019 under long serving MD Terry Clifford; coming runner-up at Butlins, winning the Area off the number 1 draw and picking up the accolades at Whiston.  A decade after their last Finals appearance, they could be a crafty each-way bet for a podium finish.
 
Barnsley’s last appearance was in 2013 but they have been on an upward curve of competitiveness in the last few years under Alex Francis, so maybe a bit of a dark horse.

Maltby has already enjoyed a fine 2019 under long serving MD Terry Clifford; coming runner-up at Butlins, winning the Area off the number 1 draw and picking up the accolades at Whiston.  A decade after their last Finals appearance, they could be a crafty each-way bet for a podium finish.

Wales

Wales has a super record here over the last few years, with the Championship Trophy returning over the River Severn on five occasions since 2011. 

Hopes rest on Area champion Gwaun Cae Gurwen, one of the nation’s most famous banding names, and a revitalised Beaumaris.

Both will fancy their chances; GCG winning the Welsh title with a super performance under the experienced Robert Burnett, with Beaumaris hot on their heels. They in turn have gone on to win a National title at the Welsh Eisteddfod as well as make their mark at Buxton.

Redruth
The return of Andrew Craze to Redruth saw them cliam the Area title

West of England

Talking of being revitalised, Redruth Town, a Cornish band with a rich history has been pumped back into contesting life by the return of MD Andrew Craze (who led Norfolk Wherry to this title in 2012). 

They put in a superb performance to win the West of England title and have since extended their unbeaten run under his baton with further success at the Bugle contest in June. They return to the Finals for the first time 1998 as one of the form bands of the season. 

They are joined by a band that has had to wait even longer for their return, with Wroughton Silver last seeing their names in the programme way back in 1963.  They made a fantastic impression at Torquay after a 16 year break and promptly qualified in fine style.     

Also making the short 23 mile trip up the M5 after a mere 52 year wait is Nailsworth, who also qualified in fine style and has since made its mark at the Oxfordshire contest.

They are joined by a band that has had to wait even longer for their return, with Wroughton Silver last seeing their names in the programme way back in 1963.  They made a fantastic impression at Torquay after a 16 year break and promptly qualified in fine style.  

North West

The National title last headed up the M6 to the North West in 2010 when Hazel Grove were triumphant, so another victory for the powerful region is overdue. 

Hopes rest with Area champion Sale Brass who returns for the second year after coming sixth last time out and seventh at Butlins in January. 

They are joined by debutants Rode Hall - their first Finals appearance in their 133 year history, buoyed by their recent victory at the Buxton contest and second place at Brass at the Guild.  

Sale Brass
Sale Brass took the title honours at Blackpool

London & Southern Counties

There has been some impressive contenders from Stevenage in recent years, so there will be plenty of confidence in the ranks of Area champion Simon Langton, who last appeared here in 2013, as well as returnees Great Yarmouth and debutants Cottenham.

Both of these bands showed fine form in coming sixth and fourth respectively at Butlins.

Scotland

Although there has been a regeneration in numbers at this level north of the border, and a fine National Champion in Newmains & District in 2017 after a 44 year wait for success, Scotland only sends the one representative to Cheltenham this year.

Newland Concert was runner-up to Barrhead Burgh in Perth in March and returns for the first time since 2004 under the baton of Simon Railton.


4BR prediction

Who will win?

There is always so much to enjoy with the Fourth Section contest, with bands at various stages of development and containing players from 7 to 70 plus enjoying the experience. 

The music is a stern challenge, but one that will be thoroughly rewarding and beneficial.

Last year’s runner-up Tewit Silver has shown further improvement and could be the band to beat, whilst Redruth Town and Beaumaris could push them close. 

Maltby Miners, Ratby Cooperative Mid and Sale Brass make up our top-six with our dark horse of Rode Hall Silver.

1. Tewit Silver
2. Redruth Town
3. Beaumaris
4. Maltby Miners
5. Ratby Cooperative Mid
6. Sale Brass

Dark Horse:  Rode Hall Silver

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