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2019 National Championship of Great Britain
Section 1 - Preview & prediction

4BR Editor Iwan Fox looks at the celebration of 200 years of all great things Australian that will test the best of British First Section bands at Cheltenham this weekend.

Baggy
The work celebrates 200 years of Australian history - perhaps even Don Bradman's baggy green cap..

Section 1:
Saturday 14th September
Test Piece: Endeavour (Philip Sparke)
Adjudicators: Gary Davies, Howard Evans, Glyn Williams

Amersham (Paul Fisher)
Boarshurst Silver (James Garlick)
Bodmin Town (John Maines)
Burry Port Town (Ceri John)
Enderby (Ryan Richards)
Fulham (John Ward)
Goodwick (Matthew Jenkins)
Hatfield & Askern Colliery (Stan Lippeatt)
Hucknall & Linby MC (Paul Whyley)
J36 (Steven Craig)
Kirkintilloch (David Roberts)
Michelmersh Silver (Melvin White)
Old Silkstone (John Hopkinson)
Rainford (Dr David Thornton)
Ripon City (Mark Sidwell)
Unison Kinneil (Raymond Tennant)

Oldham
2018 Champion - Oldham Band (Lees)

'Endeavour' seems to be the perfect inspirational title for the 16 bands taking to the stage in the First Section on Saturday afternoon.

For this is a contest encompassing adventure, excitement and exertion, trials, application, good fortune and excellence - all wrapped up in just 11 and half minutes or so of expertly crafted writing from the pen of Philip Sparke.  

The prize on offer demands nothing less. 

Captain Cook

The work was commissioned in 1988 for the Bicentennial World Brass Band Championships in Brisbane.

It’s named after the ship on which Captain Cook set sail on his first voyage of discovery between 1768 and 1771, and which subsequently reached the east coast of Australia in April 1770.

Written in three linked parts, 'The Unknown Continent' opens in the anticipation of finding 'Terra Australis' (although it had of course been ‘discovered’ quite some time before any European set foot there) - an emerging sense of adventure from the opening ppp muted tubas and timpani pulse, with a hint of Respighi’s ‘Pines of Rome’ in its nautical tread. 

The rich climax is optimistic in tone, but it soon encounters a dark feeling of fearfulness before ebbing away into calmer waters and a suspended pause of aspiration.  

Written in three linked parts, 'The Unknown Continent' opens in the anticipation of finding 'Terra Australis' (although it had of course been ‘discovered’ quite some time before any European set foot there) 

Sparke
The man behind the endeavour

Empire

This is evoked in the pioneering spirit of early settlers in the central section entitled 'The New Challenge' - industrious, menacing, driven in purpose and effect; a touch of a filmatic ‘Empire’ striking back - the writing dark, precise and overwhelming of the bucolic paradise to be conquered. 

The ‘Lento’ section though is a timely display of the reflective ‘pleasure’ of achievement; calm and considered in its brevity, like a Victorian consul looking out from the veranda at Botany Bay under the unblinking golden smoulder of an eternal sun. 

The solo cornet leads the way (just a hint of the cadenza in ‘Harmony Music’), followed by the horn in an interlude of tender accomplishment.

The ‘Lento’ section though is timely display of the reflective ‘pleasure’ of achievement; calm and considered in its brevity, like a Victorian consul looking out from the veranda at Botany Bay under the unblinking golden smoulder of an eternal sun. 

Obvious familiarity

It leads into a final section of joyful celebration; as if looking back on 200 years of a somewhat airbrushed European inspired history without a single moment of regret - the music full of vibrant, bold ensemble playing.

It ends with the tempo notched up in a waspish Presto before the brakes are applied in the thumping closing bars.

There is an obvious familiarity about the music, which as ever with Philip Sparke, hides countless pitfalls: It’s all there on the pages of the score for the MDs - no hidden puzzle to solve with a cipher key of needless over emphasis.  

Play the notes and follow the instructions and contesting endeavour will be rewarded with acclaim.

There is an obvious familiarity about the music, which as ever with Philip Sparke, hides countless pitfalls: It’s all there on the pages of the score for the MDs - no hidden puzzle to solve with a cipher key of needless over emphasis.  

North West

Last year’s National Champion Oldham Band (Lees) claimed the title in fine fashion, so hopes will be high that the Blackpool qualifiers of Rainford and Boarshurst Silver will push for podium finishes or better and extend the region’s unbeaten run to three years in a row. 

They certainly have the quality; Area champion Rainford led on this occasion by Dr David Thornton came seventh at the Grand Shield in May and has plenty of experience dotted around the stands, whilst Boarshurst under James Garlick claimed the Butlins title in composed fashion in January.

Two bands to watch out for then.


One of the form bands heading to Cheltenham? Enderby won in the Midlands

Midlands

You have to go back to 2006 for the last Midlands region band to win the title, but Staffordshire came close last year and in Area champion Enderby and fellow qualifiers Hucknall & Linby they have ensembles that could well fancy their chances of bringing that run to an end.

Enderby is certainly in decent form under Ryan Richards, putting in solid shows at Butlins and the Welsh Open as well as winning at Shirebrook not so long ago.  

Meanwhile, Hucknall, led by the experienced Paul Whyley  has also been continuing their upwards progress - coming 13th in the Second Section Final last year and putting in solid shows at Butlins, NEMBBA and Shirebrook contests this season.

Scotland

Scotland is yet to claim a First Section National title - a record that nearly ended last year by top-six finishers Johnstone and Dunaskin Doon.

High hopes then for the travellers south in the form of champions Kirkintilloch and Unison Kinneil.

It’s great to see ‘Kirky’ back on track after a few years when they really were up against it. They performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2013, but showed plenty of re-emerging quality in their Senior Cup showing in May.  

Unison Kinneil is making their first appearance since 2015 under the experienced Raymond Tennant, and they also showed solid form in coming ninth at the Senior Trophy in Blackpool.

It’s great to see ‘Kirky’ back on track after a few years when they really were up against it. They performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2013, but showed plenty of re-emerging quality in their Senior Cup showing in May.  


More silverware for their new bandroom for Amersham at Stevenage

London & Southern Counties

Stevenage winners Amersham is making its third consecutive Cheltenham appearance - a superb achievement given that they are also closing in on raising over £400,000 for their new bandroom project. 

Paul Fisher inspired them to fourth place last year and they should be confident of making a mark once more – especially as any prize money may come in handy for a few extra doorknobs and lightbulbs.

They are joined by Fulham, making their return for the first time since 2015 under John Ward, and hoping to build on a solid seventh place finish at Butlins earlier in the season. 

West of England

If its experience that may make a difference then the likes of Melvin White with Michelmersh Silver and John Maines of Bodmin may be worth a bob or two as an each-way bet. 

Melvin inspired his band to an excellent victory at Torquay and qualification for the first time since 2003 and with a decent return at the Oxfordshire contest to back up their progress they may be a bit of a dark horse, whilst Bodmin continues its rise upwards and onwards in solid incremental steps.

If its experience that may make a difference then the likes of Melvin White with Michelmersh Silver and John Maines of Bodmin may be worth a bob or two as an each-way bet. 

Goodwick
Packed with quality for Welsh champion Goodwick

Wales

Welsh hopes rest with bands from the west - with champions Goodwick and Burry Port looking to hoist the Red Dragon flag in triumph. 

Goodwick has already tasted victory here in 2015 and their home-grown mix of young players and experienced older heads has once again reached competitive maturity under inspirational MD Matthew Jenkins.

Meanwhile, Ceri John has rejuvenated Burry Port, claiming an immediate return back to Cheltenham after coming 15th last year and posting decent results at both the Welsh Open and Senior Trophy this season.  

North

There will be something of a last minute change of conductor for Area champion J36, as a family illness means Andrew Warriner’s priorities are understandably elsewhere. 

He is replaced by their flugel player Steven Craig, who has plenty of conducting experience to his name and will look keep the band progressing in the right direction after coming tenth here last year in the Second Section. 

There will be something of a last minute change of conductor for Area champion J36, as a family illness means Andrew Warriner’s priorities are understandably elsewhere. 

Joining them for the first time since 2016 is Ripon City under Mark Sidwell, who built on their Brass at the Guild appearance to secure their qualification at Durham.


Smiles all round for Hatfield & Askern Colliery after their Yorkshire win

Yorkshire

Yorkshire’s hopes of a first National title success since 2012 rests with the strong looking pairing of Area champion Hatfield & Askern Colliery and Old Silkstone.

Hatfield will be led by Stan Lippeatt (who led Thoresby to success in 2000), who certainly used all his experience to lead the band to victory at Huddersfield after a solid Brass at the Guild appearance. They have since won at the NEMBBA contest and tested themselves at the Senior Cup.

Old Silkstone hasn’t been as busy in the contest stage as they return to Cheltenham for the first time since 2016 under the equally experienced baton of John Hopkinson.


4BR Prediction

Who will win?

With three returnees and two bands from last year’s Second Section Final, six Spring Festival contenders and a host of competitors who have tested their strength against each other at Butlins, Brass at the Guild and the Welsh Open, this has the potential to be a close run battle.

Lots then for Gary Davies, Howard Evans and Glyn Williams to ponder in the box as there are potential winners just about everywhere you look in the programme.

Rainford, Boarshurst Silver and Unison Kinneil could be the bands to beat if they play to top form, but the likes of Hatfield & Askern Colliery, Fulham and Enderby could have something to say about that. Our dark horse is Amersham.

1. Rainford
2. Boarshurst Silver
3. Unison Kinneil
4. Hatfield & Askern Colliery
5. Fulham 
6. Enderby 

Dark Horse: Amersham

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