2019 Nationals
Royal Albert Hall, Kensington
October 12, 2019

Comments: Steven Mead and Chris Thomas
Images: Ian Clowes
Social Media: Malcolm Wood
Production: John James and Matthew Ruel

  • Sunday 13, 10:32:24

    National 2019

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    Philip Harper and family celebrate a Titan victory

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    The Titans

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    Cory are crowned champions

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    2019 Champion: Cory

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    2019 Champion: Cory with the judges and composer

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    Best Instrumentalist: Steve Stewart of Cory

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    Ready to proclaim the new champion: The Prince of Wales Fanfare team

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    Second place: Black Dyke

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    Third place: Whitburn

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    Fourth Place: Brighouse & Rastrick

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    Fifth Place: Flowers

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    Sixth Place: Leyland

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    A word from the composer: Hermann Pallhuber

  • Saturday 12, 19:47:18


    Test Piece: Titan's Progress (Hermann Pallhuber)
    Adjudicators: Dr Robert Childs, Alan Morrison, Rob Wiffen

    1. Cory (Philip Harper)*
    2. Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas J. Childs)**
    3. Whitburn (Garry Cutt)*
    4. Brighouse & Rastrick (Prof David King)*
    5. Flowers (Paul Holland)
    6. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)
    7. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)
    8. Foden's (Russell Gray)
    9. Desford Colliery (Michael Fowles)
    10. GUS (Chris Jeans)
    11. Friary (Chris King)
    12. Zone One Brass (Richard Ward)
    13. the cooperation Band (Phillip McCann)
    14. Aldbourne (Lee Skipsey)
    15. Reg Vardy (Ray Farr)
    16. Grimethorpe Colliery (Dr David Thornton)
    17. Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Luc Vertommen)
    18. Pemberton Old DW (Ben Dixon)
    19. Northop Silver (John Doyle)
    20. City of Hull (Stig Maersk)

    Best Instrumentalist: Steve Stewart (soprano) — Cory

    *Top four pre-qualify for 2020 National Final
    ** Denotes qualification to represent England at 2021 European Championship in Malmo

  • Saturday 12, 18:57:17

    Chris Thomas: Final analysis and prediction

    What a day it's been in the Royal Albert Hall. Hermann Pallhuber's Titan's Progress has not only tested the bands in every technical and musical direction, but has also drawn a plethora of stylistic and interpretative approaches from the MD's.

    It's been a long day in the box for Robert Childs, Alan Morrison and Rob Wiffen who now have the unenviable task of sifting through twenty performances which even at the very top of the pile (with one notable exception), all displayed differing facets of quality, with few escaping completely unscathed from the Mahlerian battle.

    For me there was one performance that stood head and shoulders above the field today in a remarkable display of technical and musical excellence that simply took the breath away.

    Chris Thomas goes for a top six of:

    1. Cory
    2. Fodens
    3. Tredegar
    4. Desford Colliery
    5. Black Dyke
    6. Grimethorpe Colliery

    Dark Horses: Flowers, Brighouse and Zone One

  • Saturday 12, 18:52:46

    Steven Mead's top -six

    1. Cory (Philip Harper) — 199
    2. Foden's (Russell Gray) — 196
    3. Desford Colliery (Michael Fowles) — 195
    4. Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas J. Childs) — 194
    5. Grimethorpe Colliery (Dr David Thornton) — 192
    6. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse) — 191

  • Saturday 12, 18:45:22

    An audience perspective (Muth)

    With four bands to go this piece has been a definite grower — band especially with the audience.

    Unfortunately the odd phone call has begun to make an appearance in the auditorium — a great pity, but perhaps the rest of the world wants to find out who mat win. Oh dear, the phones are joined by the obligatory coughing, it really does need to settle down.

    It's been surprising how quickly the day seems to have gone though — its been a joy.

    Overall, the hall has remained pretty full with a good buzz around. There has been some lovely flugel playing and the technical ability of the players has just gone up leaps and bounds since I contested. Combine that with so many talented young players it seems to bode well for the future of brass banding.

    On to the last band — and the first standing trombone section — added to by the first sop with the euphonium and now the solo cornet — well that was different from Brighouse!

    I wouldn't want to be an adjudicator today,as the quality of playing throughout has been so classy and I wouldn't like to be in the position of picking a winner.

    I'll sign off now and leave the real appraisal to Chris Thomas and Steven Mead.

  • Saturday 12, 18:41:48

    20. Brighouse & Rastrick (Prof David King)

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    On Stage — Brighouse and Rastrick (Prof David King)

    Not all is 100% comfortable in the opening bars and tuning takes a few seconds to settle in the opening cornet statement of the chorale.

    Once it's going though the sheer momentum of the playing carries us long with it, the dynamic control allowing detail to project with clarity.

    There are once again little slips and momentary issues of intonation though and for all its brilliance elsewhere, there remains a feeling that the performance is not completely settled.

    The introduction into the 'Farandole' is deftly done and the Farandole itself so full of colour, light and shade and little nuances and inflections that add so much to the music. Soprano rises to his feet ahead of the cornet and euphonium duet which is played from the side of the stage with sensitivity, yet even now there is still a sense that the performance isn't entirely at one with itself.

    The fugue is quick'very quick'and although it's impressive that the band can play it at the chosen tempo it feels there are still moments that don't quite click.

    Further slips creep in as we head towards the closing bars and as impressive as the ending is, this has been an out of sorts account from Brighouse.

    Overall: A curious one to finish from Brighouse. From the start this didn't feel entirely comfortable, with so many errors and minor slips accumulating during the course of what was musically a fine but flawed account.

    Chris Thomas

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    In Performance — Prof David King with Brighouse and Rastrick

    Criteria Mark Sheet — Marks by Steven Mead

    Technical accuracy: 17
    Rhythmic precision and clarity: 18
    Control of full dynamic range: 19
    Ensemble precision: 20
    Tuning/intonation: 19
    Band sound quality: 20
    Balance/clarity of textures: 19
    Quality of soloists: 19
    Overall understanding: 18
    Total musicality from the band: 19

    Total: 187

    Short Comment:

    With a mixture of moments of inspiration, and some uncomfortable moments, this rounded of today's contest with Dr David King and Brighouse and Rastrick. Without doubt this is a brilliant band, but unfortunately at least in my opinion, not a winning performance today. Just too many errors and uncomfortable clicks as the piece progressed. And they know it.

  • Saturday 12, 18:11:51

    19. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)

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    On Stage — Leyland (Thomas Wyss)

    A high quality opening from Leyland that immediately stamps authority. The Allegro drives on in impressive fashion and although the detail is not always consistently heard, this has a real quality of energy about it that is later used once again to telling effect in the 'Con Fuoco'.

    The 'Farandole' could be more colourful in its light and shade and dynamics could also be more wide ranging but we sense the dance like style and at long last, a band has placed the cornet and euphonium players in the duet with cornet to the right and euphonium to the left. It's beautifully played and so much more compelling on the ear as a result.

    The fugue loses its way to some degree as it gets progressively more ragged as it progresses. It's also a touch one dimensional dynamically but its a triumphant ending to a performance that had moments of clear quality.

    Overall: Another performance that displayed moments of class that were occasionally offset by inconsistencies of execution.

    Chris Thomas

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    In Performance — Thomas Wyss with Leyland

    Criteria Mark Sheet — Marks by Steven Mead

    Technical accuracy: 18
    Rhythmic precision and clarity: 17
    Control of full dynamic range: 17
    Ensemble precision: 19
    Tuning/intonation: 19
    Band sound quality: 19
    Balance/clarity of textures: 19
    Quality of soloists: 18
    Overall understanding: 18
    Total musicality from the band: 18

    Total: 182

    Short Comment:

    Very strong performance from Leyland. Occasionally a little strong in style, but this seems to reflect the determination the band showed with this work. Some very brave and committed playing, and the word left in my mind at the end of the performance is: passionate. A little finesse missing at times, but it should be in the top half come closing time.

  • Saturday 12, 17:46:49

    18. Northop Silver (John Doyle)

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    On Stage — Northop Silver (John Doyle)

    The opening hits between the eyes and the initial airing of the chorale is nicely done.

    As we hit the Allegro there is both energy and drive about the playing but also a lack of the razor like accuracy that has provided the finest performances today with a further seam of both drive and spirit.

    The 'Farandole' needs a touch more poise and nuance to create the appropriate dance like character but there is abundant commitment about this. The playing of a band that is going to enjoy itself and its moment.

    The cornet and euphonium stay seated for the duet which is nicely done with the fugue driving on in determined fashion despite showing clear signs of tiring in its latter stages.

    Overall: A spirited performance from Northop that had its moments of quality although consistency ultimately proved to be the determine factor.

    Chris Thomas

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    In Performance — John Doyle with Northop Silver

    Criteria Mark Sheet — Marks by Steven Mead

    Technical accuracy: 16
    Rhythmic precision and clarity: 18
    Control of full dynamic range: 18
    Ensemble precision: 17
    Tuning/intonation: 17
    Band sound quality: 17
    Balance/clarity of textures: 17
    Quality of soloists: 16
    Overall understanding: 17
    Total musicality from the band: 16

    Total: 169

    Short Comment:

    This was a very spirited performance that had moments of great elegance and style. Other moments were a little less refined and more detail was desirable. Soloists all did well, but the error account crept up as the piece went on. They should be pleased with this, as this was a full blooded attempt here at Royal Albert today. Well done!

  • Saturday 12, 17:26:14

    17. Friary (Chris King)

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    On Stage — Friary (Chris King)

    Always a band that can bring a performance of interest to any contest, Friary open solidly with wide ranging dynamics and a sensitively enunciated cornet solo.

    Once we hit the Allegro however it's immediately apparent that there's nothing sensitive about the faster music whatsoever. This is full blooded, high octane stuff that goes straight for the adrenalin factor with band and MD throwing everything at it.

    The 'Con Fuoco' offers more of the same. Powerful, full on stuff that really drags us along with it in its sheer weight of personality and excitement. So much so that it's easy to miss the fact that there is sometimes a lack of clarity in the ensemble.

    Euphonium and cornet stand together for their duet which is played with both warmth and sensitivity whilst the fugue is a force of nature in its onward energy. That energy is sometimes achieved at the expense of detail but the ending blazes its message of jubilance to an appreciative Albert Hall.

    Overall: Friary goes for it in the RAH with a performance that although not without flaws, took the score by the scruff of its neck. It's not Mahler as we know it but boy did it hit home.

    Chris Thomas

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    On Stage — Chris King with Friary

    Criteria Mark Sheet — Marks by Steven Mead

    Technical accuracy: 16
    Rhythmic precision and clarity: 19
    Control of full dynamic range: 19
    Ensemble precision: 17
    Tuning/intonation: 19
    Band sound quality: 19
    Balance/clarity of textures: 19
    Quality of soloists: 19
    Overall understanding: 18
    Total musicality from the band: 18

    Total: 185

    Short Comment:

    This performance had many fine attributes. Directed with great clarity and the musicians responded. Accurate, musical solo playing, and a performance of a style that suited the hall. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this performance was in the top 10 today.

  • Saturday 12, 17:24:32

    16. Foden's (Russell Gray)

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    On Stage — Foden's (Russell Gray)

    An opening that strikes home immediately. This has huge presence and authority. It's a beautiful statement of the chorale that follows and the Allegro powers its way on with both energy and clarity.

    There's just the slightest of clips on soprano but its enough to unsettle the picture as the 'Con Fuoco' comes into view, with the 'Con Fuoco' itself generating colossal power and energy, aided by dynamics of terrific width and control.

    The 'Farandole' is full of nuance and variations of colour and inflection, at the same time keeping its essential dance like character, with the approach to the cornet and euphonium duet being so well done.

    Mark Wilkinson and Gary Curtin stand together for the the duet which is so touchingly done, with the trombone interjections gauged and shaped to perfection.

    The fugue has such swagger and poise about it. The detail is always apparent and the approach to the concluding bars is brilliantly paced, with a final flourish that blazes triumph.

    Overall: A terrific account from the defending champion. We suspect it might not be enough to topple Cory today but this has been a magnificent account of technical command and majestic musicality.

    Chris Thomas

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    In Performance — Russell Gray with Foden's

    Criteria Mark Sheet — Marks by Steven Mead

    Technical accuracy: 19
    Rhythmic precision and clarity: 20
    Control of full dynamic range: 19
    Ensemble precision: 20
    Tuning/intonation: 19
    Band sound quality: 20
    Balance/clarity of textures: 19
    Quality of soloists: 20
    Overall understanding: 20
    Total musicality from the band: 20

    Total: 196

    Short Comment:

    Another wonderful performance here today at the Royal Albert Hall. There could not be a stronger defence of a national title. Beautiful playing, great characterisations of the different sections and outstanding solo playing. Is it enough? Quite possibly, but another band in red jackets produced something extraordinary about an hour ago. How will the judges compare the two? Let's see in a few hours!

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Conductor | Composer


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