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2021 Brass in Concert Championship
Winter Gardens, Blackpool
Saturday 18 May

Live comments by James McLeod, Social media by Malcolm Wood, Images by Steve Jack


  • Saturday 20, 21:27:01

    Results:

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    2021 Champion: Cory

    Adjudicators:
    Mark David & Peter Moore (Music-Quality of Performance)
    Andrew Duncan (Programme Content)
    Jayne Murrill & Chris Jeans (Entertainment & Presentation)
    Dr David Childs (Soloist and Individual Awards)

    Music/Music/Content/Entertainment = Total
    David/Moore/Duncan/Murrill/Jeans = Total

    1. Cory (Philip Harper): 60/51/40/20/20 = 191
    2. Foden's (Michael Fowles): 57/60/32/16/18 = 183
    3. Flowers (Paul Holland): 54/54/28/17/16 = 169
    4. Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Allan Withington): 51/42/38/18/19 = 168
    5. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse): 42/57/34/14/17 = 164
    6. Grimethorpe Colliery (Dr David Thornton): 45/48/36/15/15 = 159
    7. Hammonds (Morgan Griffiths): 48/45/22/11/12 = 138*
    8. Friary (Chris King): 39/36/30/19/14 = 138
    9. NASUWT Riverside (Prof Nicholas J Childs): 36/39/24/12/13 = 124
    10. Redbridge (Chris Bearman): 33/33/26/13/11 = 116

    * denotes Quality of Performance points take precedence in order of tied placings

    Main Awards:

    Quality of Performance: Foden's
    Best Programme Content: Cory
    Best Entertainment & Presentation: Cory
    Winning MD: Philip Harper
    Audience Entertainment Prize: Friary
    New Composition/Arrangement Award : Beyond the Sea (Philip Harper) — Cory

    Individual Awards:

    Best Soloist: Isobel Daws (trombone) — Friary
    Don Lusher Trombone Award: Isobel Daws (Friary)
    Harry Mortimer Best Principal Cornet Award: Tom Hutchinson (Cory)
    The Fesa Trophy for Best Flugel Award: Mark Walters (Grimethorpe Colliery)
    The Gateshead MBC Trophy for Best Soprano Award: Paul Richards (Flowers)
    The Louis and Colin Johnson Trophy for Best Percussion Section: Foden's
    Best Euphonium: Glyn Williams (Cory)
    Best Baritone: Ben Stratford (Tredegar)
    Best Horn: Ross Dunne (Tredegar)
    John Fletcher Best Basses Award: Cory
    Youngest Player: Haydn Osbourne of Hammonds (aged 17)

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    Runner-up: Foden's

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    Third Place: Flowers

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    Best Soloist: Isobel Daws of Friary Band

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    Audience Prize: Friary

  • Saturday 20, 21:17:23

    James McLeod's Prediction:

    What a day! Some absolutely spellbinding playing throughout today, a wide range of programmes and presentations, and the ever-evolving use of multimedia and lighting effects to enhance the performances.

    I don't have to worry about sticking to my assignment like our judges do — and I don't envy them today — but I do have to give you a prediction.

    1. Cory
    2. Tredegar
    3. Friary Band
    4. Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band

  • Saturday 20, 20:34:14

    10. Friary Brass Band
    Conductor: Chris King

    Tales of Princess Isobel: Chapter 2 — The Magical Bluebells

    In Thee is Joy (J.S. Bach arr. Howard Snell)
    What a Wonderful World (Bob Thiele & George David Weiss arr. Callum Au)
    Cornet Soloist: Richard Straker
    The Duke's Journey (Callum Au) — (Based on music by Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn)
    Blue Bells of Scotland (Arthur Pryor arr. Derek Broadbent)
    Trombone Soloist: Isobel Daws
    Circle of Life: Elton John & Tim Rice arr. Chris King

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    The Friary Band reintroduce 'Princess Isobel' for part two of her adventure and give us a quick recap of their 2019 Brass in Concert performance — and they start with 'In Joy Is Thee' to introduce our eponymous heroine to the stage.

    Richard Straker on principal cornet is featured in 'What a Wonderful World' in this Callum Au arrangement, it's polished and the contrasting styles within the piece are handled well, with quick changes from a classic ballad to a more big band style, and quickly back. The transitions aren't always seamless, but the quality of Richard's playing is most definitely on display. What a wonderful solo .

    The cleverly constructed narration is so entertaining — bravo!

    'The Duke's Journey' featuring music from 'The Duke of Ellington' and other big band standards and wonderful contributions from Flugel, Horn and the collective trombones, before 'Princess Isobel' took the lead. The tracked journey on the multimedia screen through the Magic Kingdom — including such sites as Castle Cory, The Land of Dragons and Brass Band Land, and a stop off in Barnard Castle for an eye test, before coming to rest in 'Scotlandia'. The kit player is fantastic through this entire piece as well.

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    'The Blue Bells of Soctland-ia' follows — and Isobel Daws is absolutely fabulous. The accompaniment isn't always absolutely perfect, but the soloist is. Exceptional playing from this young star.

    The programme closes with another arrangement by the bands MD — this time of 'The Circle of Life' from the Lion King — with solos from the principal euphonium Chris Straker and a duet between he and Isobel. The arrangement is accompanied by a video showing 'the Friary Family Circle' with images of the bands families — a euphonium duet and a front row percussion feature lead into the close — where 'They all lived happily ever after'.

    What a fun performance to end the day — Isobel Daws absolutely shone here — but the rest of the band's performance was also highly commendable — with a very well thought out programme and slickly executed.


  • Saturday 20, 20:30:12

    9. Grimethorpe Colliery Band
    Conductor: Dr David Thornton

    Eastern Horizons — Gareth Trott (A Celebration of Eastern Musical Culture)
    I. City of Diamonds
    II. Lanterns Fill the Night Sky
    III. The Moscow High-Life
    Trumpet Soloist: Iain Culross
    IV. The Turkish Rakass
    Featuring: Eleanor Gaywood
    V. Lament to a Forgotten Empire
    Euphonium Soloists: Adam Bokaris & Alex Barron
    VI. Sandstorm in Cairo

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    Music from young Welshman Gareth Trott in the six movement 'Eastern Horizons' here.

    We start in Surat, India, the aforementioned 'City of Diamonds' with atmospheric solos from Adam Bokaris — and from there to China for 'Lanterns Fill the Night Sky' — depicting lanterns appearing one by one, which gradually forms one large light in the sky. The Chinese influence is heard throughout (and they display a large Chinese flag on the multimedia screen) with more features from euphonium and flugel with excellent cornet accompaniments throughout. We join a street parade which features the trombones and the percussion — before the lanterns disappear into the night sky.

    Iain Culross puts down his cornet, and channels the influential Harry James with this trumpet solo featuring the 'Korobeiniki' (also known as the tetris theme) Iain is at his virtuosic best here, displaying his virtuosity — so impressed even Vladimir Putin approved, with his appearance on the multimedia screen.

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    'The Turkish Rakass' introduces us to Eleanor Gaywood (Director of the Shimmy School of Dance in Sheffield) as the bands dancer — mercifully saving us from one of the band attempting those moves. The trombone solo leads us into a flag dance, and another fine solo from Iain Culross on trumpet!

    Eleanor continues with the band's performance, albeit it rather dangerously with a sword balancing act — setting the stage for the euphonium duet. Some well delivered solos and features from cornets, flugel, horn and trombones follow in the 'Lament to a Forgotten Empire' — before the euphonium duetters return to close the movement with grace and poise. This piece has kept principal euphonium Adam Bokaris on his toes, you can tell the composer Gareth Trott is a euphonium player!

    Hints of Darude to open the final movement, though that may only be my ears — 'Sandstorm in Cairo' a technical showcase for the entire band to open. The very cinematic score is full of bustling activity being shared amongst the band in an accompanying capacity — before rising to a final flurry.

    A good show from Grimethorpe, with a number of key contributions from the band's soloists. Tricky to say how the programme will stack up against some of the others today, as although the music was certainly a fusion, it lacked the range in styles we've heard previously.

  • Saturday 20, 19:05:11

    8. Hammonds Band
    Conductor: Morgan Griffiths

    Bach Burner (Sandy Smith)
    Your Sweet Voice is Calling (Dermot MacMurrough arr. Nils Jorgenson)
    Tenor Horn Soloist: Zoe Wright
    Hunting Mr Lear's Dream (Elgar Howarth)
    Toremawakefield (Peter Skellern arr. Andrew Price Jackman)
    Les Yeux Noirs (Russian Trad. arr. Sandy Smith)
    Ritual Dance 'Royal Hunt of the Sun' (Martin Ellerby)

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    Bach Burner starts rhythmically and quietly, but it rocks between the percussion and the band as it crescendos. Short and exciting, but not entirely convincing in execution.

    Some shenanigans with a late arriving percussionist are teased for later — before Zoe Wright takes the stage with 'Your Sweet Voice is Calling' — and another fine young horn soloist today. It's another very simple piece, but there's nowhere to hide as the soloist, and Zoe doesn't need to — with a classy performance with excellent control and shaping — and once again delicately accompanied by the band.

    'Hunting Mr Lear's Dream' follows the poem 'The Hunting of the Hare' being read by our narrator — it ticks along nicely during the fast movement — the slow section featuring Kirsty Abbots is sublimely played.

    Our arriving percussionist features in 'Toremawakefield', which is light and the comedy elements work nicely and 'Les Yeux Noirs' follows, which is another Sandy Smith arrangement, this one featuring about every soloist in the band, including the washboard.

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    'The Royal Hunt of the Sun' from Martin Ellerby's 'Evocations' is the finale, and too is well handled by the band — strong cornet contributions and the drive from the basses and percussion is excellent. I enjoyed the percussion playing from the horn section too!

    Another mixed bag here from Hammonds. Moments of undeniable quality, particularly Kirsty Abbots and Zoe Wright — but with the number of short pieces, it didn't flow as coherently as some of the other bands today.

  • Saturday 20, 18:23:33

    7. Redbridge Band
    Conductor: Chris Bearman

    Tetrominoes (Nikolay Nekrasov/J.S. Bach arr. Eddie Morgan)
    The Last Spring (Edvard Grieg arr. Chris Bearman)
    Flugel horn Soloist: Alan Roberts
    Wired (Lucy Pankhurst)
    The Crusaders in Pskov (Sergei Prokofiev arr. Chris Bearman)
    iBand — Jacques Offenbach (Music arr. Chris Bearman; Words by Kirsten Macdonald)

    Tetrominoes starts is so ominous to begin, and I'm absolutely in awe of the Tetris theme tune being treated so seriously, and I absolutely adore it. I can't remember being more invested in a piece of multimedia more than I am in their giant Tetris image being made before our eyes. There are a few scrappy moments, particularly in the Bach element of the piece — but everything to do with Tetris is fine by me. The reveal at the end of the piece of Redbridge on the screen was so well timed. Very innovative.

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    The Last Spring is tastefully performed, soloist flanked by a small ensemble of another flugel, horn, baritone, euphonium and tuba. The arrangement by the MD Chris Bearman is simple and effective, but there are a few too many errors here to ignore.

    Lucy Pankhurt's well loved 'Wired' picks the pace back up — being well lead from drum kit and the lower band — with some excellent additions from principal cornet and then soprano. A very impressive drum kit and percussion feature is followed by cornet, euphonium and tuba solo interjections, not all of them are clean though.

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    It would be nice to have some context of the quotes that are being read before the pieces — and during the next piece — The Crusaders in Pskov. The playing is commendable, but the connection to the theme is lost in translation.

    'iBand' is such an interesting concept — and it's performed so well by the band and narrator. The interaction between the both are well rehearsed and the audience is clearly enjoying this.

    A bit of a mixed bag from Redbridge — some moments are quality and innovation, but the overall execution just missed the mark.


  • Saturday 20, 17:22:42

    6. Flowers Band
    Conductor: Paul Holland

    Monopoly

    Go! Rags 2 Riches (Christian Overhead)
    Mayfair: Evening in Town (Eric Coates arr. Paul Saggers)
    Fleet Street: St Paul's from Fleet Street (Andy Wareham)
    Cornet Soloist: Jamie Smith
    Pall Mall (Jonathan Bates)
    To Jail! Riches 2 Rage (Christian Overhead)

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    It's Monopoly from Flowers — who start with 'Go! Rags 2 Riches' — a stylish opener, with some excellent solos from horn, cornet, baritone, and the rarely spotted soprano and bass trombone duet! The funk and ragtime influences are so well managed, and it ends with conductor Paul Holland throwing everyone some money — that's one way to win the audience prize!

    The Monopoly Man is out front playing knives and forks in 'Mayfair' by Eric Coates, arranged by Paul Saggers. The band playing is commendable, especially from the soprano. This piece is so charming — the squeaky meal is excellent, as are the rest of the Monopoly man's percussive outbursts! The pressure was on for the champagne cork at the end!!

    Jamie Smith is so secure in his performance of 'St Paul's From Fleet Street' by Andy Wareham, and the band accompaniment parts feature many of the bands principals who are all excellent in their role here. A little premature congratulation from the audience just before the final notes of the piece — what a simple solo to listen to, that required some playing from the soloist, very well played.

    Jonathan Bates' 'Pall Mall' follows, taking inspiration from W Hogarth Lear's famous 'Pell Mell' with each section taking the lead for a section — these are virtuosic and so well organised. It's not a long piece, but it takes a good band to play it — and Flowers play it impressively.

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    The Monopoly Man is back (he never went away, he's been playing percussion in the rest of the pieces) but in his prisoner's outfit, this time playing the chains that are keeping him in jail — in Christian Overhead's 'To Jail! Riches to Rage' to counterpoint to the bands' opener. Strong soprano and euphonium contributions lead into a driving theme lead from the percussion and basses. Lots of effects from muted cornets and middle of the band glissandos leads us into a more aggressive section — and with a flourish we reach 'game over'.

    Lots of merit in this performance — with noteworthy performances from the band's soloists, particularly on cornet and soprano. Another themed idea, and although theme-wise it did feel a little forced at times, it was musically varied and performed well.

  • Saturday 20, 16:21:49

    5. Tredegar Band
    Conductor: Ian Porthouse

    The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde...a musical exploration of the alter ego for Brass Band and Percussion

    Erlkonig (Franz Schubert arr. Paul Saggers)
    Do You Take This Monster to be Your Lawful Wedded Husband?
    (Paul Saggers)
    Tenor Horn Soloist: Ross Dunne
    Get Out of My Pub (Paul Saggers)
    The Devil in I (Jim Root & Corey Taylor arr. Paul Saggers)
    A New Life (Leslie Bricusse & Frank Wildhorn arr. Paul Saggers)

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    An introduction from Neil Brand introduces 'onstage thrills' from Tredegar's 'The Strange Case of Fr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'. Erlkönig is exciting and showcases the band's capable technique — with excellent individual moments from flugel and soprano — and the combination of the performance with the onscreen video is so well executed.

    What an interesting piece 'Do You Take This Monster to be Your Lawful Wedded Husband?' is. Ross Dunne is so confident in his delivery of the difficult solo lines — very impressive playing. Some good work from the trombone section with their glissando accompaniment passages — and from the euphonium section in their echoes of the solo line. Once again the on-screen display fits so well with the performance — and the control displayed from the soloist at the end of the piece was wonderful.

    The band takes on some acting roles in 'Get out of my pub!' with players from the band acting on screen. This is so well done — the comedy is evident but the playing to match is so good. The Eastenders theme is given a few renditions — I can see why Ian spends so much time at band if Leanne shouts at him like this at home, with her best Peggy Mitchell impersonation being scarily accurate. It certainly scared me! This was simply fantastic.

    From Eastenders to Slipknot — with Paul Saggers arrangement of 'The Devil in I' — the piece being used to represent the audio to the slipknot being placed around the neck of the title characters. Smoke and lighting effects — along with some huge sounds from the band give this fantastic energy, in a wonderfully creative arrangement.

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    The enjoyment the band have for playing this piece is so evident! The smoke machine being so loud is a shame at the rare moments of quiet playing in this piece. This is brutal in the best possible way, exactly like it should be.

    Another excellent contribution from Ross Dunne, and another from Ben Stratford on baritone open Tredegar's finale — 'A New Life' from the 1990 musical 'Jekyll and Hyde'. It's a more traditional end to a somewhat untraditional programme, but still played with the quality of the rest of the performance, despite one or two uncomfortable sounding moments.

    Great performance from Tredegar, the programme arranged by Paul Saggers was a real treat — and Ross Dunne was class in his contributions. Very well executed, and the best use of multimedia so far today!

  • Saturday 20, 15:22:10

    4. Cory Band
    Conductor: Philip Harper

    Treasure Island — A Celebration of Adventure

    The Admiral Benbow (Philip Harper)
    Featuring: Helen Williams (flugel horn) and leading to...
    A Motley Crew — An Assortment of Salty Sea Shanties (Trad. arr. Philip Harper)
    The Hispaniola — A Sea-faring Fantasy (Trad. arr. Philip Harper)
    Featuring: Glyn Williams (euphonium)
    Island Vibe — based on 'On Fire' (Michel Camilo arr. Philip Harper)
    Featuring: Tom Hutchinson (cornet)
    Soliloquy — A Reflection on Isolation (Philip Harper)
    Featuring Chris Thomas (trombone)
    Main Theme from the Film Cutthroat Island (John Debney arr. Philip Harper)
    Beyond the Sea (Charles Trenet & Albert Lasry arr. Philip Harper

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    The smoke machines are out again as Helen Williams and Cory's percussion section welcome us to Treasure Island — A Celebration of Adventure. Narration, with words on the presentation screen accompanying Helen Williams atmospheric flugel solo to begin before we're into 'A Motley Crew', with basses taking on the first role of scary villains, as each section takes on a different sea shanty — with Tom Hutchinson taking on the part of 'Long Tom Silver' — that's not my pun, that's on the presentation screen! Great playing, great theatre, and great fun.

    Glyn Williams takes us through an assortment of nautical tunes in 'The Hispaniola' though, played with such ease — perhaps his thunder was stolen by the sea captain … 'Land Ahoy'

    'Island Vibe' based on Michel Camilo's 'On Fire' is so well technically performed — the only thing 'on fire' are the valves on Tom Hutchinson's cornet. In fact, the whole band are tasked with some of this fiendish difficulty next. The playing is of such high quality and made to look so easy. And the band look like they're having fun, and the whole thing together is making the audience enjoy it even more.

    Chris Thomas, with only Steve Jones' ocean drum to accompany him to begin, is on top form in 'Soliloquy' Philip Harper's 'reflection on isolation'. The piece is so simple, but executed so well. Chris Thomas is really good at playing high notes on the trombone.

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    Film music from 'Cutthroat Island' up next. Such exciting writing for band, and played with such intent from the band — and some wonderful soprano cornet playing. Some wonderful theatre at the end of the piece in conjunction with the presentation — tension built with the news of the treasure being stolen — and released so well.

    And 'Beyond the Sea' to close, featuring more of the band's soloists, and bucketed muted trombones. The quiet playing is so calming, and the 'big band' style is such a contrast as a result.

    Another perfectly pitched programme from Cory. Fantastic fun throughout, with no hint of sacrificing the quality of the playing. Absolutely superb.


  • Saturday 20, 14:38:18

    3. Foden's Band
    Conductor: Michael Fowles

    Into the Dark

    Night on a Bald Mountain (Mussorgsky arr. Iain McKnight)
    Through the Darkened Streets (John Barber)
    Someone like You (Wildhorn arr. John Barber)
    Trombone Soloist: John Barber
    Night Flight (Jonathan Bates)
    Casper's Lament (Jonathan Bates)
    The Dream of a Witches Sabbath (Berlioz arr. Howard Snell)

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    Foden's go 'Into the Dark' with a witches and monsters inspired programme. All the lights are off and we've got the Sage 1 lights flashing again. I hope nobody suffers from epilepsy in the audience!

    The band's Eb Bass player Iain McKnight's arrangement of 'Night on a Bald Mountain' is the opener, which is powerfully played — before we move into a composition from the band's Principal Trombone player, John Barber 'into the darkened streets' inspired by Jack the Ripper.

    The music is much lighter in style than its inspiration would lead you to believe — excellent virtuosic flugel playing in her solo. What an exciting piece — and its foundation rooted in some excellent drum kit playing.

    'Someone like You' from the musical 'Jekyll and Hyde' featuring its arranger, John Barber, as the trombone soloist is so classily played. The band accompaniments are well balanced and sympathetic when the soloist is playing — and the band tutti section are full and impressive on their own. The odd blemish doesn't take too much away from the overall performance from soloist and band.

    Euphonium and Soprano take the lead in Jonathan Bates' 'Night Flight' — bravo to you both! Lots of full, bold sounds from the whole band, but the soloists steal the spotlight in this one.

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    'Caspers Lament' is a subdued piece, which has an Eric Whitacre like quality to the opening harmonies — bravo to the cornet and baritone soloists — there are one or two moments of poor intonation — but the lyrical playing heard is so expressive. And all the while, Casper the Friendly Ghost's smiling face shows on the presentation screen.

    'Dream of a Witches Sabbath' by Berlioz is a more recently released arrangement of Howard Snell's — and what a challenging arrangement it is! This is so technically demanding, as well as requiring so many 'effects' from the players, it's really great playing It might not always clinically accurate, but it's definitely exciting!

    A strong showing from Fodens — not without its fragile moments but a coherent theme of good music, with excellent soloists, played well.

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