4BR picks five bands, each from a different section, to keep an eye out for in 2017 — and not just to overcome the curse of our traditional 'Kiss of Death' predictions to hear their names mentioned in the results come contest time.
All five go about their business in an admirable way — focusing on collective long term aims and objectives and not just on how to survive to the next contest stage appearance.
1. Championship Section: Fairey Band
There has been a quiet musical revolution going on in Stockport over the last few years — led by the 'Marple Maestro' Garry Cutt, ably assisted by Tom Davoren and a backroom team that have sought to make an increasingly successful mark on everything they undertake.
They are now a very serious contender at every major championship (and have already qualified for the 2018 Europeans) but they also actively seek out innovative, interesting projects to be part of as well. 2017 could be a very significant year indeed.
2. First Section: Eccles Borough Band
A famous old banding name (they won the British Open back in 1930), but one that has made long term incremental progress under the baton of Musical Director Mareika Gray since her appointment in 2010.
Then they were in the Third Section, but in 2017 they will compete in the First Section boosted by a remarkable 'double' at the Wychavon Contest in November that saw them become the first band to win both the First and Championship Sections on the same day. A band and MD that know exactly which musical direction they are heading.
3. Second Section: J36 Brass
Named rather unromantically by a group of friends after a spur on the M6 motorway in Cumbria near Kendal and Kirkby Lonsdale, J36 Brass was formed in January 2016 but has already made a huge impact on the banding scene in the north of England and beyond, with exciting plans for long term development already in the pipeline.
They have already won three of the four contests they have entered (and came second at the other at the National Finals) and employ a welcome form of democracy to their banding endeavors — with the players and conductor all paying subs each rehearsal and each having an equal vote on banding matters.
4. Third Section: Whitburn Heartlands Band
A fantastic blueprint (make that tartan) of how to set up a band within a larger musical organisation to ensure everyone benefits.
This is all about developing players and imbuing them with a sense of musical self achievement — the second step on a ladder of progression (the first is a super Beginner Group) that hopefully sees them become fully fledged members of the current Champion Band of Scotland (and a few have already done it) or go on and enjoy their playing at different levels with local bands in the Whitburn area and beyond. A band with its heart in the right place in more ways than one.
5. Fourth Section: Wantage Academy Brass
The Academy is part of an incredibly well run organisation (based near Newbury in Berkshire) that boats a high quality Championship Section outfit, B Band, Concert Brass Band, Trainer Band, Beginners Group and Big Band under the one musical umbrella.
It is also one that has admirably clear aims and objectives, is led by a great MD and simply enjoys making music together. The contest results are of secondary importance to getting youngsters involved and inspired — with a masterclass with Roger Webster already booked in for the New Year.