Report & Result: 2019 BrassPass.tv UK Band of the Year

Cory claims the inaugural BrassPass.tv 'UK Band of the Year' title in Manchester as Philip Harper leads his number 1 ranked band to further silverware success.

Stoller Hall
  Philip Harper gets his hands on the BrassPass.tv Band of the Year silverware

The world's number 1 ranked band became the first BrassPass.tv 'UK Band of the Year' following a riveting day of high class contesting in Manchester.

Cory claimed the imposing trophy and £5,000 first prize after MD Philip Harper drew deep into the European Champion's reserves of contesting experience to repel the challenge of a rejuvenated Black Dyke, with Welsh Champion Tredegar in third.

Just behind the prize winners came Fairey, returning to form under Garry Cutt, with the remaining top-six places going to National Champion Foden's and Carlton Main Frickley.

Unanimous decision

It proved to be an unanimous decision from the respected international panel of adjudicators Tom Brevik, Reid Gilje and Jan De Haan, with the trio, delivering their individual decisions without conferring, in full agreement of the podium placings.

After speaking with compere Frank Renton, "the happy men"as he called them – each praising the bands for the overall quality of their "top world level"playing and "fantastic soloists"- further confirmed their findings and especially their appreciation of Cory's outstanding 30 minute performance, in their written remarks

"It's no point writing more…Superb playing the highest possible level!!!"wrote Reid Gilje, whilst Tom Brevik closed his observations with a precise; "Thank you all, band and conductor!"

And so impressed was Jan De Haan that he even added a touch of Welsh in summing up his thoughts on what he heard from the new champion: "My compliments to the band, MD and composer. A joy to listen to! Diolch!"

Just fantastic

Opening with the T. J Powell march 'The Spaceman', with the lead line delicately played by repiano Hannah Plumridge, it was followed by Tom Hutchinson's stunning memorised 'Best Soloist' account of the first movement of the Derek Bourgeois 'Cornet Concerto'; described as "so artistically played", "absolutely brilliant"and "just fantastic!"by the admiring judges.

Cory closed with a brilliant reprise of their European Championship own-choice selection 'Explorers on the Moon' written by their MD under his compositional pseudonym of Paul Raphael — although there was no hiding the easily identifiable personal pride revealed by the MD as he acknowledged the prolonged applause at its close.

Gave everything

Speaking after the results, Philip told 4BR: "We're delighted to add another prestigious title to our CV — especially as ours will be the first name on the trophy. Everyone came together for this contest to ensure we gave everything to beat such a strong field of rivals."

He added: "The programme had no directly linked theme – the T. J Powell march is one that we've played before and is a great opener that also gave us the opportunity to feature Hannah on repiano. She's a wonderful talent, so it was an easy option to take a bit of pressure off Tom before his solo.

He of course was absolutely brilliant – and its makes it sound so easy. You just stand back and admire what he does."

The MD concluded: "The band later told me that they felt that the test piece was perhaps even better than Montreux, so that tells you something that they knew they had to do that to win the title."

Fans of the new champion won't have to wait long to hear them back in action as they were heading to Dunstable to round off the weekend with a Sunday afternoon concert.

Meanwhile, they will be on home turf next Sunday (30th June at 3.00pm) at the Royal Welsh College in Cardiff for their annual 'Composer Competition' where they are sure to display the latest silverware addition to the British Open, European and Brass in Concert trophy cabinet.

Pleased Pondashers

For Black Dyke, a runner-up cheque for £3,500 will have massaged some of the disappointment felt at not becoming the inaugural 'Band of the Year' champion, although die-hard Pondasher fans will have left pleased at the way the Queensbury outfit performed on a trio of significant world premieres under Prof Nicholas Childs.

They opened with Philip Wilby's luminescent 'A Brighter Light', followed by Katrina Marzella in two movements from Peter Graham's new 'Baritone Concerto', with Reid Gilje stating that the soloist had played, "with total confidence".

Dyke closed with a scorching account of 'Heroes', a new 15 minute long test-piece work inspired by the Apollo 11 moon landing by American Emmy award winning composer Bruce Broughton, who had flown over from the USA for the event.

"Thanks for some excellent playing (again…) band and conductor"wrote Tom Brevik, whilst Jan De Hann described the playing of 'Heroes' as "…an astounding performance."

With Cory and Black Dyke evenly splitting the opinions of the vast majority of the audience in their opinion to the where the new title would eventually head, it was Tredegar that carried on their impressive 2019 form to eventually come a clear third.

Rich praise

Ian Porthouse's band secured the £1,500 on offer with a seriously conceived set that also brought rich praise from the judges.

The Welsh band's combination of, 'Phenomena Fanfare on Themes of Gustav Mahler', a superbly lucid rendition of Wilfred Heaton's 'Toccata — Oh the Blessed Lord' and the flugel solo 'Eyes of a Child' featuring Danny Winder, was rounded off with what Tom Brevik called "…a superb performance,"of Oliver Waespi's 'As if a voice were in them…'.

Jan De Hann summed up their programme by offering his "compliments to the MD for the interpretations"on show, with Reid Gilje adding that it had been "effective and exciting"playing.


Earlier, there was a great deal of expectation as well as intrigue in the air from those making their way into Stoller Hall for the 10.00am start, but with the compact auditorium offering an excellent acoustic for the 450 or so listeners who maintained a high capacity presence throughout the day, little wonder contest promoter Martin Gernon of IBB Media Ltd was soon seen sporting a broad grin of satisfaction.

The bands themselves certainly enjoyed the format; the stage offering a more intimate performance experience than usual, allowing the best to really showcase their dynamic, balance and textural abilities on eclectic (and sometimes surprising) sets.

Foden's start

The day started with Foden's (who had asked to be drawn number 1 to enable them to fulfill an evening engagement) setting a high bar marker under Michael Fowles. However, they just had a few too many minor blemishes throughout an engaging triptych despite an evocative reading of Thierry Deleruyelle's 'Fraternity', to have secured a podium slot.

They were followed by Flowers — admirably led by Mareika Gray at less than 48 hours notice following Paul Holland's enforced medical withdrawal. Understandably they played with a considered amount of constraint to ensure a responsive cohesion to their new conductor's clear direction, especially in a fine account of Philip Wilby's 'Ascension' test-piece.

With no 'entertainment' factor to consider for the judges or the bands, it was still interesting to hear the different 'takes' by the MDs to the construction of their programmes.

Tried and trusted

Whilst some utilised repertoire that wouldn't have been out of place at Brass in Concert, Garry Cutt and Fairey opted for a tried and trusted traditional approach.

Opening with a florid 'Le Corsair' it was followed by a touching flugel solo extracted from Peter Graham's 'Torchbearer' test-piece played by Lucy Cutt and more direct Eric Ball inspired musicality with his classic 'Resurgam'.

It proved to be a bit of a masterstroke by the Marple Maestro, gaining rich praise from the judges for both its inclusion and resonant performance. And although the final two movements of Howard Snell's 'Gallery' seemed a bit of a 'bolt-on' to close, fourth place will have give the Stockport band a timely injection of collective confidence with the British Open on the horizon.


Despite the disappointment of ending sixth, on a day when many listeners in the hall had them as possible podium finishers, Carlton Main Frickley will also have been boosted by their impressive showing under Russell Gray.

Kirsty Abbotts' sublime rendition of 'Song' from 'Milestone' by Peter Meechan was a gemstone centerpiece of a cohesive set — one that opened with the world premiere of Ben Hollings' 'Into the Stars' (on a day when even Donald Trump could have been forgiven for thinking the moon was part of Manchester let alone Mars such were the Apollo 11/lunar inspired homages) and an emotive rendition of 'Fraternity'.

Disappointment though for Brighouse & Rastrick, who never quite seemed to click into top gear despite MD David Thornton's drive from the rostrum.

Their triptych set of a malleable 'Knight Templar' march followed by two movements from Kit Turnbull's 'Blue Rider' euphonium concerto, admirably played by Chris Robertson and a 'A Lowry Sketchbook' which was classy but flawed, saw them end seventh, ahead of Hammonds.

They in turn displayed considerable musical endeavour and quality against a field of top ranked rivals, with a bravura 'Triumph of Time' rounding off a set that showed that they are a band of growing contest maturity.

Foundation base

Talking of which, the BrassPass organisers have already indicated that a second 'Band of the Year' will take place in 2020, with Martin Gernon telling the audience at Stoller Hall that, "literally thousands around the world"had signed up to enjoy the live broadcast on-line to help make the inaugural contest "an absolutely huge success."

If that is the case (and those present certainly enjoyed it), then the UK banding movement may well have gained for itself a significant new mid-season event that can build on what was an excellent foundation base.

Iwan Fox

To relive the contest as it unfolded, go to:

The band later told me that they felt that the test piece was perhaps even better than Montreux, so that tells you something that they knew they had to do that to win the titleCory MD, Philip Harper


Adjudicators: Jan De Haan, Tom Brevik, Reid Gilje

De Haan/Brevik/Gilje/(Soloist*) = Total
*only used in the case of a tie

1. Cory (Philip Harper): 1/1/1/(1) = 3
2. Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas Childs): 2/2/2/(2) = 6
3. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse): 3/3/3/(4) = 9
4. Fairey (Garry Cutt): 4/4/5/(7) = 13
5. Foden's (Michael Fowles): 5/5/6/(6) = 16
6. Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Russell Gray): 7/6/4/(3) = 17
7. Brighouse & Rastrick (Dr David Thornton): 6/8/7/(5) = 21
8. Hammonds (Morgan Griffiths): 8/7/8/(9) = 23
9. Flowers (Mareika Gray): 9/9/9/(8) = 27

Best Soloist: Tom Hutchinson (Cory)

Image courtesy of Neil Brunsden: www.neilbrunsden.co.uk

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