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Report & Result: 2019 British Open

Cory adds yet another entry into the ledger of their dynastic success story under Philip Harper as they retain the British Open title at Symphony.

British Open
  Cory have retained their British Open title at Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

As ruthlessly efficient as they were lyrically sublime, Cory became the first band to retain the British Open title since 2006 as they carved yet another major championship victory entry into the ledger of their own dynastic history.

Not even a rejuvenated Black Dyke or an inspired Foden's could beat them as the Welsh band once again produced a remarkable display of imposing authority and cultured musicality to lift the iconic British Open Gold Trophy for the third time in the last four years.

Iconic

And iconic was just one adjective used by the adjudicators to describe their rendition under Philip Harper of Peter Graham's thoroughly engaging set-work.

"Magic music making, atmosphere, little risks, fine soloists; but for me the band was just iconic,"Nigel Boddice MBE told 4BR on the stage of Symphony Hall as Cory started joyfully celebrating their 'Dynasty' victory.

His fellow judges agreed: "Every section of the piece came to life,"Stephen Roberts added. "Every moment was like a jewel you didn't want to leave behind."

"It was a stunning performance,"Stephen Cobb concurred. "The solo cornet got off to a great start. But every single moment in the music had something about it that set it apart from the other performances. It was extraordinary."

What a performance!!

Their immediate post-contest opinions were backed by their written ones following Cory's number 16 draw.

'So much excellence and character' wrote Nigel, whilst Stephen Roberts rounded up his remarks with; 'Scintillating stuff! The balance of musicality, solo work, accuracy and tonal quality was simply outstanding'.

Stephen Cobb succinctly described it in three words and two exclamation marks: 'What a performance!!'

Little wonder Cory's MD was almost speechless as he freed himself from well wishers to be asked about his immediate feelings on yet another major success. "It hasn't sunk in yet,"he said. "It's a really big one to win (and) that makes it even more special.

The secret is the band. You get them on stage and they produce a performance like that."

His praise for his players was therefore understandably passionate in its sincerity.

Tom Hutchinson, who opened the work, 'as if descending from the heavens', as the composer sought to describe the simple, but nerve-wracking introductory motif, was, "an absolute artist"Philip said after he deservedly claimed the Stanley Wainwright 'Best Soloist' award. "He is just incredible."

Great feeling

As to the secret of their performance of 'Dynasty' he added; "I found very little information on the score — just the notes, (and) very sparing on the dynamics as well.

It was a blank canvass really on which to put what I thought was a heartfelt musical expression. Once you are playing music from the heart and you've got musicians like we have at Cory you know can just deliver, then yes... it's a great feeling."

That feeling has become common place under Philip Harper's tenure — with the band now holding the 2019 European, BrassPass Band of the Year and British Open titles in their vice-like musical grip.

They will head to the Royal Albert Hall as undoubted favourites as they seek to reclaim the National trophy, whilst few would bet against them retaining the Brass in Concert accolade in November.

This was title winning playing that spoke of a supreme collective confidence; the musical link between MD and band one that had an unbreakable connectivity in understanding. They are a quite remarkable brass band combination.

Not all lost

Not all is lost for rivals however.

There will be considerable confidence that Cory can be pushed to their limits at both Black Dyke and Foden's, whilst top-six finishers Desford, Flowers and Brighouse & Rastrick will know just how much work is now required if they are to bridge the gap after their displays of impressive contest excellence.

On the stroke of 10.30am there were certainly high levels of expectation from the audience as they filled the auditorium for the first of what were to be 18 fine renditions from the competitors.

However, it wasn't until Desford took to the stage under Michael Fowles as band number 8 that the judges were given a performance that fully brought the considered technical and musical elements of 'Dynasty' together successfully.

That was the crucial balance that had to be struck according to Stephen Roberts in his pre-results remarks to the audience; musical interest, engaging narrative and accuracy.

Free rein

Peter Graham had allowed almost a free rein for the conductors to define their musical intentions from the deceptively simple looking structures of the score — the key elements of refinement, elegance and artistry of the main solo lines balanced with the richly textured colours and weave of the ensemble sound.

As each section linked together to bring the chronological narrative line to life, the music demanded control without losing intensity of purpose — the choral inspired ending from 'Messiah' (which the judges felt was only successfully accomplished by two bands) having to be paced to perfection before a glorious resonant ending.

Desford's finely wrought, mature performance became the fulcrum marker, and although immediately followed by a hugely evocative account from Foden's, it deservedly held its own to come fourth.

Subtleties appreciated

Foden's though closed the first half with a performance illuminated by Russell Gray's intuitive appreciation of musical subtleties; the long arc of his interpretive argument presented with touches of elegance and refinement from his players — most notably soprano Richard Poole who sparkled throughout to claim the Brian Evans Memorial Trophy.

It was a rendition that many felt worthy of claiming a first title since 2012 — but it was not to be. They will be making one heck of a defence of their title at London on this form though.

Instead it was Black Dyke that ran Cory the closest — although the judges later confirmed the victory as clear cut.

As at the Band of the Year contest in June, this was a rejuvenated Queensbury band under Prof Nicholas Childs; the ensemble sound in particular much more cohesive and balanced from top to bottom, the MD bringing an impassioned sense of vibrancy to the music despite an occasional moment or two of individual unease.

Daniel Thomas was superlative though to take the 'Geoffrey Whitham' award for his contribution to a performance that confirmed Dyke's return to major title winning form.

Traditional sounds

Not one account on the day was free of blemish or error, although it was heartening to hear that the best bands had not lost the ability to produce a 'traditional' sound of warm homogenous tonality, as well as the ability to differentiate between subtle dynamic levels.

When they did open up the funnels the effect was glorious — especially at the very end. The solo playing from the principal cornets in particular was exceptional.

Caught the ear

One band that caught the ears in the box in that respect was a confident Flowers under Paul Holland.

Taking to the stage with no less than 16 British Open debutants in the ranks, theirs was perhaps the boldest approach of the top-six finishers.

It was also one that retained an admirable sense of cohesive style from start to finish, with all their soloists playing with a level of artistic aplomb (with special mention to Eb tuba Carlton Sykes).

It meant that the final top-six place went to one of the contest favourites Brighouse & Rastrick, who produced a rendition of character and flowing musicality under Prof David King that just perhaps took a little time in freeing itself from its opening strictures. Their wait for their first Open success since 1978 continues.

Small blemishes

Behind them came high quality performances bedevilled by an increasing number of small blemishes that scrubbed an essential level of veneer polish, and subsequently points, from their hopes of a mention from the stage.

That said, a much more disciplined Grimethorpe will have left Symphony Hall knowing that they are back on the right road towards the top end of the results table under Dr David Thornton's baton, whilst Fairey once again showed their solid virtues under Garry Cutt to end eighth.

Aldbourne's deserved top-ten finish was underpinned by Ivan Meylemen's beautifully crafted reading, whilst the cooperation band could count themselves a tad unlucky they didn't finish a little higher after Philip McCann affectionate appreciation of the score.

The midfield finishes would have had few complaints; Tredegar and Valaisia not sounding fully at ease at times, whilst Hammonds spirited effort gave them the nod over inconsistent accounts from Carlton Main and Leyland (off number 1), with Grand Shield winner NASUWT Riverside putting in a determined effort to end 17th.

Relegation

The cruel sound of the relegation trap door marked the end of Wingates' battling three year tenure at the event, whilst Whitburn were almost unrecognisable from the band that came runner-up here just two years ago.

Both will be determined to return immediately, especially as it was announced that Edward Gregson will provide the 2020 test-piece for the contest.

Live stream

His new work entitled 'The World Rejoicing' would have been an apt title for the 2019 contest which was being broadcast to all corners of the globe for the first time.

However, technical issues meant that there were recurring connectivity problems from the live-stream provided by WordofBrass.tv and Stagecast which affected the first half of the contest in particular.

The quick response of refunds to disappointed viewers was a professional way in which to deal with the matter, although those who did spend £9.99 should now go back and enjoy the full day again without any glitches until the 14th September.

It will be well worth it just to savour Cory's truly remarkable winning performance.

Iwan Fox

Magic music making, atmosphere, little risks, fine soloists; but for me the band was, just iconicAdjudicator Nigel Boddice MBE

Results:

Additional comments and thoughts on our twitter site:
http://twitter.com/4barsrest

Saturday 7th September
Test Piece: Dynasty (Peter Graham)
Adjudicators: Nigel Boddice MBE, Dr Stephen Cobbs, Stephen Roberts

1. Cory (Philip Harper)
2. Black Dyke (Prof Nicholas J. Childs)
3. Foden's (Russell Gray)
4. Desford Colliery (LMTF) (Michael Fowles)
5. Flowers (Paul Holland)
6. Brighouse & Rastrick (Prof David King)
7. Grimethorpe Colliery (Dr David Thornton)
8. Fairey (Garry Cutt)
9. Aldbourne (Ivan Meylemans)
10. the cooperation band (Phillip McCann)
11. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)
12. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc)
13. Hammonds (Morgan Griffiths)
14. Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Luc Vertommen)
15. Leyland (Thomas Wyss)
16. Wingates (Paul Andrews)*
17. NASUWT Riverside (David Roberts)
18. Whitburn (Florent Didier) *

Brian Evans Memorial Trophy: Richard Poole (Soprano) — Foden's
Stanley Wainwright Memorial Trophy:Tom Hutchinson (Principal Cornet) — Cory
The Geoffrey Whitham Memorial Trophy: Daniel Thomas (Solo Euphonium) — Black Dyke

*Relegated to Grand Shield

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