Tewit Silver and Redruth may be 395 miles apart in geographic distance, but it was a mere hairsbreadth that separated them musically at the end of a hugely enjoyable Fourth Section battle.
The champions of the North and West of England were the "outstanding"performers in a contest made up of 18 bands that made the most of the opportunity to show off their emerging skills sets on Stephen Bulla's excellent set-work, 'Beecher Variations'.
Not one came a cropper (to use a bit of Cheltenham horse racing terminology), with adjudicator Ian Brownbill (joined by Paul Holland and Craig Roberts) stating that just behind the leading pair there were also four "very good"accounts on a piece he said was "a real challenge from the very first page".
It meant that third place went to a super early draw marker from London qualifiers Simon Langton Brass, with a robust Beaumaris in fourth ahead of fine efforts from the North West representatives of Rode Hall and Sale Brass.
The top two though were a class apart; producing accounts full of detailed precision and warm ensemble sounds backed by excellent solo contributions that brought the stylistic character of the music to the fore.
At their helms the direction of Martin Hall and Andrew Craze (both of whom have tasted success here in the past) certainly spoke of the hard work spent on banding basics (especially "listening to each other"as Ian Brownbill pointed out) that resulted in noticeable displays of mature musicality.
They gave the judges the "lyrical quality we were looking for", with Ian stating that it meant it was a very difficult to make in the box. "Hard luck to the band that came second,"he said. "On another day they may have won."
The winner's celebrations then went to Tewit Silver — with the judges describing their fantastic rendition in their written remarks just before the mid-point break in glowing terms.
'Very enjoyable and especially musical,' Paul Holland said, whilst Craig Roberts called it; 'An impressive performance with some great music made'. Ian Brownbill summed it up simply as 'really convincing'.
They were accurate assessments; the opening sections played with a resolute precision, the balance between the technical and the lyrical maintained throughout thanks to carefully chosen tempi and dynamic levels. The style was admirably considered with enough stamina left to round things off with a touch classy verve.
Formed only a couple of years ago in what has turned out to be a far-sighted decision to offer youngsters who come through the celebrated Tewit Youth Band set-up a chance to keep playing if they decided to remain in the area, the band is led by the inspirational figure of Martin Hall.
"This is a band that is all about inclusion and enjoyment,"he said as the National Trophy glinted in his arms in the glorious September sun. "We didn't want to keep losing talented players to university or work without being able to offer something that they can still be part of, even they return years later."
He added: "We encourage togetherness (there are some remarkable family connections) so the older players we have mentor our youngsters, and we always aim to enjoy our music making. We are a community band with a community spirit."
They also have a remarkable competitive one too — as shown by their experienced soprano player John Belton, who less than 24 hours before taking to the stage was undergoing an operation that would have tested the mettle of any player in the world.
Suffice to say, the band's impromptu whistling of 'Colonel Bogey' on his return may give an idea of just what he went through to ensure he didn't miss out on helping them to victory. "This is what banding is all about,"he said, "fun, hard work and celebrating with friends. The pain has already disappeared, but these memories will last forever."
Meanwhile, their 'Best Instrumentalist' award winner Martin Trowmans has also enjoyed his return to banding after taking a slightly longer break from playing at the top level.
"I live just down the road from Martin. I met him in the supermarket one day and got chatting and he persuaded me to return. It's been great: The band is full of super people who work together."
That was obvious as they cajoled each other to get their pictures taken for posterity with the trophy. You knew the long journey home — a mere 194 miles, was going to be one to remember for a very long time indeed.
Redruth will also return home proud of their efforts. A band with a rich history dating back to the 1830s, they have been rejuvenated in the last year by the return of local lad Andrew Craze.
And whilst it's rare that a performance as good as theirs misses out on top spot at Fourth Section level, you suspect they are a band to watch out for in the coming few years.
Here the MD drew some wonderful playing from around the stands; the music having a rich sense of character and dynamism balanced by lyrical interludes and plenty of stamina in the tank for a thumping close.
'Beecher Variations' certainly proved to be an excellent choice by the Music Panel.
Stephen Bulla's craftsmanship was intuitively pitched to stretch bands musically as well as technically with a sense of achievable purpose; each variant neatly packaged in style, dynamic and tempi, the solo lines testing, each section of the ensemble adding to the colour, texture and interest of the writing (especially the percussion).
All 18 bands will have benefited enormously from working on it.
The contest had earlier got off to a fine start with the super early marker provided by Simon Langton Brass who gave the judges plenty to ponder from the number 2 draw.
It was a performance that deservedly gained reward under MD Keith Twyman for its stylish intent and execution that was light, relaxed and very enjoyable on the ear.
Confident intent wasn't in short supply for Beaumaris straight after the mid-point break either, as the north Walians gave it everything in their bid to replicate the National success of past generations in 1991 and 2000. Packed with youngsters and a few older heads (the grey gave it away), theirs was an admirable effort under MD Scott Lloyd to end fourth.
So too the North West pairing of Rode Hall Silver and Sale Brass in claiming the remaining top-six places.
Rode Hall very nearly crept up on the inside rail late in the day with an impressive account under Nigel Butler's lucid direction to eventually end fifth, whilst earlier, Matthew Hindle's well thought out take on the score with Sale Brass was admirably executed by his players to end sixth.
Behind them came a host of contenders producing performances of rich merit — led by a bold Maltby Miners alongside a delighted Wroughton Silver (making their first finals appearance since 1963) with solid accounts from Melton (off the number 1 draw) and Newland Concert as the penultimate contender, claiming top-10 places.
Further back the little inconsistencies, moments of nervousness and intonation issues become more pronounced, although Nailsworth, Great Yarmouth, Ratby Co-operative Mid and Barnsley (with 10 year old Skye Stokes beaming with pride as she was presented with the Youngest Player award), all emerged very much in the credit side of the adjudicator's ledger book.
And although the judges may have found slightly more concerns from Shipston, Burneside Brass, Cottenham and Gwaen Cae Gurwen, each brought out the character of the music in accounts of merit. They were by no means back markers left adrift in a quality field of rivals.
Cheltenham has seen many famous close-run victories by 'a nose' in length over the years, and this was certainly one of them, as a super contest was won by a musical nostril by an outstanding new National Champion in Tewit Silver.
We encourage togetherness so the older players we have mentor our youngsters, and we always aim to enjoy our music making. We are a community band with a community spiritTewit Silver MD, Martin Hall
Test Piece: Beecher Variations (Stephen Bulla)
Adjudicators: Ian Brownbill, Paul Holland, Craig Roberts
1. Tewit Silver (Martin Hall)
2. Redruth Town (Andrew Craze)
3. Simon Langton Brass (Keith Twyman)
4. Beaumaris (Scott Lloyd)
5. Rode Hall Silver (Nigel Butler)
6. Sale Brass (Matthew Hindle)
7. Maltby Miners' Welfare (Terry Clifford)
8. Wroughton Silver (Simon Jones)
9. Melton (Graham Sutton)
10. Newland Concert (Simon Railton)
11. Nailsworth Silver (Steve Legge)
12. Great Yarmouth Brass (Colin Swaep)
13. Ratby Co-operative Mid (Gary Perrin)
14. Barnsley Metropolitan (Alex Francis)
15. Shipston Town (Howard Gibbs)
16. Burneside Brass (Laurie Johnston)
17. Cottenham (Peter Mackley)
18. Gwaen Cae Gurwen (Robert Burnett)
Best Instrumentalist: Martin Trowmans (flugel) — Tewit Silver
Youngest Player: Skye Stokes (Barnsley Metropolitan) — aged 10