Report & Result: 2019 National Championships of Great Britain: Section 1

Unison Kinneil completes remarkable rise from the ashes of despair to claim the National title.

  Unison Kinniel claimed a wonderful victory in Cheltenham

Endeavour. Such a test-piece title may never so accurately have summed up a National Championship contest victory.

It also seemed to be the musical opinion of the First Section adjudicators, as Howard Evans (joined by Gary Davies and Glyn Williams) revealed when speaking to the audience before the announcement of the results.


In their viewpoint this was a title won by hard graft rather than artistry, proficiency rather than perspicuity.

"Not one band emerged unscathed,"Howard said, "...especially with the opening. The intonation both in the slow and faster sections was a concern."

And whilst his remark that, "...it was a huge challenge for us to listen to today"may have initially sounded a touch caustic (there were a few 'meow' cat-calls heard in response), it was in fact a very pertinent observation. The judges' job had certainly been made a great deal harder by the frustrating inability of too many contenders to turn performance potential into prize winning substance.

"The music has been a huge challenge today,"he added. "It won out today. Two bands were more proficient and found the atmosphere."

Resolute winners

That was not say the eventual winners didn't display qualities worthy of the champion accolade — far from it in fact.

Unison Kinneil claimed the laurels under Raymond Tennant with a performance that spoke of a deep rooted sense of determination and resolve.

Artistic flourishes may occasionally catch the ear on the contest day, but it is the artisan values of solid basics, well-drilled technique and clarity of musical thinking that invariably win titles. And that according to the judges was provided best of all by the Scots.

Close behind came North West challengers Rainford, whilst a little further back came the more pock-marked exertions of early markers Boarshurst Silver followed by the hard-grafted efforts of top-six finishers Michelmersh Silver, Goodwick and Kirkintilloch.


There was little doubt that Unison Kinneil's victory had been won through a huge test of personal endeavour.

Just three months after their bandroom was gutted by fire, it was also a truly remarkable one. Having had to pick themselves up from the ashes of despair in June they repelled 15 rivals to become the first Scottish band to clasp hands on the First Section National Trophy.

Understandably there were a few tears mixed in with the joyful sounds of celebration as Band Secretary Robert Doherty lifted the trophy in triumph. "I've been with the band for over 50 years,"he said.

"In June I felt we had reached the lowest point ever, but now this has happened. I'm not the most emotional bloke, but I cried then and I don't care if I cry now."

He added: "The spirit of everyone involved has been incredible, as has been the support we've received from our community and the banding world. Ray Tennant has been an incredible force in leading us and the players and supporters (a certain Philip McCann played with the band on bumper-up) have given everything in return. This is us rising from the ashes."

Hard way

The judges written remarks certainly emphasised the point that they had done it the hard way.

'There were some moments of blemish to the start... but it soon became a very controlled and polished performance... to give a really musical picture.' wrote Howard, whilst Gary Davies summed up with; 'Very controlled performance, lots of detail (except beginning) heard with dynamic contrast throughout. Well done soloists and thank you MD."

Meanwhile, Glyn Williams was perhaps the most impressed as he wrote, '...a performance that had everything and you made it sound so easy.'

In truth, a truly admirable band, led with great nous and craftsmanship by their MD had drawn on experience, know-how and a fair amount of grit and determination to claim a momentous victory. It had the requisite emerging drama in its opening, menace and purpose in the following 'challenge' (with a touching moment of reflection) and a joyful romp of celebration.

Perfect it was not, as the judges and the players themselves will have known, but it mattered little. The end result was.


Running them close in terms of overall quality was Rainford led by Dr David Thornton with a performance that also relied on good basics, talented soloists (none more so than the outstanding 'Best Instrumentalist' award winner Morvern Sinclair on principal cornet) and a clear minded approach to the score by the man in the middle.

It also had its moments of unease — although oddly more towards the end rather than the beginning of the piece, as they claimed a deserved runner-up finish.

Earlier, Boarshurst provide the robust fulcrum marker off the number 5 draw that held its own thanks well thought out approach and the dark sense of drama that it produced. Third place for the Butlins champion was another significant achievement for James Garlick and his impressive band.


Meanwhile, Melvin White used all his experience and contest know-how to shape an engaging account from Michelmersh to end fourth. It may have lacked the overall polish of the podium finishers but had a deeply ingrained level of proficiency about it to make a mark in the box.

In contrast Goodwick and Kirkintilloch were left to reflect on just a few too many little blemishes that took the veneer off persuasive interpretations from conductors Matthew Jenkins and David Roberts to consign them to fifth and sixth respectively.


Just outside the top-six a purposeful account from Fulham pipped a stylish one from fellow Stevenage qualifiers Amersham that was a tad unlucky it didn't quite resonate in the box as it did in the hall, whilst the other top-10 places went to the evocative contest openers of Hatfield & Askern Colliery and Bodmin that owed much to the musical approach of their experienced MDs.

Inconsistencies cut deep into the prize winning potential of the rest of the finishers; Enderby and Burry Port giving 'nearly' renditions, whilst Hucknall & Linby's approach didn't catch the ears in the box alongside hard grafted efforts by Old Silkstone, Ripon City and J36 (who put up a really admirable effort given their circumstances).


Just why Philip Sparke's engaging, but fairly standard score, with its familiar crafted challenges caused so many problems on the day was something of a mystery.

The overall standard was good: Good that is for a First Section event. And that may tell you just where this contest sat in the wider scheme of things.

These were bands on this form that could all do with at least another year of development. None as yet sounded as if they would be able to tackle Philip Sparke's top section Area work, 'A Tale As Yet untold' in comfort.

Endeavour alone will not be enough to succeed on that.

Iwan Fox

In June I felt we had reached the lowest point ever, but now this has happened. I'm not the most emotional bloke, but I cried then and I don't care if I cry nowUnison Band Chairman, Robert Doherty


Section 1:

Test Piece: Endeavour (Philip Sparke)
Adjudicators: Gary Davies, Howard Evans, Glyn Williams

1. Unison Kinneil (Raymond Tennant)
2. Rainford (Dr David Thornton)
3. Boarshurst Silver (James Garlick)
4. Michelmersh Silver (Melvin White)
5. Goodwick (Matthew Jenkins)
6. Kirkintilloch (David Roberts)
7. Fulham (John Ward)
8. Amersham (Paul Fisher)
9. Hatfield & Askern Colliery (Stan Lippeatt)
10. Bodmin Town (John Maines)
11. Enderby (Ryan Richards)
12. Burry Port Town (Ceri John)
13. Hucknall & Linby MC (Paul Whyley)
14. Old Silkstone (John Hopkinson)
15. Ripon City (Mark Sidwell)
16. J36 (Steven Craig)

Best Instrumentalist: Morvern Sinclair (cornet) — Rainford

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