There was one band, and one band only, that could justifiably say that they beat Cory and Philip Harper at their own entertainment game on the weekend at Sage Gateshead.
Whilst the world's number 1 ranked band claimed their success with a near flawless performance against their rivals, Wardle Academy Youth Band successfully defended their Youth Brass in Concert Championship title with a mini-concert that was simply performed to perfection.
Adjudicators Roger Argente and Jayne Murrill were in no doubt that their decisions fully reflected the BiC points criteria outcome — 200 out of 200, for topping both the quality of performance and entertainment and presentation elements.
Few people who sat back in their seats in the auditorium or at home following the live-stream broadcast would have disagreed. They were simply breathtaking.
And whilst Cory rounded off their remarkable 2019 season by almost achieving contesting perfection with five major championship victories out of six to their name, Wardle Academy even pipped them there.
They now proudly boast a perfect record of three wins out of three major contests entered in 2019 — the National Youth Band Intermediate Section, European Youth Championship Development Section and the Youth Brass in Concert Championship. You have to go back to May 2016 for the last time they were beaten.
Theirs was a wonderful performance to round off a wonderful competition — all seven bands playing to the very apex of their abilities by providing programme sets of outstanding musical and performance maturity that belied the tender years of the players and were of huge credit to their inspirational conductors.
Each will have left Gateshead proud of their efforts — led by the Roy Newsome Memorial Trophy winners Wardle and podium finishers of Elland Silver Youth and Youth Brass 2000. Close behind them came super shows from Lions Youth Brass, Houghton Area Youth, Macclesfield Youth Band and Rochdale Borough Youth.
It is easy to sound patronisingly trite at youth events, but anyone who didn't leave the contest feeling that all 276 performers were all champions in their own right would have had a heart hewn out of the coldest granite stone. It was a smashing competition played out in a wonderful atmosphere.
Little wonder that at the appropriately informal presentation ceremony held on the venue's concourse, Roger Argente simply said that he and Jayne Murrill were "gobsmacked"by what they had enjoyed.
"I don't know how they do it,"he added before acclaiming the levels of the "transferable skills"of dedication, teamwork and thought processing that went into each performance. "We both have so much admiration for what we witnessed. The support networks from parents and staff are incredible."
He closed with a pin-point observation. "Not wishing to go into the politics, but if anyone has any influence in the right places, then they should get those people here. Everyone was brilliant — just fantastic."
It was also a point reinforced by Brass in Concert organising team member Kenny Crookston. "Last year was a great addition to the event, and we hoped it would be even better this year — and it was. The spirit and the effort of the young musicians was absolutely magnificent from start to finish.
The key word was quality — everything they do; they way they organised themselves becomes a self sustaining project. It's tremendous."
That was an adjective that certainly applied to the winners as the all-conquering Wardle Academy produced a programme that took inventiveness literally at its word.
Their 'Homage to the Great Inventors' was thoroughly brilliant; an 'all-standing' choreographed set, with the players utilising every bit of the stage (and the great homemade props) available to them, aided by the fantastic story-telling narration of their very own Prof Potts.
It cleverly embraced the local invention of the Swan electric light bulb to Stephenson's 'Rocket', the Wright Brothers first flight, the telephone (updated of course to include the ubiquitous mobile device), the camera, and finally, the great British brass band.
It had it all — with the music (from Handel to Stevie Wonder) the perfect counterbalance to the fun-packed, exhaustively polished theatre.
And whilst narrator Adam 'Prof Potts' Wilkinson was worthy of an 'Academy' award nomination of his own, it was the band's solo trombone player, Adam Warburton who deservedly took the 'Best Soloist' Award.
Tyne Bridge smile
After the announcement of the result their MD, still wearing a smile as wide as the Tyne Bridge took time out to tell 4BR just what this latest triumph means to the band.
"I'm so proud of them,"Lee Rigg said. "The players have worked so hard in recent weeks and have given me everything and more that I have asked of them in preparing for the contest. All this and they all make sure their homework is done before they come to band."
Lee also revealed that he'd been thinking about the 'Inventors' theme for a while, before adding that with Christmas concerts on the horizon, they will soon start looking towards 2020 and the defence of their National Youth and European titles.
That's a sign of ambition and determination that marks out great champions — and one that Philip Harper and Cory Band will recognise in full.
However, as with Cory, their rivals will also be determined to beat them in 2020 — with the likes of Elland Silver Youth and Youth Brass 2000 close on their heels.
Elland's colourfully vibrant 'Latin' set was a joyful exhibition of exuberance and fun under Samantha Harrison (who led from the front dressed as a toreador).
Cleverly choreographed, vocalised and performed it was super stuff — right from the opening 'El Torero' to the closing finale from 'Three Spanish Impressions' by Alan Fernie. In between we had a super euphonium solo from the talented Alex Barron as they gave everything and more in pursuit of the title.
Such was the standard that Youth Brass 2000 under Chris Jeans had to be content with third place despite having performed Philip Harper's 'Beyond the Tamar' set in breathtaking manner — complete with a stunning vocalist of their own in Mia Scott.
Just behind them debutantes Lions Youth Brass headed back to Cheshire having shown just how impressive a band they have become under the baton (or not, as was the case here) of their MD Nigel Birch.
Sitting in the audience throughout, his band sparkled with an amazing display of disciplined playing with a space themed set that was meticulously prepared and delivered — even down to the David Bowie Ziggy Stardust inspired makeup on the players faces.
Local and worldwide themes
Meanwhile, local favourites Houghton Area Youth showcased their North East heritage with their set under Brian Adams. It was one that was bursting with energy, fun and great playing (with another super euph player in Lydia Mattison and electric guitar of Ankit Kumar)
A much broader worldwide theme was embraced by Macclesfield Youth, who did themselves proud on their first appearance under Louise Renshaw with a creative set based around change and the future — with all their music downloaded onto the performer's mobile phones, which were fixed on their instrument lyres!
It was also great to see the passion and encouragement give by MD Ben Dixon to his 23 young players with Rochdale Borough Youth as they showcased their growing musical maturity with excellent renditions of uplifting repertoire.
With the Action Research entertainment contest no longer part of the youth banding calendar, the Brass in Concert Championship now offers these bands the ideal opportunity to showcase their talents to a worldwide audience at a fantastic venue.
And with all the competitors putting on programmes of such youthful vibrancy and musical maturity the organisers may well be faced with quite a few more applications from bands wishing to take part.
The players have worked so hard in recent weeks and have given me everything and more that I have asked of them in preparing for the contest. All this and they all make sure their homework is done before they come to bandLee Rigg
Roger Argente (quality of performance)
Jayne Murrill (entertainment and presentation)
Performance + Entertainment & Presentation = Total
1. Wardle Academy Youth (Lee Rigg): 120 (1) + 80 (1) = 200
2. Elland Silver Youth (Samantha Harrison): 111 (4) + 76 (3) = 187
3. Youth Brass 2000 (Chris Jeans): 108 (5) + 78 (2) = 186
4. Lions Youth Brass (Nigel Birch): 117 (2) + 68 (7) = 185
5. Houghton Area Youth (Brian Adams): 114 (3) + 70 (6) = 184
6. Macclesfield Youth Band (Louise Renshaw): 105 (6) + 74 (4) = 179
7. Rochdale Borough Youth (Ben Dixon): 102 (7) + 72 (5) = 174
Best Soloist: Adam Warburton (trombone) — Wardle Academy Youth