Butlins admirable commitment to make youth banding an integral part of its Mineworkers Festival weekend continues to provide hugely enjoyable Sunday morning entertainment.
Although both the Ensemble and Youth Section could benefit from extra competitors, the standard is excellent, with both champions worthy winners.
The Shirland Welfare organisation has long been a champion of youth development, and the latest generation of players are all imbued with a wonderful enthusiasm, vibrant spirit and bags of talent.
They rehearse once a week on a Thursday with an ethos of inclusivity and fun and that was certainly shown in their performance under the encouraging direction of Dave Hill; the age range from 6 to 70, the enjoyment ageless.
They opened with the 'Big Mac' march (although not a homage to the American fast food outlet) , followed by a lovely cornet solo 'The Shaker Song' by 10 year Izzy Owen. They rounded off their set with the colourful 'Latin Fiesta'.
Adjudicator Mareika Gray was suitably impressed — and it was important to note, as she reminded those in attendance, that this was not an 'entertainment' contest, but a musical one. It was as brilliantly musical as it was entertaining though, as they deservedly claimed the Read Family Trophy and £200 first prize.
"Everyone's delighted,"spokesperson Jayne Newborough told 4BR. "We've been coming to Butlins for 10 years now and we love it. We stay the weekend, the children have a great time with all the attractions and then they do all the hard work and win the contest."
She added: "The aim of the ensemble is to provide the first step on the ladder though the organisation — next stop the Youth Band and then onto the senior band. We offer a warm welcome to anyone who wants enjoy their music making, and it's great that one of our members is Helen Hardy, who's 70, and has been playing less than two years.
Everyone loves her and she was as happy as anyone when the result was announced."
The ensemble players won't be resting on their laurels though — rehearsals have started again and then its preparations for local solo contests.
"There is always something to keep everyone interested and enjoying their playing,"Jayne added. "Dave Hill is a brilliant conductor and does a fantastic job. We'll be back again next year for certain."
Shirland was certainly pushed all the way by Gresley Colliery Youth conducted by Duncan Jackson and Wigston Enterprise led by Matthew Davis. Both were cracking.
Grelsey (with a wonderful little compere) opened with 'The Floral Dance' followed by a super 'Demelza' solo by Alec Jackson, before closing with a neat quartet led 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' and the finale of 'Samba'. It was super — with 5 year old Benjamin Pope being presented with the 'Youngest Player' award.
Meanwhile, Wigston opened with the great old march, 'Slaidburn' and followed it was super renditions of 'Mood Indigo' and 'Shine Jesus Shine'.
Youth Brass 2000 is also an organisation that has gained a renowned reputation for its commitment to generational development — with countless players having going on to enjoy wonderful adult playing careers at all levels — all the way to leading orchestras.
The band has been going through a period of transition of late (as do all youth bands) with the current band sporting an average age of just 14.
Their musical quality hasn't dropped an inch though, as under Cathy Fountain (mother of two lads who have made their mark in those orchestral ranks) they produced an outstanding performance to take the Keith Wardle Memorial Trophy and £1,000 first prize.
They were also pushed all the way to regain the title they last won in 2016 to add an eighth success at Butlins to their remarkable CV.
Opening with Gavin Somerset's 'Essence of Brass' Youth Brass 2000 it was followed by their outstanding 'Best Soloist' award winner Ed Culpin, as the remarkably mature 14 year old gave a lovely rendition of 'Lark in the Clear Air'. Simon Dobson's beautiful 'Little Hymn' showed the band's ensemble control before they closed with 'Starburst' by Dan Price.
It was the type of high quality music making that has made their name over the years — something that delighted their proud Band Manager Don Collins.
"It was good to be back at Butlins and to claim an eighth British Open title. Like every youth we've gone through a period of transition and we now have a young ensemble full of talented players who will form the backbone of the band over the next few years."
He added: "We thought we would try a new programme for the event. The time frame was short after our appearance at Brass in Concert and as Chris (Jeans) was conducting GUS Band, Cathy Fountain wanted to show we could do it.
We didn't have much time but Cathy was superb, and we can't thank her enough for stepping in. The youngsters responded brilliantly. To beat such a fine band as 3BA Academy and excellent outfits such Enderby Youth and Shirland Welfare Youth has given everyone a huge boost of confidence for the year ahead."
Once again adjudicator Mareika Gray emphasised the point that the competition was not an entertainment event and that the quality of the music making was the determining factor.
3BA Academy from Germany showed their quality in both aspects though with their inventive set, which was a very European take on the idea of 'Butlins Got Talent'. With music, choreography and comedy it was highly entertaining, whilst their final of the 'Florentiner March' showed their musical strengths.
Shirland Welfare also showcased a great deal of quality with their set that included the great old march, 'Westward Ho!' and the excellent young tuba player Jack Newborough with a Foxtrot and a bit of jazz added for good measure.
Enderby also opted for variety — from the 'Bolsover Castle' march and 'Sing, Sing, Sing' through a super percussion feature and a 'Grease musical finale.
Iwan Fox and Malcolm Wood
Adjudicator: Mareika Gray
1. Youth Brass 2000 (Cathy Fountain)
2. 3BA Academy Brass (Birgit Trinkl)
3. Shirland Welfare Youth (Dave Hill)
4. Enderby Youth (Trevor Hounsome)
Best Soloist: Ed Culpin (baritone) — Youth Brass 2000
Adjudicator: Mareika Gray
1. Shirland Welfare Training (Dave Hill)
2. Gresley Colliery Youth (Duncan Jackson)
3. Wigston Enterprise (Matthew Davis)
Best Soloist: Izzy Owen (cornet) — Shirland Welfare Training
Youngest Player: Benjamin Pope (aged 5) Gresley Colliery Youth