There was double delight for Cory and Wardle Academy Youth Bands on the weekend as their 2019 Brass in Concert winning programmes were voted 2020 'Champion of Champions' by a worldwide online audience.
With the Coronavirus pandemic leading to the cancellation of the 2020 Festival event at Sage Gateshead the decision of the organisers and World of Brass to provide a weekend of free brass band entertainment through the www.wobplay.com media platform proved to be a huge success.
Comments on social media not only praised the competitors, especially in the youth event, but also the selection of music and the quality of the production which enabled people to dip in as well as catch up with the action.
The programmes from the Youth, Gala Concert and Brass in Concert productions will now be available free of charge for a further 7 days until Sunday 22nd November.
Saturday saw a replay of the thrilling 2019 Youth Brass in Concert Championships, as well as an inspiring mini-masterclass from trombone virtuoso Ian Bousfield and an enjoyable highlights package from 15 years of the Brass in Concert Gala Concerts.
Meanwhile, Sunday was filled with the Brass in Concert 'Champion of Champions' competition presented by Frank Renton, featuring the 13 highest achieving bands at the event since 2005.
Wardle's 'Homage to the Great Inventors' led by MD Lee Rigg once again proved to be an unbeatable mix of outstanding playing and remarkable presentation to claim the Youth Brass in Concert 'Champion of Champions' accolade.
The reprise broadcast performance was one that gained a maximum 200 points at the contest in 2019 from judges Jayne Murrill and Roger Argente — and garnered the most number of votes from the general public this time around to make up in part for the band's enforced absence from the major championship stages this year.
Led by a wonderful 'Mad Prof' narrator it cleverly embraced the local invention of the Swan electric light bulb to Stephenson's 'Rocket' locomotive, 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.
As always though there was plenty to enjoy once more from each of their rivals, with a host of fantastic programmes played in contest order from Rochdale Borough Youth, Elland Silver Youth, Youth Brass 2000, Macclesfield Youth Brass, Lions Youth and Houghton Area Youth.
Saturday evening's entertainment came courtesy of a decade and a half of pre-contest Gala concerts.
Introduced by Frank Renton (who didn't seem to age a jot from 2005 to date throughout the whole weekend) it was two and half hours packed with world class performances from the likes of Eikanger Bjorsvik, Black Dyke, Grimethorpe, Brighouse & Rastrick, the International Staff Band of the Salvation Army and the Brass Band of Central Florida and soloists such as James Morrison, David Childs, Hans Gansch, Steve Stewart, Richard Marshall and Philip Cobb.
Sunday's chronological presentation not only allowed people to enjoy a wide variety of performances from the featured bands, but also gave a tantalising glimpse into how the level of entertainment presentation has changed in the intervening years.
Kings of the Jungle
Little doubt to the worthy winners — as Cory's remarkable 'Jungle Book' programme deservedly claimed the 'Champion of Champions' title by the type of margin they claimed the 2019 Brass in Concert title.
Philip Harper's band secured 34.2% of the worldwide votes cast, with Carlton Main Frickley's cleverly inventive 'Poirotesque' murder mystery from 2018 conducted by Paul Holland gaining 14.8% and Eikanger Bjorsvik's creative 2017 winning performance led by Reid Gilje with 8.7% in third.
The remaining top six places in terms of popularity were Brighouse & Rastrick (2006), Grimethorpe Colliery (2010) and Whitburn (2008), followed by Fountain City (2017), Foden's (2009), Tredegar (2013), Leyland (2011), Flowers (2015), Reg Vardy (2009) and Brass Band of Central Florida (2011).
"It's given everyone a real boost,"Phil Harper told 4BR. "It's great to know that people around the world appreciate what we did with our programme and the way in which it was presented.
We would have loved to have been back in Gateshead to defend our title but that will have to wait for now.
Our thanks go to everyone for putting this different 'Champion of Champions' event on — and to everyone who voted for us. It was a bit odd though winning a contest from the comfort of my sofa!"
It's great to know that people around the world appreciate what we did with our programme and the way in which it was presentedPhilip Harper
Speaking about the weekend, a Brass in Concert spokesperson told 4BR: "Although nothing can match the buzz and excitement of the actual Sage Gateshead event, we are delighted with the response gained from across the banding world to this year's initiative.
Our thanks go to the team at World of Brass for an outstanding production through the wobplay.com platform and the opportunity it gave for people to enjoy the wonderful playing of world class bands at the event over the years.
We believe the production showed just how important Brass in Concert is in projecting a positive image of brass banding to the wider musical world and the success of the weekend with a worldwide audience also confirms just how popular it is with brass bands fans too."
In response, Nikki Tonge of World of Brass told 4BR: "We were also thrilled by the response and our thanks go to the Brass in Concert organisers for their support, as well as Frank Renton as the perfect host and the performers for their world class playing.
We worked hard to bring flavour of a decade and more of a fantastic event we are proud to be involved with and we hope people enjoyed it."
You can enjoy all the performances from the weekend for free for seven days to Sunday 22nd November at: www.wobplay.com