Just over three years ago Dobcross Silver faced an uncertain future.
It was a difficult time for a band that could proudly trace its history back over 140 years, as it struggled to regain the enthusiasm let alone the players needed to rebuild in a highly competitive North West Fourth Section.
They took the decision to appoint Jason M Smith as MD. It was an inspired move.
With a decade or more of conducting experience to back his ambition and work ethic, the partnership has grown in competitive confidence ever since — the first stage of the long term rejuvenation plan completed at Cheltenham on Sunday afternoon as they were crowned Champion Band of Great Britain.
On reflection then, never has a test-piece had such an apt title; the winning performance of Fredrick Schjelderup's 'New Beginnings' heralding what is now a decidedly bright future.
"It's been one heck of a journey from that new starting point that's for certain, but I was quietly confident before the results were announced," Jason admitted to 4BR.
"Listening to Roger Webster speak about the pulse of the music, the control needed in the middle section and the balances required gave me the feeling that we were in with a chance.
We made a few little errors and at one point I just had to make sure we stuck together, but that was it really — there was nothing more we could do."
Nothing more in fact as Oughtibridge, Crosskeys and Trentham were announced in sixth, fifth and fourth respectively. Then came the much fancied Morecambe followed by Bideford Town.
"I quickly drank the remaining half pint of beer in my glass just before the announcement of the winner just in case I jumped up in the air in celebration," Jason revealed.
"I really couldn't think of anyone else who perhaps could beat us then. Thankfully I was right and something special really happened. It was a good job I did because those around me would have got soaked!"
Earlier in the day he had insisted that his players trust in themselves and adhere to his simple stage ethos of pulse, control and balance.
"They had been doing that every rehearsal up to the contest, so I just reminded them one more time. Despite a little moment or two they did just that for me. Everyone was brilliant and they deserve this victory for what they have all contributed to over the last few years."
The written remarks of adjudicators Roger Webster, David Ashworth and John Maines were clear and to the point — and very much consistent with Roger's pre-results analysis.
"This was a really fine show with so much to be proud off", he later wrote to sum up the Dobcross performance, as well as highlighting the "skill and artistry of the MD and players" in the testing exposed sections.
David Ashworth agreed, summing up his overall findings by writing: "A quality display here. Very well played and not much to mention except positive points". John Maines simply called it "...a good show. A well controlled performance."
That was the key to victory for Dobcross, whilst the judges also found it with podium finishers Bideford and Morecambe.
The West of England representatives opened the contest with a marker under Mark Durham's neat direction that pulsated with style, colour and drive, topped by some great individual contributions.
That it held off a host of impressive rivals that followed in a contest that Roger Webster quite rightly said was "really something special" and didn't have "one unsuccessful performance", was testament to its quality.
Morecambe will perhaps be a bit disappointed they didn't head back to the North West with the trophy to their name. However, with regular MD Andrew Porter recalled for the ceremonial funeral duties for Her Majesty The Queen, his friend David Johnson stepped in on Thursday evening.
Third place in the circumstances on just a couple of rehearsals was some effort.
Well led top-six
As Roger Webster said in his pre-results remarks, there wasn't an unsuccessful performance on the day, with the remaining top-six slots taken by fine accounts from Trentham, Crosskeys and Oughtibridge — each very well led from the podium.
Trentham's balanced approach was aided by some lovely cameo solo contributions, Crosskeys almost but not quite delivered on its well worked out intentions, whilst Oughtibridge (with their excellent flugel player Steve Bonner taking the 'Best Instrumentalist' award) got better and better to close with a joyfully triumphant finale.
Behind them came the robust excitement of Brass Sounds Inverclyde and the neatly portrayed renditions from Hangleton all the way down to Rhyl Silver — each ending up with plenty of plus point entries in the contest day ledger book.
That was down not only to their fine efforts on stage, but in a major part to the clever choice of the Kapitol Music Panel to pick Fredrick Schjelderup's 'New Beginnings'.
A work of youthful outlook, it followed the modern trend of filmatic tropes and bite sized ear catching melodies players (especially a whole host of talented youngsters — from 9-year-old Glyn Stokes of Barnsley Metropolitan) could master with confidence.
This was music of the here and now — exciting and engaging, if somewhat repetitive and thematically underdeveloped; the 168-pulse maintained throughout by squarely underpinning the musical content that fitted together like Lego bricks.
Colorful if somewhat musically plastic, the final polished construction was the sum of interchangeable constituent parts that when locked together by the MD was also its great strength.
As a result every band was able to produce a performance of technical substance, warm, resonant ensemble sounds, artistic soloists and percussion colour (the composer is a very fine percussionist himself), even when a few bricks came loose through nerves or over enthusiasm.
It was good to hear bands playing so confidently; broadening their sound and dynamic range without having to strain tonality or intonation. It was also great to hear of a winning band (and so many others) that was now enjoying a new beginning after the struggles and challenges of Covid-19.
Listening to Roger Webster speak about the pulse of the music, the control needed in the middle section and the balances required gave me the feeling that we were in with a chanceJason M Smith
Result: Fourth Section
Adjudicators: David Ashworth, John Maines, Roger Webster
Set work: New Beginnings (Fredrick Schjelderup)
1. Dobcross Silver (Jason M Smith)
2. Bideford Town (Mark Durham)
3. Morecambe (David Johnson)
4. Trentham Brass (Shaun Farrington)
5. Crosskeys Silver (Sion Jones)
6. Oughtibridge (Gavin Somerset)
7. Brass Sounds Inverclyde (Joshua Parkhill)
8. Hangleton (Richard Baker)
9. Barnsley Metropolitan (Alex Francis)
10. Flookburgh Silver (John Iveson)
11. Stranraer Brass (Angela Miller)
12. North Lakes Brass (Gary Williams)
13. Tewkesbury (Robert Nicholson)
14. Hemel Hempstead (Paul Fothergill)
15. Amington (Alan Gifford)
16. Rhyl Silver (Jamie Duncan)
Best Instrumentalist: Steven Bonner (Flugel) Oughtibridge
Youngest Player: Glyn Stokes of Barnsley Metropolitan