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Report & Result: 2022 Second Section National Championship of Great Britain

Campbeltown make the long journey as the newly crowned National Champion after their fantastic victory in Cheltenham

cheltenham
  Campbeltown claimed the Second Section honours in wonderful fashion

Campbeltown's uplifting victory in the Second Section was a timely delight in so many ways.

As they made the 13-hour plus journey home on Monday morning to the southern end of the Kintyre peninsula, tired but triumphant, the news of their deserved success had already been picked up by the Campbeltown Courier newspaper, eager to file a special news story for Friday's edition so that the town's 4,600 population could read all about it.

There will be no need for journalistic hyperbole.

Remarkable

The quality of the winning performance of 'Ghosts, Goblins, Witches & Wizards' was one thing. That it was led by such an inspiring conductor was another. And that it was produced by a band packed with so many talented youngsters that come through its ranks year after year after year, simply remarkable.

Never mind their celebrations — all Scottish ghosts, goblins, witches and wizards will have stood proud as punch as well — from Banquo and Macbeth's coven to a few broonies and Guthrie Lochrin.

The band made its first National appearance in 1985 and has returned six times since. The family connections are close and intergenerational. It would have come as no surprise that some of the 1985 band had family members as part of the 2022 champions.

And given that 24 hours or so after their victory, people were lauding the magnificent music provided at the funeral of Her Majesty The Queen, it was also a triumph to celebrate all the very best things that investing in community music making can bring.

Extra copies

Without youngsters like these, you don't get the musicians who are able to provide the accompaniment to a worldwide occasion like that — let alone the many brass bands throughout the UK who have benefitted from an infusion of ex-Campbeltown players over the years as they leave the area to go to university and find work.

Perhaps extra copies of the Campbeltown Courier should be sent to every politician in the land. The town, the Argyll and Bute region and the whole of Scotland has a quite brilliant musical ambassador, the envy of the banding world.

All brilliant

Speaking to MD Stephanie Kennedy just after coming off stage, she was keen to ensure that all the plaudits were directed at her players, although a couple made sure that her contribution was not forgotten in return.

"They are all brilliant," she said. "We loved the piece and enjoyed rehearsing it. I'm always amazed at what the youngsters achieve and their eagerness and enthusiasm. Everyone is on board and all aiming in the same direction. They did everything I asked of them on stage — I was so proud of them,"

"Stephanie is a remarkable musician and such an inspiration," one of the older players told 4BR. "What she does with the band is incredible. We would all travel another 13 hours tomorrow each way to play here again if she wanted us to."

Packed into the back of the auditorium for the results, the explosion of joy that greeted the announcement of their victory was like something last seen when Scotland claims a victory over the 'auld enemy at football — although on this occasion it wasn't just the one rival, but 17 others.

It was a wonderfully deserved success.

Clear winner

"There was a clear winner for us by two or three places," adjudicator Chris King said in his pre-results remarks. "It was easy to separate the bands, with second and third close and fourth to seventh really close."

He wasn't wrong, with his written remarks for Campbeltown also backing up his concise analysis. "This has been exceptional — very well done. Wow! What to say — you are a great band and MD. Congratulations."

His fellow judges were equally impressed.

"Overall, a very controlled performance full of excitement, dynamics, stylish soloists and very well directed", added Gary Davies, whilst Brett Baker summed his opinion in just five words: "This was an exceptional performance".

Pemberton and Beaumaris best

On contest days like this, those that trail in the winner's wake can do nothing more than doff their caps in appreciation, as both Pemberton Old Wigan DW B and Beaumaris could have done nothing more to have beaten them.

Beaumaris had earlier given the judge's the substantive marker that clearly led the field up until the final furlong, before Pemberton and then Campbeltown nosed ahead.

The Welsh band gave a fine rendition under MD Bari Gwilliam — darkly hued in character and Bible black in depth of colour, whilst Pemberton upped the ante with an account that grew in excellence, polish and precision under Jay Hall. Both had little moments of unease but were well deserving of their podium finishes.

Top six/seven

Behind them came the top-six performances (or seven as Chris King said) from Meltham & Meltham Mills, Harborough, Helston (as the last two bands of the day) and BD1.

Whilst Darrol Barry's work was perhaps more suited to the concert rather than contest stage (some of the repeated sections simply filled time rather than developed any musical line) it held enough challenges to separate the best from the rest.

That was certainly the case with the prize winners in providing the judges with food for thought; Meltham, Harborough and Helston all presenting boldly characterised, confident accounts, a little rampant in places, but always exciting, whilst BD1 opted for something a more considered off the early number 2 draw and was perhaps a little unlucky to drop out of the podium prize reckoning.

The band's excellent principal cornet Rick Brigg took the 'Best Instrumentalist' award.

Bit of an issue

Below them the likes of City of Norwich all the way down to Bearpark & Esh provided performances of engaging interest, despite occasional unworldly tempo choices and balance issues, whilst all bands found the ghostly opening a real test — and "a bit of an issue" as nerves and lack of air support robbed the spectral flow.

Each though had at least a couple of soloists (and trombone sections) who did themselves proud — be it the "excellent" baritone players or the "stunning" solo cornet, whilst the percussion teams almost always added just the right "sensitive" pinch of colour and texture to each of the movements.

One other issue worth mentioning however was the unfortunate registration error that led to a youngster from Tewit Silver Band not being able to take to the stage.

Sometimes there is need to provide consideration to the overall context of the event and how it is portrayed to the wider world, and to make a decision based on understanding rather than unyielding adherence to antiquated tradition.

Campbeltown has shown it, even the pageantry of the royal funeral showed it, so perhaps the contesting rule book can do it too.

Iwan Fox

The town, the Argyll and Bute region and the whole of Scotland has a quite brilliant musical ambassador, the envy of the banding world4BR

Result: Second Section

Adjudicators: Brett Baker, Gary Davies, Chris King
Set work: Ghosts, Goblins, Witches & Wizards (Darrol Barry)

1. Campbeltown Brass (Stephanie Kennedy)
2. Pemberton Old Wigan DW B (Jay Hall)
3. Beaumaris (Bari Gwilliam)
4. Meltham & Meltham Mills (Tom Haslam)
5. Helston Town (John Berryman)
6. Harborough (Brad Turnbull)
7. BD1 Brass (Jonathan Bates)
8. City of Norwich (Mark Ager)
9. Tyldesley (Robert Taylor)
10. Mid Rhondda (Alan Gibbs)
11. Wantage Concert Brass (Neil Brownless)
12. Poulton le Fylde (Alexander Webb)
13. Gosport Solent Brass (Phillip Littlemore)
14. Tewit Silver (Martin Hall)
15. Tilbury (Melvin White)
16. Stamford Brass (Julian Bright)
17. Tullis Russell Mills (Ray Maundy)
18. Bearpark & Esh Colliery (Philip Tait)

Best Instrumentalist: Rick Brigg (Cornet) BD1 Brass

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