There was an exciting glimpse into the brass banding future, both immediate and long term at the National Youth Championships held at Stockport Grammar School.
As the young players of Youth Brass 2000 celebrated their victory in the ABRSM Championship Section, parents, family members and supporters looked on with pride at their latest achievement.
They will now head to Malmo in a few weeks' time to represent England at the European Youth Championships after securing an eighth successive victory under MD Chris Jeans. Victory will also see them head to Palanga in 2024.
A little earlier Seindorf Ieuenctid Beaumaris also celebrated as they secured the Performance Section honours led by MD Peter Cowlishaw. A band that has once again emerged for its cyclical loss of young players to work and university will now look to build on this success over the next few years.
Those immediate competitive rewards topped a hugely encouraging day in the promotion of the overall benefits of brass band music making — one that had started around 11 hours earlier with the St Helens Youth Debut Brass Band delivering a cracking opening set in the non-competitive Besson Prodige Showcase Section.
The reaction they gained (as it was for all 38 bands on the day) from the packed audience was equally as enthusiastic and supportive as that of the two newly crowned champions.
It was a substantive endorsement of Brass Band England's aim to make a brass banding culture as inclusive as well as reflective of the communities from which they hail by 2030.
BBE will have been deeply satisfied by the displays of excellence, endeavour and enthusiasm of all the bands that took part.
The day also benefited from the interaction of the super comperes, with BBC Newsround presenter and journalist Alex Humphrey and David Hayward keeping over 1,000 people informed (far exceeding predictions) as they sat in rapt attention in the two halls as the players from Amersham to Ellington, Barnet to Cardiff, small groups to large ensembles, school, college, community bands and music services enjoyed their 'Youth Champs' experience.
There were youngsters' knee high to an Eb tuba to teenagers sporting hipster beards playing music from Beethoven to Dolly Parton, European test-pieces to 'Old MacDonald had a Farm'.
There were plastic instruments and electric guitars, sing-alongs to hymn tunes and the opportunity to enjoy workshops on conducting and band training from the Conductors' Association, the British Army and the BBE Brass Foundations Team.
Speaking to 4BR at the end of the day, Kenny Crookston, CEO of Brass Bands England said: "I think this has shown the importance of the Youth Championships to the future of the banding movement.
To see and hear what inclusion means in action and what it means to players and audiences was brilliant. The response to the event has been fantastic — from entries to ticket sales to the involvement of sponsors keen to back our vision."
He added: "The feedback we have had has been so encouraging and we are confident we can build on this for next year, so bands and ensembles should get in touch with us as soon as possible and book a place!"
There should be plenty of takers for spots at the 2024 event which will take place at Dean Close School in Cheltenham on Saturday 23rd March, whilst those who couldn't get to Stockport in person can still enjoy every performance via brasspass.tv from Monday 3rd April.
The event was also rounded off with a performance from the Lions Youth Legacy Band who led a heartfelt appreciation of their former MD Nigel Birch who passed away in January after 35 years of inspirational leadership.
ABRSM Championship Section:
Youth Brass 2000 will surely sign up for 2024 as soon as possible.
They claimed the ABRSM Championship Section honours with a display of excellence that will hold them in fine stead as they add even more preparation polish in rehearsals ahead of their trip to the European Youth Championships in Malmo.
Their triptych of items — 'Valaisia Variants' by Tom Davoren, followed by the solo 'Idyll on an Irish Folk Hymn' played by principal cornet Jake Humphries, and 'Phoenix' Chant' (the test-piece for the European contest), was fully deserving of both its Gold Award from judges Tom Hutchinson and Leigh Baker as well as the title winning honours.
"We are thrilled," Chairperson Don Collins told 4BR. "The standard at this event keeps getting better and better and we take nothing for granted. To win is great, and so is the honour to represent England in Malmo and now Palanga. We also hope that our efforts keep inspiring others too."
That excellence from rivals saw Gold Awards also go to to the podium finishers of Lancashire Youth Brass Band led with joyful energy by Helen Minshall, and Macclesfield Youth Brass Band, conducted with equal inspiration by Louise Renshaw.
Both MDs had been at the venue from early morning — Helen part of the slick BBE team (aided by a tremendous group of volunteers) that kept things ticking along and Louise as part of the Macclesfield Youth Band set up that brought three ensembles to perform at the event (as did local favourites Stockport).
There was also a Gold Award to Elland Youth Band as they showed their qualities ahead of their trip to the European Youth Championships under Samantha Harrison.
Adjudicators Tom Hutchinson and Leigh Baker (who certainly enjoyed themselves) provided positive feedback with their pre-results remarks — pinpointing not only what was good but also what was still needed to be worked on by players and MDs alike.
"It's been an amazing standard," Tom said. "Some of the sounds we heard were phenomenal and every band had so such to commend.
We still need to point out the areas to keep improving on such as intonation, balance and dynamics — especially in accompanying the superb soloists who all showed such courage to get up and play in front of a packed audience."
Leigh agreed: "There was so much stunning playing — and so much forward thinking about the repertoire. It was humbling to hear, and our senior bands need to take a lesson from that. Well done to the MDs for that and well done to the players for pulling it off. The overall quality was fabulous, but still work hard on the basics and the stamina."
Silver Award went Lions Youth Brass (with their cornet player Hannah Taylor taking the 'Best Soloist' Award for a stunning rendition of Peter Meechan's 'Apex'), Northamptonshire County Youth Brass Band, Oldham Music Centre Youth Brass Band, Stockport Schools Brass Band — Senior Band and Tewit Youth Senior Band.
Bronze Awards were presented to Cardiff County & Vale of Glamorgan Youth Brass Band and Dobcross Youth Band.
Following the qualification success of the senior Beaumaris Band at the recent Welsh Regional Championships, there was further success to celebrate for the north Wales community band organisation as their youth band took the honours in the keenly contested Performance Section.
Led by Peter Cowlishaw, Seindorf Ieunctid Beaumaris gave adjudicators Jack Capstaff and Andrea Price and a packed audience a performance thoroughly deserving of the title and the Gold Award that came with it.
They opened with the bold sounds of 'Fanfare for a New Age' before principal cornet Osion Maloney gave a super rendition of Peter Meechan's 'Apex' to claim the 'Best Soloist' award. The Welsh passion of 'Sospan Fach' and the fun of the Bruno Mars hit 'Runaway Baby' rounded things off.
So much talent
Speaking to 4BR afterwards they said: "Can't believe it. Last week was great but now this. We've always worked so hard to keep producing young players and this shows that there is so much talent that can be unearthed and developed in North Wales."
They added: "Our thanks go to all the teachers, families and people who support us. Now we'll head home and watch the football on the bus on the way."
To round off a perfect day Wales scored in the last minute to draw again World Cup semi-finalists Croatia.
Andrea and Jack also gave pre-results remarks full of positivity, but also with the necessary indicators on the areas players and ensembles needed to work on to carry on their development.
Second place and a Gold Award went to Astley Youth who kicked off the day with an uplifting set under Toby Hobson, whilst the final podium slot and a Silver Award went to the final competitor Amersham Youth Band led by Paul Fisher.
Further Silver Awards were presented to Elland Silver Training Band, Enderby Youth Band, HD9 Community Youth Band, Stockport Schools Brass Band, and St Helens Youth Brass Band.
Bronze Awards were presented to Dobcross Training Band, Macclesfield Junior Brass Band, St Nicholas CoE Primary Brass Band, Tewit Youth Intermediate Band, and Wantage Youth Brass (Sara-Jane Wallbridge), whilst Merit Awards were presented to Firth Park Academy and Lions Academy Band.
Besson Prodige Showcase Section:
The introduction of a non-competitive showcase event continues to be both popular and effective in promoting inclusive aspiration.
One of the indicators of its success (although completely unscientific of course) wasn't just to listen to the fantastic performances from the 12 ensembles, but to watch the faces and then speak to family members and supporters after they had played.
Over 90% of those 4BR caught up with had little or no musical backgrounds themselves, but spoke of their amazement at the sense of inclusive endeavour (with a huge variety of instruments — plastic and brass electric guitars and percussion), their children and friends enjoyed in performing together.
As one parent told 4BR: "We are gobsmacked by playing of all the bands — and the variety of music they play. We knew very little about brass bands until today, but you can see why every gets hooked on it!"
A major part of that was the great way in which Gary Curtin and Daniel Hall spoke directly to the youngsters in their remarks after they all played — highlighting collective as well as individual excellence and above all else, the fun and joy that everyone projected out into the hall.
"It was brilliant," Gary later told 4BR. "To be able to perform under conductors who pick such brilliant music, keep smiling and encouraging you is everything that is good about playing in a brass band. This is the perfect way to get youngsters involved — just let them do what they want and sit back and enjoy it all."
Ode to Joy
You couldn't disagree — with everything from an excerpt from 'A Moorside Suite' and the 'Ode to Joy' from Beethoven's '9th Symphony' to 'Old MacDonald had a Farm'.
No prizes on offer, but each of SHYBB Debut Band, Lions Debut Band, Astley Training Band & Boothstown Holy Family Brass Foundations Band, Macclesfield Youth Training Band,
Dobcross Youth Ensemble, Delph Youth Band, Tewit Youth Junior Band, Milton Keynes Music Hub, St Ignatius College, Stockport Schools Brass Band — Junior Band, Barnet Youth Brass Band and Ellington Colliery Brass Roots Band was a winner worthy of a Gold Medal.
There were youngsters' knee high to an Eb tuba to teenagers sporting hipster beards playing music from Beethoven to Dolly Parton, European test-pieces to 'Old MacDonald had a Farm'4BR
ABRSM Championship Section:
Adjudicators: Leigh Baker & Tom Hutchinson
1. Youth Brass 2000 (Chris Jeans) — Gold
2. Lancashire Youth Brass Band (Helen Minshall) — Gold
3. Macclesfield Youth Brass Band (Louise Renshaw) — Gold
Elland Youth Band (Samantha Harrison)
Lions Youth Brass (Ian Raisbeck)
Northamptonshire County Youth Brass Band (Brad Turnbull)
Oldham Music Centre Youth Brass Band (Jonathan Leedale)
Stockport Schools Brass Band — Senior Band (Ryan Broad)
Tewit Youth Senior Band (Martin Hall)
Cardiff County & Vale of Glamorgan Youth Brass Band (Charles Maynard)
Dobcross Youth Band (Seth Livingston)
Best Soloist: Hannah Taylor (cornet) — Lions Youth Brass
Adjudicators: Jack Capstaff & Andrea Price
1. Seindorf Ieuenctid Beaumaris (Peter Cowlishaw) — Gold
2. Astley Youth Band (Toby Hobson) — Gold
3. Amersham Youth Band (Paul Fisher) — Silver
Elland Silver Training Band (Samantha Harrison)
Enderby Youth Band (Trevor Housome)
HD9 Community Youth Band (Paul Kirk)
Stockport Schools Brass Band (Anna Hughes-Williams)
St Helens Youth Brass Band (James Hall)
Dobcross Training Band (James Atkins)
Macclesfield Junior Brass Band (Harry White)
St Nicholas CoE Primary Brass Band (Chris Binns)
Tewit Youth Intermediate Band (Rebecca Marshall)
Wantage Youth Brass (Sara-Jane Wallbridge)
Firth Park Academy (Andy Harris)
Lions Academy Band (Peter McDonough)
Best Soloist: Osian Maloney (cornet) — Seindorf Ieuenctid Beaumaris
Besson Prodige Showcase Section:
Adjudicators: Gary Curtin & Daniel Hall
No prizes were given in this non-competitive section. The following bands took part.
SHYBB Debut Band (Peter McDonough)
Lions Debut Band (Jamie Sharp)
Astley Training Band & Boothstown Holy Family Brass Foundations Band (Sam Raisbeck)
Macclesfield Youth Training Band (Liz Wolski)
Dobcross Youth Ensemble (Seth Livingstone & James Atkins)
Delph Youth Band (Matt Stimpson)
Tewit Youth Junior Band (Allan Briggs)
Milton Keynes Music Hub (David Rose)
St Ignatius College (Alan Duguid)
Stockport Schools Brass Band — Junior Band (Andrew Myers)
Barnet Youth Brass Band (Peter Yarde Martin)
Ellington Colliery Brass Roots Band (Ian Sankey)