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Report & Results: 2019 North of England Regional Championships

East Yorkshire Motor Services, J36 Brass, North Skelton, Bearpark & Esh and Tewit Silver claim the honours in Durham

Tewit
  East Yorkshire Motor Services (above), J36 Brass, Bearpark & Esh and Tewit Silver lead the way in Durham also claiming honours

The end of a 26 year era came with a triumphant final chord that was to eventually herald a Championship Section title success for the East Yorkshire Motor Services Band at the Gala Theatre in Durham.

After a quarter of a century universally known as EYMS, Stig Maersk raised his baton to cut off a thrilling performance of 'Seascapes' that was later described by Alan Morrison (joined by Brett Baker) as being "a musical account" that "...had much to admire". It also secured a first Area title since 2009.

Memorable way

A few hours later a new era as City of Hull Band started almost as soon as the MD eagerly grasped the Regional Trophy, whilst a delighted Band Chairman Tony Newiss told 4BR: "What a way to end — and off the number 1 draw. We return to the name we started with, but what a journey. This is a memorable way to say thanks for a wonderful partnership with a great company."

Moments after the ecstatic MD reflected on the victory — one gained at his fourteenth attempt. "I just can't believe it and off number 1. Even 4BR said it had laid down a good marker!

We practiced hard, overcame some contest day bad luck and still came through to win. What an amazing band this is."

Stig was referring to tuba player John Mathews who was taken ill before their coach had set off, with the result that they took to the stage with three players who gave their all in securing the Doug Cairns 'Best Basses' trophy.

The overall quality of individual contributions that set the seal on victory was also seen with the accolades to Neil Day ('Best Cornet'), Melanie Ornsby ('Best Euph') and Mark Unsworth ('Best Trom').

Compact and subtly judged

They certainly played a major part in what proved to be a compact and subtly judged rendition, that although having the occasional moment of unease, certainly backed Brett Baker's assertion that they had "told the story successfully".

That was key to the destination of both the title and the second qualification spot, as 'Seascapes' proved a challenge for bands and listeners alike. As Alan pinpointed, RSA's work may have been "beautifully crafted" with "traps in every bar", but it wasn't a traditional "listener's piece".

And whilst there was some momentary disquiet as defending champion NASUWT Riverside was announced in third and Reg Vardy as runner-up, that was soon lost in the cacophony of sound that greeted the announcement of EYMS as 2019 champion.

Mixed emotions

Mixed emotions then for Reg Vardy. They returned to the Albert Hall following their 2018 disqualification hiatus with a lyrically astute rendition under Russell Gray — although the blistering final movement and the problematic extension of the last few bars may just have cost them victory and almost led to the demise of their sop player.

Their tempered joy (they took the 'Best Percussion' prize) was in contrast to the stark disappointment seen on the faces of the NASUWT Riverside players, as their tour-de-force (Phil Tait taking the 'Best Soprano' prize), if somewhat pockmarked account under David Roberts certainly gained the audience vote.

The men in the box disagreed however, with their qualification taste buds satisfied by the more lyrical approaches of their rivals, and the winners in particular.

Behind them the standard fell away somewhat, although there were performances of determined merit from an overjoyed Easington Colliery, who claimed a hard grafted fourth (their best since 1989), a well laid out account from Fishburn that just tired to end fifth, and a rendition that grew in confidence from Shepherd Building Group in sixth.

Others battled to master the intricacies of the detailed scoring, only to find (as others have around the country) that 'Seascapes' is a deceptively difficult work to draw together in a cohesive manner.

Not so EYMS, who continue to build in impressive manner under their Danish born conductor. They have waited a long time for this well deserved success — but it could well herald many more to come even if the banding world now needs to familiarise itself with their new 'old' name.

First Section:

"I thought we had some Ghurkhas in," said adjudicator Stan Lippeatt, commenting on the brisker tempos chosen by some of the six competitors on Gilbert Vinter's 'Symphony of Marches'.

Fresh from his own First Section win at the Yorkshire Area where he had clamped his tempos securely to the composer's clear instructions, he expressed disappointment in those he felt had "tried to reinvent the wheel".

His associate Alan Fernie was equally clear in his observations in relation to the second movement, where he felt some MDs were "...scared of when it was actually supposed to be scary".

Much then to ponder for all concerned; although there was praise for MD Andrew Warriner who led a confident J36 Brass to victory with an interpretation built on solid tempo and dynamic foundations (and fine prize winning contributions from Rebecca Stead on trombone, the basses and percussion). Alan said his reading was "...superb — full of good ideas well played".

Intelligent account

It was an admirably intelligent account; one that contrasted bright, perky cornets fanfares with full bodied, dark toned ensemble tonality to open, followed by a flowing central section and a light, brisk finale.

The MD was admirably modest about it though."When the little clips started coming I got a bit worried," Andrew said. "But the band is so responsive, never lost focus and gave a performance I was immensely proud of."

In the four years since their formation J36 Brass has achieved a great deal, but this win could well signal the final step up to Championship status, although Andrew added that the immediate focus will be on Cheltenham. On this form they should be a band to listen out for.

Close battle

Joining them after a close qualification battle was Ripon City led by Mark Sidwell. Their vibrant, colourful account was one that quickly caught the ear, whilst many people's favourite, Kirkbymoorside had to be content with third after Sarah Woodward's exciting interpretation just failed to find favour with the judges.

The contest certainly highlighted Alan's assertions that 'Symphony of Marches remained, even after 55 years, "a challenging test piece", as determined if variable efforts from Houghton Brass, GT Group Peterlee and Ashington Colliery failed to give the judges what they were looking for.

Second Section:

The nine bands in the Second Section gave the audience a firecracker of a contest on Sunday morning, as Darrol Barry's 'Rise of the Phoenix' brought evocative, colourful playing to the battle for the qualification places on offer from Alan Fernie and Anne Crookston.

So much so that they told the audience that for the right reasons it had been a difficult task picking a winner — although it's not often such praise comes in the form of being told that hard working players will have had lips like 'well skelpped arses'.

Alan Fernie's witty, but pertinent analysis also referred to the way in which MDs had coped with the pastiche "James Bond stuff" played at "just the right pace" — the best of which came from an impressive North Skelton under Wilkinson — Lewis Wilkinson, and off the 001 draw.

Aided by the 'Best Euphonium' and 'Best Soprano' contributions of Chris Coupland and Michael Holliday respectively, they successfully defended their title to return to Cheltenham and further emphasise the solid progress made under their talented MD over the last couple of years.

Delight

Meanwhile there was delight for Cockerton — "simply wonderful" as one of their prize winning 'Best Tuba' players later told 4BR, as they headed to the National Final for the first time since 2011 thanks to a boldly created rendition under Andrew Hunter.

The only headache now is how to manage a September weekend that sees them both compete at Cheltenham and organise the popular Dr Martin Wainstone Cup competition.

There was also delight for a rejuvenated Felling led Jason Smith, after they worked hard to secure a podium spot ahead of engaging performances from a solid trio of NASUWT Concert, Barton Community and Dunston Silver.

All the bands though will have benefited from playing a test-piece that allowed scope to display good contest basics topped with more than a touch of solo flair and ensemble solidity.

Third Section:

Where Darrol Barry's commercial musicality brought the opportunity for competitors to immediately play with confidence in the Second Section, the classically proportioned delicacy of the first eight bars of Holst's 'First Suite in Eb' would have sent a shiver up the spine of even the best in the Championship Section in Durham.

It was certainly something Stan Lippeatt highlighted in his pre-results analysis.

"We didn't like starting the piece," he said with a knowing grin. "It's a dangerous opening, but when you settled down there was some good playing on show." The added coda was spot on too: "All bands will be better for rehearsing this piece of Holst."

Excellent

That was emphatically highlighted by the eventual winner, Bearpark & Esh, conducted by NASUWT Riverside sop star Philip Tait. Mirroring what Stan had said, he admitted that it was only in the last week that his players really appreciated just how musically deceptive the piece was.

"It doesn't look like the most exciting test-piece to work on," he said, before adding. "We struggled to get into it at first, but in the last week it started to come together. It's lovely music, but so hard to work on and perform well."

They certainly did that on stage though, led by the excellent soprano Nicola Evans, who deservedly took the 'Best Cornet' accolade with an outstanding display of warm tonality and technical security that burnished a flowing account of stylish musicality by the MD.

The percussion team also added a prize winning contribution as Bearpark provided further evidence of the solid progress they are now making (following victory at a Durham League contest) to gain their first Cheltenham appearance since 2016.

Whilst Stan highlighted the concerns over the opening, it was left to fellow judge, Brett Baker to spotlight the lack of tonal warmth and cultured phrasing. His astute observation that more slow melody contests were needed to revive something of a lost art was greeted by nods of appreciation in the audience.

Trimdon return

Joining Bearpark in Cheltenham for the second time in three years will be Trimdon Concert. Led by William Harrison, who expertly balanced the sound on the foundation two splendid tubas, they delivered a fine account, warmly textured and detailed in each of the three movements.

Just missing out was Ellington Colliery, although there was also a great deal to enjoy with their musical approach under Claire Winter off the number 1 draw. Knaresborough Silver in fourth could perhaps count themselves a little unlucky though that their confident account, led without a score by Nick Garrett, did not find as much favour in the box as it did with many in the hall.

Behind them, Jayess Newbiggin continued with their solid run of results in fifth (aided by the splendid cornet playing of 80 year old Denis Todd) whilst Cleethorpes took sixth ahead of two hard working efforts from Billingham Silver and Swinton & District Excelsior.

All though will have left better bands for their timely link to a piece that despite its age and unwary appearance still proved a worthy test of skill as well as ambition.

Fourth Section:

As has been shown around the country, 'Stantonbury Festival' has been an excellent choice in enabling Fourth Section bands to showcase their command of contesting basics.

This was an enjoyable battle, and whilst there was no doubt about the quality of the winners, there was also much to savour in who joined them at Cheltenham.

Anne Crookston and Benjamin Richeton emphasised the need for bands to work on the quality of their ensemble sound and intonation, but they were also full of praise for the efforts of all eight well matched bands.

"I kept writing 'watch you intonation' on my remarks", Anne said, before adding, "... and what I really meant was your quality of sound. I look around and we've got a great mix of experience and youth. There was a lot to enjoy today and my congratulations for the conductors bringing it all together."

First title

One person inspired his band to do just that in compactly packaged display of solid technique and musicality, was Martin Hall with Tewit Silver.

They claimed their first Area title (including a 'Best Principal Cornet' contribution from Owen James), with a commanding rendition described as a "definite, standout performance", to add to the Butlins Championship they won earlier in the year.

Their mix of youth and experience (with some players returning after 20 years away) is "coming together nicely" as their proud MD told 4BR with a touch of modest understatement.

"We've got children from the Tewit Youth playing alongside parents that used to be in the youth band many years ago," Martin said. "Others have been gently persuaded to make a comeback and are now enjoying it more than ever."

On this form that enjoyment could well be extended for years to come — starting in Cheltenham where they should be confident of going one better than 2018's runner-up finish.

Rounded Burneside

Joining them will be Burneside Brass, as an overjoyed MD Laurie Johnston led his band back to Cheltenham for the first time since 2013 with a rounded musical performance that just pipped third placed Penrith Town.

Theirs was also an account with much to enjoy, especially from their refined 'Best Euphonium' player Melissa Stuart, whilst Spennymoor Town, full of energy and elegance ended fourth. The remaining top-six places went to well directed accounts from Marske and Backworth Colliery.

Once again the Regional Committee ran a splendid event at the Gala Theatre, and whilst opinions on performances varied and created some debate, the overall impression was that the Area will send competitive bands to both London and Cheltenham in the autumn seeking further success.

Steve Jack

What a way to end — and off the number 1 draw. We return to the name we started with, but what a journey. This is a memorable way to say thanks for a wonderful partnership with a great companyTony Newiss

Results:

Championship Section:

Test Piece: Seascapes (Ray Steadman-Allen)
Adjudicators: Dr Brett Baker & Alan Morrison

1. East Yorkshire Motor Services (Stig Maersk)*
2. Reg Vardy (Russell Gray)*
3. NASUWT Riverside (David Roberts)
4. Easington Colliery (Daniel Brooks)
5. Fishburn (Paul Lovatt Cooper)
6. Shepherd Building Group (Richard Wilton)
7. Westoe (Jason Smith)
8. York Railway Institute (David Lancaster)
9. Harrogate (Leigh Baker)

*Top two bands qualify for National Final

Best Soprano: Philip Tait (NASUWT Riverside)
Best Principal Cornet: Neil Day (East Yorkshire Motor Services)
Best Euphonium: Melanie Ornsby (East Yorkshire Motor Services)
Best Trombone: Mark Unsworth (East Yorkshire Motor Services)
Best Tubas: East Yorkshire Motor Services
Best Percussion: Reg Vardy


First Section:

Test Piece: Symphony of Marches (Gilbert Vinter)
Adjudicators: Stan Lippeatt & Alan Fernie

1. J36 Brass (Andrew Warriner)*
2. Ripon City (Mark Sidwell)*
3. Kirkbymoorside Town (Sarah Woodward)
4. Houghton Brass (Tom Gibson)
5. GT Group Peterlee (Ian Langthorne)
6. Ashington Colliery (Nigel Steadman)

*Top two bands qualify for National Final

Best Trombone: Rebecca Staed (J36 Brass)
Best Basses: J36 Brass
Best Percusion: J36 Brass


Second Section:

Test Piece: Rise of the Phoenix (Darrol Barry)
Adjudicators: Alan Fernie & Anne Crookston

1. North Skelton (Lewis Wilkinson)*
2. Cockerton (Andrew Hunter)*
3. Felling (Jason Smith)
4. NASUWT Concert Brass (Andrew Hall)
5. Barton Community (Gary Oglesby)
6. Dunston Silver (Dean Jones)
7. Durham Miners Association (Stuart Gray)
8. Ferryhill Town (Gareth Sykes)
9. East Riding of Yorkshire (Gary Hallas)

*Top two bands qualify for National Final

Best Euphonium: Chris Coupland (North Skelton)
Best Soprano: Michael Holliday (North Skelton)
Best Basses: Cockerton


Third Section:

Test Piece: First Suite in Eb (Gustav Holst)
Saturday 16th March
Adjudicators: Dr Brett Baker & Stan Lippeatt

1. Bearpark & Esh Colliery (Phillip Tait)*
2. Trimdon Concert Brass (William Harrison)*
3. Ellington Colliery (Claire Winter)
4. Knaresborough Silver (Nick Garrett)
5. Jayess Newbiggin (Andrew Griffiths)
6. Cleethorpes (Brian Harper)
7. Billingham Silver (Vaughan Evans)
8. Swinton & District Excelsior (Robin Rutter)

*Top two bands qualify for National Final

Best Percussion: Bearpark & Esh
Best Cornet: Nicola Evans (soprano) — Bearpark & Esh


Fourth Section:

Test Piece: Stantonbury Festival (Ray Steadman-Allan)
Adjudicators: Benjamin Richeton & Anne Crookston

1. Tewit Silver (Martin Hall)*
2. Burneside Brass (Laurie Johnston)*
3. Penrith Town Band (Ian Butterworth)
4. Spennymoor Town (Fiona Casewell)
5. Marske (James Chisholm)
6. Backworth Colliery (Daniel Maverick)
8. Lanchester (John Weirs)
8. Craghead Colliery (Stephen Goddard)

*Top two bands qualify for National Final

Best Principal Cornet: Owen James (Tewit Silver)
Best Euphonium: Melissa Staurt (Penrith)

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