Issue 5970

Egon Virtuosi Brass - An inside story

The Owen Farr Seminar - the first in a monthly series of brass masterclasses by the tenor horn virtuoso

Besses Boys' Band - Celebrating 75 years

Grimethorpe Youth Band feature

National Youth Championships - LIVE from Maxwell Hall

Sunday 2 April, 2017

 Paul Hindmarsh reports from Maxwell Hall

Premier Section

Adjudicators: Richard Marshall and Marieka Gray

Test-piece: Penlee by Simon Dobson


1.Youth Brass 2000 (Gold)
2.Northamptonshire Youth Brass Band (Silver)
3.Lions Youth Brass Band (Silver)




  1. Youth Brass 2000 (Chris Jeans)

  2. Lions Youth Brass Band (Nigel Birch)

  3. Northamptonshire Youth Brass Band (Brad Turnbull)

    Having organized this event for a number of years in the noughties, I’ve always had a soft spot for it. The playing and the energy of so many young brass musicians has lived up to expectations and memories. For me it could be 4 in a row for Youth Brass 2000, with Northhampton runner- up. Judges were also very impressed with the standard, and in capturing the atmosphere of Dobson's piece.

    3. Northamptonshire Youth Brass Band (Brad Turnbull)

    Pound the Streets (Paul Lovatt-Cooper) – strong sounds through the band, which is clearly in its comfort zone with this piece. The up-font nature of this work doesn’t disguise some occasional untunefulness and lack of control – exuberant though!

    Penlee (Dobson)

    Plenty of energy and vigour at the outset in Penlee. Sol cornet and horns present the main theme with terrific style. It’s a bit on the loud side generally, but subsides nicely into the central episode. A few untuneful chords detract from the bigger picture a little, and all the slow solos are on the robust side – but rather have them confident and safe than crashing!
    The first storm surges are dramatic – well done horns and euphs – but it’s getting a bit too loud now, as the storm starts to rage. Brad Turnbull certainly turns up the energy levels – this climax is extreme. I’m enjoying the drama of this – vivid if not pristine in delivery – and the chords which follow – overwhelming.

    Euphonium tugs at the heart strings in the coda – an emotional ending to an inspiring day.

    2. Lions Youth Brass Band (Nigel Birch)

    Penlee (Dobson) – side drum comes across well in an opening full of atmosphere, but lacking some precision in ensemble and effects. The main tune is steady in speed. The filigree details in the tunes are not always felicitous, but the interjections are robust and well –played. General dynamic level is ‘comfortable’ and safe. The alarm calls cut through the sound brilliantly, with danger clearly signaled.

    The slow central section – calm before the storm, as it were, doesn’t quite convey the atmosphere of band 1. At the height of the storm we need an extra gear for the huge climax to propel us to the magic of the ending. It’s played well but lacks the intensity of band 12, to me. The Resurgam moment could be quieter as well. Having said that there was so much good work in this performance.

    Velocity (Jonathan Bates) – a cycle race for band beginning like a film score in grand style – Could it be the Tour de France, I wonder, as little snippets of the French National Anthem seem to echo. A lively workout from this East Cheshire band.


  1. Youth Brass 2000 (Chris Jeans)

    Penlee (Dobson) – whispered opening – so evocative. The following sections are packed with detail. The main tune trips along, full of character and danger! The underlying threat in this music is brilliantly captured through the intensity of the solo work, especially cornet, flugel and euphonium. The start of the storm scene is sharply etched with percussion colour and crisp articulation. This performance certainly packs a punch – dramatic, so engaging.

    A quality accompanied cornet cadenza is followed by music of growing tension, which is released in a powerful denouement – failed rescue, overwhelming impact of the chords signifying the sinking and the evocative memorial close, which its reference to Resurgam over the ship’s bell.

This was a performance of maturity from a young band, beautifully played by the band and prepared/interpreted by Chris Jeans.

Abide with Me (Monk, arr. Jenkins/Graham) – tender, expressive, full of longing – quality sonority.

Amazonia (Peter Graham, from Windows on the World) – unconducted – technically brilliant and precise – percussion as a bit too strong to be honest, so it was brave to do this without control from the podium – but what a show-stopper it was……







Intermediate Section

Adjudicators: Thomas Wyss and Mark Harrison

Test-piece: Smoke Sketches by Daniel Hall


1. Wardle Academy Youth (Gold)

2. Elland Silver Youth (Gold)

3. Rochdale Borough Youth (Gold)

Best Instrumentalist: SoloTrombone (Elland Silver)


1. Poynton Youth Brass Band Michael Eccles

2. Tewit Youth Band Martin Hall

3. Rochdale Borough Youth Brass Band Ben Dixon

4. Macclesfield Youth Band Louise Renshaw

5. Egglescliffe School Band Matthew Haworth

6. Elland Silver Youth Band Samantha Harrison

7. Stockport Schools’ Senior Brass Band Iain McKnight

8. Enderby Youth Band Trevor Hounsome

9. Wardle Academy Youth Band Lee Rigg

10. Milton Keynes Youth Brass Band Ben Godfrey

11. Cardiff County Youth Band Charles Maynard


Good morning from Maxwell Hall for the Intermediate Section. All 11 bands will play a 20 minute programme including a brand new piece by 21 year old composer Daniel Hall. His eight minute suite is called Smoke Sketches and is a colourful, jazzy piec written at the invitation of Brass Bands England. The three movements are called Into to the Blaze (crisp and jazzy), A Lonesome Ember (blusey) and Spark of Light(fast and furious).
Judges are in place and the Poynton is about to come on to stage. Best of good fortune to all. 

Daniel Hall’s little suite proved its worth at this level. It was exciting, musically interesting in its jazz/funk styling and posed appropriate technical and musical problems. It would certainly make an interesting choice for the 4th Section. For me Wardle Academy and Elland Silver Youth were the pick of the 11 bands taking part. It's been a fantastic contest and a tribute to the hardwork and dedication of conductors and players alike. So much variety on offer and some excellent playing all day.

  1. Cardiff County Youth Band (Charles Maynard)

    Paean, Adagio for brass band (Edward Derbyshire)
    A lyrical work based on two themes from cornets and basses with fanfares contributing to an impressive climax composed by the band’s resident composer. This was composed specially for the event and is receiving its first performance. It begins with a long lyrical line on cornet, with repeating chords and percussion in support.
    Fanfares are introduced – first mutes, en lontano - and activity and power builds. There are many interesting sounds and ideas here, and a tantalising journey, but with a predominantly slow pulse and complex harmonic language, it is a challenge to keep on course as a listener.
    It sounds like a neo-romantic tone poem with an interesting but unexpressed narrative or drama. A majestic climax is followed by a plaintive ending – beautifully done by the principal cornet. This is easily the most ambitious and musically challenging work of the afternoon. A second listen essential, I’d say. The most appropriate choice for this event?

    Smoke Sketches
    Muscular approach to the opening movement with super solos and strong bass line. This is high-octane stuff, not the cleanest we’ve heard but certainly the most exuberant and with so many player on stage, the loudest.
    The second movement poses some accuracy, ensemble and balance problems but there is a nice feel to it.
    An express version of the finale, with excellent jazz chording at time, brings a fascinating section to an end. 

 10.Milton Keynes Youth Brass Band (Ben Godfrey)

Smoke Sketches (Daniel Hall)More direct that some, and leaner too (I like that!). Not all the detail is clear but the overall impression is confident and the ending blazed away emphatically.The opening of the second movement was a little sketchy in detail, but had a nice lilt to it.The Finale is full-on in dynamic terms, but could have been brisker

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother (The Hollies) as a tenor horn solo arranged by Brian Crookes. The soloist’s light tone cuts through the band well. There were some tuning issues in the accompaniment however.

Singin’ in the Rain (arr. Fernie)
Great tune, memorable film, super arrangement – the ‘tap’ section worked specially well for Milton Keynes players. The ‘stride’ bass final section was effectively delivered, although the ending suffered with some further tuning worries.

Amazing Grace (arr. Himes)

Another classic arrangement chosen by Ben Godfrey. It revealed some further intonation issues in the melody. Such a shame, as the phrase shapes and overall feel were encouraging.

  1. Wardle Academy Youth Band (Lee Rigg)

    Lee Rigg’s third band of the day from Wardle Academy. This 31 member band is the current Action Research champion. The programme is the most ambitious of the day and was crafted to a very high level by Lee Rigg.

    Young Pheasants in the Sky
    An heroic Japanese fanfare to start – powerful, mature sounds, terrific sounds - what an opening gambit.

    Smoke Sketches (Daniel Hall)
    1.precise, dynamic start – always moving forward, with percussion high in the mix. This is brisk and full of pizzaz. I love the energy of this, although the soloists don’t quite have the projection of others. The dynamic range is outstanding. Overall very good indeed.
    2.horns and flugel comes through at a comfortable volume. Tempo and mood – spot on for me. The warmth of the sound is engaging and the soloists emerge out of the texture convincingly. The solo horn and euphonium are particularly good – super ending, haunting.
    3. Bags of vitality in the opening. Percussion covers some detail but the tempo cuts a dash and the dissonant chords sound the most convincing of any band thus far. Depth and power of sound at the end was thrilling. The stand out performance for me of this piece so far.


Rhapsody for Euphonium (Curnow)
Millie Mills is the excellent soloist with a mature sound and confidence in her ability. The quality of the sound and other solo lines (solo horn and soprano cornet particularly) really catches the ear. This is a top-level piece, which the whole band plays with comfort, taking the contest to another level of technical refinement and musical ambition. The quality and range of articulation, note lengths and sustained sounds sets this band apart today, for me.


Resurrection Symphony  - finale (Mahler, arr. Wormald)

This hymn-like extract is all about quality sound and sustained breath. For the most part the band’s fine bass section held it together. The diminuendi and the gloss given by soprano to the crescendo were the most impressive moments and they kept going right to the end with power to spare, so it seemed. And this is a school band! Amazing and with a reception to rival European Own-Choice Saturday.


8. Enderby Youth Band (Trevor Hounsome)

26 out of over 150 young musicians in the Enderby set up comprise the Youth Band Playing with just two basses, so we can hear more of the inner working of the music. Having the trombones at the back facing forwards enables the bass trombone to support the bottom line.

Starburst (Dan Price)
up-tempo spirited start – not always precise but full of energy.

Smoke Sketches
(Daniel Hall)
Not the best start – could do with being a bit crisper and less heavy in style – a bit ‘in yer face’ this one.
Second movement is quieter, but not always together or balanced. The band is struggling to with confidence in the exposed passages; quite a few inaccuracies too, sadly. The spark doesn’t really illuminate the finale, which is brave in its attack but rather labored in effect. Could have done with going faster and with a lighter tread.

Lord of the Dance
(R. Hardiman, arr. Somerset) 
Pleasant sounds from the band and solo cornet to start this finale. Energy levels and athleticism rise for the dash to the final bar.

7.Stockport Schools’ Senior Brass Band (Iain McKnight)
SSBB is 29 players strong
Smoke Sketches (Daniel Hall)
Slightly slower than some on this, but the detail comes through well in a relaxed was. The two solos are stylish, the full sound not always spot on in tune. However, the opening of the second movement is superb – muted cornets and stronger than others with the edge of cymbal adding more than other have done. Iain takes it slowly, but without losing momentum. Cornet soloist is mature in expression, although flugel and horn struggle by comparison. The big climax is a touch strident and the accompaniment details are not precise in the coda. Lovely, limpid euphonium sound to finish.
The tempo in Spark of Flame is steady, but that enables us to hear the jazz chords. Bass drum is a tad over-exuberant at times!

The Holy Well (Peter Graham) Ben Corbridge (euphonium)
Nicely played by the soloist, but there were issues of tuning and sustaining the tone through the phrases in the accompaniments.

Mid all the Traffic (arr. Len Ballantine)
This is a Salvationist treatment of Shenandoah – evocatively arranged by Len Ballantine in Erik Leidzen mode. The harmonies are slippery in their chromaticism and this challenges the band’s tuning.

I Got Rhythm (Gershwin)
This suits the band to a tee. A toe-tapping finale, stylish and well played. They clearly love playing this. In the middle section the whole band goes rhythmic – great fun – all set off with a high-kicking payoff. By far their best item. Sounds like a different band.

6. Elland Silver Youth Band (Samantha Harrison)

37 players make up the defending champions and the play like champions under the intelligent and sympathetic direction of Sam Harrison.

Fanfare for a new Age (Goff Richards)
It’s a different competition surely – wow what a start in the opening number – stirring mature sounds.

Wind beneath my Wings (arr. Barry)
The soloist here exudes style – lovely and relaxed – this popular classic flows along and the soloist plays beautifully. Contributions from the solo cornet and the ensemble (neat and precise) complement well – gorgeous.

When the Stars begin to Fall (arr. Ian McKnight)
There is the occasional tuning problem here, but small, given the subdued dynamic levels and the control required to execute this arrangement effectively. The dynamic range displayed here is exemplary at this level of banding. What a treat for the audience!

Smoke Sketches (Daniel Hall)
Outstanding start – precision, clarity, balance, style, deadly accurate and really delivers on style - solo cornet and trombone are great. Hardly a note out of place, but the verve and panache is what really impresses.
The soloists at the start of the second movement get to the heart of the expressive content, while the accompanying details are crystal clear. A few blemishes creep in but they don’t detract as all soloists project well and the music flows expansively to open out into an emotional climax.
The players really grip the rhythm in the finale – up tempo, thrilling sounds without percussion dominating as others have done. ~here the band sound was strong enough to ride the percussion – very impressive.  This will take some beating.

5. Egglescliffe School Band (Matthew Haworth)

From Stockton-on-Tees, this 28 piece band is the only one form a single school in this section.

Prismatic Light (Fernie)A strong sound, it not the most tuneful we’ve heard so far, but the articulation projects well and the band plays with confidence. Bottom end of the band is very good, but the chording wasn’t always comfortable.

Vitae Lux (Frode Alneas, arr. Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen)
Perhaps could have sounded a little less active, and warmer in sound, but it was certainly delivered with a sense of purpose.

Smoke Sketches (Daniel Hall)The fastest first movement so far – and the music can certainly take it. The cornet player’s direct sound (I wonder if there are some trumpet players in the section) works very well in delivering the style. Plenty of impact here – super hi-hat technique from the kit player – high on commitment and enthusiasm if not on pristine detailing.Smudgy start to the second movement, but I like the way the conductor allows the soloists through. The exposed nature of the writing is a challenge for soloists and the sections.The finale sparks into life with full-on style and express tempo – exciting!

4. Macclesfield Youth Band (Louise Renshaw)
Formed in 2005 by Louise Renshaw and now with over 100 players and a drum corps in three bands. It’s an ambitious band whose commission from Lucy Pankhurst was nominated for a British Composers Award. There are 29 players in the senior band.

Goldcrest (James Anderson)
Neat and tidy performance of this US quick march from the Salvation Army. Tempo and style – very good. Crisp and athletic right through the band.

The Acrobat (John Greenwood) trombone soloist – Alastair Ford
A flavour of ‘yesteryear’ in this old favourite, which Alastair delivers with confidence. His humorous touches are in advance of his command of lyrical line at this stage, but he brings a smile to the audience faces – good job on the glissandi!

Smoke Sketches (Daniel Hall)
This band impresses with its precise approach and tight ensemble. The opening was excellent – the little cornet detail that caught out some was spot on. The solo lines perhaps lack a bit of jazz styling, but tempo and spirit are good and the big final tutti blazes away.
Super opening to the second movement – haunting with muted sounds and percussion. The horn stabbing chords are spot on! The polish of the tutti sounds are in advance of the solos – musically shaped throughout. A forthright start to Spark of Light contrasts well with the lighter style when the main theme comes it. Full marks to the young kit player!

3.Rochdale Borough Youth Brass Band (Ben Dixon)
32 young musicians are on stage for this performance under Ben Dixon.

Prismatic Lights (Alan Fernie)
The strongest top line and most direct sound so far this morning from the young Rochdale player. The ensemble is tight and crisp, with focussed sounds from lower band in particular. Bright, and well projected all round in this John Williams pastiche. Timp player is giving it some at the end!

As the Deer (arr. James Wright)
A Salvation Army treatment of a popular worship song. Arranger comes from Sheffield Citadel and the playing demonstrates firm grasp of style and meaning – as it should with Ben on the podium. This is lovely – warm and inviting in tone, meditative in effect.

Smoke Sketches (Daniel Hall)
Easily the best opening so far – strong, clean start. The quaver chord details though the band are well balanced. Just a slight wobble on a tricky detail. The top line tune packs a punch – full of life – while the jazzy cornet/trom solos are more relaxed. Terrific finish.
The second movement is poised – horn details spot on and the euphonium soloist shines – lovely lilt to the line set by Ben and plenty of light and shade in the phasing, opening out to a robust climax. There are a few smudges in the coda, but the evocative atmosphere is not lost. The sparks fly in the finale – articulation and contrasts come across with terrific energy. Tempo is spot on – gets the feet tapping. 

I’ll walk with God (arr. Goff Richards)
Lovely opening – tuneful and sustained, with ‘yielding’ flexible phrases – you could sing along to this. The most impressive aspect here is the control of the dynamic range and the sustained flow of the music. Very impressive finish to a well chosen and delivered peorgramme

2.Tewit Youth Band (Martin Hall)

Over 100 memebrs in the 3 Tewit youth bands, from Harrogate. The senior band is  34 strong. Martin Hall limps on with a broken leg – full mark to him!

The Crazy Brass Machine (arr. S. Smith)
Cornets and troms standing in fanfare style for this one and a strong big-band approach. Playing is tuneful and well balanced, especially the close harmony cornets, with great percussion.

Barnard Castle (Goff Richards)
Quick switch of style to a bright and breezy quick march. Disciplines are good – ensemble, tuning and style - attractive, blended sounds. Nicely done this one.

Goodbye to Love (The Carpenters)
Not quite so comfortable at start from the exposed accompaniment, but settles down once the horn soloist comes in. He plays with a clean legato line and attractive sound, just a little more projection of tone and expression would have lifted it from very good to special!

 Smoke Sketches (Daniel Hall)
Strong opening – suitably ablaze in the tutti section, which are quite ‘grown up’ in style. The details are a little sketchier but overall comes over well – especially the cornet and trombone riffs – standing up!! Excellent. The quiet muted background of A Lonesome Ember starts well, and this is really quiet, showing control of dynamic range. The band copes well with the exposed nature of the quiet music and opens out to a rich climax. Flugel horn solo is effective. Spark of Light is quick and lightens in style as directed and ends in dynamic high spirits.

1.Poynton Youth Brass Band (Michael Eccles)
34 members in the band today from former mining village of Poynton just to the south east of Manchester. Two works in their ambitious programme

Poynton has the privilege of giving the first public hearing of Smoke Sketches.  Great to hear youth bands attempting the jazzy style, with a modern twist, influenced by fellow Cornishman Simon Dobson. Poynton gives the first movement a real go. Plenty of verve, with a nicely played cornet ‘break’ in the middle. There were a few wobbles in the ensemble in the middle. The muted cornet chords at the start of the second movement sit well and the euphonium does well in his blues style solo, as does the flugel horn. Tuning is pretty good in the complex chords, but the big climax isn’t as rounded in sound – the “lonesome ember” character at the end is captured well. Spark of Light is the most straight forward in style to play, bringing back the music of the first movement in a blaze of brass. A lively performance well received by the audience.

The other item is by Peter Graham: Dimensions, which begins in lively fashion. The band seems a bit more secure in this style, with its influences of Malcolm Arnold, Edward Gregson and Gilbert Vinter. The general sound is attractive and the band captures the lively feel, especially the euphs and baris. The upper band finds some of the quick fire details a touch tricky. Principal cornet shows off his lovely sound in the central section and the solo euphonium catches the ear once again in his extended solo. The finale shows the band off at its strongest, although not all the details are completely in place or in tune. Excellent finish, with strong percussion section at full tilt.