A TALE OF PERSEVERANCE - Mareika Gray - the story of an unlikely musical journey

Issue 6006

ON THE BEAT - The first in a new series by Gavin Pritchard discussing all things percussion

PRODUCING A RECORDING - Adam Goldsmith reveals the secrets to a successful recording

UniBrass LIVE!

Saturday 17 February, 2018

UniBrass Trophy

Saturday 17 February

Adjudicators: Sandy Smith and Alex Kenyon

Kenny Crookston reporting



UniBrass Trophy

1. Royal Northern College of Music (Alexander Webb)

2. Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (Ian Porthouse)

3. Huddersfield (Jonathan Beatty)

Best Percussion: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Best Student Conductor: Alexander Webb, RNCM

Most Entertaining Band: RNCM

Best March: O.R.B., RNCM

Solo Prize: Adam Bokaris, RNCM



UniBrass Shield

1. Bristol (Zak Eastop)

2. Leeds (Connor Stanford)

3. Chichester (Emma Button)

Best Student Composition: I Love My Love - Holst arr. Alan Russell - University of York

Best Percussion: Nottingham Trent

Best Student Conductor: Prachvith Sean Intarasuwan, University of York

Most Entertaining Band: Cambridge

Best March: Aces High, Nottingham Trent

Solo Prize: Jacob Smith, Leeds


In the BB Frame

1. Royal Northern College of Music (Alexander Webb)

2. Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (Ian Porthouse)

3. Huddersfield (Jonathan Beatty)

4. Manchester (James Heathcote)


17:30 An excellent contest here in York with the top two in our frame a few points clear of the others for us. We think RNCM will have retained the title with a quite brilliant performance, but there was a lot to credit in Birmingham's performance too. Currently being entertained by Elland Silver Youth Band, which could have done pretty well if it had been in the main contest here! Real results coming soon! 


10. Royal Northern College of Music (Alexander Webb)

O.R.B. (Charles Anderson)

Cottonopolis (Jinjun Lee - Euphonium Soloist: Adam Bokaris)

Manchester (Richard Wainwright arr. Andi Cook)

A Manchester Tale (Andrew Duncan)

Perfectly paced and measured march to open. Real style here (cornet!) - could have won nearly any Whit Friday contest!

Manchester theme continues with Cottonopolis, where the intricate detail challenges the band almost as much as the soloist. All are up to the job in this tour de force for euphonium and band. A highlight of the day.

The hymn arrangement is delivered as an apposite tribute to the 2017 Manchester bomb victims and what a moving one it is. Perfect delivery of This is the Place. Wonderful.

The dramatic finisher surely puts the seal on another UniBrass title for the RNCM. A very thoughtful and thought-provoking programme played virtually to perfection.


9. Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (Ian Porthouse)

Activate (Matthew Hall)

Miss Blue Bonnet (Frank Simon arr. Sandy Smith)

A London Overture (Philip Sparke)

An incisive opener and we hear the best band sound of the day so far. Combined with deadly accurate ensemble and excellent solo work (we liked the trombone!) this is a perfect recipe!

Great to hear Miss Blue Bonnet, and what a stylish player Wilson Taylor is. Nearly perfect in delivery too!

Fine sounds also in the opening of London Overture. Soloists all deliver the cadenzas with apparent ease before a molto allegro section in which all parts come through clearly. Central cornet solo is beautifully handled and it’s textbook Philip Sparke all the way to the finale - brimming with vitality!

A very strong challenge for the title from the newly-named Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. A long way ahead so far but can the RNCM pip it at the post?


8. Bangor (Elspeth Malcolm)

Fanfare and Soliloquy (Trevor Sharpe)

Deliverance from War of the Worlds (Peter Graham - Horn Soloist: Heini Williams)

Castell Coch (T.J. Powell)

New York, New York (John Kander arr. Rieks van der Velde)

A bit lower in numbers than the others so far but the ones they do have make a good attempt at a famous old opener from 1970s.

Quite an unusual choice of horn solo in the Peter Graham work, but the soloist has lovely tone and shows it off very well.

Percussion is well on top in the march, but we’re giving 11 out of 10 to the gallant lone tubist! Take your time though!

A nice ending in the old Sinatra classic and the percussion again leads the way - if only threatening to overpower slightly this time!

Bravo Bangor - I’m sure we’ll all love visiting you for UniBrass 2019!


7. Sheffield (Lee Dunkley)

The Cossack (William Rimmer)

Sabre Dance (Khachaturian arr. J. Graham Walker)

Cossack Fire Dance from Call of the Cossacks (Peter Graham - Soloists: Gerry Simpson (cornet), Tom Soden (trombone) and Tim Dunn (euphonium).

Danses Polovtsiennes (Borodi arr. Eddie Uckridge)

A Russian-themed and, aside from the title, there’s plenty of rushin’ going on in the opening march. A tad faster than we are used to hearing it from Foden’s!

Some interesting tempo transitions in Sabre Dance, but we did like the video!

Call of the Cossacks stretches the band and soloists to the limit, but a big bravo to the guys who stood out front and really went for it!

The Prince Igor finale opens with the band at its best so far - great solo interventions all round too (we love the bass trombone sound!). Quite a sedate tempo in the final movement but we can hear it all going in. A good effort all round and a fine ending to an enjoyable programme.



6. Nottingham (George Newbould and Tom Peterken)


When Thunder Calls (Paul Lovatt Cooper)

It’s Raining Men (Geri Halliwell, The Weather Girls arr. Frank Bernaerts)

Misty (Nathan Gregory arr. J. Burke - Trombone Soloist: Dom Law)

Sunrise Over Blue Ridge (Dan Price)

Gaelforce (Peter Graham)

Playing doesn’t always match the standard of the choreography in the PLC opener, but most intriguing is the conductor’s waterproof yellow jacket! Raining Men has a more about it though and the band is clearly at home in this style of music.

Dom Law gets down to business in Misty, with a fog machine doing its stuff in the background. Soloist delivers with gusto!

Sunrise Over Blue Ridge gives the band a chance to show its real qualities - well-balanced full band sounds but also excellent control at quiet dynamics. Very good indeed.

The quality continues in Gaelforce - great ensemble to open. Pity there wasn’t time for the central section, but the final dance races along in just the right style. Maybe just a bit light in dynamics at times.

A well thought-out and presented programme overall, which could give the judges something to think about.



5. Durham (Jonathan Fenwick)

Concert March from 1941 (John Williams arr. Steve Sykes)

Manchester (Richard Wainwright arr. Andi Cook)

Alone With My Thoughts (Erik Spence arr. Brenden Wheeler - Baritone Soloist: Sean Moran)

Birdland (Josef Zawinul arr. Philip Sparke)

The World’s Greatest Storyteller (Philip Harper)

A lively opener from Durham and it’s nearly all in place in the march 1941. A tribute to last year’s Manchester bomb victims follows - nicely done too.

Sean Moran stars in the baritone solo and shows excellent control throughout the range of the instrument, especially in the quieter passages.

More good playing in Birdland. More attention to dynamics could be effective, but the overall effect is good.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Matilda provide the material for the finale and the band stays on good form to the end. A good show from last year’s Shield winner, plenty of talent around the stand to keep building in the next few years.


4. Manchester (James Heathcote)

War (Hypnotic Brass Ensemble arr. Jamie Bradley)

Reflections on Manchester (Hugh Morris - Tuba Soloist: Adam Collins)

Blitz (Derek Bourgeois)

Great trumpet ensemble work is the highlight of the opening piece in this war-themed programme - and an ambitious one it is too! Good, tight playing around the stand though!

What a fantastic tuba sound from the soloist in Reflectio