There was a fine line-up of outstanding winners of British Open Solo & Quartet Championship titles on the weekend in Skegness.
They were led by the splendid 11 year old cornet player Rhys Stokes, who claimed the Junior Slow Melody honours with a super performance of 'Demelza' by Goff Richards, and who's playing was referred to as being, "simply fantastic"by adjudicator Dave Lea.
Junior Slow Melody
Six tremendous youngsters took the opportunity to showcase their emerging talents, with the families of Millie and Robbie Davenport and Isabelle Owen from Shirland Welfare, and Oliver Tattersall from Goodshaw all proud as punch after hearing their offspring play with such confidence and maturity.
Rhys was also joined by his sister Skye, aged 10, who played 'Donegal Bay' on baritone to come one of the joint runners-up, but it was her older brother who showed just why he has already been snapped up to sign for Championship Section Strata Brass.
Understandably the family was very proud of their offspring, with Dad, Nick, telling 4BR that the event provided a great learning experience for all those who took part.
"We are very proud of Rhys and Skye, but it was so good to hear the other players perform so well. The standard was amazing. When Rhys hit the top notes towards the end of 'Demelza' it sent a shiver down the spine as I knew he had nailed it.
We enjoy going to all types of brass band events as a family and Butlins provides a great learning experience for all young players. Rhys will back next year in the Intermediate Section I'm sure."
Dave also revealed that Rhys has already invested his £200 prize-money wisely — buying a triple gig bag for his instruments, whilst he is now looking forward to joining the back row cornet section of Strata (where Dad is bass trom) in time for the Yorkshire Area Championship.
"He's wanted a new gig bag for some time, so the money came in handy, and he's thrilled to join the band,"Dave added. What an experience that is going to be for him playing in the top section against the likes of Black Dyke and Brighouse."
Meanwhile, Strata Band Manager Robert Hardy also added their congratulations. "It's wonderful to see,"he said. "The family enjoys their banding with us and Barnsley Metropolitan and both Rhys and Skye are two stars in the making."
Intermediate Slow Melody
If it was star quality the judge's were looking for in the Intermediate Slow Melody contest then they certainly found it with 14 year old Leicester Co-op Snibston and Youth Brass 2000 baritone player Ed Culpin.
He retained the title he won last year with a wonderful rendition of Rodney Newton's arrangement of 'Lark in the Clear Air' by Vaughan-Williams. Amazingly, just a few hours earlier he also claimed the 'Best Soloist' award playing it with Youth Brass 2000 as they won the Youth Section title.
"I wanted to come back and defend the title, and as I was playing the solo with Youth Brass I thought it sounded ideal for this contest too,"he revealed.
"It's great to win again and I hope to be able to come back next year to try and make it a hat-trick, but the standard from the others players was so good."
Once again the judges were impressed with the maturity and confidence shown by all six competitors; although Dave Lea later told 4BR that Ed had that "something extra"about his approach and produced what he called "a beautiful baritone sound".
Ed plays solo baritone with Leicester Co-op Snibston and is already looking forward to tackling his tricky part on Kit Turnbull's 'The Golden Sabre' test piece in a few weeks time in Bedworth.
As for the future, he has already "invested"his £300 prize money in a new i-pad and is starting to plan his GCSE studies which he hopes will eventually led him into a career in computing.
"I want to keep music as an important hobby and play in brass bands — and I love playing with my band and Youth Brass 2000. I'm sure I can combine both!"
Bethan Plant of Brighouse & Rastrick Band followed in the footsteps of some of the most illustrious performers in the brass band movement as she claimed the Blue Riband Senior Solo title.
The 4th year RNCM student started her musical journey in the training band at Elland Silver Youth, before moving steadily throughout their ranks to play in the Elland Silver Senior Band.
When she started her studies in Manchester she eventually joined Grimethorpe Colliery and since November 2018 has been playing on the solo cornet bench at Brighouse.
Her outstanding rendition of 'Nordische Fantasy' by Theodore Hoch saw off the high class challenge of her competitors, including a strong Belgian contingent as she claimed the £500 first prize in considerable style.
"It's the first solo competition I've entered for a long time,"Bethan later admitted to 4BR. "Prof David King advised me to give it a go and so did the band's principal cornet Kyle Lawson. They said it would provide me with great performance experience — and it did.
I'm working towards my final year recital performance in May so this has certainly helped boost my confidence for that."
Bethan said that she is also enjoying playing with the West Riding band as they work towards their performance at the forthcoming profile RNCM Brass Band Festival and the Area contest in Huddersfield in March.
She is also looking forward to teaming up with student colleagues in the All Saints Brass quintet who will open the RNCM Festival on Friday 24th January with a 45 minute recital programme.
"Being part of Brighouse and learning from Prof King and Kyle offers me great opportunities and experiences. The All Saints Brass quintet (named after the park near to the RNCM) is great fun too and we're really looking forward to our recital concert."
As for the prize money? "It may sound a bit boring,"Bethan said. "But I've put it towards funding my college studies — although there may be a few pounds left over to spend on a celebration with friends."
If there was a disappointment on the day it was that only one ensemble performed in the Senior Quartet competition.
Given that there was a first prize of £500 up for grabs and that it also offered conservatoire and university students as well as players from band's already competing on the weekend the opportunity to gain invaluable small ensemble experience, it seemed a missed opportunity.
No doubting the quality of the winner though, as the polished quartet from Flowers Band gave a very fine rendition of 'Capriccio' by Roger Payne to take the honours.
Iwan Fox & Malcolm Wood
The standard was amazing. When Rhys hit the top notes towards the end of 'Demelza' it sent a shiver down the spine as I knew he had nailed itNick Stokes
Results: British Open Solo & Quartet Championships
Adjudicators: Dave Lea and Mark Walters
1. Bethan Plant
Intermediate Slow Melody:
1. Edward Culpin
Junior Slow Melody:
1. Rhys Stokes
All participants awarded places by the judges and notified on their remarks sheets.