There was delight for both competitors and contest organisers following the announcement of the results of the 103rd North of Ireland Bands' Association (NIBA) Championships held in Armagh on the weekend.
Due to ongoing Covid-19 protocols and concerns the NIBA Executive had worked closely with the venue management and took the bold decision to also live-stream the contest through the Association's Facebook page.
It proved to be a great success with close to 2000 engagements showing that brass band supporters enjoyed the initiative which enabled contesting to return after 18 months or more in hibernation.
1st Old Boys triumph
The bands themselves performed admirably with the Championship honours going to 1st Old Boys under the baton of Stephen Cairns, who reclaimed the title they last won in 2017.
Their confident performance of 'Royal Parks' by George Lloyd saw them pip runner-up Laganvale by a point, with Downshire Brass in third. Their super principal cornet Louise Bell deservedly claimed the 'Best Instrumentalist' award.
Adjudicator Roger Webster made the point that the difference on the day was the musical approach taken on "a great piece".
However, he said that there was "a fine line"to draw between those that aimed for a stricter approach to the score markings and those that opted for a more "relaxed"one, especially with tempos.
He highlighted the need to keep the music flowing, especially in the second movement which he said, "wasn't a dirge".
There were two "great shows"he said — one that stuck more closely to the tempos and that didn't, and whilst he felt every performance was one that he enjoyed with good soloists on show, bands had to "take care"with their approaches.
Scottish Open next
A delighted winner now has the Scottish Open to look forward to Perth next month.
Writing about their success on their Facebook page they said: "We're very proud of our performance yesterday and it came down to hard work and preparation of the band and our MD.
The band didn't use any guest players for this contest and three of our new members played in their first contest — Clara, Libby and James. After this weekend we're excited for our next adventure, the Scottish Open contest."
In the Grade 2 Brass there was a clear-cut victory for CWA Brass under Gary Proctor with a performance of Philip Sparke's 'Three Extraordinary Journey's' that Roger Webster said had "really impressed"him and had "stood out"in the way that it "took its journey".
The winners also claimed the 'Best Cornet' and 'Best Bass' section awards as they secured victory over rivals Roughan Brass with Wellington Memorial in third. 2019 champion Lourdes Brass was fourth in a contest Roger said had given him "four very different performances".
In the C Grade Brass there was victory for defending champion Dynamic Brass conducted by Andrew McQuiggan as they claimed a clear two-point margin of victory over rivals, Poyntzpass Silver.
Roger told the audience that all three bands had given him "great performances", although there were "just occasional slips". The winner though had "just pipped"it with what he said was "quality playing"that he felt was perhaps "a class above"C Grade standard.
On what was an excellent return to contesting, there was also praise for the organisers who did a sterling job in hosting the event, whilst in turn they thanked every band for taking part.
The stream can still be viewed at: https://www.facebook.com/nibandsassociation/videos/219678720229761
Adjudicator Roger Webster made the point that the difference on the day was the musical approach taken on "a great piece".4BR
Test piece: Royal Parks (George Lloyd)
1. 1st Old Boys Silver (Stephen Cairns) — 95pts
2. Laganvale Metal Technology (Keith Anderson) — 94pts
3. Downshire Brass (Michael Alcorn) — 92pts
4. Third Carrickfergus (Brian Connolly) — 90pts
5. Murley Silver (David Hawthorne) — 88pts
Best Instrumentalist: Louise Bell (cornet) — 1st Old Boys
Grade 2 Brass:
Test piece: Three Extraordinary Journeys (Philip Sparke)
1. CWA Brass (Gary Proctor) — 95pts
2. Roughan Silver (Stephen Crooks) — 93pts
3. Wellington Memorial Silver (David Hawthorne) — 91pts
4. Lourdes Brass (N/K) — 90pts
Conductor Award: Gary Proctor
Best Cornet Section: CWA Brass
Best Bass Section: CWA Brass
Grade 3 Brass:
Test piece: Neverland (Christopher Bond)
1. Dynamic Brass (Andrew McQuiggan) — 93pts
2. Poyntzpass Silver (Stanley Lutton) — 91pts
Adjudication only: St Marks Silver (Bob Quick)