Anticipation gave way to appreciation at this year’s British Open
IT was the big day in Birmingham when the 165th British Brass Band Open Championships took place on Saturday, September 9, at the Symphony Hall.
The area around the hall was packed with people patiently waiting to get to their seats as strict security proceedings were in force. The general noise of this large crowd was strangely subdued.
The atmosphere inside the hall just prior to the first band coming on stage is always heavy with anticipation and there was a very low hubbub of noise as somewhat constrained talking is going on.
The air was full of tension and this year that tension was heightened as the audience had been subject to a security situation and had to queue for some time before gaining access to the hall.
Suddenly the hall is deadly silent and all are looking at an empty stage. There has never been such an uncanny silence prior to a contest. Everyone is tense with a mixture of excitement, nerves and fearful possibilities as the recent Barcelona tragedy has been pushed to the front of their minds.
The uneasy silence gives way to almost rapturous applause as the audience thankfully received the first band on stage and the whole atmosphere changed to one of relief.
All was forgotten as they settled down to await the first notes of the music to pierce the expectant space of the Symphony Hall.
The first band was Flowers who are conducted by Welsh Euphonium virtuoso David Childs who was making his first appearance as a conductor at the British Open.
There were no poor performances and there were some outstanding performances, loudly appreciated by the packed audience in the hall.
The favourites before the contest were Cory, the 2016 Open Champions, Grimethorpe Colliery, Fodens, Brighouse and Rastrick, Black Dyke and Fairey and the band from Switzerland, Valaisia Brass Band, who were placed 2nd in the 2017 European Championships.
Throughout the competition various bands were being talked about as having given a winning performance, as is the usual situation and it made for a very interesting day trying to second guess the decision of the three judges, who were Paul Cosh, Stephen Roberts and Ray Farr, all three distinguished musicians. High on the list of possible winners were Cory, Fodens, Black Dyke, Valaisia, Grimethorpe, Fairey and Brighouse & Rastrick.
The good thing about this contest was that everyone thoroughly enjoyed playing and listening to this test piece called Fraternity, which was a description of a terrible mining tragedy in France in the early 1900s, as it dealt with all the human emotions.
At the end of the contest the judges conferred and the results were announced.
First to be crowned 2017 British Open Champion was Valaisia, the Champion band of Switzerland, 2nd was Whitburn, Champion band of Scotland and 3rd was Cory, Champion band of Wales.
The rest of the competing bands were placed in the following order: 4th – Brighouse and Rastrick; 5th – Fodens; 6th – Grimethorpe Colliery; 7th – Carlton Main; 8th – Tredegar; 9th – Desford; 10th – Leyland; 11th – Fairey; 12th – Rothwell Temperance; 13th – Wingates; 14th – Flowers; 15th – Milnrow; 16th – Co-op Funeralcare; 17th – Black Dyke; 18th – Jaguar Land Rover.
Valaisia Brass Band, Champion Band of Switzerland and winners of the British Open
Cory when they appeared at the Palladium Theatre, London, earlier this year