It’s Official – Milton Keynes Brass is “World Class”
No kidding! Milton Keynes Brass has been recognised as one of the top 200 brass bands worldwide by the respected international Brass Band news website “4 Bars Rest”.
On the back of 2 years of consistently good contest performances in the Second Section (the third tier of banding in the UK) and a hard-won 3rd place at the Mineworkers Open in the First Section in the band’s first competition since promotion on the 1st January, “4 Bars Rest” has ranked MK Brass in its “Top 200” of the planet’s brass bands, in 188th place.
It’s not often recognised outside the banding world just how widely the banding ‘bug’ has spread around the world from its roots in Britain, with bands from Norway, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, USA, Australia and New Zealand as well as the UK home nations featured in the world rankings.
Don’t miss MK Brass’ next Concert…
Promoted to First Section, and it’s in the Prizes again!
New Demanding Level of Competition
Following last year’s success at the “Regional” in the Second Section MK Brass was rewarded with promotion to the First Section (the second tier of the Brass Band competition in the UK) from January 1st, 2019. The band’s first foray at this new and more demanding level of competition was the well respected and well know “Mineworker’s Open” held at Butlins, Skegness in the opening, short, dark days of the new year. The level of competition at all five tiers of banding competition is very high, as the sponsors (Butlins) put on a fantastic week-end of competition, concerts and band related events, as well as providing some of the highest level of prize money in the banding world.
In the Prizes!
So it’s no surprise that the band is exceptionally pleased to have been awarded 3rd Prize in its first competitive outing at First Section level for some years, against some really top opposition. The rehearsal programme for this contest has been quite demanding, as (like most bands) MK Brass had a very busy Christmas events schedule so fitting in the necessary practice has been difficult – the extra effort well worth it in the end, however.
High Musical Demands but Memorable Performance
The test piece La Forza del Destino, the overture to the opera by Giuseppe Verdi transcribed for Brass Band by Frank Wright, places great technical and stylistic demands on brass players as they seek to reproduce the drama and dynamic intensity of one of the great orchestral overtures – but the band under the guidance of MD Jonathon Mott, and lead by some excellent soloists, pulled off a memorable performance which found favour with adjudicators Alan Morrison and Dave Lea.
Contest Season closes on a high – but it’s another 2nd Place!
The band’s November visit up the M1 to Loughborough to round off the pre-Christmas contesting season was crowned with success again against a strong field from across the Midlands, Yorkshire and the South of England. The band produced a rousing performance of Philip Sparke’s “The Saga of Haakon the Good”, which relates the struggles of the legendary King Haakon of Norway to introduce Christianity to his country. However, although the performance received warm praise from the adjudicator, Steve Pritchard-Jones, it wasn’t quite good enough to edge the band past eventual winners Horbury Victoria Band from Yorkshire.
Third “Second Place” this year!
“Déjà-Vu” as MK Brass secures multiple awards at Wychavon
MK Brass is showing consistency in contest performances at least this year. November saw the band return to the Wychavon Festival, after securing a 2nd place and the Entertainment award in its section last year, in optimistic mood. The optimism was founded on secure preparation under MD Jonathon Mott, and was, as things turned out, not misplaced. Jonathon’s “London” themed programme featured the “Knightsbridge” march, euphonium solo “As long as he needs me”, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and the descriptive “Congestion Charge” – offering the audience a range of styles and tempos – it evidently caught the adjudicator’s (Sarah Groarke-Booth) ear. She awarded the band the “Best Entertainment” prize, Euphonium player George Bruce was adjudged the best euphonium, and the band’s percussion section (Henry Wakley, Kit Bancroft & Dave Johnston) smashed their way to the “Best Percussion Section” award. However the First Place overall went to Haydock, and MK Brass had to be content with a repeat of last year’s Second Place.
National Finals – A top-6 place following a quality performance
The cream of the nation’s second section bands, Milton Keynes Brass included, met at Cheltenham race-course in September to battle it out for the title of “Champion Second Section Band of Great Britain”, so the competition was bound to be stiff. The organisers selected an appropriately difficult work to test the bands – Steven Bulla’s “Firestorm”, and a severe test it proved to be. The composition depicts the composer’s impressions of the First Gulf War, and so there are aggressive, angular sections to the music, contrasted with more reflective quiet sections which brought to mind the desolate desert landscape and the atmosphere of a Middle-eastern market. The score makes extensive use of percussion too.
It’s a tribute to the quality of M.D. Jonathon Mott’s preparation and the players’ commitment to practice and rehearsals that the band took to the stage in a relaxed but focused mood off the number 11 draw. (Perhaps the state of mind was due to having enough time for a relaxed breakfast in the hotel before we set off to play?) It’s fair to say that there was a good degree of satisfaction with the performance from the band’s members and conductor, (later reflected in positive adjudications, too) and it was encouraging at the end of the contest to learn that both “pundits” (from 4 Bars Rest and British Bandsman) had predicted a 2nd place for MK.
Our final placing of 6th – “in the frame” as the saying goes – is by any estimate more than respectable in the context of the national finals, so the initial disappointment eased quite quickly.
Regional Championships Success – Promotion and a place at the National Finals
Milton Keynes Brass were awarded third prize in a large field of 18 bands in the second section, at the contest on Sunday, March 18. MK Brass Band Playing a new piece called Ex Terra Lucem, by Jonathan Bates, the band gave a great performance featuring solos for Matt Ball (cornet) and George Bruce (euphonium). As a result, the band have now been promoted to the first section and will play at the National Finals in Cheltenham in September.
MD, Jonathan Mott, said: “The band has worked very hard and maintained consistently good results over the last 12 months resulting in an appearance at the national finals and promotion. 12 months ago we had a plan to achieve this and it’s nice to see this coming to fruition.”
Great result at Butlins.
We made our way to Skegness for the weekend to take part in The Butlins Mineworkers National Open Brass Band Festival on 13th January. The second section test piece was Variations for Brass Band by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a significant challenge for bands in this section. With limited preparation time after the Christmas break, the band work hard, putting in a lot of extra work to be ready for the contest. A short rehearsal on Friday evening at the Skegness Silver Band’s rehearsal room helped us to experience the piece in a very different acoustic.
Saturday morning and time for the draw. Being drawn second meant a quick rehearsal and then off to register. The band played well, starting the piece particularly well and continuing with some great playing from all sections of the band. Nicely played solos from Matt Ball and George Bruce and a good solid foundation from the basses.
Now for the long wait for the results. Having worked very hard on this piece we were hoping for a good result and were extremely pleased when we were awarded second place, beating a number of bands that that had beaten us in recent contests. There were some good comments from the adjudicators praising many aspects of our performance:
‘You captured the varying moods well. Bravo!’ (Alan Morrison). ‘This was a very fine performance with some very fine players.’ (Paul Andrews).
A great start to our year of contesting.
Our Next MK Brass Appearances…
Saturday 23rd February 2019
Concert at Broughton Fields School
Tickets available now.
£6 on the door
£5 in advance
Contact: Helen Clifton07719925760
Saturday 16th March 2019
National Brass Band Championships – London and Southern Counties regional contest
This will be our first regional contest since returning to the First Section. The test piece is Symphony of Marches by Gilbert Vinter.
Saturday 11th May
Loughton Manor First School May Fair
Supporting the school where we rehearse each week. We are playing between 12:00 and 2:00pm.
Saturday 6th July 2019
Melbourne Pavillion Milton Keynes
The band will be playing from 12:00 – 1:30pm
A great local event, where the sun usually shines!
Sunday 4th August 2019
Abingdon Park Northampton
The band will playing on the Bandstand in Abingdon Park from 2:00 – 5:00pm. Bring a picnic!!
Park Ave South, Northampton NN1 5LW