People clapping along and standing to applaud, bands supporting each other and members from bands mixing and taking the time to catch up … this was the British Youth Band Association at it’s best.
Another sunny, warm day welcomed the nine bands to this year’s contest at Nuneaton Borough Football Club in Warwickshire.
Our hosts for the day were Beeches Performance Ensemble. Andrew and his team had done a great job of setting up the stadium and field in advance of the bands arriving.
Slightly unusually the 500 seater stand where the audience were seated was offset to one side of the field, however that still left enough room for the bands to perform and (as far as I could see) nobody wandered into goal posts!
Getting the contest underway were Christ Church Ashton Church Lads & Girls Brigade. This band has a very smart traditional look and style playing Bb Bugles and quite unusually these days a marching mallet section.
Ashton's 2019 season show is a selection of Beatles hits including ‘Ob-la-di Ob-la-da’, ‘All you need is love’, ‘Get back’, ‘With a little help from my friends’, ‘Can’t buy me love’ and ‘Hey Jude’.
Considering the limited notes available on a Bb bugle the arranger had done a great job and all the pieces were instantly recognisable with the mallets filling in the blanks the bugles couldn’t play - fantastic.
A notable change to Ashton’s marching performance this year was the re-staging of the band nearer the front of the field. This gave them a much better connection with the audience, which they used to their advantage getting the audience to clap along to Hey Jude. One of my favourite moments of the day, watch the video and check it out.
Next up were Concord Allstars with their Greatest Showman production. This show has some great ideas and ingenious use of circus imagery throughout.
As at Corby the standout section were the colour guard however the show was stolen on this occasion by the great solo trumpet in ‘This is me’ - brilliant job. There’s still some more movement to come from Concord so I suspect their best is yet to come this year.
Third band in Contest Class were 1st Ibstock Scouts with their ‘Night at the Oscars’ show. Again a very mobile performance but in contrast to Summer Rhythm performed with more confidence. Like Concord Ibstock had a good trumpet soloist who featured in their 'Bohemian Rhapsody' closer.
If the second half of Bohemian Rhapsody can be brought up to the standard of the first half of the show then Ibstock will be in with a shout at National Championships in October!
Liberty, from Northampton, were next to perform with their ‘American Dream’ show. I think it’s a real credit to the writers and a measure of the ability of the performers, that it’s only when writing this review did it dawn on me that Liberty only march five wind players for the majority of the show!
Visually the guard are utilised really well to carry the storyline and they perform with great style, emotion and a contagious enthusiasm. This is now a completed production with ‘Empire State of Mind’ added and will, I’m sure, continue to grow and develop.
Final band in Contest Class with their first BYBA outing of 2019 were Thurrock Marching Brass. Thurrock’s 2019 production is called ‘Apollo’ and is a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing.
I can’t go any further without mentioning what has to be one of the biggest props I’ve seen in a BYBA field a 16ft long, scale model of the Saturn V moon rocket that was initially staged on the left front lines of the field before ‘lifting off’ to the rear of the field! This along with the 5 immaculately designed on field screens set the arena out nicely for this young band.
I have to say I’ve been a bit distracted by the sound samples used by Thurrock over the last couple of years but this year they have a much better balance and the young performers come shining through.
After a short interval we continued the days entertainment with Revolution in Championship Class. Revolution's 2019 production is called ‘Home’ and comprises ‘Sunny Side of the Street’, ‘Chaos’, ’To build a Home’ and ‘Smile’. The storyline tells of the destruction and rebuilding of a family home in small town USA.
A change of uniform this year for Revolution now wearing white shirts, untied dicky bows, black trousers and a black hat. This on the face of it seems a bit incongruous with the destruction / construction theme of the show but still looks quite smart… although a few larger hat sizes are required!
A full sound throughout punctuated by some nice solo features meant Revolution took high musical effect however at times the corps struggles to achieve the drill with clarity… I look forward to seeing how Revolutions show develops.
Second band in Championship Class were Comets Performance Ensemble with ‘Caged’. For 2019, Comets are working with MIND to promote mental health awareness and want to spread the message that ‘It’s ok not to be ok’.
Comets repertoire comprises ‘The heat of the day’, ‘Disturbed - Sound of silence’, ‘Warriors - Imagine Dragon’s' and ‘This is me - The Greatest Showman’.
This is a big step up for Comets with challenging time signatures and rhythms throughout which at times cause issues with footwork but Comets are certainly heading in the right direction. A special mention to the guard who took the high colour guard award and the sole snare & tenor player who was the model of intensity and performance throughout.
Local band Phantom Knights were the final band in the Championship Class and what a great way to wrap it up. From beginning to end this show is pure entertainment and performed with a high level of execution.
As I said in my Summer Rhythm review this is show well written and the music and visual complement each other perfectly. It’s not a case of the show being demanding or complex, it’s not, but it is very entertaining. The members clearly enjoy performing it and that comes across to the audience in the stand.
The real challenge for Phantom Knights now is keeping the momentum and taking this production to the next level!
The only band in Open Class were our host corps of the day Beeches Performance Ensemble, bringing us their 2019 ‘Swing Swing Swing’ production.
Set in the 1930’s swing era music includes ‘Swing Swing Swing’, ‘Caravan’, ‘If I ain’t got you’ and ‘Sing Sing Sing’.
This is a big bold swing show and the step up from last year is remarkable. By far my favourite number of the show is the ‘If I ain’t got you' ballad which features the lushest flugal / baritone duet you’re ever likely to hear.
There’s lots of nuances to the show with little body movements, flicks and jumps but personally I’d like to see a few more 'big moments' especially in the first half of the show.
As I said at the start of the review there’s something different about BYBA this year. Although down a little in numbers there’s definite upbeat vibe and sense of optimism in the air. I look forward now to the Associations next contest on 22nd September in Stafford.
1. Phantom Knights - 76.40
2. Revolution - 71.78
3. Comets PE - 56.03
1. Beeches PE - 81.50
1. Liberty - 62.40
2. 1st Ibstock Scout Band - 58.00
3. Christ Church Ashton CLCGB - 55.05
4. Thurrock Marching Brass - 54.05
5. Concord AllStars - 53.98
Field Commander award - Beeches PE
Photo’s Courtesy of Glenn Riley and Richard Haw