If you think top level sport is tough, you should have attended the finals of the National Brass Band Championships on September 20...
Nicknamed the ‘National’ by participants, the competition is branded as brass bands’ equivalent of the football league, in which 600 bands from across the country compete in regional qualifying heats and two finals events. Bands are grouped into five sections in order of quality.
This year’s competition saw 17 top brass bands, including Daventry’s very own Daventry Brass, travelling to Cheltenham to compete for the title of National Band of the Year (2nd Section).
It’s been a heady few years for Daventry Brass, who in the past three years have soared through ranks of the National, outdoing all other Midlands bands and facing promotion to 1st Section from January 2015.
Band chairman Ken Ewer put down Daventry Brass’ success to months of hard practice and the professionalism of band members.
He said: “We set off early in the morning before having a rehearsal. We were waiting for about two or three hours to perform in this huge conference centre.
“The acoustics in the hall were a shock to people, you couldn’t hear other band members; at times it could feel like you were playing on your own.”
The standard on the day was very high, with Daventry Brass coming 13 out of 17.
Mr Ewer said: “We performed Traversada by Oliver Waespi. It’s a challenging piece describing a trek across a mountain pass.”
“It’s a piece in which everybody has something to do, and no one is left out.”
The band rehearsed intensely for three months before the competition and despite missing out on the title this year, Mr Ewer said Daventry Brass was looking forward to competing in the 1st Section made up from some of the best brass bands in the country.
He said: “Competitions are a great way of getting the band to play together with something to work towards.”
In order to qualify for The National, bands need to come in the top three for their area in regional ‘heats’
Daventry Brass have won the contest for the Midlands area in 1968, 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2014 and have appeared in the Nationals 12 times since 1969.
In the immediate future, Mr Ewer said Daventry Brass would be gearing up for a Twinning Concert on October 31 from 7.30pm at the Daventry Community Centre, in which the band will play with up to 50 musicians from Daventry’s twinned town of Westerburg, Germany.
“They come over every two years or so,” Mr Ewer said.
“They have a different style of doing things.
“They are quite fond of having a pint of beer before they play – we usually have one after!”
As with events earlier this year marking the anniversary of the First World War, Daventry Brass will also be involved in events marking Remembrance Day and accompanying the service at Holy Cross Church with a performance at the war memorial.
In the meantime Mr Ewer said Daventry Brass are keen to get more young people involved in the band and have decided to launch a new training group, with an event on tomorrow (Friday) at the band’s practice hall on Daneholme Close, Daventry.
Mr Ewer said: “We have people of all ages and professions in the band.”
Band members include ex-army servicemen, IT and legal professionals and there are even a few former professional musicians.
“I was a kid when I joined in 1967; we were in the 4th Section,” Mr Ewer said. “There was a real mix of people there .
“We have lost players over time. Playing in the band requires hard work, but it’s a useful source of education.”
The youngest current member is currently Georgia Inglis, who is just 14, and the oldest is John Dennett, 68, who runs a local garden centre.