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Lancaster University hosted the first ever University Brass Band Championship of Great Britain on Saturday Week Six, with 12 of the best university brass bands travelling from across the United Kingdom to compete.
The brass bands, visiting from as far away as Edinburgh and Southampton, were competing to win the UniBrass Title. The Great Hall was chosen as the venue to, with a stage and audience seating set up for the day. The contest was judged by adjudicators Alan Fernie and Richard Evans, marking the bands on two criteria, their musical skill and their entertainment factor.
Keele University played first, a relatively new band who played a varied repertoire including the Shostakovich Jazz Waltz and Wagner’s Under the Double Eagles. The adjudicators commented that many bands offered more classical music pieces rather than contemporary music.
Lancaster followed the trend of classical music, giving a performance of Resurrection from Mahler’s second symphony which was met with varying degrees of success.
The winners of the first ever UniBrass Title were the Brass United, consisting of players from the Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester University. Their programme included Paganini Variations, which is renowned as a difficult piece to play, and their performance also earned them the award for Most Entertaining Performance.
Brass united also featured among their number euphonium soloist Matt White, who was last year’s winner of BBC Radio 2’s Young Brass Soloist of the year. He gave a performance of Bravura which earned him the Best Soloist prize.
Overall second place went to Huddersfield University, who had been second favourites with a programme which deviated from the classical repertoire Fernie and Evans had noticed, including an entertaining performance of Bohemian Rhapsody.
The University of Birmingham won the award for Best March for their performance of Susa’s Liberty Bell March. They came fourth overall.
Lancaster came seventh out of the 12 bands who were present, beating Cambridge University and historic rivals University of York, who came twelfth. The adjudicators noted that York were let down by the entertainment side of their performance. Though Lancaster said that they are pleased with where they came, they have already begun to look towards next year’s contest. They believe they can do even better next year, and hope to enter with a band featuring many new members to ensure that they come at least within the top five.
The other bands entered were as follows- Cardiff University, who came third; Oxford University, who were one ahead of Lancaster in sixth; Edinburgh University in eighth place; Cambridge University in ninth; Southampton University in tenth and Bangor University in eleventh place.
The success of this year’s competition has already spurred more universities to express an interest in entering their bands for next year’s competition. Once again it will be hosted by Lancaster University, and will be once again be supported by the British Federation of Brass Bands and the Arts Council, who were orchestral in this year’s contest.