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A Successful Day in Wales

20 Feb 2024

Wantage Band percussionist Joseph Cockburn reports on the band's appearance at the Welsh Open

Wantage Band has been busy preparing their set for the Welsh Open Brass Band Entertainment Championship over the past couple of weeks. Our twenty minute programme was based on the theme of friendship and relationships, exploring their seasonal nature and how they can develop over time.

Most of this programme was performed at Wychavon Festival of Brass before Christmas where the band achieved second place. Again, we played five pieces in our set, swapping the solo item to another, and with three of the items arranged by our brilliant Musical Director, Chris King.

Varied Programme

The programme commenced with the popular Beatles hit With A Little Help From My Friends which featured all of the different sections in our band, starting off with our Principal Trombone, Grace Hancock, alone on stage. She was quickly joined by many of ‘her friends’ and after just a minute, the whole band were in their seats. This piece neatly segued into the first of Chris’s three arrangements for the band - a funky version of J.S Bach’s famous Siciliano, from his flute sonata, written to feature our soloist for the programme, new Solo Baritone, Imogen Fewster.

Our next piece was an arrangement of Autumn from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons again put together by Chris, after which, using an innovative tuned percussion link, we led straight onto You Are The Sunshine Of My Life made famous by Stevie Wonder. Our version featured three trombones and three flugels which produced an amazing, mellow sound. Our final piece, and the showstopper, was Chris’s outstanding arrangement of the music to accompany the end sequence from the 1982 blockbuster, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. This gave our set a momentous and magical finish.

Preview Event

Contest week began with our Sunday night Wantage Band in Concert to replace the band’s normal rehearsal, in the Sykes Hall (the band hall extension) where we played out our programme in full for the first time, as well as a selection of other pieces, including our forthcoming regional test piece Variations on an Enigma ready for next month. We then proceeded to carry on with our week’s busy schedule, with rehearsals on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday as well as a short rehearsal on Saturday morning before we travelled to Newport for the contest itself.

Contest Day

We were drawn ninth out of fourteen bands. When the time came to register backstage, we in the percussion section worked to make sure that we had all our additional hand-held percussion and the equipment that was not provided by the contest organisers. We all got ready to go on stage and quickly set up before our band started to play.

Playing at contests is tough for all performers but it is particularly challenging for the percussion section as unlike the rest of the band we will not be playing on our own instruments for the most part, and we have very little time to familiarise ourselves with whatever the contest organisers provide for us. We came off stage after the performance feeling that we had done well and that nothing major went wrong - always a good feeling!


We then had the long wait for the results. It was unfortunate, that due to driver hours, we had to get on the coach just as the results were taking place. As we sat in the coach, making our way back to the motorway, we found out via the results live steam that Imogen had won the Best Soloist award and our soprano cornet player Brian Thomas had won the Best Soprano award!

The atmosphere on the coach after learning this was amazing but then we fell into silence as our contest secretary, Max Carter, received a call from the organisers. He stopped his conversation with them to say, ‘Can I tell the band?’ and then he proceeded to shout out to the coach that we had come second place overall in the contest! The coach was then rocking as the whole band bounced around in pure joy. Soon afterwards we received our score and the comments from adjudicator, Shoena White.

The best comment for me was most definitely:

"I’m just sitting listening now. Superb"

This was a brilliant result for the band, raising morale further and scoring us further points in the world rankings. Our minds are already turning to the SCABA Contest in less than two weeks with the L&SC Regionals just two weeks after that, where we hope to be equally successful. I’m quietly hoping that the band will qualify for the National Finals - the chance to play at the Royal Albert Hall with the band would be a dream come true!

Joseph Cockburn,

Wantage Band

Photo credit: 4BR

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