Published on October 20th, 2019 by gavin

Spring Festival 2020 Test Pieces Revealed

The organisers of the British Open Championship are pleased to announce the test-pieces for the Spring Festival to be held at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens on Saturday 9th May .

2020 sees the 100th Spring Festival event – a landmark in the history of one of the oldest and most popular annual contests in the brass band calendar.

To celebrate the Centenary and to recognise the contribution of some of the most influential figures who have played their part in the event’s history, three works with special relevance to the ‘retro ‘ musical theme will be performed which we hope the competing bands and audience will enjoy.

Grand Shield:
‘Dynasty’ – Symphonic Poem for Brass Band (Peter Graham) – – available to purchase here

A joint commission for the 2019 British Open and Belgium Championships, Peter Graham pays homage to the iconic figure of Harry Mortimer through a series of linked narrative passages using his autobiography as a musical point of reference .

Premièred to widespread acclaim at Symphony Hall in September, the work will make its European contest première at the Belgian National Championships, with the score available to purchase from retailers from Monday 2nd December.

Senior Cup:
‘Freedom’ (Hubert Bath) – available to purchase here

Written for the National Championship of Great Britain in 1922, Bath entitled the work as ‘Brass Band Symphony No. 1’ to reflect its condensed symphonic structure – a first for a test-piece written for the movement.

Although technically neither symphonic in nature or reflective of the composer’s evocative later inferences about joy, love and freedom of nature, it remains a hugely inventive piece of writing, redolent of its time, but still an imposing test of modern day skill sets.

Its opening movement is marked by florid passages of writing, balanced by a central ‘Interlude’ of beguiling beauty. The ‘Scherzo-Finale’ is an animated jest, light and precise before it broadens into a rich, fulfilling conclusion.

The work has tested the very best bands across the world ever since (including the 1987 British Open) and has been chosen as a tribute to James Scott, now aged 94, who led Brighouse and Rastrick Band to victory on ‘Freedom’ at the 1973 National Championships.

One of the most respected figures in the banding movement, as well as being regarded as a ‘true gentleman’ Jim’s contribution and success as a player, condu ctor and adjudicator have provided a beneficial influence to British Banding for many years.

Senior Trophy:
‘Life Divine’ (Cyril Jenkins) – available to purchase here

Written for the 1921 National Championships, ‘Life Divine’ was notable not only for its musicality, but also for

the severity of its technical challenges – still as testing today as they were almost a century ago.

It was to become Harry Mortimer’s favourite test-piece, although he was never as pompous in his thinking as that of the then editor of British Bandsman Herbert Whitely, who felt the original title, ‘A Comedy of Errors’ to be inappropriate given its use at Crystal Palace.

Jenkins later amended his preface to suggest that his tone poem reflected, ‘certain phases of Life (that) are common to most if not all men’ – the work expressing dignity and seriousness to vigorous optimism, elements of stress and the ennoblement of true love.

Whatever his thoughts, ‘Life Divine’ become a central foundation stone of the test-piece repertoire – its detailed thematic working and florid technical challenges balanced by lyrical interludes and contrapuntal interest, setting the standard for a generation of test-pieces that followed – including many modern programmatic test piece works.

Publication details:

The interest from bands wishing to gain entry to the British Open qualifying contests remains as popular as ever, with the highest placed band (not already invited) in the Championship Section at the Brass at the Wire, Bolsover Festival of Brass, Wychavon Festival of Brass, Welsh Open and the Fife Charities contests earning an invitation to compete in the Senior Trophy.

Details of the start times, prizes, adjudicators and venues for each of the Spring Festival contests, as well as ticket information, will be announced in due course.

The competing bands are also reminded that the contest falls on the May Day holiday weekend next year. In August, the UK Government announced that the traditional May Day holiday which was Monday 4th May will be changed to Friday 8th May in 2020 to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

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