Brass bands, more so than any other type of amateur music-making group, have a history of competing against each other, and competitive music-making is a subject guaranteed to create controversy amongst musicians. Many of us in the Brass-Band movement believe that a small amount of competition is very healthy for a Band. It focuses the individual players on improving the standard of their playing and also on the team aspects of listening to and working with the other Band members.
Cold Ash Brass, formed in 2003, is still a very young Band in the scheme of things. Those of us who were there from the beginning always intended that we should enter this competitive world but not be dominated by it – the community aspects of the Band should always remain most important.
You need a full complement of players to enter a competition, so it took 5 years from the formation of the Band before we were ready to compete. Then in March 2008, we set off for Stevenage to play Rodney Newton’s Four Cities Symphony in the lowest section (fourth) of the National Brass Band Regional Championships, under the baton of Mike Clark.
On your first competitive outing in any discipline, it is unwise to expect too much, and we were certainly not prepared for a TOP THREE finish out of 24 bands. That result qualified us for the Fourth Section National Finals in Harrogate in September, where we acquitted ourselves well, although finishing in the lower part of the field.
March 2009 and 2010 saw us gain respectable results of 9th and 8th in the Fourth section, and because promotion from the sections is done on a three-year rolling average, these were sufficient to promote the Band to the Third section.
A mid-way placing of 9th followed by a couple of great years, placing 5th then 4th, saw us riding high in the Third, only to be shot down in 2014 by a totally unexpected 15th out of 16! As they say, that’s contesting!!
In 2015 we went back and proved a point about that miserable placing by finishing SECOND with Philip Sparke’s magnificent piece Evolution. That put us in the Finals again, this time in Cheltenham.
And with respectable, if not outstanding, scores of 9th (A Cambrian Suite) and 7th (Darkwood) in 2016 and 2017 the three-year aggregation of points rule gave us promotion to the SECOND SECTION.
So back to Stevenage next March under inspirational conductor Jemma Evans with our feet firmly planted half-way up the competitive ladder. And who knows what that will bring??