2020 is 75th Anniversary of current "Nationals"

2020 will mark a major milestone for the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, as it signifies the 75th Anniversary of the "Nationals" in its current form.

In 1900, the father of the ‘Nationals’, John Henry Iles, established what is now called the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain at London’s Crystal Palace. He later faced the challenge of restoring the Championships after World War I, but was thwarted in 1936 when the event’s venue, Crystal Palace, burned to the ground and again, three years later, by the outbreak of World War II. By 1945, Odhams Press Group had acquired the event and The Daily Herald newspaper, part of Odhams, sponsored it. Iles continued as the figurehead and it is to his eternal credit that he saved the legacy of this most important event following the nation’s darkest years.

Thankfully, nothing has halted the Championships since 1945 and it is astonishing to contemplate that the series now involves nearly all the competing bands in Scotland, Wales and England, as well as a host of stalwart volunteers. We would, therefore, like to say a huge “Thank You” to the volunteers of the seven Regional Committees and the Scottish Brass Band Association, which organise the qualifying competitions for the Finals, as well as to the commercial supporters of the two ‘National’ Finals events: Brass Band World monthly international magazine, Denis Wick Products, and EV-ENTZ music retailer, percussion hire and stage management company.

Yet more exceptional volunteers make up the Kapitol Promotions Music Panel that picks the test-pieces for both the Regional Championships and National Finals contests, and this year’s ‘Regionals’ see another fine selection of their choices. Philip Sparke’s A Tale as Yet Untold is testing the Championship Section. Sections 1-4 have been set four new pieces specially commissioned by the Music Panel for the 2020 Regional Championships, as follows: Section 1 – Legacy by Tom Davoren; Section 2 – The Golden Sabre - Tales of the Hussar-Poet, Denis Davydov by Kit Turnbull; Section 3 – Endurance by Andrew Baker; and Section 4  – Neverland by Christopher Bond.

As bands invest hard work and expense in competing for places in the Finals, it’s worth remembering that playing on the Royal Albert Hall stage is still the ultimate goal in this ‘first-past-the-post’ competition series – the largest of its kind in the world. Stories of Black Dyke Mills Band’s 1959 win featuring Geoffrey Whitham’s euphonium playing in Le Roi d’Ys, along with the 1985 win on Cloudcatcher Fells by Black Dyke Mills and Major Peter Parkes, and Grimethorpe Colliery’s historical 1992 win four days after the announcement of pit closures, when the whole world watched, are still recounted with passion and reverence. Such is the significance that the Championships continue to represent for British brass banding.

We are hoping to celebrate our anniversary at these two Finals events, but in the meantime please come along to your local Regional Championships event and be part of the largest and most prestigious brass band contest in the world!