By all accounts there is a little bit of Viking heritage in just about everyone in the UK. And it seems, in the good banding folk of Uppermill in particular.
That's one way to look at an explanation after the contest runes were read out at the end of a cracking Third Section Final and Dean Redfearn's banding horde were declared the worthiest of champions. They could have made the final part of their triumphant trip home on Sunday evening up the River Tame in a Longboat.
According to adjudicator Paul Holland (joined by Philip Harper and Melvin White), they were the "clear, clear winner"after giving a vivid performance of Thierry Deleruyelle's imaginative 'Viking Age' test-piece that "had a magic quality". The central Heritage section in particular had been "quite sublime".
And where some bands had been overtly "aggressive"in their dynamic contrasts and others "maverick"in their musical approach to the instructions of the score, he added that Uppermill had simply been "the most musical".
What made their victory more impressive was that Paul stated that there had not been "one bad performance"throughout the day as every MD tried to elicit a sense of musical character in their performances. The "excellent"second placed Taff Vale from Wales had just lacked the "extra finesse of the winner".
Third placed Poole Borough was "close"he said, whilst a group of five or six bands, led by top-six finishers Gosport Solent, Kippax and Chichester City, "were not far behind that".
Rich in praise
Uppermill's written remarks supported the experienced trio's findings; rich in praise for both the approach and execution.
Philip Harper simply called it "an excellent performance", whilst Melvin White added that it had "so much character and quality playing."Paul said it had been "A pleasure to listen", and that he "Loved this."
It wouldn't have come as a surprise if King Harald V of Norway sent a congratulatory e-mail as soon as the result was posted on 4BR.
"We're thrilled,"conductor Dean Redfearn later told 4BR. "This is such a hard working band and this win is a fantastic way to celebrate our 40th anniversary this year. All the credit goes to the players and supporters. I get nothing but total commitment and enthusiasm. I'm proud of each and every one of them."
That feeling of pride was certainly shown by Band Secretary Katie Woodward, who just about held back the tears as she received the National Trophy before being mobbed by her fellow players — including her husband and grandmother who played percussion with her on the day.
"It's a family band and the win means so much to my grandparents who founded the band in 1979. I used to carry the Whit Friday board for them when I was just 4 years of age so to be on stage with them with the National Trophy is a memory I will always cherish".
Katie added: "We only had time for a couple of photos before we headed home and then we were so tired we only had a drink and then went to bed. We'll make up for it though this weekend when we all get together."
The contest battle was a cracker; right from the first performance on the stroke of 9.30am which saw Poole Borough set an imposing marker under the baton of Lloyd Bartlett, one that was packed with rhythmic pulse and evocative drama and closed with a touch of muscular brio.
If that was good then it soon got even better with the ultimate top two going head to head.
Taff Vale played with a fat, robust sound that had a distinct stamp of balanced quality which vividly brought MD Gareth Ritter's engaging interpretation to life.
The colour and texture of the playing was first class, topped by the excellent contribution of 'Best Instrumentalist' award winner, Duncan Broadley on principal cornet.
Their grasp on the National Trophy didn't last long though, as Uppermill upped the ante with a performance full of musicality and that extra degree of 'finesse' that judges so appreciated.
It was also one that drew out the dark menace and drama of expectation in the opening and the brio of adventure and visceral quality of the Raid before heading to a triumphant close with a confidence that seeped through the music right to the last note.
Despite some fine efforts from those that followed, they were never in danger of losing their hold on the title.
The remaining top-six places went to close-batch trio of Gosport Solent, Kippax and Chichester City — with all three MDs in Colin Garner, Stephen Tighe and Rom Stanko emphasising a lyrical sense of musicality in their interpretations that spoke of the more artistic merits of the Viking explorers rather than the stereotypical image of misplaced history.
That was good to hear on the day, as it would have been an easy cop-out for bands to simply try and emphasis the more visceral elements of the music at the expense of the more reflective moment that were clearly marked in the score.
The quality of the percussion playing (with some bands even taking to the stage with just one player) was very good indeed, adding colour as well as effect to the performances.
Scathing or honest
Before the announcement of the results Paul Holland said that he hoped that bands that didn't feature in the prizes didn't think the judges' remarks were "scathing". He felt they were "honest"in their appraisals of host of performances that had "little slips and errors"that saw the trio "juggle"their comparative strengths and weakness.
"All had quality"he added, although he was clear that better intonation could have seen some bands move up the results table "by five or six places".
With Stamford Brass and Raunds Temperance tickling the fancy of many with their distinctive approaches marred for the judges by noticeable little errors and blemishes, Paul's remarks seemed to be targeted at the midfield finishers of Bearpark & Esh in tenth to Irvine & Dreghorn in eighteenth.
Each of Trimdon Concert, Wetherby Silver, Epping Forest, Perthshire Brass, Usk and South Molton Town had extended sections when the musical character of the score leapt off the page, but it seems that well defined musical imagery created by the MDs came at the expense of inconsistent levels of intonation.
Whether or not the authentic Vikings worried too much about issues of intonation is a point lost in the mists of times, but the judges certainly did. It will be something some well led bands can work on for their next outing.
For Uppermill, the 2019 Third Section Champion Band of Great Britain, their next outing will be a night of celebrations later this week in a local pub.
Any Vikings in the area will be made most welcome.
I used to carry the Whit Friday board for them when I was just 4 years of age so to be on stage with them with the National Trophy is a memory I will always cherishBand Secretary, Katie Woodward
Test Piece: Viking Age (Thierry Deleruyelle)
Adjudicators: Philip Harper, Paul Holland, Melvin White
1. Uppermill (Dean Redfern)
2. Taff Vale (Gareth Ritter)
3. Poole Borough (Lloyd Bartlett)
4. Gosport Solent (Colin Garner)
5. Kippax (Stephen Tighe)
6. Chichester City (Rom Stanko)
7. Stamford (Julian Bright)
8. Raunds Temperance (Jonathan Pippen)
9. Hawk Green (Marple) (Neil Hewson)
10. Bearpark & Esh Colliery (Phillip Tait)
11. Trimdon Concert (William Harrison)
12. Wetherby Silver (Derek Warley)
13. Epping Forest (Keith Schroeter)
14. Perthshire Brass (George Annan)
15. Usk (James Jones)
16. Valley Brass (Haydock) (David Chadwick)
17. South Molton Town (Gil Taylor)
18. Irvine & Dreghorn (Lewis Bettles)
Best Instrumentalist: Duncan Broadley (cornet) — Taff Vale