The Australian National Championships are only a handful of weeks away, so I am preparing some preview and prediction articles for each open brass event of the weekend. First up are the Open D Grade Brass, which will see 9 competitors contend for the National title. While it may be the smallest of the Open Grade competitions, it may well be the most competitive with many bands looking viable to take out the title!
Test Piece - 'An English Pastorale' by Dean Jones
What a fantastic piece of music this test will be for the D Grade! Set as the 2015 UK Regionals test piece for the 4th section, I think this piece poses all the challenges of a good D Grade test piece, whilst maintaining musicality. Transporting us across the seasons, I think all 9 of the competing bands will be able to turn the work into an exciting piece of music, and will hopefully enjoy playing it along the way. 'An English Pastorale' was set as the West Australian D Grade test in 2016, but as no Western Australian contenders are venturing to Melbourne, it will be an even playing field across the bands as they attempt the work for the first time.
To succeed, bands will want to ensure that rhythmic unity and tuning are strong, while also maintaining balance across the ensemble. The piece employs plenty of sustained accompaniment passages, and top bands will need to ensure that their sound is maintained for the full duration, especially in the 3rd movement.
With 8 of 9 bands receiving a home state advantage, Far Northern Brass from Queensland will be the underdogs of the competition. Having only competed at a State level previously when they placed 3rd in the 2015 State Championships, it is hard to gauge what standard Far Northern Brass will bring with them to Melbourne.
From metropolitan Melbourne are Hyde Street Youth Band and Whitehorse Brass. Hyde Street, Footscray Yarraville’s younger sibling band, perhaps do the most performing all weekend, competing in both the Open D Grade and the Junior B Grade. With many of their young players growing older, I expect their principal seats will be sounding more impressive than ever. Whitehorse will be competing just a few minutes from their band hall, and with newly appointed Kew Band Musical Director Broden Ford at the helm, I expect them to be a well-led and confident ensemble.
Croydon Brass Band are the reigning National D Grade champions, after winning all the on stage performances bar the Stage March. Victory again in 2018 will see them promoted to a very healthy C Grade competition in 2019. But challenging them will be both Ararat and Creswick, who placed 1st and 2nd respectively over 3rd place Croydon at the Victorian State Championships in 2017. Ararat have had a tremendous upheaval since the appointment of Wally Pope as their Musical Director. Ararat last competed at a National level in 2016, where they won. A victory at the Victorian State Championships in 2017, plus a formidable 2nd place in C Grade at Mount Gambier puts them in good stead for success at this year’s Nationals.
Creswick will also be a good challenge for the D Grade competition, after some consistent top 3 finishes at the Victorian State Championships over the last 6 years. However, the band has not competed on the National stage since 2007, so may be challenged by the different format of the competition. Also without much National experience are Daylesford Community, Eaglehawk and Portland Band, but may be dark horses in the mix.
With that all in mind, here are my predicted top 3 bands:
1) Ararat City
Wild Cards: Whitehorse Brass, Far Northern Brass, Daylesford Community.
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Jared loves to share his passion for music and artists through music reviews and commentaries. These include a selection of reviews written for community radio stations 3MBS and Radio Monash.