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NABBC Conductors Competition 2016

One of the mainstays of the Association is to nurture conducting talent. With that in mind the annual convention this year has been dedicated to a conducting competition which took place on Sunday 16 June, with twelve high class competitors taking part.

The day commenced at 9am with draws for the order of conducting and selection of works in the first round of the competition:- Essay Edward Gregson; Tallis Variations Philip Sparke; Traversada Oliver Waespi.  The competitors were then given time to prepare whilst the association's AGM was held.

First Round

Brendan Breslin in actionThe first round commenced at 11am with Eccles Borough Band in attendance and each competitor being allowed fourteen minutes to rehearse their respective work. This was under the watchful eye of two eminent musicians, namely Russell Gray, who is President of the Association and Paul Hoskins, Musical Director of the Rambert Ballet Company.

Competitors Selected

Six competitors from the original twelve were selected to go forward to the second round of the competition. Further draws were made for conducting and selection of six different works:- Serenade Derek Bourgeois; Sunrise over Blue Ridge Dan Price; Witch of the Westmerlands Philip Harper; Mac and Mabel Keith Wilkinson; Presto from Norwegian Rhapsody Keith Wilkinson and The Incredibles Philip Harper. Time was again given to the competitors to prepare before their fourteen minutes rehearsal of the Eccles Borough Band of their chosen piece.

The evening concert commenced at 7.30pm with the six competitors being required to compère and conduct their work. The second half was a gala concert given by the band, who had worked tirelessly through the day, conducted by Mareika Gray.


The announcement of the results followed.

Mark Edwards 3rd place presentation - 2016

Third prize to Mark Edwards who received an engraved plaque.  Mark is a conductor and a percussionist currently working in Newcastle Upon Tyne. His musical background is in orchestral music and has worked with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, London Sinfonietta and St Michael Strings (Finland) and timpani with the Reg Vardy Band.

Rob Richardson 2nd place presentation - 2016

The second prize was awarded to Rob Richardson who also received an engraved plaque and an invitation to conduct Eccles Borough Band at one of its concerts. Rob currently plays first baritone with the Fairey Band. He has previously played for Foden's, Black Dyke, YBS (Yorkshire Building Society) and Grimethorpe. He is a teacher of music and works in Crosby, north of Liverpool.

Brendan Breslin winner with Paul Hoskins left  Russell Gray right the two judges - 2016

The first prize was awarded to Brendan Breslin. He received the Dr. Roy Newsome Conductors Shield, an engraved plaque, invitations from Reg Vardy Band, Fodens Band, Whitburn Band and the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band to guest conduct in one of their concerts during the 2016 / 17 season.

Prize Fund

A cheque for £200 was presented on behalf of Mrs Muriel Newsome, which she wished to be known as the Dr. Roy Newsome prize.  A further cheque for £400 was presented on behalf of regional committees of the National Brass Band Championships. Each of the committees from Yorkshire, North West, Northern and Scotland had each given £100.

Brendan Breslin

Brendan Breslin winner presentation - 2016 

Brendan is a native of Sion Mills in Northern Ireland and is currently working in Dublin. He is a member of the Irish Police Band, playing BBb tuba and percussion and is a regular conductor of the Dublin Symphony Orchestra and the Ardee Concert Band. Along with this playing and conducting he is also a composer and arranger. The RTE Concert orchestra, Roberts Bakery Band and the Cory Band are just some of the groups that have recorded his works.

I was delighted to gain a place on the competitor list for the NABBC Conducting Competition. Whilst my musical life started in brass bands, it has been some time since I have engaged with the genre as conductor.  I owe so much to my brass upbringing so this had a real sense of homecoming for me.

Having arrived early on the morning of Sunday 19th of June to Elland off an early flight from Dublin, there was a warm welcome which signalled the general flavour for the rest of the day. The field of participating conductors presented a varied, friendly and talented group individuals. The morning draw, the general competitor conversation and distant sounds of brass and percussion all served to add its own unique blend of tension and excitement to a great day of music.

Despite not personally feeling content with my first round participation, I was delighted to hear constructive and informative feedback from Paul (Hoskins) and Russell (Gray). A sense of relief having placed in the final six lead to my general intent of simply relishing the opportunity of working with the wonderful Eccles Borough Band again. I was absolutely overwhelmed and elated when announced as the overall winner, a great honour which I cannot thank the NABBC enough for. Not only has this competition created the opportunity to take part in a well organised and constructive event, it also affords winners like myself the exciting prospect of conducting the Reg Vardy Band, Fodens Band, Whitburn Band and the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band in one of their concerts during the 2016 / 17 season. A dream come true for any conductor.

Brendan Breslin

This was a very successful day for the NABBC and was an ideal event to mark its 70th anniversary. It is hoped that following the success of this event that further conducting competitions will be held in future years.               

Photographs Courtesy of John Fricker

Sydney Swancott