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  • Alyssa Gibbons

University of Warwick Wind Orchestra Wins Gold in National Concert Band Festival

The University of Warwick Wind Orchestra is delighted to announce that the group was awarded a Gold Award in the Community Wind Band category at the East Midlands Regional Round of the National Concert Band Festival (NCBF).

The win comes after coronavirus-induced restrictions severely limited the group’s activities last academic year. We didn’t get the chance to take part in the Festival last year, so attending the festival this year was particularly special, for both returning students and new joiners to the group. The group was conducted this year by Tom Stoneman, who worked with the orchestra to bring Bernstein’s Overture to Candide and Whitacre’s October to life.

The NCBF is a national competition made up of regional rounds that culminate in a national festival, this year hosted at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. In the regional rounds, bands enter into different categories dependent on ability level, age and instruments featured. The Wind Orchestra, as an unauditioned wind band, entered into the Community Wind Band category.

Those groups that are particularly successful in their regional performances are invited to perform again in the national festival, aiming to improve on their regional performance, getting the opportunity to hear bands from around the country.

While other competitions see groups compete against one another in their categories, the NCBF is unique, in that groups are marked against criteria that determine whether they are awarded a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum Award. “Judges are waiting to hear what the orchestra is capable of.” Tom said. At NCBF, “Playing entertaining music to the highest standard possible for the Wind Orchestra should be the aim.” conveying passion for music through the performance is also key - “you can’t fake enthusiasm!” he added.

This creates a friendly music-making environment prioritising progression. It’s a unique experience - “NCBF is special,” Wind Orchestra Vice President Martin Hill said. “compared to other performances, it is much more about challenging the orchestra and focusing on our playing.” Groups also receive verbal feedback via CD, featuring a member of the judging team talking over the performance in real time. This kind of feedback is invaluable: Martin says that it’s “really useful to carry forwards into future performances.”

The NCBF Gold presents only a small window into what the Wind Orchestra gets up to throughout the year. In term 1 alone, the Orchestra featured alongside other Music Centre societies in the Free Concert, collaborated with the Brass Society for a concert in week 7, and featured in the week 10 Carol Service hosted by the Christian Union. “One of the best things about Wind Orch is the number and range of opportunities.” Martin said. “There are also 4 small bands and the opportunity to conduct.” They’re also “one of few societies to offer students the chance to conduct, a particularly rare opportunity for amateur musicians.” The University of Warwick Wind Orchestra’s executive committee seeks to create an inclusive and fun music making environment through the opportunities that they provide.

The Award is welcome testament to the hard work of the society’ members and exec team over recent months, who have had to juggle the uncertainty prompted by COVID-19 with rehearsing and preparation for the competition. We would like to thank the Music Centre for their continued support, and look forward to the performances that are planned in term 2 and beyond.

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