Cadets in fine tune at national championships

A ROYTON band was named the third best in the country – but its bandmaster is not down-hearted as it picks from a much smaller area than its competitors.

And Kate Hamilton has praised the 17 youths from the 1855 (Royton) Squadron ATC Marching Band who travelled more than 200 miles and stayed overnight to take part in the national final of the ATC National Marching Band Championships.

For it was just like having 17 kids!

And she has promised to go on to bigger and better things, with a win the aim for 2019.

Young people aged between 13 and 19 headed to RAF Honington in Suffolk to take on five rivals – not bad considering none of the band’s members can read music.

“It’s incredible really,” said the 25-year-old bandmaster.

“About 1,000 bands enter to compete but we were lucky enough to win and then win the regional competition.

“We were competing against bands with a lot more money and were one of only two squadron bands to make it – the rest were all regional bands which can pick the best musicians from an area and put them together.

“All we have to pick from is Royton – and yes, the kids did behave themselves even though it was a five or six hour journey there and back. They’re cadets and they want to do it, they’re not being forced to.

“I’m only 25 but it can feel like I’ve got 17 kids, 16 of whom play instruments and one who is the drum major, who leads them around the arena.”

Having already won competitions for Greater Manchester and the north, the Royton band faced other regional winners at RAF Honington.

The band squeezed ‘six or seven’ songs into its set as it took on the cream of the country and was judged on several different factors, including musicality, performance and entertainment.

Among its tunes were It’s A Long Way To Tipperary, which tied in with the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

And the process of learning the tunes is far longer than the polished performances it produces, and some of the sacrifices of its members are a lot bigger.

“It can take years to learn to read music properly,” added Kate, who teaches the tunes by finger positions on the instruments.

“We simply would not be able to do it in time and we get kids who don’t play an instrument or read music, so we have to find a different way for them to play the tunes.

“It takes six months to start to play one properly.

“And one of our members comes from Droylsden. She gets to Royton by taking three buses.

“I’ve said to her a number of times, ‘I’ll give you a lift,’ and she’s always like, ‘You’re OK, I’ll get the bus!’”

This year’s third place was actually the second in a row for Royton in the competition but do not think it is resting on its laurels.

For Kate and the cadets, there is only one aim – winning it.

She said: “We’re going to mix it up a little bit now. Maybe stick a couple of different tunes in and try and make something really special.

“We’re going for it 100 per cent.”

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