The Voice of Brass in Concert -25 year Award

The Brass in Concert Championship has had the pleasure of engaging two outstanding comperes. The ‘one-off’ contest in 1977 brought John Dunn to the Beehive Ballroom, Darlington, where his first words were to welcome the audience, to thank the sponsors and to confirm that the first band on stage was Morris Motors. Little did John know that, ten hours later, plans were being made in response to the bands and audience asking for more and that his impact on the day had been outstanding. John’s voice was well known to millions through his programmes on BBC Radio 2, he was three times Radio Personality of the Year and picked up several media awards for his contribution to radio. One of the features with which he was associated was The Mystery Voice and he was to provide the link from Radio 2 to Terry Wogan on TV as Children in Need was introduced to the screen.
In 1992, and with the audience having appreciated John’s wide knowledge of music-making in the classics, opera, brass bands, pop and jazz, and his organisation of competitions, John retired from his front line duty on the microphone having said that “with all the pieces of paper he had collected over the years with limericks, quotations and jokes scribbled on them, he could lay a paper trail from Darlington to Timbuktu and still have some left in the bottom of the sack.”
For one year, Beverley Humphreys undertook the role at Spennymoor Leisure Centre, and she was followed by Frank Renton. Frank’s love for brass had begun at the early age of seven, when he played his first notes on the trumpet. Seven years later, he became the youngest cornet player to join Black Dyke Mills Band. An outstanding career followed, initially as a trumpet player with the Band of the Royal Horse Guards in London. Within ten years, Frank was travelling the world as a conductor in his own right with a variety of Army bands and ensembles. In 1985, he was appointed Director of the Royal Artillery Orchestra and Band and, in 1988, promoted to Director of Music for the Army and Director of the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall. He relinquished these roles in 1992 to become a freelance conductor and presenter, a highly successful career path which continues to the present day.
Frank was no stranger to Brass in Concert, having conducted Grimethorpe Colliery in 1978 and CWS (Manchester) in 1981 at the Beehive Ballroom, his last appearance with the baton being in November 1993. It was Sir Malcolm Sargent who once said (and he may have said it more than once) that music is not just for musicians, “It is for entertainment.” Our compére is both musician and entertainer, as well as an excellent conversationalist, not only using the microphone in Sage One to great effect, but through interviews with conductors and soloists at the conclusion of their performance as preparations are made for the Highlights of the Brass in Concert DVD. His tongue is swift, his research and preparation precise and his contribution and suggestions to develop the values and quality of the Festival are always appropriate. Behind the scenes his regular routines are meticulous, as is his dressing room layout, while the vibrant colours of his ties never fail to impress. His rapport with the stage crew and communication with the conductors as they assemble for their entry to the stage also puts everyone involved at ease – a working partnership of enjoyment for all parties. Frank has made many friendships over his years and been pleased to see the actions taken by the Brass in Concert team to provide access and opportunities for young people to perform centre-stage. He has been at the heart of BBC Radio 2’s Young Brass Awards and for three decades played an integral role in the presentation of the TV Times Christmas with the Stars event at the Royal Albert Hall, raising significant sums for the charity Bloodwise. Frank’s work in music has been recognised in a number of awards, he is a Freeman of the City of London, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, a recipient of The Iles Medal for services to brass bands in 2011 and, in 2016, was made an Honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of West London.
The entire Brass in Concert team thank Frank for his outstanding 25 years at the event and look forward to his presence in the years ahead!

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