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Issue 6119

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FOUNTAIN OF KNOWLEDGE - Brett Baker meets American music dynamo, Lee Harrelson

European Brass Band Championships - Challenge Section

Saturday 29 April, 2017

Challenge Section Results

Test-piece: Insomina (Bart Picqeur)

Adjudicators: Torgny Hanson (Sweden), Jan Van der Roost (Belgium) and Roger Webster (England)

1. Italian Brass Band (Filippo Cangiamila) 92
2. 1st Old Boys (Stephen Cairns) 91
3. Brass Band Regensburg (Christine Hartmann) 89
4. Brass Band Panta Rhei (Tim de Maesener) 88
5. Coalburn Silver (Gareth Bowman) 85*
6. Sunday Brass (Tadas Sileika) 83*

Best Soloist: Paulo Masi, trombone, Italian Brass Band
*denotes points deducted for exceeding allowed time



1. Brass Band Regensburg (Christine Hartmann) Germany

2. Coalburn Silver (Gareth Bowman) Scotland

3. Sunday Brass (Tadas Sileika) Lithuania

4. 1st Old Boys (Stephen Cairns) Northern Ireland

5. Italian Brass Band (Filippo Cangiamila) Italy

6. Brass Band Panta Rhei (Tim de Maeseneer) Belgium


In the BB Frame

1. Italian Brass Band (Filippo Cangiamila) Italy

2. Brass Band Panta Rhei (Tim de Maeseneer) Belgium

3. 1st Old Boys (Stephen Cairns) Northern Ireland

4. Sunday Brass (Tadas Sileika) Lithuania

5. Brass Band Regensburg (Christine Hartmann) Germany

6. Coalburn Silver (Gareth Bowman) Scotland




An enjoyable morning’s contesting that has seen all of the bands bring something to the EBBC table. We think it is close between Italian Brass Band and Brass Band Panta Rhei (although we are unconvinced that any leading banding nations should be in this section in the first place). Great contributions from 1st Old Boys and the ‘1st New Boys’ from Lithuania could also be rewarded, but we’ll find out what the real judges think around 10pm tonight. 


6. Brass Band Panta Rhei (Tim de Maeseneer) Belgium

Quite a robust style in comparison to others, but we liked the amplified whispers. Full sounds are big and well balanced, and the ensemble is tight and driven, although some of the solo lines are less flamboyant than we’ve heard. We loved the style of this one. Just a pity about the lost lines at the end, but it was still excellent overall.

The Bandsman’s Challenge (Bertrand Moren)

Doors open as the audience floods in ahead of the Championship Own-Choice and they take a good five minutes to settle down. The band is unperturbed though and takes us on an enjoyable journey through this old favourite ‘B’ Section test. 


5. Italian Brass Band (Filippo Cangiamila) Italy

Security of sound and technique right through the opening, then we hear a perfectly balanced brass and percussion ensemble (the percussion section is a match for any we heard last night!). Virtuosic playing around the band (trombone and flugel!) in the allegro and we’re exposed to sounds previously unheard (what a wonderful bass trombone!). Projected whispers probably the most effective idea yet. Some notable intonation issues at the top end and some rather ‘safe’ dynamics to close, but those aside this was on a different level.

Prisms (Peter Graham)

Seismologists report a minor earthquake on the Belgian coast as the bass end opens this popular and underplayed work. Not everything is entirely clean in the following animated section though. Fantastic horn cadenza and the tuba is equally stylish. Euphonium and cornet deliver with ease but there may be scope for more expression in the romantic section. Really went for it in the final movement and it only came untangled very slightly.

A band with many fantastic aspects that must have an eye on the Championship Section in the next few years.


4. 1st Old Boys (Stephen Cairns) Northern Ireland

Colourful sound in the opening and we like the approach to the spoken section with a group out in front. Laid-back style appeals too, and the full band sound is the best we’ve heard. Another fantastic trombone solo and the flugel horn follows with aplomb. One or two slips at the top end of the band but these were minor in context. We can just pick up a nice Irish ‘twang’ as the speech returns and the closing bars capture the reflective style perfectly.

Blackout (Thomas Doss)

Standard raised a bit here by the Northern Irish contender. Characteristic Doss, packed with rhythm and big dynamic contrasts, while the central blues section, with the occasional descent into musical chaos, works a treat.

An excellent performance from 1st Old Boys to raise this morning’s bar on this challenging ‘greatest hits’ from the Austrian composer.


3. Sunday Brass (Tadas Sileika) Lithuania

Opens with A Day in the Life of a Knight (Philip Lawrence), which is full of verve to open. One or two insecure moments when soloists are exposed but there is also a lot of class on show. The approach is more symphonic than ‘traditionally British’ but good playing is good playing, regardless of the style. Excellent ensemble in swashbuckling sections, with no shortage of energy, all driven with vigour by the excellent conductor.

Insomnia opens with purpose and the ostinato is all played with space and apparent ease. Words are spoken gently and the surrounding music flows along in sympathy, although it does feel under tempo. Allegretto scherzando takes a few bars to settle into rhythm but it is light on its feet, just perhaps lacking in the dynamic impact in the score. Reflective ending is perfect. Some fantastic individual playing at times (we loved the flugel) and the band will have good reason to be very proud of its debut contest performance. 



2. Coalburn Silver (Gareth Bowman) Scotland

A lighter sound to open but other than some intonation issues and minor insecurity it rolls along nicely through the first section. We like the whispered approach to the written text although we noted the misreading in tranquillo. Great work from the trombone but not everything else goes to plan through to the andante, with some noticeable individual errors. More intonation problems towards the end and there is a tiredness and imbalance in the overall band sound as it reaches the climax. A good effort overall, but perhaps lacking too much in overall security of sound and ensemble to make an impact.

Land of the Long White Cloud (Philip Sparke)

A bit more bold to open, but again it is insecure when soloists are exposed. There’s more confidence about it in the animated section and fine solo work from soprano and cornet add a lot of value. Some loose ensemble in the reprise but it stays together to the end of a committed performance.



1. Brass Band Regensburg (Christine Hartmann) Germany

Opening section of the test-piece goes by the score and has a feeling of calm and reflection, with spoken section creating an ‘interesting’ effect. Chaos descends within the musical frame but, like a few of last night’s Championship Section bands it is hard work for the band in this testing acoustic. Virtuoso trombone and (especially) flugel horn playing are only minor examples of the band’s quality. All very well drilled, if perhaps a bit self-contained overall. Just some slight insecurity in the quiet ending, but a well-assembled performance overall.

Fire in the Blood (Paul Lovatt-Cooper)

Nice opening, but again it feels underpowered overall and short of dynamic contrast. A slight touch of anxiety in the slow movement but it all holds together and we hear a well-measured climax. Band sounds more relaxed in the final stretch and ends its well-delivered programme in style.