MY LIFE IN MUSIC - Exclusive interview with Paul Hindmarsh

Issue 6005

COMPOSERS' CORNER - Dr. Liz Lane discusses music notation programmes

REMEMBERING A LEGEND - British Bandsman pays tribute to William Broughton

The 42nd European Brass Band Championships - Championship Section Own Choice - LIVE!

Saturday 27 April, 2019

Andrew Wainwright reporting from Auditorium Stravinski, Montreux, Switzerland

Adjudicators: Jan van der Roost (Belgium), Thomas Ruedi (Switzerland) & Rieks van der Velde (The Netherlands)

Full Results

Rank - Band -Conductor - Country - Test Piece - Own Choice - Total

  1. 1. Cory Band - Philip Harper (Wales) 95/98=193

    2. Paris Brass Band - Florent Didier (France) 96/96=192

    3. Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musiklag - Ingar H. Bergby (Norway) 98/91=189

    4. Brass Band Bürgermusik Luzern - Michael Bachk (Switzerland) 91/97=188

    5. Brass Band Willebroek - Frans Violet (Belgium) 94/93=187

    6. Valaisia Brass Band (Defending Champion) - Arsène Duc (Switzerland) 92/94=186

    7. 3BA Concert Band - Luc Vertommen (Germany) 97/88=185

    8. Brass Band Oberösterreich - Ian Porthouse (Austria) 93/92=185

    9. Brighouse & Rastrick - Prof. David King (England) 89/95=184

    10. Provinciale Brass Band Groningen - Richard Visser (The Netherlands) 90/89=179

    11. Göta Brass Band - Michael Thomson (Sweden) 88/90=178

    12. Concord Brass Band - Jesper Juul Windahl (Denmark) 87/87=174

    13. Italian Brass Band - Filippo Cangiamila (Italy) 86/86=172

     
    Best Soloist - Glenn Van Looy (Euphonium - Valaisia Brass Band)

 

Draw

  1. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc)
  2. Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern (Michael Bach)
  3. 3BA Concert Band (Luc Vertommen)
  4. Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag (Ingar Bergby)
  5. Concord Brass Band (Jesper Juul Windahl)
  6. Brass Band Willebroek (Frans Violet)
  7. Italian Brass Band (Filippo Cangiamila)
  8. Provinciale Brass Band Groningen (Richard Visser)
  9. Gota Brass Band (Michael Thomson)
  10. Brass Band Oberosterreich (Ian Porthouse)
  11. Paris Brass Band (Florent Didier)
  12. Cory Band (Philip Harper)
  13. Brighouse & Rastrick (Prof. David King)

 

Overall Predictions

We really have heard some stunning playing over the last two days, and I wouldn't want to be in the adjudictors' position. A wide range of test pieces were chosen today, some that played to the band's strengths more than others. The standard each year seems to get higher and higher, and that trend has contineed this weekend. So to the predictions, and over the two days we are going to put our necks on the line and go for:

1. Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag

2. Cory

3. Valaisia Brass Band

4. Brighouse & Rastrick

5. Brass Band Willebroek

6. Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern

Dark Horse: 3BA Concert Band

 

13. Brighouse & Rastrick (Prof. David King)

Own Choice: A Brussels Requiem (Bert Appermont)


A nine-time winner at this contest, Prof. David King takes the stage hoping to win the Europeans with his third band here. The opening solo cornet is flawless and beautifully simple in its execution. One can feel the raw emotion, particularly given the poignant subject matter.
In the next section, the exuberant trombone solo has just the right amount of edge and there’s so much excitement being created here. The semi-quaver runs are blistering, before the chorale brings a tear to the eye. The bass pedals give so much depth to the sound. It has the stamp of Prof. King all over it.
The off-stage cornet duet just waivers a bit but recovers well. The trombone and tuba chorale is clean, even if intonation suffers slightly. There’s just a wistfulness about this. A couple of uncharacteristic slips just detracts from the overall impression, but the band recovers well in the following section, which is full of drive and purpose. Kyle Lawson stands for his technical solo which is delivered with aplomb. Prof. King drives the band to a mesmerising finish.


Overall: It was hard to imagine how anyone could follow Cory after their showing. However, this was a performance full of emotion from the Yorkshire band that really pulled at the heart strings. It wasn’t without blemishes which could cost in the overall reckoning, but in terms of what it made you feel as an audience member, it did more for me than any other performance of the day and is a fitting way to finish the own-choice Championship Section.

 

12.  Cory Band (Philip Harper)
Own Choice: Explorers on the Moon (Paul Raphael)

The second space-themed piece in a row, and for the second year running Cory are playing a new work from the pen of Paul Raphael (or could that possibly be a pseudonym?!), a sequel to last year’s Destination Moon. This work commemorates the 1969 anniversary of the moon landings.  
The back row cornets start off stage in the same way as they did to Destination Moon. Solo trombone, euphonium and cornet introduce the theme over muted sounds, and we hear some expansive sounds when the mutes are taken out. And what a huge sound when the whole band comes in for the first time, supported by a massive bass foundation.
Tom Hutchison excels on his solo, and there is so much detail and colour being drawn out of the score. There are few better than Philip Harper in painting a musical picture, and he has the band to deliver it.
The muted cornet motif returns, before an outstanding cornet cadenza.
Glyn Williams is on top form in his solo – some of the finest lyrical playing of the day.
From the moment this performance started it just draws you in.
The last section is full of razor sharp precision and boundless energy - Cory at their technical best.
 
Overall: A simply stunning performance from Cory -  highly gripping and engaging and the Welsh giants at their very best. The audience reaction reflected this and resulted in a prolonged standing ovation. It was a piece that made relied heavily on the band’s soloists, particularly cornet, euphonium and trombone, and they didn’t let them down. It will certainly take some beating and the Welsh band will feel they’ve done all they can to get their hands back on the trophy.  

 

11. Paris Brass Band (Florent Didier)

Own Choice: Music of the Spheres 


Composed for David King and YBS Band’s own choice performance at the Europeans in 2004, this is a piece that has gone on to prove popular in contests around the world.
The opening horn cadenza is confident but isn’t quite in tune within itself, but by heck does the band burst into action after that. There is a big contrast in dynamics, although the music doesn’t quite speak at the lower dynamics. You can feel the passion being created, even if it doesn’t always quite gel. Solo cornet and euphonium are sublime in their duet. This is another band who are making use of two soprano players, and you can’t really blame them! Soloists are taking their opportunity to shine and the performance is growing in stature, although the slow section is perhaps on the loud side.
It’s on the edge of being top class, but is just undermined occasionally by the odd inconsistency.
The harmonium and chorale could probably do with a bit more emotion, but there’s no lack of commitment as we enter the finale. The exeptional trombone section cuts through the texture, before the frenetic ending that is full of bravura.    
 
Overall: A fine performance from the French band that was greeted with prolonged applause, although perhaps one that didn’t always capture the imagination. However, they gave everything and will be delighted with their showing here today.

 

10. Brass Band Oberosterreich (Ian Porthouse)
Own Choice: From Ancient Times (Jan Van der Roost)

The opening features the solo euphonium and baritone at the back of the stage, before the muted tuba quartet takes over. Intonation suffers a little as the music grows dynamically, but the opening phrases are well shaped by the MD. The outstanding trombone section comes to the fore, and the now the band are in full flow with a bass ostinato. The use of two sopranos mean they can interchange, and they make full use of this. There’s some exuberant technique from the horns who ride the band like French horns.
Monumental full band chords take us into unison trombones which again are perfectly in tune. It’s playing of the highest quality from the Austrians.
The melancholic solo is handled with such ease by the solo cornet. There’s a touch of edginess for a moment in the slow section, but so many fine solo contributions are going in here. It perhaps lacks some emotion however and feels a little clinical at times.
The soprano playing is worth the entry price alone. What a close from the Austrians!
 
Overall: It’s a different approach from Oberosterreich, although so much to admire. Some very controlled playing, but they can certainly let go when they want to. Whether it will resonate in the box remains to be seen, but there was much to enjoy.

 

9. Gota Brass Band (Michael Thomson)

Own Choice: The 39th Parallel (Peter Graham)

The mystical opening is set on a solid tuba foundation, and as the textures open up so does the refined band sound. The playing is so evocative and stylish and we hear all the details coming through.
It just loses its way a little as we come to the slow section, but a solo tuba takes over before an outstanding solo cornet cadenza. We hear tender sounds from the mellows, in particular the solo euphonium. The repiano cornet shines in his solo. It is passionate playing without being overly sentimental, and the exposed lines are always under control.
What a sound when the band lets go, and the bass section continues to be impressive. There’s an oddity on the last chord as something goes awry, a shame as it has been such a convincing performance otherwise.
 
Overall: For a band that was only formed in 2015 and is competing at these Championships for the very first time, you could be mistaken for thinking they had been competing on this stage for years. Another fine performance from the Swedes, and if they continue to progress like they have in the short time they’ve been in existence, they will be a force to reckon with in years to come.

 

8. Provinciale Brass Band Groningen (Richard Visser)

Own Choice: Old Licks Bluesed Up (Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen)

 
TOCCATA I: It’s a robust opening which really suits this band, although intonation suffers as we go down in dynamic. Impressive sweeping sounds pervade and solo cornet and soprano shine in their duet. The ensemble playing is right on the money.
RITORNELLO: Confident cornet opens well and is followed by a bold bass trombone who takes his time over his cadenza. The solo cornet excels in his cadenza. The playing is idiomatic and lucid. Euphoniums are in fine form in their extended duet and the trombone is decidedly nonchalant in his jazz-infused solo. The euphonium and tuba passage doesn’t quite hang together and is a tad muddy to conclude the movement.
TOCCATA III: The band is fully on top of the technical requirements here as triplet motifs are handed around the ensemble. The tuned percussion plays a significant role, as it does through much of the piece and adds so much.
 
Overall: A full-bodied performance from Groningen in a work that suited them down to the ground. It was a piece they won on at the Dutch Nationals last year and one could sense the confidence they brought with it. Outstanding soloists were coupled with brilliant ensemble playing. Whilst it may not challenge right at the very top, combined with yesterday’s performance the Dutch outfit will be hopeful of a place in the prizes.

 

 
7. Italian Brass Band (Filippo Cangiamila)
Own Choice: Extreme Make-Over (Johan de Meij)

It is hard to believe it is 14 years since this piece was selected as the set test at the Europeans in Groningen, Holland. That year the contest was won by Black Dyke. One of the more groundbreaking set pieces to emerge from this contest, it features tuned bottles played by members of the cornet section and is based on several references from the music of Tchaikovsky.
The quartet opens and the playing is classical in approach. It is not without a couple of blips and there are some intonation issues in the muted unison sounds – so difficult to get perfectly in tune with different instrumental colours joining. The pyramid effects are effective though and soprano excels above the band. The massive bass trombone sound is just what is required here.
The tuba quartet that starts the next section isn’t quite in sync, and the tuning again isn’t spot on in the trombones. There are fine contributions from solo horn and flugel and some genuine excitement is being generated as the tempo increases. The band has a solid grasp of the technique required in this piece and shows this off to good effect. The tuned bottle section starts with a hiccup, but regains momentum as instruments are added. They add a vibrant colour though to the texture though. The tubas and euphoniums impress at a lower dynamic in their ostinato figure. It’s again that the band feels at home with the technical playing, and the lead up to the finale is full of vitality.
The final chorale is majestic and what a finish as the band gives every last drop!
 
Overall: The Italians again show that they’re not out of place amongst the elite after stepping up from the Challenge Section. This was a full bodied, committed performance, if a bit uneven in places. However, the band can be proud of their efforts both today and yesterday.  

 

6. Brass Band Willebroek (Frans Violet)
Concerto for Brass Band (Roland Szentpali)


Next it’s Willebroek with a relatively new work composed by the Hungarian tuba virtuoso, Roland Szentpali, which the band won the Belgian Nationals last year with as its own choice.
An energetic jazz-inspired opening is delivered with swagger. Euphonium sings over the band and there are exuberant sounds from around the stands.
Soprano is outstanding in his exposed solo, and is joined by solo horn in a fiendish duet. There is some virtuosic playing as the tempo increases, and a real sense of atmosphere is created in the quieter passages.
This band has such a rich sound and we hear that in full glory in the chorale-like section. There is some brief unevenness in the cornets for a moment, but it settles back down before the end of the slow movement.
The last movement bristles with energy and solo baritone and both euphoniums stand up for their solos, displaying the sheer depth of quality evident in this band. The unison tuttis are so incisive. This is as a band on top of its game, and the sheer confidence in eveidence continues right to the final bar.


Overall: A compelling performance of sheer quality from Willebroek from start to finish.  We have now heard two highly convincing performances from this band over the weekend and they will feel they couldn’t have done a lot more.

 

5. Concord Brass Band (Jesper Juul Windahl)
Own Choice: Vita Aerterna Variations (Alexander Comitas)


Written as the set test for the 2012 European Championships, which was won by Black Dyke in Rotterdam. The opening here isn’t quite together, but when the flugel takes the tune the band starts to settle. The tuning grates a little before the 1st variation. The technique isn’t quite as clean as it could be, although the style is good. A fine solo cornet follows, although the music seems to lack a bit of life in general. We hear some expressive playing in the middle variation, but there are times when note lengths are perhaps a tad short and so we lose a sense of pitch. There are some uncomfortable moments in the quiter sections as nerves set in.
The next variation feels more comfortable as the band marches towards the fugue, and when they let loose we hear some quality sounds.
The fugue is well delivered as solo voices come and go, but feels a touch laboured. Confidence returns in the closing chorale as the Danish band reaches the final furlong.

Overall: A brave effort from Concord, although in this exalted company even the most minor blemishes are exposed. There were some enjoyable moments in this performance, but equally some moments that didn’t quite come off today.

 

4. Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag (Ingar Bergby)
Own Choice: Concerto Grosso: Opus 61A (Derek Bourgeois)

 
The opening fanfare is perfect in its execution, while the solo euphonium is virtuosic and faultless in his cadenza. The following tuba cadenza isn’t quite as centred though. There’s such a sense of poise and flow about this as the music moves into the following section. There is so much clarity and it is wonderfully in tune. What a massive bass end too, and the soprano is extraordinary in his solo as he relishes the limelight.
The flugel is divine in her lyrical solo, supporting by an empathetic accompaniment. The solo trombone follows and is as silky as as melted Swiss chocolate. The solo cornet just glides along in his cadenza, and each solo voice is as confident in their delivery as the other. However, there is a slight intonation issue for a moment and one or two notes don’t sound, although the attempt to play this quietly is to be admired.
The flugel again comes to the forefront and delivers in spades in her extended solo in what is for this reviewer the finest individual performance of the weekend so far.
The tango section is taken at a stately tempo and is full of the required humour and joviality. The bass trombone leads with authority as soloists come and go. The playing is so exuberant and you just want to sit back and listen!
In the finale, we hear some colossal sounds and by heck what soprano playing as we come to a monemental conclusion.

Overall: An extraordinary performance from the Norwegians which garners a standing ovation from the audience – and even the press box! A brave choice pays off, with so much exposed solo work – but when you have the calibre of soloists that Eikanger have, it’s worth the risk. If the band were in sublime form last night, then they have taken it to another level today. This will take some beating and the remaining bands have it all to do.

 

 
3. 3BA Concert Band (Luc Vertommen)
Own Choice: The 39th Parallel (Peter Graham)


Commissioned by the Brass Band Association of New Zealand in 2017, this piece was first performed the National Band of New Zealand at the World Music Contest in Kerkrade in 2017. The opening ostinato figures nestle with intent and are followed by fine ensemble work which is decidedly in tandem. We hear glorious sounds coupled razor sharp technique. The ensuing slow section is full of mystery, before the solo tuba sounds above the band. Solo cornet is confident in his delivery of his cadenza, and we hear expressive lyrical sounds from the euphonium and baritone section. There is a real warmth and passion to the band’s sound when they let loose.
As with Peter Graham’s Metropolis 1929, an off-stage ensemble leads a short quasi-march section, before returning to their seats. When the melody emerges in the full band, supported by tubular bells, it is a sound to behold. However, a drop in dynamic exposes the slightest of tuning issues. The ending is magnificent though and caps a highly accomplished performance.


Overall: A showing of real intent from the German outfit and they can be proud of their performance today. Whether it is enough to challenge at the very top remains to be seen, but they just about did everything they could today.

 

2. Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern (Michael Bach)

Own Choice: King Kong on Rue Igor-Stravinsky (Paul McGhee)


It’s another number 2 draw for home side Luzern, who are to perform Paul McGhee’s epic King Kong on Rue Igor-Stravinsky – a piece most appropriate to the host town of Montreux. A classy jazz trombone starts us off, supported by a dissonant undercurrent from the basses and percussion. It is such evocative music and one can feel the heart pulsing at the thought that King Kong might be lurking behind the local patisserie. We hear a chase through the centre of town with the chaos created by multiple layers of texture.
The mood calms in the following section as the floor rumbles at the sound of low basses and tam tam, and we hear a yearning flugel and euphonium in tandem. Beautiful sounds permeate around the band, before we jump into a dissonant, rhythmic section that includes some clinical technical playing. Flugel is outstanding again in his little lick The music is nutty as a fruitcake but is captured wonderfully by the band who have really bought into the piece. A whimsical ending is befitting of the music, and again so convincingly delivered.

Overall: One the wackiest, yet most original and refreshing pieces I have ever heard for brass band, and it was pulled off in exceptional fashion by the Swiss band. It was delivered with real panache and a sense of understanding of the storyline and you can’t fault the band in their portrayal of the music. It certainly puts them in the mix after yesterday's set test showing.

 

1. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc) 
Own Choice: Glass (Simon Dobson)

Drawing the short straw this afternoon are Valaisia, having drawn number 13 last night. Whether it’s an unlucky draw remains to be seen. The opening solo horn is clean as a whistle, as are the exposed solo entries that follow. The opening simmers with intent. Arsene Duc is drawing a contrast of colours out of the band, and we hear various textures emerging. The horns and trombones shine, before massive sounds emerge as we transition into the next movement. This really is colourful writing from Simon Dobson and the band are conveying the composer’s intentions convincingly. Glenn Van Looy on euphonium is outstanding in his solo and sails over the band. This is followed by Vincent Bearpark on cornet, who is also sublime, However, we hear one or two strained sounds in the upper solo cornets that undermine slightly.
The next section is full of detail, before we return to more lyrical playing from soprano, baritone and horn – all confidently delivered. As the title suggests, we are hearing pictures in sound here – silver colours glisten gloriously around the hall.
There is some vibrant playing in the next section, and it has a real sense of momentum about it. Solo cornet excels again and makes it sound so easy. The tuned percussion provides the pulse before euphoniums soar brilliantly over the band again. We have minor tuning issues in exposed octaves – there really is no hiding place here.
A Nordic-style dance ensues and the band feels at home in this idiom, as the tempo picks up. The textures are transparent here and we hear every line clearly as the tension builds. When the band sound opens up it really is something to behold, and they save it just for the right moments. A big climax has the crowd in raptures.

Overall: This was Valaisia back to their very best and after a slightly uneven showing on the set test, they will be delighted with their performance on Simon Dobson’s Glass – a piece that seemed to suit them down to the ground. There was very little to fault in a performance full of musical contrasts and the band’s soloists were all on top form. A fine start to the afternoon.