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2021 SIDDIS Brass: Elite Division: Live

Friday 5 November, 2021

SIDDIS Brass 2021 - Elite Division

November 6, 2021


Mark Good reporting.

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Issue 6115 digital November 4, 2021


7.55pm: That brings the competitive element of SIDDIS Brass 2021 to a close. After the trials and tribulations of the past 18 months, welcoming SIDDIS back to the brass band calendar is an artistic triumph. In the Elite Division, the diversity in programming was enormous; from tried and tested to uncharted waters. The adjudicators have a very interesting job indeed. That performance from Manger will take some beating though. For a bit of fun, BB opts for:


1) Manger Musikklag
2) Eikanger Bjørsvik Musikklag
3) Bjørsvik Brass
4) Stavanger Brass Band

Dark horse: Oslo Brass Band


10) Kleppe Musikklag (Tormod Flaten)

The final band in a long but enjoyable day of music making is Kleppe Musikklag, which is preparing to take the audience on a musical journey; much-needed after the limitations on travel over the past 18 months.

Flowing some pre-flight safety announcements, the band dances its way on stage. Well done to the players for the sheer energy and vitality at this stage of the day in Jan Magne Førde’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It’s fun and well-executed too, with players ultimately taking their seats and negotiating the brisk work very well indeed.

Simon Dobson’s Clash enjoys a heavy groove and is followed by something altogether more contemplative in For My Grandmothers, featuring principal cornet Ingrid Hollingen Westad. The band allows her to come through, the solo sound simple and pure on the ear, nicely controlled throughout.

Gordon Goodwin’s Hunting Wabbits flies out of the traps but the pace is nicely handled for the most part, only occasionally gaining some scruffy edges. 

At a stage in the day when everyone could have been forgiven for flagging, Kleppe Musikklag put a spring in the step of the audience in the main hall. The energy was infectious and it was underpinned by fine playing around the stand. A fine way to bring proceedings to a close.


9) Manger Musikklag (Martin Winter)

Purcell’s Colourful Dreams takes inspiration from Sigmund Freud’s book The Interpretation of Dreams, in which he proposed that dreams express the unfulfilled wishes of the dreamer’s everyday life. In particular, the programme considers what styles of music Henry Purcell would dream about if he were alive today. In short, it’s a fascinating concept and one which features arrangements by the band’s conductor, Martin Winter.

The programme opens in stylish fashion, retaining a sense of poise. That quickly dissipates, bursting into life after an apparent dream Purcell has about Rio - Purcell does the carnival! Trombones come to the front of the stage and relish the party atmosphere, a fantastic show of virtuosic individual and collective playing. Their assurance spreads around the band - and the audience’s reception to the first movement is extremely enthusiastic.

The second movement sees Torgrim Halse bring a new dimension to Purcell’s trumpet sonata, which is transformed after a dream of discussions with John Coltrane about the use of the pentatonic scale. The solo playing is extraordinary; classy, elegant and suitably stylish.

Music from The Fairy Queen begins delicately on tuned percussion but takes a turn when she is given a love potion when sleeps and falls in love with a donkey. 

The madness doesn’t end there. Purcell flies from the moon to Earth and dreams about the hymn Thou Knowest, Lord - cue electronic and pre-recorded sounds emanating around the hall in tandem with the band. 

Purcell rethinks his trumpet voluntaries after dreaming of New Orleans Dixie music. Yes, you read that correctly.

As concepts go, Manger Musikklag’s was a stroke of genius. It was brought to life with great effect, a multitude of musical colours rising to the fore and playing of an extremely high calibre. Maybe you had to be here to see it. Maybe the BB editor is suffering from a lack of sleep. No, actually it was wildly creative, incomparably bonkers - and brilliant.


8) Stavanger Brass Band (Allan Withington)

After the challenges of the past 18 months, Stavanger Brass Band is thinking on an optimistic note with its programme, entitled Positive Minds. Composed by Ludovic Neurohr, the six movements are each dedicated to a famous person or group that has made a positive impact on the world.

Fridtjof Nansen pays tribute to the Norwegian explorer, and opens with the sound of icy polar winds flying around the hall. Solo sounds rise out of the eerie background; flugel and trombone are so confident and assured. The piece bubbles away, muted cornets chirping.

As the music progresses, it takes on an altogether different character, a degree of spontaneity to the solo lines which burst forth from around the band, underpinned by a groove in drum kit. Some of the spotlight rests on sop, who works hard in an attempt to meet the considerable demands placed upon him.

Banksy celebrates the mysterious British street artist and finds new energy and vigour, the band bursting into life. Cue some wonderful bass trombone playing - and is this the first piece to feature aerosols in the percussion section?!

Innovation has become a hallmark of Stavanger Brass Band and its latest programme is testament to some very creative minds, including chief conductor Allan Withington and composer, Ludovic Neurohr. While some concepts will resonate with audiences more than others, the organisation’s unashamed commitment to charting a new musical territory is deserving of much praise. How its programme will feature in today’s diverse musical field will be fascinating.


7) Bjørsvik Brass (Magnus Brandseth)

Bjørsvik Brass’ programme is inspired by music and dance. Sometimes I feel Like a Motherless Child, arranged by Frode Rydland, opens in haunting fashion, gentle singing accompanying the early moments, which include a fine bass trombone contribution. 

The opening piece soon gives way to Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen’s Norwegian Dance, suitably vivacious in its execution and showing impressive self-restraint when turning from the weighty twists and turns to the fleeting, delicate moments in one feel swoop.

Tormod Flaten brings some musical fireworks to the SIDDIS stage in Banjo and Fiddle, hurtling around the instrument with apparent ease. Magnus Brandseth ensures his Bjørsvik Brass colleagues stay with him every step of the way, all the way to suitably virtuosic conclusion.

After the fast-paced high-jinx, Just As I Am, from Heaton, could be deemed a tad sombre. However, Magnus Brandseth draws a hugely engaging reading from the band, carefully crafting every phrase and giving the music room to breathe; delightful.

As it draws towards the latter moments of its programme, Bjørsvik Brass transports the audience in Stavanger to the world of Bill Whelan’s Riverdance. The singing in the early stages is generally confident but it’s flugel which really excels when the nimble tune begins in earnest. Her confidence is passed to colleagues around the stand in what is a very fine performance.

Magnus Brandseth left no stone unturned in the shaping of Bjørsvik Brass’ programme - and his players responded with gusto.


6) Krohnengen Brass Band (Garry Cutt)

Proceedings were starting to run a little behind in Stavanger so after the quickest of breaks, it’s on with the action and Krohnengen Brass Band takes to the stage, under the baton of Garry Cutt.

It’s performing a programme billed as old and new favourites, celebrating the fact that bands have been able to resume making music together in front of an audience after 562 days of restrictions because of the pandemic.

Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture is elegant, full of excitement but never becoming excited. The lines are shaped tastefully, as one would expect when someone of Garry Cutt’s calibre is at the helm.

Hildegunn Lie is delightfully understated on soprano in Deep Harmony, arranged by John Golland. The entire piece, meanwhile, is underpinned by a brooding bass team, an ideal base on which to build the rest of the band sound.

There’s an impressive strength to the low end of the band in Simoraine. The playing is well organised and finely balanced, if not always entirely razor sharp.

Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen’s Ode offers an opportunity for another reflective moment in Krohnengen’s programme. Tuned percussion and muted sounds add to the intriguing tonal palette in this work, handled with a delicate touch.

Larsen’s Ad Astra is thrilling, Krohnengen taking the audience to a different musical universe to that experienced so far in the programme. The detail zips across, with pointed bells helping greatly.

Krohnengen Brass Band turned back the clock with its programme, unafraid to dip into the repertoire of generations gone by. It was well played, with keen attention to detail; it’ll be fascinating to see how it figures in the mix.


5) Oslofjord Brass Band (Frode Amundsen)

Oslofjord Brass Band is looking skyward in its programme, titled To The Stars. Larsen’s Ad Astra is neat and bristles with energy, a brightness to the sound in the opening stages. The music flows nicely, with fine sounds evident around the stand.

Ingebjørg Vilhelmsen showcases another sound of great beauty in Rusalka’s Song to the Moon, turning the corners of Dvorak’s score with elegance. The accompaniment is largely sensitive in its treatment of the underlying lines, ensuring good balance throughout.

The Scherzo for X-Wings sees famous snippets from John Williams’ Star Wars score weaving together, a brief but dramatic journey through space after the refinement of the previous piece. It’s exciting and well-negotiated.

Philip Sparke is a name which is extremely well-known to those in the brass band world. The Lonely Planet, from his Music of the Spheres, is brought to the stage in impressive fashion by Oslofjord Brass Band. There are scruffy edges to the performance but it’s a dramatic reading and fits into the band’s out-of-this-world theme. 

Oslofjord rounds off its programme with a homage by Andy Scott to old arcade games in a work entitled Space Invaders. It brings to an end a programme in which the intentions were clear, even if they didn’t always quite come off as intended.


4) Eikanger Bjørsvik Musikklag (Reid Gilje)

One of the pre-contest favourites, Eikanger has taken part in every SIDDIS Brass since the event came into being. This year, the band is taking part in an ‘auditory deja vu’, looking back at some of its best bits from previous years.

There’s barely a seat to be had in the main concert hall, the audience piling in for this celebrated Norwegian band.

Jacques Press’ Wedding Dance sparkles from the opening, cornets and tuned percussion a flurry of fast-moving lines  - with soprano the cherry on the cake. It’s good music, extremely well played.

Flugel player Gyda Matland takes centre stage in Boatmen’s Ballad, by Frode Rydland. There’s a sense of longing, the flugel sound one of pure gold in what is engaging musical storytelling.

Black Bottom Stomp is bright and bubbly, a light-hearted offering which includes some easy-going comedy, realised to good effect. It’s underpinned by rock-solid percussion.

The comedy capers quickly make for a neat transition into Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, with most of the band lining the back of the stage area. The BB editor remembers fondly a performance Eikanger gave of this work at a Sunday morning concert in Perth following the European Brass Band Championship in 2014 - and the breadth of sound remains, albeit things are not entirely lined up, vertically, at times at the beginning of phrases.

Mahalageasca sees Eikanger sounding supremely confident (tuned percussion are flying), romping quite happily through another item from the band’s illustrious back catalogue.

Eikanger Bjørsvik Musikklag revisited some of its highlights from recent years - but they’re worth serving up again. Would it have been nice to hear the Nowegian giant continue to break new musical ground? Yes - but people still like to hear the Rolling Stones’ greatest hits after all these years. Regardless, in Eikanger’s case, it brought a standing ovation from the audience in the Stavanger concert hall.




3) Ila Brass Band (Thomas Rimul)

After the challenges of the pandemic, Honey we need a Vacation feels like an apt title for a programme from Ila Brass Band.

Toccata, arranged by Frode Rydland, sees spiralling rhythms on an unrelenting loop, aided by tuned percussion. These are juxtaposed with sustained sounds in other corners of the band. Basses aside, the band is standing for this piece, heightening the tension in what feels like a portrayal of the seemingly unending uncertainty and worry prevalent during the pandemic.

Following a musical representation of a phone persistently going off, The Quiet Zone beckons as the couple in our story set off on their holiday on the train and it soon builds up a head of steam as the train get going. The couple embrace their romantic side in the Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet and love truly blossoms in this euphonium and flugel duet. The sounds blend well together, a cohesion to the playing which endears itself to the SIDDIS audience.

OM Goes Balkan Disco sees the holiday take a twist, this a prickly piece beset with intriguing grooves and uneasy harmonies. Cornets are seated on the right, with troms in the middle of the inner circle, and horns, baritones and euphoniums stationed to the left of the conductor. Basses are in the usual place.

Ila Brass Band took a distinctive approach to its programme at this year’s SIDDIS Brass - even Postcard from Mexico (Snell) made an appearance in the final stages. It’ll be interesting to see how it resonates with the judges.


3.15pm: There’s a great buzz to the main concert hall at present, which has gradually been filling up (granted, it isn’t too long until Eikanger Bjørsvik takes to the stage). People are listening to other bands, an experience which is often neglected on contest day - yet one which is where much of the learning could be done. It also boosts the atmosphere and makes for a more supportive environment for all concerned and that can only be a good thing.



2) Oslo Brass Band (David Morton)

You Mustn’t Sleep is the title of Oslo Brass Band’s programme, a nod to Arnulf Øverland’s poem published in 1937, music portraying the uneasy feeling many Europeans experienced during the rise of nationalism in the 1930s.

Sing Sing Sing sees the band file on stage and quickly, it sparkles, Oslo finding a neat groove. In the midst of it all, are fleeting military/army band references, a nod to the unease and discontent which was playing an increasing role in Europe in the 1930s.

Eirik Hermundstad creates a lilting waltz feel in La Foule and the band is largely sympathetic throughout, even in the tutti moments, allowing his elegant playing to sail across, all the way to the stratospheric close.

The Scherzo from Shostakovich’s Symphony No 10, arranged by Andrew Duncan, provides another distinct sign of the unease which would eventually burst into conflict across Europe. The discontent was clearly spilling to the surface - but there’s no sign of unease in Oslo Brass Band’s performance, a sense of clarity and cohesion to the playing of the piece, which is appropriately weighted.

Kristoffer Kregnes, Henrik Falang and Anders Sørheim shine on trumpet in Pete Meechan’s Song of Hope, growing from understated beginnings to raw, heart-on-the-sleeve emotion. There’s some impressive piccolo trumpet playing too. It’s classy and not everyone; bravo.

The Peterloo Overture is, in some respects, a brave choice in this environment, with new music aplenty, but the ominous sounds at least lend themselves to the overall feel of the programme. It’s executed well, clarity in the small notes and, at times, big; very big.

At first glance, it seemed tricky to see how this programme would correlate to the band’s theme but it started to make sense as the programme progressed. At its core was quality music making, with David Morton guiding Oslo Brass Band with confidence.


1) Jaren Hornmusikkflorening (Tarjei Grimsby)

Jaren Hornmusikkflorening has a Latin-fuelled programme in store at SIDDIS 2021 and it bursts into life in style.

Why Not, arranged by Lars Erik Gudim, fizzes along from the off. One cornet row is standing in the back row position, with trombones doing the same at the other side. A lot of the intricate lines spring from the stage, though not quite everything. It’s fuelled by a strong groove in percussion, though, and the kit provides a neat way to segue into Horn of Puente.

This cha-cha falls into an alluring groove and maestro Grimsby looks like he’s desperate to hit the dance floor, enjoying every moment. Again, there are fistfuls of notes to cram into this music, which comes from Gordon Goodwin (of the Big Phat Band) as it flies around. Also flying around are layers of clothes, players’ jackets abandoned as the temperature rises in this fiery Latin music.

It’s trumpets aplenty for Jaren Hornmusikkflorening, with little solos and features sprinkled through the programme. Indeed, Thomas Petersen is joined by Arne Bilden on trombone for a Latin take on Friend Like Me, from Aladdin, the pair exchanging increasingly energetic solos as the arrangement progresses.

Milonga del Angel showcases quality sounds from Karoline Dahl (sop) and Andreas Possum (trumpet). The lighter touch in this music is welcome, a contrast from the high-impact heard in the early stages of the programme.

To conclude, Jaren Hornmusikkflorening turns to the music of Michel Camilo, in his Caribe, and steps up the intensity once more as it hurtles towards the final moments of its SIDDIS programme.

A fun, fiery Latin opener from Jaren Hornmusikkflorening as it gets the Elite Division underway at SIDDIS Brass 2021.



2pm: Hello from SIDDIS Brass 2021! The Elite Division is getting under way - stay tuned!