Report & Results: 2014 North American Brass Band Championships13-Apr-2014
Stavanger lead the title winners in Grand Rapids as North American banding continues its impressive development.
There were Nordic cheers of celebration heard in the USA on the weekend, as Stavanger won the 32nd North American National Championship title at the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It was the second time the Norwegians have made the long trek from their homeland to claim the honour, repeating their 2003 success thanks to a brace of sparkling performances under the baton of conductor Allan Withington.
There was little doubt in the minds of either the supportive audience in the huge 2404 seat auditorium, or the two adjudicators, that the title had been won in emphatic fashion, with Stavanger repelling the high class challenge of Fountain City Brass and third placed Brass of the Potomac.
In a contest which benefitted from a number thoughtful test piece interpretations and well chosen own choice selections, 2011 & 2012 champion Atlantic Brass eventually came fourth, ahead of the delighted young students of James Madison University in fifth.
A rather more deflated Brass Band of Central Florida had to be content with sixth, despite coming second in the own choice discipline, whilst reigning champion Princeton could only end seventh, ahead of Chicago and Five Lakes Silver.
Composer Edward Gregson was in the box to hear Stavanger's superbly constructed rendition of his 'Symphony in Two Movements' as the clock ticked towards midnight on Friday evening, whilst William Himes also enjoyed their stunning rendition of Stig Nordhagen's 'Myth Forest' on the Saturday - awarding it 99 points.
Edward Gregson later told 4BR that he had been impressed by the overall standard he had heard in the two legs of the contest, although he felt both Stavanger and Fountain City emphasised their overall quality.
"The top two bands were superb - with Stavanger bringing such detail, texture and balance to my music," he said. "It was a wonderful performance, closely followed by Fountain City, and there was also so much to enjoy with Potomac and James Madison."
He added: "Overall, the standard was excellent - and I don't say that lightly. Things are moving in the right direction in banding here, helped by excellent conductors and talented performers."
That opinion was supported by William Himes who added: "I had a great time with the own choice selections - and the bands produced such wonderful performances.
Stavanger produced a truly outstanding performance of texture and atmosphere - it was beautiful brass band playing.
There were also an excellent 'Audivi Media Nocte' (Brass Band of Central Florida) and 'Vienna Nights' (Fountain City) too - and the others were not far behind. The overall standard was very good."
Another National victory
The victory saw Allan Withington notch yet another worldwide National title success to his personal CV, although he was keen to ensure that his hard working players gained the plaudits they deserved.
"It's been a very long trip time wise to get here, but the victory makes it all worthwhile. The players have given so much to this tour and they can now really enjoy themselves.
They deserve it for all the hard work and commitment they have shown to get here."
The band will now undertake further concerts in the Michigan area before they head home with the NABBA glass trophy and the impressive commemorative championship banner in their luggage.
Although disappointed at not being able to add a fifth NABBA title to Fountain City's own honours list, MD Jo Parisi was one of the first conductors to offer his personal congratulations.
"They are deserved champions. You can learn so much watching and listening to a conductor like Allan at work with such a great band."
He added: "I'm delighted at the way Fountain City performed and continues to develop as a band, espeically with our own performances of the set work and 'Vienna Nights'.
We know what we must do to become a better band, but I think this result shows that we continue to build in the right direction.
We have exciting plans for the future, which will hopefully include another overseas tour ourselves."
There was obvious delight to be shared with his players for the experienced Stephen Bulla, after he led the consistent Brass of the Potomac into third place.
"We are very happy with the result," he later told 4BR.
"We continue to work hard and grow as a band despite many of the players having extensive military commitments. This is the best result at the event since our formation in 2008, so it shows how far we have come, especially with our performances of the test piece and 'On Alderley Edge'."
The excellent organisation and friendly atmosphere at the two day event was certainly displayed at the results ceremony - where individual and ensemble success was greeted by warm, enthusiastic applause.
Euphonium star David Childs certainly kept the audience entertainment as he gained three standing ovations for his pre-results mini concert with an ensemble from Fountain City Band, whilst there was a delightful 80th birthday surprise for Bramwell Gregson, as his younger brother had composed a special version of 'Happy Birthday' for him.
Earlier, the brothers had been presented with the President's Citation awards for their contribution to worldwide brass band music making.
There was a great deal of fine Edward Gregson inspired music making to enjoy in the other contests on the weekend.
That was certainly shown by a terrific performance of the set work, 'Connotations' followed by a cracking 'Paganini Variations' to give the collegiate Oakland University Brass Band the First Section title under Kenneth Kroesche.
In a contest that revealed the increasing strength in depth of North American banding, it proved enough to beat off the high class challenges of five time champion Central Ohio, with former top section winners Illinois in third.
Weston Silver ensured that a second National title would head out of the USA homeland after the Toronto based band took the Second Section honours under the direction of Larry Shields.
Two thoughtful performances of 'Laudate Dominum' and 'Dark Side of the Moon' gave themd their first NABBA title in emphatic fashion, over second placed Capitol City Brass and Bend in the River Brass Band in third.
Fountain of Youth
The remarkable Fountain City Youth Brass Academy claimed a well deserved Third Section title under the direction of former Foden's and Black Dyke baritone star Helen Harrison and colleague Ron Stinson.
The band, packed with talented youngsters (many of who picked up a glut of individual and ensemble prizes alongside their senior counterparts on the weekend), certainly enjoyed their moment of glory - as did their inspirational MD.
"Its a brilliant achievement for all the young players," Helen told 4BR. "They have come such a long way since 2008 and have grown with every performance. I'm so proud of them all."
The excellent performances of the set work, 'Partita for Brass Band' by Edward Gregson, 'Prelude on Tallis' and 'The Bandsman's Challenge' saw them gain a comfortable victory over Milwaukee Festival Brass with Crossroads Brass Band in third.
Open and Youth
Old Crown Brass Band from Fort Wayne in Indiana took the Open Section title, whilst the Youth Open prize went to Motor City Youth Brass, part of the educational outreach programme of the Motor City Band in Southeast Michigan.
It was fitting that the final words of a highly enjoyable 32nd North American National Championship went to Association President Stephen Allen, whose enthusiasm and drive has given the event huge impetus in the last few years.
"This has been the best Championships yet. And I'm sure we will build on it even further by the time we all meet again in Fort Wayne, Indiana next year."
~ Edward Gregson
Set Work/Own Choice
Set Work: Symphony in Two Movements (Edward Gregson)
Adjudicators: Edward Gregson (Set Work) & William Himes (Own Choice)
1. Stavanger (Allan Withington): 96/99 = 97.2
2. Fountain City (Joseph Parisi): 95/96 = 95.4
3. Brass of the Potomac (Stephen Bulla): 94/94 = 94.0
4. Atlantic Brass Band (Salvatore Scarpa): 92/95 = 93.2
5. James Madison University (Kevin Stees): 93/91 = 92.2
6. Brass Band of Central Florida (Chad Shoopman): 88/97 = 91.6
7. Princeton Brass Band (Dr Stephen Allen): 91/92 = 91.4
8. Chicago Brass Band (Colin Holman): 87/89 = 87.8
9. Five Lakes Silver Band (Neil Barlow): 84/90 = 86.4
Set Work: Connotations (Edward Gregson)
1. Oakland University Brass Band (Kenneth Kroesche): 97/98 = 97.4
2. Central Ohio Brass Band (Jessica Sneeringer): 96/96 = 96.0
3. Illinois Brass Band (Stephen Squires): 95/96 = 95.4
4. Madison Brass Band (Craig Mason): 95/93 = 94.2
5. Motor City Brass Band (Craig Strain): 93/94 = 93.4
6. Chesapeake Silver Cornet Brass Band (Russell Murray): 92/91 = 91.6
Set Work: Laudate Dominum (Edward Gregson)
1. Weston Silver Band (Larry Shields): 92/96 = 93.6
2. Capital City Brass Band (William Waterman): 87/89 = 87.8
3. Bend in the River Brass Band (Faril Bunner): 87/85 = 86.2
4. Dublin Silver Band (Tim Jameson): 86/86 = 86.0
Set Work: Partita for Brass Band (Edward Gregson)
1. Fountain City Youth Brass Academy (Helen Harrelson): 96/94 = 95.2
2. Milwaukee Festival Brass (Mark A Taylor): 94/92 = 93.2
3. Crossroads Brass Band (Don Bookouit): 91/90 = 90.6
Own Choice Selection:
1. Old Crown Brass Band (Anthony Alessandrini & T.J. Faur): 94/94 = 94.0
Youth Open Section:
Own Choice Selection:
1. Motor City Youth Brass Band (Bona Opatich): 90/90 = 90.0