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European Championships: Contest overview, band by band analysis and our predictions.

The Stravinsky Auditorium in Montreux, Switzerland
Wednesday May 2nd to Saturday May 5th.

The overall event includes the 2nd European Solo Competition, which has attracted a record 64 entries from throughout Europe and oddly the USA and Australia, the European First Section Championship and the European Championship itself.

Full details of the solo competition and further information can be gained from logging into the European Brass Band Associations own website at www.brass.ch/ebba

On Wednesday the solo contest starts with the first of two preliminary rounds with the Final on the Friday evening at the Stravinsky Hall when the finalists will be accompanied by Brass Band Berneroberland conducted by Tom Brevik. The winner picks up a cheque for 1500 euros.

For the majority of people though, the main event will surely be the contest for the title of European Champions between the eleven top class bands in the Championship Section.

Yorkshire Building Society will be out to claim the title for a third consecutive year and for the fifth time in six years, since they first lifted the crown in 1996. Hard on their heels however will be a group of ten top class outfits that will also be going all out to claim the title and the 3000 euros first prize. The amazing fact is that no representative, apart from the reigning champions, who competed in Birmingham last year is back again this year.

We at 4BarsRest have already given our readers details of what the bands are playing as their “own choice” test pieces, but if you want to remind yourself of what they will be playing then you will have the opportunity to do so at the end of this article.

However, the bands taking part will have to get to grips with Carl Rutti’s “Montreux Wind Dances”, which is by all accounts a pretty tricky piece of writing that includes various time and tempo changes and no fewer than 26 top C’s for the hard working soprano players.

We give our rundown of the competing bands and our usual dodgy prediction at the end.

The bands who will be hoping to pick up the title are:

DENMARK: Aarhus Brass Band
Conductor: Preben Christensen
Record: 2nd appearance. 1999 (9th)

They came 9th overall in 1999 in Germany where they were placed 8th in the test piece section and 9th in the own choice where they performed “Paginini Variations”.

Formed in 1924, they won the Danish National Championships in both 1998 and 2000. Michael Fowles took the band the last time they were at the Championships and although they came last they by no means out of their depth and actually beat CWS Glasgow on the test piece that day. Improvements have been made and Preben Christensen and the band travel to Montreux hoping to greatly improve on their last result. Outsiders.

NETHERLANDS: Brass Band De Bazuin Oenkerk
Conductor: Klass van der Woude
Record: 3rd appearance 1996 (withdrew): 1997 (8th): 1999 (2nd)

1997 saw the band come 8th overall after coming 9th on the test piece “Salamander” and 8th playing “Pageantry”. 1999 saw a vast improvement with them coming 2nd on “Odyssey” and 3rd playing “Diversions on a Bass Theme”.

Should be real challengers this year if the rate of improvement has been maintained. Formed in 1924 they became a British style band in 1971 and won all the title on offer in their country in 1995 and also became Swiss National titleholders as well. The band won the National title again in 1996, 1998 and 2000 as well as winning the Survento Festival. Outsiders.

BELGIUM: Brass Band Midden-Brabant
Conductor: Benny Wiame
Record: 10th appearance 1980 (9th): 1981 (10th): 1983 (7th): 1994 (4th): 1995 (6th): 1996 (4th): 1997 (5th): 1998 (2nd): 1999 (7th)

The early years were very much a case of slow but firm improvement and a ten-year break saw them return in the mid 1990’s as a true force at the contest. The 1998 performance saw the band come 3rd on the test piece, “Burlesque” and 3rd playing “Spectrum”, whilst 1999 saw two early draws and a slightly disappointed 7th overall when they played “Revelation” as their “own choice”.

Formed in 1975, the bands rapid rise to a position of strength in Europe is down to a very committed group of players and conductor alike who have shaped the progress of the band sine its earliest days. In 1997 the band was appointed as a Cultural Ambassador for the region of Flanders. Possibles.

SWITZERLAND: Brass Band Trieze Etoiles
Conductor: Major Peter Parkes
Record: 9th appearance 1979 (4th): 1980 (3rd): 1984 (9th): 1987 (9th): 1988 (9th): 1990 (4th): 1994 (8th): 1999 (3rd)

The very early years of the contest saw the band gain impressive results, but by the end of the 1980’s they became less of a force at the contest. The 1990’s have been much better for the band with 4th place in Scotland in 1990 followed by 8th the last time the contest was in this venue. The 3rd place in Germany in 1999 was gained by a 3rd place on the set test “Odyssey” and 5th place playing “Between the Moon and Mexico”.

Formed in 1973, they have won the Swiss National title on seven occasions, the Swiss Open on four occasions and the Swiss Entertainment title three times. Peter Parkes has had a long involvement with the band taking them to the 3rd place in 1999 in Germany and he will be keen to add to his record of eight title wins at the contest. Possibles.

WALES: Buy As You View Cory
Conductor: Robert Childs
Record: 13th appearance 1979 (2nd): 1980 (1st): 1981 (6th): 1982 (2nd): 1983 (3rd): 1984 (2nd): 1985 (?): 1986 (3rd): 1987 (8th): 1989 (3rd): 1993 (3rd): 1999 (5th)

Winners in 1980 under Denzil Stephens, Cory have been one of the most consistent challengers for the title on each of the occasions they have represented their country. Three 2nd places and four 3rd places are testament to their continued success, although they missed much of the 1990’s when the band fell into a somewhat fallow period. The band won the set test piece section in 1980 and have been three times runners up in that section, whilst they have been runners-up no less than five times on the “own choice”. 1999 saw them perform “Of Men and Mountains” as their “own choice” which gained them 4th place and 5th overall.

Formed in 1884, the current band is both National and British Open Champions. Enthusiastically sponsored by retail company Buy As You View and with Robert Childs at the helm the band will be one of the favourites this year to add the European crown to their current titles. Could 2001 see the band emulate the 1980 vintage that saw success on “Land of the Long White Cloud”? Contenders.

Conductor: Nicholas Childs
Record: 9th appearance 1979 (6th): 1989 (2nd): 1990 (5th): 1991 (9th): 1992 (7th): 1997 (2nd): 1998 (6th): 1999 (6th)

Never quite been able to become the first Scottish band to take the title, CWS have however come mighty close. 2nd in 1989 and 1997 and set test runners-up in 1989 and “own choice” runners-up on three occasions. 1997 saw the band come third on the set work, “Salamander” and 2nd on “Pageantry” to give the band the runners-up spot under Howard Snell. 1998 and 1999 however saw the band fall back somewhat with them coming 5th on the set test “Burlesque” and 6th on “Connotations” to come 6th in 1998 and coming last on “Odyssey” and 2nd on “Masquerade” to come 6th again under Howard Snell in 1999.

Formed in 1918, they recently won their sixth Scottish Championship title in the past eight years under the baton of Nicholas Childs, the MD of Black Dyke who will be taking the band for the first time at the Europeans - although he has won the “own choice” section himself with Tredegar on “Freedom” in London in 1997. The band has won the National title twice in the 1990’s once with John Hudson in 1990 and again with Howard Snell in 1996. One of the favourites this year if they can put together two, rather than just the one inspired performance on the day. Contenders.

ENGLAND: The Ransome Band
Conductor: Russell Gray
Record: Debut this year

No previous track record to fall back on, Ransome’s qualified for the 2001 contest by coming a brilliant second to Buy As You View Cory at the National Championships playing “Harrison’s Dream”. As the top English band at the contest they therefore took the qualifying spot ahead of the more fancied bands such as Brighouse and Rastrick and Fodens Courtois.

Russell Gray has brought the band back somewhat to prominence Although they fell out of the British Open last year due to a poor result for the second year in a row, and could only manage 4th place at the recent Area contest, although they had pre-qualified for the Finals.

A band with a proud history, they were formed in 1937 and have been British Open Champions in their history under the guise of many varied names. Possibles.

NORWAY: Sandefjord Brass Symposium
Conductor: Garry Cutt
Record: 2nd appearance 1999 (8th)

The second appearance at the European Championship for the band following on from their 8th place in Germany where they came 7th on the set test, “Odyssey” and 7th playing “Variations on an Enigma” in the “own choice”.

Garry Cutt is hired as a professional conducter for this occasion. Garry brings a lot of experience and the band is determined to better their position of 1999.

Formed in 1987, they moved up through the sections before winning the SIDDIS Championship Contest in 1996 and claiming the first of their National titles in 1998 – a feat they repeated in 2000 beating more fancied bands such as Eikanger and Manger to qualify for the European for a second time. Outsiders.

SWEDEN: Solna Brass
Conductor: Lars-Gunnar-Bjorkland
Record: 7th appearance 1978 (3rd): 1982 (10th): 1983 (10th): 1985 (?): 1994 (10th): 1997 (10th)

After gaining an amazing 3rd place at the inaugural championships, the band has been frequent but somewhat unsuccessful contenders, with 10th place in London in 1997 their most recent attempt. There they came 10th on the set test “Salamander” and 12th on “A Moorside Suite”.

Formed in 1970 they have been conducted by Lars-Gunnar-Bjorklund since 1975 and have won their National title on no fewer than five occasions – the last of which was in 2000. 2001 should hopefully see the band improve on their 1999 result. Outsiders.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Strabane Concert Brass
Conductor: Peter Christian
Record: 5th appearance 1982 (9th): 1990 (11th): 1994 (12th): 1997 (11th)

One of the most popular competitors at the European Contest over the years, the Strabane Band always give a good account of themselves and their country, even though they have never been seen as contenders. They continue to choose sensible “own choice” test pieces for themselves such as “Pageantry” in 1997.

Formed in 1979 they won their first National title in 1981 and repeated the feat again to qualify for the Europeans on three other occasions. 2000 saw them do it again under the baton of former Williams Fairey baritone player, Peter Christian who has been with the band since 1996. Outsiders.

ENGLAND: Yorkshire Building Society (Reigning Champions)
Conductor: David King
Record: 6th appearance 1996 (1st): 1997 (1st): 1998 (4th): 1999 (1st): 2000 (1st)

What a record. Since qualifying for the 1996 contest in Norway they have won the title 4 times in 5 years and have set test piece on three occasions to boot. Only one win on the “own choice” in 1999 however shows that they can be beaten, although it will take two rather than one inspired performances from the rivals to do so.

David King has now won the title on 6 occasions, but last years title was won not without some discomfort from Eikanger and Fodens whilst 1999 was won only by a point from De Bazuin Oenkerk and 1997 saw them take the title without winning either section of the contest. 1998 is best forgotten as they were denied the title on “Blitz” in somewhat controversial circumstances.

Own Choice selections have included “Dove Descending” in 2000, “”Harmony Music” in 1999, “Blitz” in 1998, “Pageantry” in 1997 and “Revelation” in 1996. 2001 could see the and emulate Black Dyke in becoming only the second band in the history of the contest in performing a hat trick of wins. Contenders.

European Championships 2000

Yorkshire Building Society. 195pts
Eikanger – Bjorsvik. 193pts
Fodens Courtois. 190pts
Whitburn. 185pts
De Waldsang. 184pts
Goteborg. 181pts

4BarsRest Prediction for 2001

Yorkshire Building Society
Buy As You View Cory
CWS Glasgow
Brass Band Trieze Etoiles
Brass Band Middant Brabant
The Ransome Band

©4BarsRest copyright:
With thanks to Gordon Simpson.

If you wish to be informed of what we believe the competing bands are playing, please click to continue.

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