The European Championships - results and reviews
A review of Yorkshire Building Society's amazing "Triple Crown"
win, reviews on all the performances, comments from the conductors
and our own views on the Montreux weekend.
Just as it was said in the Star Wars movie – “The Force is with
you” – and so it proved for David King and his Yorkshire Building
Society band at the European Brass Band Championships as they secured
their third consecutive title and fifth in all in the past six years.
It is a phenomenal achievement and one that cements David King’s
reputation as the leading contesting conductor of his generation.
Not that it was easy by any means. Buy As You View Cory from Wales
and Treize Etoiles from Switzerland pushed the Yorkshire band all
the way with two sets of brilliant performances that probably on
any other occasion would have won the contest outright. These three
bands stood apart from the rest of the field in a contest that ebbed
and flowed in so many directions before the winners could finally
The morning session saw the bands getting to grips with Carl Rutti’s
amazing “Montreux Wind Dances” – a highly complex piece of writing
that demanded the highest levels of both technical and musical input
from both bands and conductors – many found it very difficult to
bring off satisfactorily. It was going to be a hard task for the
men in the box, Thomas Wyss, Jappie Dijkstra and Maurice Hamers.
Sandefjord Brass Symposium led the way from the front off the number
one draw and Garry Cutt gave a very musical reading of the piece
that owed a lot to some fine individual playing from his soloists.
It was the benchmark performance and gained them 88 points – perhaps
a point or two below what we thought.
Brass Band de Bazuin Oenkerk and Strabane however found the piece
a very difficult proposition however and problems arose both with
the technical and musical demands that were not met in full. There
were some nice moments from both but overall they looked glad to
have got through the piece at the end still intact. 87 and 81 points
respectively seemed fair.
Brass Band Trieze Etoiles gave a superb account of themselves under
the baton of Peter Parkes that owed so much to the Major giving
the music time and space – especially in the last movement that
was slightly under tempo, but all the better for it. Some superb
solo playing and a band sound that wasn’t forced in any way. 95
points seemed high, but it was a top class show.
The reigning champions, Yorkshire Building Society gave perhaps
the most detailed performance in terms of a musical approach and
it was a markedly different reading to that given by Trieze Etoiles.
The effects in the percussion especially were beautifully realised
and there was a real sense of musical understanding about David
King’s reading – 94 points was for us a little bit mean – but then
we weren’t in the box.
The Ransome Band up next with Russell Gray really giving the band
some fine direction and a reading that was clear and concise. Evident
hard work had gone into the preparation and technically it was very
secure. Perhaps the band relied on nailing this aspect down too
much as it could have done with a bit more expression from the soloists,
but it was a very good account nonetheless. 91 points was par for
CWS Glasgow and Nick Childs gave perhaps the most musical reading
of the day, but had too many blips and blobs to push them higher.
The quality of the bands overall playing was punished too often
by occasional lapses and this spoiled what could have been a real
corker of a show. 90 points and it could have been quite a few more.
Brass Band Midden Brabant and Aarhus gave good accounts of themselves
without ever really suggesting they were going to push all the way
and disturb the top three performances. Again it was a question
of technical frailties that cost them both so much, although Midden’s
performance had much to recommend in it’s musicality and Aarhus
did have some very competent players on show around the stand. 93
and 90 points was about right, although in view of what went on
before them perhaps a little generous.
And finally to BAYV Cory. This was a coruscating performance – brilliant
in style and musicality. Bob Childs had certainly done the work
on the score as the piece simply came to life with the musical images
of each of the movements clearly defined and focused. It was stunning
playing and it was no surprise that Carl Rutti himself commented
that it was breathtaking. Worthy winners and 97 points was nothing
less than the performance deserved. Could it be enough though?
Set Test Result
1. BAYV Cory 97pts
2. Trieze Etoiles 95pts
3. Yorkshire Building Society 94pts
4. Midden Brabant 93pts
5. CWS Glasgow 92pts
6. The Ransome Band 91pts
7. Aarhus Brass Band 90pts
8. Sandefjord Brass 88pts
9. BB de Bazuin Oenkerk 87pts
10. Strabane Concert 81 pts
The Own Choice Section was going to be the real test not only for
the bands but also for the adjudicators. Allan Withington, Roy Newsome
and Pascal Eicher had the afternoon task in what was going to be
one heck of a showdown.
Bazuin Oenkerk opened proceedings with “Paginini Variations” by
Philip Wilby and although it is a fantastic piece of music, the
very top bands can more than easily play it very well and Oenkerk
didn’t quite do themselves justice on it and suffered. 85 points
was a fair return, but you felt that if they had been a bit more
adventurous and gone for a piece that would have really stretched
themselves the end result could have been so much better.
Sandefjord on the other hand did and got their reward with an excellent
account of “ Of Men and Mountains” by Edward Gregson that although
didn’t quite come off to give a real push for the prizes nevertheless
was a very brave attempt. Garry Cutt brought a lot of musical shape
to the piece and his soloists played very well indeed. 91 points
was just reward for taking the risk.
Trieze Etoiles had performed way above expectation in the morning
but the afternoon performance on “Cambridge Variations” showed it
was no fluke. Brilliantly directed by Peter Parkes they gave a superb
account of themselves with tremendous technical and musical aplomb.
Great effects and balance and dynamic control of the highest order
seemed to put them in pole position. 95 points again would surely
have been enough to win the title on any other day.
Brass Band Midden Brabant choose Martin Ellerby’s “Tristan Encounters”
which was a very brave choice indeed. This is a very difficult piece
to bring off and required soloists of the very highest quality to
perform at the top of their game. It just didn’t come off this time
with too many slips and an approach that didn’t quite get to the
heart of the music. Brave indeed – but it undid the work of the
morning where they made such an impression. 87 points seemed harsh,
but it was about right.
Yorkshire Building Society must have known they had to produce something
special - and they certainly did. “Montage” by Peter Graham was
perhaps the most high-risk choice of all the own choice works to
be performed on the day. It was a brilliant performance of technical
and musical detail that was at times hair-raising. David King brought
out such a committed performance that it would have been easy to
overlook the fantastic performances from his players, but the corner
men and women gave astonishing accounts of themselves and the musicianship
shone through from beginning to end. 97 points was the immediate
reward from the judges – but was it going to be enough to retain
CWS Glasgow choose “Harrison’s Dream” by Peter Graham and set about
their task with in much the same way as they approached the morning
set test. There was so much to commend the playing and the direction
from Nick Childs was spot on, but again the disappointment of the
slips and some untidiness spoilt what could have been a very special
show indeed. It was a performance that very nearly came off in every
way, but at times very nearly came to grief in all ways. A bit of
a curate’s egg of a show. 90 points and again it
could have been so much more.
Aarhus Brass gave a lovely rendition of Philip Wilby’s “….Dove Decending”
that showed up the qualities of the band – good sounds and some
a wonderful musical interpretation from Mr Christensen as MD. The
euphonium playing in particular was of the very highest class throughout
and the middle movement was so well shaped and constructed. 89 points
was one fewer than the morning, but it was well deserved.
Buy As You View Cory must have known that they had performed well
in the morning, but would have also known that they had to give
the performance of their lives to grasp the title from YBS who had
earlier done the very same in the effort to hold onto their crown.
Bob Childs had chosen “Harrison’s Dream” the piece that saw them
take the National title in London last October. It was in many ways
an even better account than that in the circumstances, but at times
the detail was lost in the acoustics of the hall and some technical
slips around the stand may have cost them dear. We are talking about
a superb performance here though and it had to be weighed up against
two brilliant shows from YBS and Trieze Etoiles that saw even the
minor slips being judged costly. 93 points was not just enough.
Strabane Concert enjoyed a good romp through “A London Overture”
by Phillip Sparke and it was evident they had enjoyed themselves
even though in realistic terms they were somewhat out of their depth.
83 points was a little generous given the quality of the opposition,
but Irish banding should be encouraged in any way possible.
The Ransome Band took the stage as the final band of the day and
gave a well structured account of “Isaiah 40” by Robert Redhead.
This was a surprise choice as it was on “Harrison’s Dream” in London
that the band had secured the place at the Championships when they
came second to BAYV Cory. It was a good attempt to make what is
a strangely muted piece come to life, but the audience didn’t really
appreciate the effort which was a shame and possibly that rubbed
off on the judges who appeared to be more than a little harsh in
their assessment. 84 points was a good few less than they deserved.
So it was all over and the waiting began. And what a wait it was
– nearly 5 hours later the result was announced somewhat hurriedly
in the circumstances and Yorkshire Building Society were in the
record books as “Triple Champions”. It was so well deserved but
oh so close with one point separating the top three bands. If Trieze
Etoiles had one more point in either section they would have been
champions themselves and if Cory had just one more point in the
own choice section, the trophy would have been on it’s way back
to Wales for the first time since 1980. It was that close.
(Set test mark, Own Choice, and total)
1. Yorkshire Building Society: David King. 94, 97: 191pts
2. Buy As You View Cory: Robert Childs. 97, 93: 190pts
3. Brass Band Trieze Etoiles: Peter Parkes. 95, 95: 190pts
4. CWS Glasgow: Nicholas Childs. 92, 90: 182pts
5. Brass Band Midden Brabant: Benny Wiame. 93, 87: 180pts
6. Aarhus Brass Band: Preben Christensen. 90, 89: 179pts
7. Sandefjord Brass Symposium: Garry Cutt. 88, 91: 179pts
8. The Ransome Band: Russell Gray. 91, 84: 175pts
9. Brass Band De Bazuin Oenkerk: K. Van De Woude. 87, 85: 172pts
10. Strabane Concert Brass: Peter Christian. 81, 83: 164pts
BAYV Cory were awarded 2nd place as they received more points than
Trieze Etoile on the set test piece. The same occurs for Aarhus
Solna Brass from Sweden withdrew from the contest.
Comments from the conductors:
Robert Childs was both delighted and disappointed at the result.
“I’m so pleased at the way the band performed in both of the pieces
and I really couldn’t have asked for more from them. I felt we played
to our potential so I’m delighted at that, but to come so near and
yet so far is disappointing.”
“I thought we played really well in the morning and Carl Rutti came
up to me later to say how impressed he was with our performance
of the “Wind Dances” – I certainly enjoyed it as a piece of music.
I thought we played “Harrison’s Dream” as well as we could have
done so there are no complaints from me and I congratulate YBS and
David King for a fantastic achievement in winning the title for
the fifth time – they are worthy champions”
Russell Gray was also pleased at the way his band performed over
the two aspects of the contest. “We are a growing band and this
was a real marker for us to judge how we are progressing against
top class opposition – and I was not disappointed. I thought we
performed really well in the morning and as good as we could have
in the afternoon, but somehow the piece didn’t quite impress the
ears of the judges.”
“Congratulations to David and YBS though – they were quite outstanding.
It has been a great experience for the band and one we thoroughly
enjoyed and has given us great confidence for the forthcoming Masters
at Cambridge at the end of the month.”
Garry Cutt was also full of praise for the win by David King and
Yorkshire Building Society but also full of plaudits for his own
charges at Sandefjord.
“YBS were well deserved winners and David King has been a real inspiration
with them. It’s a great achievement to win the title five times
in six years. I’m also so pleased at the way Sandefjord took their
opportunity at the contest. Their commitment to the band is amazing
and even though we are a bit disappointed at seventh place, the
performances we gave showed that we are moving in the right direction
and shows people that the standard of banding in Europe is improving
all the time. The show in the own choice was the best I’ve heard
the band give – they have a lot to be proud of.”
Peter Parkes was also a happy man with the way in which Trieze Etoiles
so nearly gave him a ninth title.
“I said to the band that if we could come in the first three in
both sections we would be in with a chance – to come second on each
and still come third just a point behind hurts a little, but shows
what I believe is true about the band – they are more than capable
of winning any contest – British Open included.”
“I enjoyed the set test – although it wasn’t as complex as it looked
when you really worked hard at it and “Cambridge Variations” came
off a treat – the players and audience really enjoyed what we did
so I really pleased about the way in which the band made an impression
on the contest as a whole. I can’t wait to have another crack with
them next year.”
And so yet another exciting European Championship comes to an end
and with it comes the opportunity to review what we felt was very
good, good and not too grand about the whole weekend.
The good stuff was very good indeed. The organisation and the way
in which the bands are catered for at the contest is first class.
Comments have been made to us about the high class standard of the
facility itself, the way in which refreshments were provided for
the bands prior to them going on stage, the provision of a personal
guide for each band, the practice facility and the way in which
each band was given ample time to set up in comfort on stage. The
EBBA must be congratulated for the way in which this has been done
and should be copied all over Europe.
The solo contest was a marked success as was the First Section Contest
– although it would be nice to have been able to have more than
three bands competing.
The Test Piece also brought comments of satisfaction from all players
and conductors we spoke to. It was a brave and interesting choice
to go with Carl Rutti’s composition and even though it had difficulties
in the nature of it’s scoring and some dynamic balances, the overall
musicality of the piece shone out brightly and he is a composer
who should be actively encouraged to produce more work for bands
in the future.
The not so good was primarily concerning the positioning of the
Adjudicators tent – high and to the extreme right of the hall so
that it seemed to be facing not square onto the bands but in direct
earshot of the trombone sections of the bands. The conductors we
spoke to seemed to think that this would have given problems as
it was not in an acoustically ideal position and was too far back
in the hall to possibly pick up the quieter detailed playing.
Also the strange affair of passing slips of papers to the representatives
on stage, which gave them the top six results just before the official
announcement. One conductor said to us that he found this a bit
strange but a welcome attempt to avoid any embarrassment. This was
a bit odd and needs some explanation.
The bad however was the ludicrous position adopted by the organisers
in relation to the judges not providing either written remarks or
any oral remarks from the stage after the contest had finished.
It is one thing not to tell the paying public, but quite another
not to tell the bands how they reached their decision. What criteria
were used to judge the set test or the own choices? Who decided
the points awarded and how did the judges themselves remind themselves
about the relative merits of each performance?
It may have been the judges choice themselves not to give remarks
– but not to give any sort of remarks from the stage was just plainly
ignorant and amateur. Some bands had spent close on £20,000 to get
to Montreux and not to be able to digest the reasons why they came
1st or 10th or how they performed in relation to others – constructive
remarks are often a benefit to bands as they can highlight areas
of weakness that can be worked on so that a band can improve – just
getting a mark and nothing else does no one any favours.
The final gripe concerns the reason why the result of the contest
is held back to the Gala Concert – some five hours after the actual
contest has finished. It makes no sense, especially as if all the
competing bandsmen (about 250 in number remember) wanted to hear
the result, they had to go out and buy a ticket for the concert
at about £18.00 a head. That’s about another £4500 in the coffers.
It just smacked of a bit of a money-making ruse to get extra bums
on seats in the evening. It’s not right and it should be changed
immediately – if not, then issue free tickets to the competing players
so they can get to hear how they did without being charged. Results
should be announced as soon after the contest is over.
So that’s it then folks. Great contest, great playing, great bands
and people – all let down a bit by a rather blinkered approach to
adjudication and the results. Things can’t always be perfect in
life – but a little bit of a tweak and a deflation of a few egos
may do the trick with this one. YBS were stunning and are the most
worthy of champions again, whilst BAYV Cory and Trieze Etoiles can
count themselves a little unkucky to have come up against this exceptional
band on such brilliant form - both of these bands would have been
deserved winners in any other year. Can anyone stop YBS from doing
a "Grand Slam" next year. See you all in Brussels in 2002.