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European Championships 2002:
Championship section band by band anaysis

Date Posted: 01.05.02

What an exciting 25th Anniversary contest we have in store at the Palais des Beaux Arts come Saturday 4th May. The Yorkshire Building Society under the direction of Dr David King will be going all out to equal the record of Black Dyke Mills and win the European crown for the fourth consecutive year – and who’s there to try and stop them? Black Dyke themselves.

The return of the ten times winners will add further spice to an already vindaloo hot mixture that has the added ingredients of Howard Snell making his very last brass band contest appearance with Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag. Add to this ex champions Willebroek hell bent on a repeat triumph of 1993, Brass Band de Bazuin Oenkerk hoping to better their runners up spot of 1999, CWS Glasgow trying to better their own runners up placing of 1997 and take the title to Scotland for the very first time, Peter Parkes out to claim a ninth title after coming oh so close last year with Brass Band Trieze Etoiles and strong challengers from Wales in the form of Tredegar and CWA Band of Ireland and you have got one hell of a contest on your hands.

It should prove to be a very close run thing at the top end of the tree, with little to chose between at least the three major heavyweights, YBS, Black Dyke and Eikanger, but don’t be surprised if you see the other names there or there abouts – the field is that strong this year.

Here’s a run down of the bands hoping to take the 25th Champion Brass Band of Europe title.

The Bands:

Brass Band Willebroek - Belgium

Conductor: Frans Violet
Principal Cornet:

4BR Ranking: 58
European Appearances since 1991:
7 (1991,92,93,94,95,00,02)

Record since 1991:
1991 4th overall - 6th set work/ 1st own choice;
1992 4th overall – 4th/5th;
1993 1st overall – 5th/2nd;
1994 6th overall – 2nd/9th;
1995 3rd overall – 2nd/5th;
2000 7th overall – 7th/7th.

Own Choice works used:
Variations on an Enigma – 91 and 93;
Partita – 92; Harmony Music – 94;
Sea Pictures – 95;
Between the Moon and Mexico – 2000.

Best Performance: Winners 1993
Last Year: Did not qualify

The 2001 Belgium Champions and 2001 European Open runners up have a fine record of achievement at the European contest over the years, with their historic win at Plymouth in the undoubted highlight. That year they won by virtue of gaining 1 extra point in the set work section over eventual runners up Williams Fairey. That meant that they had come such a long way at the contest since coming 8th in 1986 in Cardiff.

That year they won the title without actually winning either section of the contest, but they did win the own choice section way back in 1991 when they performed “Variations on an Enigma”. The period 1991 to 1995 was perhaps their strongest, as during this time they came 4th, 4th, 1st, 6th and 3rd and in the process came 2nd twice on the set works and once on the own choice.

They missed out from 1996 to 1999, but returned in Birmingham in the Millennium to take a very solid 7th place. Frans Violet continues to direct their efforts and following their recent successes they should be on form to try and repeat that 1993 triumph.

Concord Brass Band – Denmark
Conductor: Frode Amundsen
Principal Cornet: Kasper Goth

4BR Ranking: None
European Appearances since 1991: None
Record since 1991: None
Own Choice works used: None
Best Performance: None
Last Year: DNQ

The Danish champions were formed as far back as 1957 with one of its founder members being Herbert Moller, the highly respected brass enthusiast.

They have moulded themselves very much on the model of the British brass band and regularly take part in contests as far a field as Switzerland and Scandinavia. They boast an eclectic mix of members from all backgrounds and all age groups.

Their Musical Director is Frode Amundsen who is currently the tuba player with the Malmo Symphony Orchestra, but who has also played with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. He started playing at the age of 6 and from the age of 15 was a member of Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag.

Black Dyke - England
Conductor: Nicholas Childs
Principal Cornet: Roger Webster

4BR Ranking: 2
European Appearances since 1991:
5 (1991,92,95,96,02)

Record since 1991:
1991 1st overall – 2nd set work/2nd own choice;
1992 - 2nd overall – 3rd/3rd;
1995 1st overall – 1st/3rd;
1996 2nd overall – 2nd/1st.

Own choice works used:
Diversions on a Bass Theme – 91;
Odin – 1992;
Variations on an Enigma – 95;
Revelations – 96.

Best Performance:
10 time winners (1978,79,82,83,84,85,87,90,91,95)
Last Year: DNQ

nick childsThe boys are back in town. Who would have thought that after giving a winning performance of Revelation in the own choice section of the 1996 European in Bergen, it would be another six years before the boys (and now girls) of the Queensbury outfit would grace the contest.

It has been a long time coming, but after a fallow period post Norway at all the major contests, 2001 saw Black Dyke return to form, and after their victory at the National Finals last year they booked themselves for B&B at the Brussels Hilton. In their absence YBS have held hegemony on the title and have with their talismanic conductor become the undisputed “Kings” of Europe. Their return has been long, long overdue.

With a record second to none at the contest (including ten wins) Black Dyke certainly feel at home here and with an exceptionally strong line up of star soloists and an inspirational MD they enter the 2002 contest as clear favourites to regain a title they last won in 1995 under James Watson.

They were the very first winners of the title way back in 1978, when they played “Variations on a Ninth” as their own choice selection, but it is important to note that the only time Dyke and YBS have come head to head here in 1996, YBS pipped them to the title by just 1 point. It could possibly be just as close this time around.

Yorkshire Building Society – England
Conductor: David King
Principal Cornet: Stuart Lingard

4BR Ranking: 1
European Appearances since 1991:
7 (1996,97,98,99,00,01,02)

Record since 1991:
1996 1st overall – 1st set work/2nd own choice;
1997 1st overall – 2nd/3rd;
1998 4th overall – 1st/8th;
1999 1st overall – 4th/1st;
2000 1st overall – 1st/2nd;
2001 1st overall – 3rd/1st.

Own choice works used:
Revelations – 96;
Pageantry – 97;
Blitz – 98;
Harmony Music – 99;
Dove Descending – 00;
Montage – 01.

Best Performance: 5 times winners (96,97,99,00,01)
Last Year: Winners

david kingThe reigning champions and undisputed rulers of the European banding world for the past 6 years. Ever since David King did the Dr Frankenstein thing and revived the corpse of the old Hammond’s Sauce band, YBS has become perhaps the best and most successful contesting band of the last decade – and the European has played a major part in that.

They first got in on the act after getting the invite to the 1996 European, and since then they haven’t looked back. 12 subsequent performances of either set works or own choices have resulted in 5 first places, 3 seconds, 2 thirds, a 4th and the infamous 8th in Kerkrade. That was the year of “Blitz” and a performance that found favour with everyone – except the judges. Never mind, they bounced back and have been undefeated ever since, and now stand on the brink of creating their own slice of history as being the first band to win the title six years out of seven.

Dr King knows how this contest ticks, and he himself has seven titles to his name and perhaps the secret lies in the way in which he manages to ensure that his band produces two top class performances at the contest each year, and not just one with another tagged on to help. Thus, since 1998 the band has alternately won either the set work or own choice, and that means they will always be the band to beat.

This year shouldn’t be any different and with young rising stars and the amazing Peter Roberts, they will be keen to avenge their defeat by Black Dyke at the Nationals and the Yorkshire Area. It promises to be one hell of a challenge.

Brass Band De Bazuin Oenkerk – Netherlands
Conductor: Klaas van der Woude
Principal Cornet: Auke Douwes

4BR Ranking: 56
European Appearances since 1991:
4 (1997,99, 01,02)

Record since 1991:
1997 8th overall – 9th set work/8th own choice;
1999 2nd overall – 2nd/3rd;
2001 9th overall – 9th/9th.

Own choice works used:
Pageantry – 97;
Variations on a Bass Theme – 99;
Paganinni Variations – 01.

Best Performance: 2nd in 1999.
Last Year: 9th

The 2002 Dutch National Champions will be coming to the contest in good form and with high hopes that they can repeat their runners up spot of 1999 in Munich, where they shocked the banding world with two stunning performances. All this from a band that didn’t become all brass until 1971.

That year they gave everyone a run for their money and only lost out on winning the title by a point to YBS. In fact, if they had gained one extra point on their own choice work of “Variations on a Bass Theme” they would have been crowned Champions of Europe.

2001 in Montreux however, saw them not fare as well and they dropped back through the field to come 9th and gave two very lukewarm performances into the bargain. That was one worse than their result at London in 1997. They come to this contest due to them winning their own National in 2001, and so come what may here, they will be back again in Bergen in 2003 after retaining that title by beating Brass Band Groninghen a few months ago. They have also won their national championships in 1995, 1996 and 1998.

Klaas van der Woude has directed the band for over 15 years now, and with a band of talented players and with a busy concert schedule to keep their lips in, they could well shock some of the more fancied runners once again and repeat their 1999 efforts.

CWA Band – Northern Ireland
Conductor: A. G. Birch
Principal Cornet:

4BR Ranking: None
European Appearances since 1991: 2 (1998,02)

Record since 1991:
1998 12th overall – 12th set work/12th own choice.

Own choice works used:
98 – Land of the Long White Cloud

Best Performance: 12th in 1998
Last Year: DNQ

The Northern Ireland champions are set to make their second appearance at the European Championships following their debut appearance at Kerkrade in 1998. Even though they came last in the 12 band field that day, they certainly didn’t disgrace themselves and gave a spirited performance of “Land of the Long White Cloud” that was awarded just 4 points less than YBS.

Formed in 1994, the band has won the Northern Ireland Brass Band Championships on two occasions – the last, last year when they pipped Laganvale by a point on “Tallis Variations” to book their place (and raise the funds) for Brussels.

A.G. Birch directs a very competent outfit that even though they may struggle to make an impact on the top end of the prize winning table they will certainly do themselves and their country proud.

Eikanger – Bjorsvik Musikklag – Norway
Conductor: Howard Snell
Principal Cornet: Jane Westervik

4BR Ranking: 43 (ranked 1 in Norway)
European Appearances since 1991:
4 (1992,94,00,02)

Record since 1991:
1992 3rd overall – 2nd set work/8th own choice;
1994 2nd overall – 1st/3rd;
2000 2nd overall – 3rd/1st.

Own choice works used:
Trittico – 92;
Year of the Dragon – 94;
Concerto Grosso – 00.

Best Performance: Two time winners (1988 and 1989)
Last Year: DNQ

howard snellWithout doubt, the finest brass band outside the UK. Eikanger has been setting new and higher standards for all bands to follow ever since they started coming to play at these championships and their record of two back to back victories could and possibly should have been even more.

It is difficult to think that way back in 1982 they played Gilbert Vinter’s old warhorse “Triumphant Rhapsody” as their own choice at the contest, for the band has come such a long way in such a short space of time. The players and organisation are immensely committed to succeed, whilst Howard Snell in particular has been a driving force behind their artistic endeavours that has seen them break down musical boundaries.

He leads the band for the last time here this year and he will be keen to see them repeat their triumphs of the late 1980’s when they scored victories at Lucerne and Bergen. Since then however they have only competed at the contest on 4 occasions, but on each outing they have proved to be immensely talented challengers.

3rd in 1992, and runners up in 1994 and again 2000, they have come as close as anyone could imagine to take the title for a third time. Defeated by just a point in 1994 and 2 points in 2000, they are more than capable of winning again. They will have to this year as well, as they lost their hold on the Norwegian National Championship earlier this year when they could only come 7th, but they did win the SIDDIS contest once again. That means that they could be missing when the contest goes back to Norway next year. With Howard Snell and his talented players on form they may not need to worry.

CWS Glasgow – Scotland
Conductor: Ray Farr
Principal Cornet: Angela Whelan

4BR Ranking: 12
European Appearances since 1991:
7 (1991,92,97,98,99,01,02)

Record since 1991:
1991 9th overall – 5th set work/9th own choice;
1992 7th overall – 7th/7th;
1997 2nd overall – 3rd/2nd;
1998 6th overall 5th/6th;
2001 4th overall – 5th/5th.

Own choice works used:
Partita – 91; English Heritage – 92;
Pageantry – 97;
Connotations – 98;
Masquerade – 99;
Harrison’s Dream - 01

Best Performance: 2nd in 1997
Last Year: 4th

ray farrCWS Glasgow are a band with abundant talent, but the last year in particular has seen them short of luck as well as form. They come to the contest with Ray Farr at the helm, and hell bent on at least repeating their runners up placing of 1997, when under Howard Snell they just missed out on becoming the first Scottish band to take the European title when they tied for first place with YBS and lost out by virtue of gaining one less point on that years set work.

Nicholas Childs, John Hudson and Steve Sykes have all tried to win with them since 1991, but as yet they have at times been brilliantly inconsistent. 1999 for instance saw them come last out of 9 on the set work and then give a fantastic performance on “Masquerade” to come 2nd and get 6th overall. It could have been so much better.

Recent signings should now have had time to gell together and even though David Childs is returning to Wales after the contest there are still plenty of fine solo players around the stand to make a mark. Ray Farr too is an exceptional talent, and this could see them really mount a strong challenge.

Qualified for this years contest by winning the Scottish Regional Championships in 2001 – the chosen way the Scottish representatives have been chosen for over 20 years.

Brass Band Treize Etoiles – Switzerland
Conductor: Peter Parkes
Principal Cornet: Patrick Vergeres

4BR Ranking: 26
European Appearances since 1991: 4 (1994,99,01,02)

Record since 1991:
1994 8th overall – 7th set work/ 8th own choice;
1999 3rd overall – 2nd/5th;
2001 3rd overall – 2nd/2nd.

Own choice works used:
Partita – 94;
Between the Moon and Mexico – 99;
Cambridge Variations – 01.

Best Performance: 3rd in 1999 and 2001
Last Year: 3rd

peter parkesThe 2001 Swiss and European Open Champions have been perennial contenders at the contest ever since they took 4th place at the contest in 1979 and followed it up with 3rd place the next year.

Since then they have represented their country with great distinction and on their last two outings at Munich in 1999 and again in Montreux last year, they came as close as damn it to actually taking the title. Just one more point in the own choice section would have given them the European crown, and would have given Peter Parkes an amazing 9th title. It wasn’t to be, but by heck it was close.

They also performed superbly in Munich as well and it shows how much they have improved in that in 1994 when they came 8th they were 15 points behind the eventual winners, whilst by 2001 it was just the point that separated them from victory. The band has in fact been Swiss National Champions on 8 occasions since 1979.

The two runners up spots last year in each section shows how solid they are, and with a band packed with top class soloists and very dependable back ups, they could very well feature high in the prize list this time around.

Tredegar Band – Wales
Conductor: Steve Bastable
Principal Cornet: Roger Boyle

4BR Ranking: 8
European Appearances since 1991:
6 (1991,92,95,96,97,02)

Record since 1991:
1991 3rd overall – 4th set work/3rd own choice;
1992 9th overall – 10th/6th;
1995 7th overall – 7th/7th;
1996 5th overall – 4th/4th;
1997 4th overall – 7th/1st.

Own choice works used:
Essence of Time – 91;
Contest Music – 92;
Year of the Dragon – 95;
Montage – 96;
Freedom – 97;

Best Performance: 3rd in 1991
Last Year: DNQ

steve bastableTredegar qualified for the contest by virtue of winning the Welsh Regional Championships in 2001 – they were the Champion Band of Wales at the time as well, but that title doesn’t lead to an invite to the contest.

A good solid record at the contest, including a fine win in the own choice section under Nicholas Childs at the Barbican in 1997. That year they came fourth – just three points behind the winners, YBS, but a poor 7th place on the set work that year probably cost them a very realistic chance of taking the title.

They haven’t qualified since, but are one of the two bands on show here that actually played in the very first contest way back in 1978, where they came 5th. (Black Dyke are the other). They also came in the frame in 1991 under Nigel Weeks when they came 3rd behind Black Dyke and Britannia Building Society.

One of the most consistent performers at National contests, they have come runners up at both the Open and National Finals as well as winning other high profile events. Should give everyone a run for their money with a good group of solo players, solid back up and a very talented MD.

Own Choice Selections:

The ten bands have chosen just 7 works, so a couple of bands have taken the gamble of playing something that their rivals will also be performing.

The choices have been:

Concerto Grosso – Derek Bourgeois
The Essence of Time – Peter Graham
Harrison’s Dream – Peter Graham
Dove Descending – Philip Wilby
Revelations – Philip Wilby
English Heritage – George Lloyd
Harmony Music – Philip Sparke

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