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2003 Norwegian Brass Band Championships - a retrospective view

7th and 8th February
Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway

With the European Brass Band Championships due to take place in Bergen in Norway this May, 4BR took the opportunity to follow the exodus of British MD’s to check out the current state of banding in the country – and we came back very impressed indeed.

First and foremost though let’s get over the myths and anxieties that people have about Norway itself. Yes – it is an expensive place. No – it isn’t expensive and difficult to get to. Yes – the people are friendly, efficient and invariably the women are good looking. Apart from that, Norway and Bergen is just like any medium sized city in Europe – it has it’s great bits and it’s not so great bits – from the excellent hotels to the usual muck served up by Ronald MacDonald. Not even the Norwegians have escaped trashy fast food Americanisation.

What you have to bear in mind though is that the average wage in Norway is the equivalent of £45,000 a year, so all prices etc are relative, and if you go to London on a regular basis then paying £3.00 for a sandwich, £6.00 for a beer and £12.00 for a MacDonald’s isn’t that too exorbitant, plus you get good service and someone who takes the time to speak to you in your own lingo.

Norway, and Bergen in particular is a nice place; a bit chocolate box, snow capped fjord, dinky characterful houses type of thing, but with a very modern, clean and efficient infrastructure of communications and amenities. Bergen itself is about 45 minutes from the main airport and it costs about £5.00 on the bus to get from right outside the main terminal into the centre of Bergen. That may sound a little steep for a bus ride, but a taxi will cost you close on £35.00.

Actually getting to Bergen is easy, with a return airline ticket (from Cardiff to Amsterdam to Bergen return) £180.00. That’s cheap, especially when you bear in mind a return train ticket to London is close on £120.00. Once you are there though, the weather is damp and not too cold and Bergen has plenty of things to do and see if you want a break from the bands. It is well worth a visit.

Back to the banding though.

The Norwegian Championships celebrated its 25th anniversary this year and it is now a very important cultural event within Norway. So much so that the Government itself through the Norwegian Music Federation oversees the future development of the brass band movement in the country through its employment of 14 full time staff. Allied to over 30 other full time staff employed to oversee wind band and youth music development, the brass band scene in Norway is both financially and organisationally secure. On our arrival 4BR was met by Tone Saele, the Press Officer for the NMF who took time to explain exactly what was going on, and what future plans the organisation had for banding in the country. Impressive indeed.

We were also fortunate to meet up with Oyvind Strorheim, the event manager and music advisor for the Norwegian Band Federation who will be charge of things come the European in May. Again, this impressive man outlined the details of what had already been organised and how the whole European event was planned out for May. Again, nothing was left to chance and a very coherent timetable was being followed to ensure that the event will take place with as few hiccups as possible. It made you wonder about some of the things that go on in the UK banding world.

The Nationals themselves took place in the superb Grieg Hall in Bergen, built we were informed for the Eurovision Song Contest a few years back, and even forgiving that, it is a mightily impressive structure both outside and in. It looks a little like the Bridgewater Hall on the outside and St. David’s Hall in Cardiff from within, and is five minutes walking distance from the centre of Bergen. It’s built to the IKEA style – functional rather than beautiful, but thankfully not the MFI style – functionless and falling apart and the concert hall itself is clam shaped in design, opening out from a very large stage area (over 100 feet in width and 70 feet plus in depth) straight up to fanned out banked seating.

The red roof looks like the tongue from the Rolling Stones “Forty Licks” album, but the important thing is that the hall gives a very true and secure sound from the stage for the bands. Reverb is not noticeable and detailed playing is clean and clear to the ear. The judges box is placed about half way up the hall and is a black sheet over a tubular frame. With the judges light on you can actually see in, but you cannot see out – we checked. Don’t buy a seat in the rows behind it though as it is quite big and your view may well be obscured.
The weekend started off with the Second Division contest and we sat through 13 very good standard performances from bands that had chosen some ambitious own choice works.

At times, the ambition was greater than the ability but overall we felt that these bands were playing to a level that wouldn’t have gone a miss the First Section in the UK. The judges though had to make do with a very Fourth Section means of indicating that they were ready for the next performance to start as they had to clang an old triangle as no bells, buzzers or whistles were on hand. It sounded like the call for dinner at a primary school.

Test pieces included “Ballet for Band”, “Triumphant Rhapsody”, “Trittico”, “Dances and Arias”, “Connotations”, “Firestorm”, “The Present Age”, “London Overture”, “Firestorm”, “The Plantagenets” and “Excelsior” and the bands gave real bravura performances of each of the works. The one thing though that you immediately noticed was that great pride was taken in overcoming the technical aspects of the works, whilst the musical content was secondary. Thus many performances were “cold” to the ear and lacked musical shape. They were fine shows, but not one really had the warmth of colour and tone we associate with bands in the UK and so you were impressed, but possibly for the wrong reason. It was a bit like watching the All Blacks play rugby – powerful, technical and a bit lacking in verve, with the result being ground out through efficiency rather than joyful abandonment.

The top three though were very good, with Brottum the winners with a powerful performance of “Dances and Arias” followed by Orskog under Michael Antrobus who gave a willing account of “The Plantagenets” and Oslo who also gave an efficient showing of “Connotations”. Each of these bands would have held their own at a higher level, whilst below them nearly all had more plus points than minus ones, but could have done with a bit good old fashioned heart felt emotion to go with their efforts. It had whetted our appetite for what was to follow though.

The Elite Division contest was split into two sections – one a set work and one an own choice. The first was to take place on the Friday with the second the next day. It will be the same for the European and at first we were a little sceptical about it, but were won over by the way in which it gave both bands and audience chance to regroup thoughts and lips and made the day a less arduous musical marathon. It is a good idea and will benefit all the bands, but there are still some reservations from us about the need to have comfort breaks in a contest of just 10 bands after the fifth band plays and when the judges come out of the tent when the audience are still in the hall. If there were twenty bands, yes, but just the ten and on a short test piece – there wasn’t really a need. In the other sections it made more sense, and for the own choice section it has a place, but not for the set work.

The Norwegians had to get to grips with Eric Ball’s “A Kensington Concerto” and to put it mildly most of the bands found it as easy to get to grips with as an eel covered margarine. Just the one band really did it justice – and that was Stavanger, whilst the rest somehow either didn’t understand the music or just had a variety of “off days” at the office. As there were seven Brits directing affairs, this made it seem even more disappointing, especially as all of them would have had considerable experience of playing or conducting Ball’s works.

Most performances were littered with individual errors, but almost all were too aggressive in style, hard in tone and lacked the gaiety and wit that the piece celebrates. Right from the very start of the piece, the troubles began, with cornet players choosing to play the simple introductory theme in a variety of styles. Some choose to play it in one phrase and paid the penalty of running out of breath, whilst others split it into two or three chunks that killed the flow. Only two – Stavanger and Oslofjord did it justice.

Thereafter the piece took it’s toll of victims as the heavy aggressive style of playing spoilt what could have been fine shows. There is surely a place for aggressive playing, but for the most part Eric Ball isn’t one of them.

Stavanger gave the class performance of the mini contest. David King gave the music time to breath and flow and his players were on top form. It was a performance of understanding and insight and deservedly headed the first half of the overall competition with 98 points. Behind them came the other heavyweights, Eikanger who played last and entered the stage with the look of authority about them. However that was gone within the opening bars as the usual impeccable solo cornet ran out of breath at the end of the opening statement. Thereafter the band was uneasy with itself and as hard as Nicholas Childs tried his band didn’t respond. The music was there but the execution was flawed too often for comfort.

We would add though that the highlight of the day came within Eikanger’s performance when Martin Winter gave a cameo eight bar solo that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The simple echo to the soprano just before the final section of the work was so beautifully played that it was well worth coming to Norway just to hear that. No one else got even close to it.

We had Oslofjord in third place (but the judges had them 8th) and we though Robert Childs really brought out the music in the piece. It was an old fashioned performance, full of rubato and delicate pulse and was the one rendition you could say that was the most traditionally “British” in it’s execution. We liked it, but we weren’t in the box, so they had to be disappointed with what they got. It deserved better.

The actual third place went to Alan Morrison and Molde who gave a solid and uncomplicated account of the piece without ever suggesting they actually enjoyed it. It sounded a bit cold and lacked the feel of gaiety, but the judges liked it and gave them third. Sandefjord Brass Symposium were the only other band to really get to grips with the work and Garry Cutt directed a performance that had its moments but was let down by individual errors that spoilt the overall musical picture. 4th spot was about right, although they looked disappointed when they left the stage.

After that though and the performances fell away. None of the rest of the bands found form or comfort in the music and we were left with a series of performances that lacked warmth in tone and colour and surprisingly for us lacked precision and technique. It isn’t the hardest of pieces to play, but these bands fell foul on numerous occasions to small technical fences that in a modern piece would have been jumped over without a thought.

At the end of the 10 performances we had the feeling that Eric Ball had come out on top, without ever having to ask too much of the bands. Just one band did him justice, whilst the others found the work somewhat “alien” to them. There is no real tradition of playing these types of works in Norway and so the players lack the experience of performing works that need musical insight to read if you want, “between the lines”. Playing the notes is never enough with Eric Ball’s music, and as the bands found out, if you can’t understand what isn’t written then you will never enjoy playing the great mans compositions. It was a harsh lesson for many on that Friday.

The other Division held on the Friday was the Third and once more the own choice selections revealed plenty of ambition. Again, the standard was more towards the upper reaches of the Second Section in the UK, but once more the achilles heel of the bands was their inability to combine technical competency with musical nuance. Time and time again, we were left with admiration for the edifice that was the external structure of the performance, only to question what was actually inside. It was if the heart and soul of the music was missing. The notes were being pumped around but the lifeblood was lacking.

It takes a decent band to perform work such as “Salford Sinfonietta”, “Connotations”, “John O’Gaunt”, “Resurgam”, “Rhapsody in Brass”, “Royal Parks”, “Saga”, “Vizcaya” and “Purcell Variations” to name but a few and for the most part we were given good playing. All we wanted was that “missing” extra. Still, congratulations to the bands for giving it their best – it was very enjoyable.

Fraena Muikkorps conducted by Jens Kristian Mordal came out on top with a fine rendition of “Purcell Variations” and they beat Gjorvik ByBrass directed by Roar Bjerkehagen by a point. Their performance of “Occasion” by Edward Gregson was the highlight for us and suited the bands style and approach, but they had to be content with the runners up spot this time. Third place went to another solid performance, this time of “A Salford Sinfonietta” by Rong Brass conducted by Oddvar Nostdal. All three performances were a touch classier than those below, but still, the standard even down to the bands that occupied the bottom placings was commendable.

Friday night finished about 9.30pm and that gave 4BR time to have a look around the town. There is a feeling of safety in Bergen even in the dark, so a look about is enjoyable and there was plenty to see – and the odd bar to have a drink in before bedtime.

Early up next morning for a 9.00am start of the First Division and 11 bands with ambitions to try and gain entry into the Elite Section. Just like the First Section in the UK though, the difference in quality between the two sections is quite large and on the evidence of what we heard, none of the bands could quite at the moment, bridge it.

The problem it seems lies in the fact that just like the UK, the top section itself is split into three “mini sections”. The top three bands of Eikanger, Stavanger and Manger seem to be in a class of their own overall (although not all this particular weekend), whilst there is a group of four or five bands below them that are battling it out amongst themselves with the realistic ambition of a podium placing if they perform above themselves and one of the top three perform below par. After that comes a bottom two or three that hold their own, but aren’t quite good enough to mount a strong challenge over a two part contest. They are however on this evidence a good distance ahead of the “wannabee’s” in the First Division, and this was brought home by the playing in the morning.

The bands once more choose very ambitious works to showcase their talents, but we were disappointed by the overall standard of technical and musical playing and we were left with the impression that the gap between the bands in the Second Division here and the First wasn’t that large, but the between the First and the Elite, was. It was playing on a par with good standard First Section in the UK, but nothing more.

The choices played varied and included “Ballet for Band”, “Between the Moon and Mexico”, “Endeavour”, “English Heritage”, “Firestorm”, “Leonardo”, “Paganini Variations”, “Tallis Variations” and “Variations on an Enigma”. All good quality pieces, but for the most part, just a touch too hard for the bands.

The winners were Tertnes under the very eloquent direction of John Hinckley and they gave a powerful performance of “Enigma” that suited the aggressive style of the band. The quiet moments had them struggling a little, but it had its moments of quality throughout. We had them down for second place, but once more we were proved wrong and the judges gave them 97 points and promotion to the top section. How they will get on against the bands there we will have to wait until next year. On this years form, it could be a bit of a struggle.

Second place went to Tomra under Arnfinn Dalhaug who put up a brave and committed show on “Paganini” that gained 95 points. The flugel horn was good, and stood for her solo and the other solo lines were well handled, but as with so many bands on the weekend it became a bit of a blast at the end, which robbed for us some of the character of the music. We had them down for 5th, so it shows what we know.

Third place went to Askoy who were another band that gave an aggressive account of themselves that could have been so much better if they stepped off the gas a little. “English Heritage” is a difficult piece and we thought they didn’t quite make it come off. They also took a few liberties (the difficult quick cornet solo was split and finished off noticeably by the sop) but overall it was a pretty good effort. We had them 7th – once more way out!

We liked Sola Brass under the direction of Steve Bastable, who we thought might have won with a neat account of “Moon and Mexico” that was perhaps penalised for too many individual errors, and Oster (who we had third but came 11th!) who gave a nice rendition of “Leonardo” without it every quite sparkling. After that it was a tale of too many bands making too many mistakes (Radoy for instance had a lovely musical content in Tallis, but suffered a breakdown of some technical sort just about very twenty bars) and the bottom few performances didn’t really come up to the pre match mark of expectation. Overall the First Division was the disappointment of the weekend.

We only managed to catch a glimpse of the Fourth Division as it coincided with the First, but a very nice man by the name of Nils Nikolaisen, who has adjudicated both here and at the Europeans informed us of how a number of bands played. A very knowledgeable man, Nils thought that the overall standard of the new section was good, although some of the choices of own choice works were beyond the bands. “The Plantagenets”, “Entertainments”, “Quintessence”, “Vizcaya” and “Variations on Laudate Dominum” take some playing by bands higher up the banding tree, so it came as no surprise that he felt one or two were a teeny weeny bit ambitious for their own good.

Tormod Flaten though is a class act – with euph and with the baton, here is a young man with a very big future ahead of him and he demonstrated a fine understanding of Gilbert Vinter to gain an impressive three point win with a performance of “Entertainments” that was really head and shoulders above the rest with his band Tertnes Amatorkorps. They won’t be out of place in the higher section next year. Second place went to Grenland with a sturdy showing of “Quintessence” whilst third place was taken by Skui Brass Band who performed “The Plantagenets”. These three we were informed were good value for their winning positions.

And so finally to the climax of the weekend (the brass band party was yet to come though!) and the Elite Section and their “own choice” works. Much has been made of the way the Norwegians approach their contesting – innovative is a word that is used a lot and this year was no exception, although to many a brass band traditionalist, innovation can sometimes mean desecration.

Norwegian bands are allowed under their rules to use non standard brass band instrumentation, as well as play any number of performers on stage at a contest. Thus you get a lot of soprano players performing on Eb trumpet (Stavanger’s sop player for instance used both during the weekend), some principal cornet players playing flugel horn (and not just in Dances and Arias) and many bands having those euro style tubas. Lots of bands take the stage with 30 plus playing members and at least three percussionists, whilst most bands opt for a line up that includes five basses and four trombones.

For us, it does no harm – the soprano isn’t a traditional brass instrument out here and so young players especially use the Eb trumpet as it tends to be more versatile to use in connection to wind band ensembles etc. The numbers on stage doesn’t cause a problem either, especially when you take into account that individual players pay 15 kroner each to perform at the Nationals. That’s right; the player pays, plus the band, so if you have 30 players who want to play and who want to pay, so be it. That’s innovative in our book, but somehow you can’t see it happening over here can you?

The top bands in the Elite Section though tend to be mirror images of the UK bands, with perhaps just a couple more players – an additional bass or an extra trom. What is truly innovative though is their approach to the own choice works, and on this occasion we were treated (and that is the right word) to some superb performances. The challenge of modern music holds no fears (for players and audiences alike) and so we had 10 cracking shows from the bands of works that would see many a nose turned up in distaste back in the UK.

Alexander Brass Band kicked things off with “Connotations” – the most easily accessible work to be heard, but one that now seems very dated. It was given the best performance of the weekend (three other lower section bands had a go as well) but the piece no longer holds enough challenges for top class bands and we were left with the feeling that Alexander could played something more testing perhaps. Some nice touches, but against bands at this level it was found wanting, and they came 10th to go with their 10th on the set work to come last. If they are relegated though they will be strong contenders to return sharpish.

Oslofjord were next on stage under Robert Childs and we had placed them 3rd in the set work after they had given a fine account of themselves. The judges had them 8th from that though and once more they didn’t quite like what they heard in a performance of “Revelation” that started well but just tired towards the end. The big euph feature nearly didn’t come off and we detected the MD encouraging flagging spirits throughout. It was a brave effort though, especially from a young band and they should take heart from what they achieved here. They were 5th on the own choice though (we had them 6th) and so they came 8th overall – one or two places below what we thought they deserved.

Now the first of the real heavyweights and Manger, the reigning champions took the stage determined to put a disappointing show on the set work behind them. They were unknown to them in 7th place after that, so they had a lot of work to do and set out in thrilling fashion on “Harmony Music” with Allan Withington directing matters with an understated composure – nothing too flashy, but with just glimpses of an almost Zorro like swish of the baton to entice his charges to explode with brilliance. It so nearly came off as well, with a super bit of euph playing in the immensely difficult cadenza and an equally fine effort from both horn and cornet. It was the diddly, diddly stuff that caught them out though and at times it rocked a bit too much for comfort. The climaxes were huge though, but things very nearly came a huge cropper at the end when the sop came in half a bar too early in the cross rhythm section and things for a moment nearly went belly up. It recovered though, but the damage had been done and 94 points and third place was the reward. We had them third as well, but overall it meant that the 2002 champions had to be content with 4th place this time. The Europeans though will see a strong challenge from this band.

Garry Cutt took the stage with Sandefjord with the knowledge that his band was in a strong position to really challenge for the top prizes after doing well the day before. Unknown to them they were 4th, so a tremendous show here on “Men and Mountains” and they could be in with a shout. It was not to be though and although they gave a fine account of themselves, the music never really shone as it could and too many individual errors cost them dearly. The piece can sound a little boring and at times it was rather monochrome in colour and you sensed the players may have been too nervous to do themselves or the music justice. Their reward was 4th again and 4th overall – a fine result, but a possible missed opportunity to challenge higher.

David King seemed to be in determined mood during the weekend and once more he directed Stavanger with a clarity of thought and style that was a joy to watch and listen to. Not a hint of the flashiness that sometimes comes across when he is in front of YBS, but detailed clear direction of “Concerto Grosso” that showed a MD in complete control and understanding of one of the most complex brass band scores ever. His players responded magnificently, with the euph and tuba at the beginning outstanding. We did wonder a little about the gilssandos from the cornet section in places – they seemed to be manufactured with possible vocal help, but the rest of the technical aspects were overcome with amazing facility. The music within the piece is sometimes overlooked amongst all the pyrotechnics, but not on this occasion and there were some sublime moments in the quieter sections. A very classy flugel and trom made the blues section sound just right before a corker of a finish on the Tico, Tico stuff. It capped a superb show, brilliantly directed with top class soloists and a security of ensemble that was as good as any we have heard on this piece. It was a worthy winning performance, although at the time we didn’t know it was given 99 points.

We spoke to Roy Newsome, one of the adjudicators after the contest and he stated clearly that he felt it was one of the very best performances he had heard of the piece anywhere, and that it would have most probably have won any contest against any opposition given the chance, anywhere in the world. That coming from an experienced adjudicator is some recommendation.

Molde and Alan Morrison had the difficult task of following that and they gave a fine account of themselves on “Dove Descending” that just tired towards the end and contained a few too many individual moments of unease in the Nativity section. Alan Morrision though reminded us of his qualities as a conductor (bands in the UK should take note) and he gave the players every chance to shine with a nice flow to the music. They couldn’t quite do it though and 3rd place on the set work had to be allied to 9th on the own choice – harsh but fair but they still came 5th overall. Well done.

Ila were the next band on stage, and a very brave choice in the form of “Salamander”. Not your usual fare at an own choice contest for sure, but having not heard the work for a number of years it came as something of a welcome surprise once more. It is a powerful work, with an almost elegiac feel in places and Ila and Bjorn Sagstad made it into a compelling performance. It perhaps doesn’t have the technical obstacles to test the very best bands, and so it sounded a touch “easy” if that is the right word for it. Nothing much went wrong during a fine account, but perhaps against the choices elsewhere it was a piece that couldn’t do itself justice. 7th place was about right and 7th overall was a fair and accurate reflection of the bands efforts over the two days.

And so to Eikanger. The rumours had been flying around all weekend that they were to do something a “bit special” and those rumours went into overdrive when it was revealed that the piece they had chosen was Edward Gregson’s “The Trumpets of the Angels”.

This is a piece that is something different to say the least, but one that must be seen within the context of the Norwegian Championships themselves. As we have said, the rules permit bands to play “special instruments” and to use trumpets, so in that respect the use of five trumpets for the featured solo lines and an organ for the piece was completely within the rules - written or unwritten.

In 2002 Eikanger were penalised by the judges for their choice of own choice “Daphnes and Chloes” and came 7th, so Nicholas Childs had made an exceptionally brave choice with the Gregson work. The piece started with the seven trumpets (five trumpets, one cornet and a sop) lined up on a raised platform behind the band, whilst the band itself was seated with a choir of horns to the stage right and Kim Lofthouse stage left on the organ.

It started powerfully with band introduction and with the organ giving a huge ground swell of sound that made your fillings in your teeth rattle. Then came the first flourishes from the trumpets themselves – each player giving small declamatory statements of varying length. Although this was impressive, the first couple of entries were not secure, although it soon recovered its poise. Other statements followed before six players returned to their seats, leaving Martin Winter to walk slowly to the edge of the stage about a meter from where the solo trombone usually sits. Then a form of genius appeared.

Martin Winter then proceeded to perform a lengthy cadenza that started with a treble forte bottom F# (we may be wrong with the actual notes, but you will get the drift) followed by an equally loud middle C# and then a huge top D. The sequence was then repeated and the cadenza grew in complexity.

The soloist was meant to be the “fallen angel” – all fire and brimstone and the effect was mesmeric. After the first sequence there seemed to be a pause of silence in which we swear all you could hear was the thud of peoples jaws as they hit the floor in disbelief. It was stupendous playing. We were sat next to Garry Cutt and Steve Bastable and wrote on our pads a two-word expletive that suffice to say, Mr Cutt didn’t take me up on.

At the end of the performance though there was an immense amount of debate about what we had heard. It was fantastic playing for sure, but how could you judge it as a contesting performance? The weakness of the piece in this context was that it was really a major concert rather than contest work that centred around the immense talent of the dominant solo player, Martin Winter. The bands input seemed to be secondary, as to a point were the rest of the trumpeters. What we witnessed and heard was perhaps the finest brass band concert item played on a contest stage – an immense performance from a soloist and a super performance from the band. The piece had broad hints of Messian as well as the usual Gregson trademark repeated isolated quavers, but it still remained a compelling unique piece of brass writing. Opinion was split to whether it should win or whether it would be penalised for not taxing the band as a whole as much as “Concerto Grosso” patently did. The judges went for the latter and after speaking to many in the Hall afterwards, it seemed to be a decision that found favour. It was however something that will live long in the memory banks.

Jaren Hornmusikkforening had to follow Eikanger on, and it says a lot for the audience at Bergen that the hall did not empty quicker than is usually the case in the UK after a Dyke or YBS have played. Jaren chose to play “Riffs and Interludes” by Torstein Aagaard Nilsen and if it wasn’t for what had gone on immediately before this too would have created something to debate for those who hadn’t heard it before. Thankfully the piece has been played at least twice here before and so the use of synthesised delayed themes didn’t come across as that strange. The work is very interesting indeed to listen to and as a piece of contemporary writing is for us, first rate stuff. Jaren played it well but the quality of the band wasn’t in the same league as many that had gone before and at times it sounded strained and too hard. They were awarded 8th spot and 9th overall, which for us was about right.

Finally, Krohnengen and Ray Farr with a very competent performance of “Masquerade” that just lacked the deftness of touch from the players to make the real detail speak. Some super playing from the euph and the trombones and there was a sense that they could have just done with a bit more rehearsal time to have buffed the piece up to a real sparkling shine. It was pretty good stuff though and well directed in eloquent fashion by the MD. 6th place to go with 5th on the set work meant 6th overall, and although there was no repeat of last years win in this section of the contest, you sensed they were a band that could challenge more strongly next time out.

So that was that then. The playing was over, and so all that was left was the short entertaining celebratory concert, the results and an evening of paying £6.00 a pint for Norwegian lager at the famous “Brass Night.” All of which was very enjoyable indeed.

The concert was well directed and entertaining enough to pass the time, before the results (and we mean all the results from all the sections) were announced. Some may complain that not releasing the results from the Friday contests was a bit unfair, but overall it meant that even bands in the bottom section could be rewarded for their efforts in front of a full hall. So it was, and the finally dénouement came with Stavanger being crowned champions for the first time since 1992 and given the honour of representing Norway at the 2004 European Championships in Glasgow. It was a very well deserved win indeed. Eikanger came second and Sandefjord third, but for us, the Norwegian Championships were the winners. We look forward to coming back in May for the European and next year for another dose of the best of banding


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