26 April-4 May 2003
Bergen Revisited -
YBS and 1996
4BR has a look back to 1996 and the
last time the European Championships were held in Bergen. It was
a year when a Torstein Aargaard-Nilsen piece was the test piece,
Black Dyke were looking to retain their title and a young band representing
the Yorkshire Building Society were making their debut…….
last time Bergen was the venue for the European Brass Band Championships
the contest was in its 19th year and only one band could lay claim
to being the dominant force in the contests history. Black Dyke
had won the contest 10 times in 18 attempts and were in Norway as
reigning champions, ready and primed under the baton of James Watson
to make it an eleventh success and continue a run that in the previous
year had seen the band win the British Open, National Championships
and the Euro crown in Luxembourg. They came to the contest as overwhelming
Joining them at the Greig Hall on Saturday 4th May were Burgermusik
Luzern from Switzerland, Brass Band de Bazuin from Holland, Brass
Band du Conservatoire d’Esch-sur-Alzette from Luxembourg,
Midden Brabant from Belgium, Laganvale representing Northern Ireland,
Manger Musikklag, Tertnes and Stavanger from Norway, Tredegar from
Wales and Yorkshire Building Society representing England.
In fact YBS were there due to the fact that in October 1995 they
were runners up at the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall
in London to Black Dyke, and so as the Queensbury outfit were already
in Bergen as reigning champions and as they were current Great Britain
National Champions, YBS were given the invite. How fate moves in
mysterious ways eh?
Norwegians had of course organised things with a precision that
the Swiss would have been proud of, but had also thrown a real spanner
in the works by choosing a test piece from the pen of Torstein Aargaard-Nilsen
called “Seid”, which was proving to be an exceptionally
difficult test piece to say the least. The rumours around the bars
(plenty of talking as the beer was so expensive) and the hall on
the day was how the piece was going to sort out the men from the
boys, and a few hours later so it proved.
Before the real action began Brass Band Normandie from France had
won the 1st Section contest, which had started at 8.30am in the
morning (shades of 4th section contests) and so the draw for the
European actually took place at 7.00am. Bleary eyed band officials
made their way to the contest controllers room to find out their
fate and to find out where they would play in both the set work
and then the own choice section later that afternoon.
For the reigning champions a split of 7 and 6 was fine, whilst
Manger were not too displeased with 2 and 5 and Midden Brabant 6
and 3. In fact all the bands were reasonably happy with their draw
– all except Yorkshire Building Society. Poor old Ted Griffiths
had pulled not just one number one out of the hat, but had repeated
the feat again for the own choice section as well. Once can be described
as unlucky - twice seemed bleeding well cursed. It is not recorded
what the faces of the band or David King looked like when he told
On the stroke of 10.00am they took to the stage and fuelled with
nerves and pride, talent and anticipation they produced an absolute
stunner of a performance of “Seid” that even off the
number one slot was good enough to beat all their rivals. The piece
demanded control and technique and with an immensely difficult soft
ending some 18 minutes after the piece began it was a huge test
of stamina. The young band had responded to David King’s urgings
by giving a performance of immense character.
Black Dyke responded later be giving a performance that many in
the audience felt pipped YBS but had in fact come second two points
behind, whilst Midden Brabant put in a strong show to come 3rd three
points further back and Tredegar 4th a point further back again.
Tertnes were 5th whilst Manger seemed to have blown their chances
by coming home 6th. It was however in reality a straight fight between
the two bands from Yorkshire and it set up the afternoon section
brilliantly. The test piece had proved immensely difficult and many
wondered whether YBS had given it their best shot and that the more
experienced boys from Dyke (this was pre female emancipation days
in Queensbury) would draw on their abilities and take the title
The great imponderable about the European is the choice of the
bands to what to play in the Own Choice section of the competition.
The following year in 1997 the choice would be limited as bands
had to choose from something of a set list of pre war pieces, but
on this occasion they had a free hand.
Philip Wilby had emerged as the great new talent in brass writing
in the past few years and so it came as no surprise that four of
the ten bands had chosen his works, whilst others had plumbed for
Peter Graham and Philip Sparke. Given all the great brass bands
works available to them the contenders opted for a narrow selection
– all showcase pieces designed to emphasis the strengths of
the bands rather than the musical content it could be said. To make
matters even more interesting, both Black Dyke and YBS had opted
for Wilby’s “Revelation” whilst Midden Brabant
who were in third place opted for his “Masquerade”.
Tredegar in fourth opted for “Montage” as did Tertnes
in fifth, whilst Manger went for Philip Sparke’s “Harmony
Music”. The choices did not disappoint.
YBS though had the hardest task of all. Off the number 1 draw they
had to give a performance that would see off all their challengers,
and given the difficulty of the choice they had made, many thought
it could prove to be just beyond them. They proved all their doubters
David King dragged every ounce of inspiration from his lean frame
and his players responded in kind. Morgan Griffiths on euphonium
in particular was outstanding, but so were his other young colleagues
and at the end of the day, the three judges – Pascal Eicher,
Nils Eivind Nikolaisen and James scott gave them 96 points. Very
good indeed, but certainly beatable and with enough leeway to ensure
an overall victory to Black Dyke if they could do it.
Before the Dyke challenge could be mounted there were performances
of note from Midden Brabant and Manger, who dragged themselves from
the depths to claim third place in this section and to come third
overall. Dyke then took the stage.
Their “Revelation” was an immense performance –
huge in sound, technique and character, but one that was not quite
absolutely perfect. It was damn near though and so the judges gave
them 97 points. It wasn’t enough, but the audience at that
point didn’t know it.
Tredegar put up a show to come 4th again whilst Tertnes closed
the contest off with a performance that saw them grab sixth place.
It was results time.
Not quite. The Norwegians made sure that people would be kept waiting
by ensuring the results would’t be announced until after the
Gala Concert (which was OK) and so it was late in a very long day
that that the outcome of the 1996 European Championships was announced.
Tertnes were 6th with 177pts, before the close run mini contest
for third place was settled by one point with Tredegar 5th on 183pts,
Midden Brabant 4th on the same points but with a higher placing
on the set work and Manger 3rd on 184pts. What they would have given
to have played better earlier in the morning.
And so to the big one. With 192pts……… Black Dyke.
The place seemed to take a collective intake of breath as if they
couldn’t quite believe that Dyke had been beaten, but a few
seconds later they knew they were, and they knew who by. With 193
points and the European Champions for 1996…. Yorkshire Building
Society Band. There was uproar.
YBS had done it for the first time, whilst David King had done
it for a third time – twice with Black Dyke no less and so
this victory tasted all the sweeter as he had left the Queensbury
outfit as a man who hadn’t won the Nationals or Open.
YBS celebrating their win in Bergen's Grieghalle in 1996
Black Dyke didn’t return to the contest again until 2002,
whilst YBS started their period of dominance at the contest that
has now seen them win on six occasions. Bergen 1996 had seen the
end of one era and the start of another. Bergen 2003 may well see
the story turn full circle. YBS though will be out to ensure history
does not repeat itself.
Seid – Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen
(Set Work) Jappie Dijlstra, Rod Franks, Sverre Stakston
(Own Choice) Pascal Eicher, Nils Eivind Nikolaisen, James Scott
1. Yorkshire Building Society – D. King – 97pts (1st)/96pts
(2nd) – 193pts
2. Black Dyke – J. Watson – 95pts (2nd)/97pts (1st)
3. Manger Musikklag (Norway) – B. Sagstad – 89pts (6th)/95pts
(3rd) – 184pts
4. BB Midden Brabant (Belgium) – B. Wiame – 92pts (3rd)/91pts
(5th) – 183pts
5. Tredegar – N. Childs – 91pts (4th)/92pts (4th) –
6. Tertnes Brass (Norway) – T. Brevik – 90pts (5th)/87pts
(7th) – 177pts
7. Burgermusik Luzern (Switzerland) – A. Withington –
86pts (9th)/90pts (6th) – 176pts
8. BB Conservatoire d’Esch (Luxembourg) – F. Harles
– 87pts (8th)/85pts (8th) – 172pts
(Paganini Variations) Draw: 9/2
9. Stavanger (Norway) – G. Cutt – 88pts (7th)/83pts
(Essence of Time)
10. Laganvale (N. Ireland) – J. Kitchen – 84pts (10th)/84pts