2004 European Championships - First section championships


The Europeans is not just about the very best bands slugging it out against each other. Since 1994, there has been a First Section Contest, primarily set up to encourage and develop brass banding in countries that did not have a strong historical base.

It has become something of the equivalent of the UEFA Cup and hopefully as it develops further it will be come a stepping-stone for bands to progress to the Champions League that is the European contest itself. It seems to be working in part, but as yet it is a contest that hasn't really caught the imagination. For this there may be many reasons.

Perhaps the main one is that the contest has no real identity no British First Section representatives have competed and the so-called "emerging banding nations" haven't really used it as a competition to kick start further progress in their own countries. It needs a radical rethink and although this year we see a further tinkering with the set up, the contest does need an overhaul for it to remain relevant and progressive. It is too important to be left wither and die from the disinterest of the bands themselves.

This year the contest format has been changed with the four competitors having to perform an entertainment programme for the three judges Tom Brevik, Nigel Boddice and Johan de Meij as well as a set work, "Airs and Dances" by the Scottish Composer and arranger, Alan Fernie. It therefore gives the bands the opportunity to showcase their talents to the full, from upbeat numbers to test pieces and should in theory both challenge them and allow them to entertain at the same time.

Although not quite the type of competition we would like it to be, this seems to be a move in the right direction. Lets hope the four bands get plenty of support on the Saturday and that 2004 proves to be the turning point for the First Section itself.

The Competing Bands:

Arklow Shipping Silver Band Ireland
Conductor: John Bonner

Principal Cornet: Tommy Byrne
Soprano: Anthony McCarthy
Euphonium: James Connolly
Trombone: Liam Walsh

Formed in 1968, the band took on the name of the Arklow Shipping Line as their sponsors in September 2002. Before that they were known as the Arklow Silver Armitage Shanks Band. They hail from South Green in County Wicklow in Southern Ireland.

Since their formation they have won the Irish Championship on no less than ten times in the past twelve years, including a nap hand from 2000 to 2004. The week before the European Championships they defended the Irish title at the IABCB National Championships where against strong opposition they triumphed playing "Resurgam" by a four point winning margin, thus sending them off to Glasgow on a high and also securing their place in Groningen in 2005.

The band has made two LP's as well as featuring on U2's album "The Joshua Tree". The band made its debut at this contest in 1998 in Kerkrade when under the direction of John Bonner they came 4th. They returned in 2001 in Montreux where they came 3rd, whilst in Brussels in 2002 they were runners up. Last year they were runners up again to Brottum Brass from Norway, so they will be looking to go one better this time and secure victory.

European History:

1998: 4th place
Own Choice selection "Land of the Long White Cloud"

2001: 3rd place
Own Choice selection "Pageantry"

2002: 2nd place
Own Choice selection "Tam O'Shanter's Ride"

2003: 2nd place
Own Choice Selection "The Kingdom Triumphant"

Brass Band Pfeffersberg - Italy
Conductor: Bernhard Reifer

Brass Band Pfeffersberg are the third Italian Brass Band to compete at the European Championships, following Mitropa Brass Band who competed in the First Section in 1994 where they 2nd and Brass Band Novedrate who came fifth in the same contest in 2002 in Brussels.

The band hails from the South Tyrol in Italy and the translation of the bands name means "Pepper Mountain Brass Band". They were established in 2000 and perform concerts in the local area up to five times a year. These have included some fairly prestigious event s though, so they are not strangers to performing in front of large audiences.  This though will be their first ever brass band contest. We wish them well.

Austrian Brass Band Austria
Conductor: Uwe Koller

The Austrian Brass Band scene is one that is continuing to develop with the trend set by Brass Band Frosch Hall who won this contest on no fewer than four occasions.

Austrian Brass Band are a University Brass Ensemble and were established in 2003 as part of a "Fixed Installation" course at the University of Music and Art in Graz. They seek to continue to develop the brass band in the future and will be heading for the French Open Brass Band Championships in Amboise in June.

Their Musical Director, Uwe Koller is the solo trumpet player with the Berlin Opera and has been Professor of Trumpet at the University for a number of years.

Torshavn Brass Band Faroe Islands
Conductor: Ove Olsen

Torshavn Brass Band hail from the Faroe Islands and are the third brass band from the country to appear at the contest. Klaksvikar Hornorkester appeared in 1995, whilst Faroe Brass appeared in 2000. The band itself made its only other appearance at the contest in 1996 when it performed under it's other name of Havner Hornorkester and came third in Bergen.  They were conducted on that day by Ove Olsen.

The brass band has been in existence for over 30 years now and was set up by Ove Olsen. In the past twelve months though, they have been celebrating their centenary as a musical organisation and they recently purchased a full set of brass instruments from Besson and held a celebration concert with the internationally acclaimed trumpet player John Wallace in their new rehearsal facilities.

Previous Appearance: 1996 3rd place overall.


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