2005 European Championships - 3rd Conductors Competition


4BR looks back at a night when the performance of the presenter outshone the bands, soloist and the three young conductors - for all the wrong reasons.

Christian Radner
Christian Radner: Winner - 3rd European Conductors Competition

This was an odd night to say the least, and we doubt if we will ever remember a contest such as this in such the same way again. This was one of those nights that will enter the folklore of banding.

The 3rd European Conductor of the Year was the Austrian Christian Radner, who took the title ahead of Bjorn Bus of the Netherlands and with Octavio Mas – Arocas in third place. These were the three finalists that won through to direct test pieces performances from the Amsterdam Brass Band, and to be adjudicated on their efforts by Dr Nicholas Childs, Roman Brogli - Sacher and Per Kristian Svensen.

The title holder took home with him 3000 Euros and a little bronze statuette of Wagner for his efforts, whilst the runner up pocketed 2000 Euros and Wagner and the third place got 1000 Euros and that little something to put on the mantelpiece at home. 

The winner was a bit of a surprise though. Each of the three finalists had a different work to prepare in a fairly short time before the night, with the eventual winner being drawn to conduct Piet Swert's 2002 European set work, ‘Chain'. Bjorn Bus drew to conduct ‘Year of the Dragon', whilst Octavio Mas-Arocas had ‘James Cook – Circumnavigator.'

Herein lies the great problem with the contest, as each of the three pieces was so different from each other in conducting terms that it was nearly impossible for an accurate assessment to be made in relation to each other and the demands they made on each of the participants.

Amsterdam Brass
Amsterdam Brass: Cornet section

The Amsterdam Brass Band didn't really help the cause either, as they were not really up to the task of playing three test pieces in one night. The end result was a competition that never lived up to its expectations – either from the material used or the interpretations on it by the conductors themselves. It was damage limitation conducting.

‘Chain' for instance is a work of repetitive themes with a central section that demands much of the soloists. Christian Radner was fortunate that two thirds of the piece were in 4/4 time, so he had little really that go wrong, whilst he also scored by having the one soloist in the shape of the tenor horn player in the Amsterdam Band who was up to the task of playing the solo line in any of the test pieces.

The other two were not so lucky.

Ocatavio Mas-Arocas
Ocatavio Mas-Arocas: Third place

Octavio Mas-Arocas [third overall] had the misfortune to draw ‘James Cook' and suffered from the bands inability to play in time or with accuracy in the 7/4 section in particular. The soloists were very poor as well – the solo cornet, soprano and especially the trombones on the triple tonguing bit got nowhere near their parts, and as a result, poor Octavio was hanging on for grim death. Full credit to him for doing so, but it really did scupper his chances of making any lasting impression.

Bjorn Bus meanwhile certainly looked the part. He had a baton the size of a cricket stump, a suit that fitted (the other two had ones that must have been chosen by the mothers) and a style that must have taken hours of practice in front of the mirror.  He also must have thought he had the trump card in ‘Year of the Dragon', but try as he might (and try he did, with a passion that was more Iberian than Senor Mas-Arocas) he was flogging a dead horse from the word go.

Bjorn Bus
Bjorn Bus: Second

He was the most aesthetically pleasing conductor of the three to look at, and the most slickly prepared, but he was also the one whose personal performance bore little or no resemblance to what was going on before him. He did look the part though – but there are plenty of MDs who look a good show – the top ones also conduct a good show as well. 

The winner was therefore the winner by something approaching default. All three conductors certainly had the talent, but on this occasion they were not helped at all by some poor choices by the organisers as pieces to use in the Final and by the band they chose to accompany them.  We hope all three will be heard of again in the future, but as all three learnt their trade in the wind band sector, we feel that this may be the first and last time we will. This experience, however rewarding, may have put them off brass banding for life. 

Rike Dijksrtra [right] with Amsterdam Brass MD
Amsterdam Brass MD with Miss Rika Dijkstra

What certainly would have put them off brass banding though was the compere for the night – a lady called Rika Dijkstra who was a cross between Germaine Greer and Alan Partridge. To say she was awful and embarrassing is to underestimate the ability of a person to make a whole hall of people squirm in discomfort. This was gold medal stuff.

It was all topped off with an excruciating on stage interview with David Daws (or David Dawson as she called him on one occasion). David was the star soloist for the night and had performed ‘Golden Slippers' and ‘Swedish Hymn' manfully with the Amsterdam Band who were little or no help to him and had more than earned the warm applause from the large audience in the Theatre of the Martiniplaza. Just when he thought his excellent contribution was over, in stepped Germaine Partridge to conduct an overlong interview of such inane proportions that it took the breath away.

David Daws
David Daws

David deserved a medal for his stoic professionalism, but not even he could possibly come up with anything other than a shrug of the shoulders when she informed him and the audience that ‘Golden Slippers' was in fact something that came from an Amsterdam whorehouse! This to a Salvationist who takes an immense pride in his work and faith, and who was denied any opportunity to explain either.

Don't even start to think what she may have been referring too please. Please don't.

However, she even nearly topped this by inviting the conductor of the Amsterdam Band to speak into her left breast with a motion that reminded you of the ‘Bitty, Bitty' comedy sketch on ‘Little Britain'. Thankfully, the MD declined the offer.

It was a moment when time stood still, and ranks as one of the worst 10 minutes in the entire history of the European Championships and capped a performance from her that was an embarrassment; she knew little or nothing of what the bands were playing, anything about the conductors, the judges, the running order – or anything of note come to mention it.  Where she came from no body knew – where she goes back to, nobody will care. 

All that was left was for David to give a cracking account of the Harry James ‘Carnival of Venice' – despite the asthmatic accompaniment of the band, before the announcement of the results, which was done with a lacksidaisical approach that summed up the whole event (none of the judges were present), whilst the giving of prizes was something like a school prize giving day for the third form cookery awards.

With them finally given out and the photographs finally taken, the rather stunned audience could leave for home with memories of an event perhaps most of them will be keen to forget. This was at times, the stuff of nightmares.

Iwan Fox


2016   2015   2014   2013   2012
2011   2010   2009   2008   2007
2006   2005   2004 (1)   2004 (2)   2003
2002   2001