2009 Norwegian National Championships - Second Division retrospective


There was a clear cut victory for Kleppe on the Friday - all done in time for a few celebratory drinks with MD Russell Gray.

It was a pretty clear cut victory in the Second Division on the Friday for Kleppe Musikklag under conductor Russell Gray.

Good one

Their performance of ‘Tallis Variations’ was a good one in anyone’s book – warm and balanced, full of lovely phrasing, solid soloists and secure ensemble. It was a clever choice too, as it was the type of piece Russell can shape with almost masterful musicality.

There was very little to fault really – the odd scrappy moment or two in some lead lines and a little bit of tuning to end, but by then they were home and dry and already enjoying the first of many a celebratory drink. It was a classy bit of playing.

Closer affair

Behind them it was a much closer affair, with Alexander Brass Band directed by the Benjamin Button figure of Morten E Hansen producing a real old blood and guts X rated version of ‘The Saga of Haakon the Good’ that in places had us cowering behind the seats in the hall! The blood curdling cries were brilliant!

Morten has been around for some time of course (he told us this in the bar on Thursday night, and we believe this was his 50th performance here at the championships – over 30 of them as conductor). All this and he hasn’t changed a bit in the last ten years – Brad Pitt eat your heart out! He is a fine musician and once again his band performed so well for him.


Third place went to Rong Brass, newly promoted from the Third Division with a well controlled performance of ‘The Forest of Dean’ – a piece that grows on you the more you get to hear it played as well as this. It just didn’t have the overall quality of the two bands above it, but it was still a good one.

After the top three it was a question really of pros and cons – lots of bands had more pros than can be found in the darker corners of Bergen harbour waiting for the sailors on a Saturday night - but they also had their fair share of musical inmates too.

Much to enjoy

Brottum for instance had much to enjoy in an uneven ‘Tallis Variations’, and so too Flesland and Gjallarhorn, conducted in exuberant fashion by two up and coming conducting stars in Patrick Randefalk and Espen Westbye.

Both made the most of their resources in ‘Endeavour’ (which certainly lived up to its name) and ‘Heart of a Salvationist’ (which was certainly full of heart felt emotion). Two bands and two conductors to watch out for in the future that’s for certain.

Well constructed

There was also a well constructed account of ‘Swedish Festival Music’ from Haukas and a secure, if rather blandish rendition of ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’ from Hornorkesteret Stavanger.

After these bands the standard did drop away, and whilst nearly all ended their performances in credit, some were close to finding too many debits on the contesting balance sheet for comfort.

Plenty to work on

Plenty to work on for next year then for the likes of Stangaland with a decent showing on ‘Rhapsody in Brass’ that cried out for a bit more ensemble warmth, Sagvag and an uneven ‘Dances and Arias’, Skui’s interesting ‘Aspects of Praise’, Gjesdal’s full blooded ‘Blazon’ and Trondheim’s rather stretched ‘Dances and Arias’.

Each had their moments, but some of the choices were still in retrospect a touch too ambitious for the bands to really play with a degree of technical and musical comfort. The conductors need to try and just be a touch more realistic about their bands true ambitions.

Splendid fashion

Not so Kleppe however and after their relegation from the First Division last year they returned in splendid fashion. 

On this evidence they could well be a band to look out for at the higher level in twelve moths time too – especially if they have Russell Gary at the helm.  

Iwan Fox


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