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2018 European Brass Band Championship
Championship Section preview & prediction

4BR Editor Iwan Fox looks forward to a Championship Section contest of musical excellence that nobody should take for granted.

Eiaknger
Familar faces - but will they become familar winners? 2017 Champion, Eikanger Bjorsvik

For the 41st time the centrepiece of the Championship Festival will be provided by the twelve bands aiming to become the 2018 Champion Band of Europe.

Perhaps we have all got used to accepting that this contest offers such a remarkable level of competitive musical excellence that we have become a little blasé about things - EBBA included.  

The line-up this year does have a rather familiar look about it, with defending champion Eikanger Bjorsvik up against the likes of Cory, Valaisia, Brass Band Willebroek, 3BA and Concord from 2017.  The other contenders are not exactly novices at this game either.

Fast forward to Montreux next year and you suspect the same five or six will be on duty again.

Perhaps we have all got used to accepting that this contest offers such a remarkable level of competitive musical excellence that we have become a little blasé about things - EBBA included.

As much as those lucky enough to be in the superb Grote Zaal will sit back and enjoy the fantastic playing on the weekend, they may also like to take a moment or two to think that unless EBBA can come up with a better way of rewarding that excellence, then familiarity may well start to breed a little bit of contempt from those they are listening to.

What about the honour?

40 years ago the Champion Band of Europe was presented with a cheque for £1,000 (worth £4,000 in 2018), whilst every European band not in the main prizes walked away with a Sovereign cornet.  

This year the Champion Band gets €2,000 cash and two euphoniums.   

Euphoniums may bring you musical happiness but they don’t pay the bills – and €2,000 doesn’t come close either. 

But what about the honour of being crowned champion, you ask?  Surely you can’t put a price on that? 

Wanna bet.  

Roger Federer
Nice trophy but show me the money: Roger Federer gets the cup and the cash...

There is little doubt Roger Federer gives his all in his pursuit of the Wimbledon title, but as yet he hasn’t forgone a single penny of the £2.2 million that comes with picking up that particular trophy. 

And that cheque didn’t come with a free tennis racket and a tube of Slazenger balls either.  

Economic reality

Just like the Swiss master, top bands also have to pay hotel bills, transport costs and even fees for their performance coaches – and having to meet those costs by flogging a pair of second hand euphoniums to the nearest dealer at a whopping discount price rather takes the sheen off winning any title. 

As much as we enjoy the amazing competitive music making, surely the time has come for EBBA to try and reward the best bands (all bands at the championship in fact) in a manner that has some link to economic reality.

Tennis players have successfully negotiated more money for themselves by a form of collective bargaining, and there could soon come a time when the top brass bands will start thinking of doing the same.

As much as we enjoy the amazing competitive music making, surely the time has come for EBBA to try and reward the best bands (all bands at the championship in fact) in a manner that has some link to economic reality.

Signing up to compete in a contest shouldn’t equate to signing away any rights to a fair slice of the financial cake – however much winning the title means.

mARCO pUTZ
Time for Outrage! Composer Marco Pütz has presented an intriguing set-work

For the time being they will be concentrating on matters musical - and on a rather aptly named set-work by Marco Pütz entitled, ‘Time for Outrage!’

The Luxembourgian was invited by EBBA and ZIMIHC to make the work, originally written for wind band, available as the set- test, with it being adapted for the brass band medium by composer Paul McGhee.

Pütz describes the work as, ‘an expression of my personal aversion against all the current crises and injustice of any kind in the world.  I am aware that I cannot alleviate or even eradicate these crises with my music, but as a free citizen I believe I have the right to express my indignation through music.’ 

Troubling angst

In three movements, the first, ‘Breaking Silence’ emerges slowly and thoughtfully with an eerie sense of troubling angst. 

The outrage here is suppressed, inward and anxious. It is music that feels uneasy and unsettling before developing in intensity with a bubbling undercurrent of growing fear and anxiety. 

The second section ‘Troubled’ expresses this fully – more vocal and expressive, before the final section, ‘Rock the Culprits!’ is a driven, pulsating struggle laced with sardonic, acidic sarcasm – the writing strident and demonstrative, the composer seeking a sense of redemptive justice however forlorn.  

The very best will play it and play it very well, but whether or not they, or the audience for that matter becomes anything more than mildly miffed in their expression of outrage as a result of playing or listening to it will be seen.

Blinkers

It’s summed up rather neatly by Pütz himself: “The perpetrators are not punished but ‘rocked’. If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention. In other words, if you are not outraged by what is happening in the world today, you walk with blinkers on."

Technically it poses some intriguing challenges. Paul McGhee has done a fine job ‘adapting’ the original score, but there is no hiding its provenance.  

The very best will play it and play it very well, but whether or not they, or the audience for that matter becomes anything more than mildly miffed in their expression of outrage as a result of playing or listening to it will be seen.

The selections are almost as intriguing as Marco Pütz’s work, although this year they seem to be tempered less by emotional spasm and more by acoustic reconnaissance.

With the ‘Outrage!’ out of the way it will surely come down to the own-choice selections to see who is crowned 2018 Champion Band of Europe.

The selections are almost as intriguing as Marco Pütz’s work, although this year they seem to be tempered less by emotional spasm and more by acoustic reconnaissance.

The hall won’t take any outrageous dynamic bludgeoning.  

Those who can control their raw desires to impress by sheer force of will power could well prosper.

And that is nothing to be blasé about.

Iwan Fox


Who will win?

Given the quality of the competitors this could be a contest decided by the narrowest of margins.

Eikanger, Cory and Valaisia inhabit a level of excellence few can match. It’s hard to find a weakness let alone an argument to bet against one of them lifting the trophy.  

Brass Band Willebroek, Stavanger and Fairey are perhaps one step behind in terms of overall quality, but each is more than capable of raiding their game to title winning level, whilst Whitburn and Hauts de France could well push their way right towards the top end of the prize list.

4BR Prediction:

1. Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag
2. Cory
3. Valaisia Band
4. Brass Band Willebroek
5. Stavanger
6. Fairey

Dark Horses: Whitburn & Hauts de France



Enderby Band - Enderby Band Christmas Concert

Monday 17 December • Enderby Church. Corner of Leicester Lane/Blaby Road. Enderby. Leicestershire LE19 4AR


Foden's Band - Little Lever High School

Tuesday 18 December • Little Lever High School ,Church Street, Little Lever, Bolton, BL3 1BT


The Wigston Band - The Wigston Band Christmas Concert

Thursday 20 December • St Thomas Church, South Wigston LE18 4TA


Regent Hall Concerts - Royal Greenwich Brass Band

Thursday 20 December • St Alfege Church. 3 Greenwich Church Street SE10 9BJ


The Wigston Band -

Thursday 20 December • St Thomas Church, South Wigston LE18 4TA


Haslingden & Helmshore Brass Band

December 18 • Haslingden & Helmshore, North West 1st Section Brass Band. . MD Mr. Simon Cowen (Principal Trombone with RLPO) . Require 2 front row Cornet players & Percussionist to complete the band. . A very sensible mix of engagements with rehearsals every Tuesday 8pm


Meltham and Meltham Mills Brass Band

December 18 • We have a vacancy for a Soprano and BBb Bass to complete the line up for the areas. Nice Schilke Sop sat waiting for the right person! The band currently competes in the 2nd Section and has a full program of concerts and contests.


The Corsham Band

December 18 • The band are currently looking for an experienced Back Row Cornet Player to join our friendly and enthusiastic team. Second or Third Cornet position available.


Ian Porthouse


Cornet soloist, clinician, conductor and adjudicator