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2018 Dutch Nationals Championships
As it happened

All the action from the 2018 Dutch Nationals Championships — As it happened.

Sunday 28, 01:12:29

Goodnight from Utrecht...

That's it from the 2018 Dutch Nationals for another year — but what a great event and what a great ending to a super weekend.

If you love brass bands make sure you come here — there is a wonderful warm welcome and the contest is so well run. If you don't then still come — it's a fantastic city to visit and the bars stay open until the wee small hours too..

That's us done — and so to bed at last...


Saturday 27, 23:03:42

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2018 Champion: Provinciale Brassband Groningen celebrate

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The winning conductor: Richard Visser

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Claiming the silverware for Groningen

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Runner-up: Soli Brass

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Third place: Brasssband Schoonhoven

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Best Bass Trombone: Brassband Schoonhoven

Result:

Championship Section:

Set-work: Old Licks Bluesed Up (Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen)
Adjudicators: Florent Didier; Arsene Duc; Ray Farr

1. Provinciale Brassband Groningen (Richard Visser) — 94*
2. Soli Brass (Anne van den Berg) — 93
3. Brassband Schoonhoven A (Ivan Meylemans) — 92
4. De Bazuin (Klaas van der Woude) — 91
5. Brassband Rijnmond (Erik van de Kolk) — 90
6. De Spijkerpakkenband (Erik Janssen) — 89
7. De Waldsang (Rieks van der Velde) — 88
8. Amsterdam Brass (Paul van Gils) — 87

Best Bass Trombone: Brassband Schoonhoven
* Will represent The Netherlands at the 2019 European Championships in Montreux


Saturday 27, 22:08:14

Championship Section: Iwan Fox's round-up and prediction:

There were thoughts before this contest kicked off that 'Old Licks' would be out of the reach of the majority of these bands — but that certainly wasn't the case.

Some great interpretations from a number of MDs helped and the overall standard was very good.

Nobody got away completely unscathed, but at the top end the minor errors and occasional scruffiness don't detract from the thoroughly engaging music making. Bravo to the bass trom players in particular, but also to the conductors.

As for a winner?

Schoonhoven had that extra level of sophisticated class allied to a great reading of the score from Ivan Meylemans, whilst the dark excitment of Groningen may just pip the excellence of De Bazuin with Soli Brass, Rijnmond and de Waldsang making up our top six.

4BR Prediction:

1. Brassband Schoonhoven
2. Provinciale Brassband Groningen
3. De Bazuin
4. Soli Brass
5. Brassband Rijnmond
6. De Waldsang


Saturday 27, 21:33:21

Championship Section:

8. Soli Brass (Anne van den Berg)

A long day comes to an end with a refreshing spritzer of a performance from Soli Brass — no hint of tiredness despite the hour. Great approach from the MD — neat but malleable, like a small bit of chewing gum that he plays and draws out between his teeth.

The Toccata was spirited and precise — just the occasional moments of scruffiness, but it had drive and an underlying pulse that had pacy swagger all the way to the neatest of finishes.

The blues are in town in the Ritornello alright — led by a bass trom who makes Paul Robeson sound like a choir boy. He bends notes like Uri Geller too. Not quite sure the mix and match on the cornet solo works and the music loses a little focus, but the misty fog of blues club tobacco smoke is cut through by the euph and then the dogged old tubas.

The second Toccata is controlled and deliberate — but has precise detail and the underlying ticking pulse. Super display of different dynamic levels too — and with bags of stamina in the tank for a rousing old finish that will have made an impression in the box for sure.

Overall:

A tasty treat to close — and a performance of notable stature, clarity of purpose and musical insight. Had its moments of unease, but one that made a significant mark.


Saturday 27, 21:00:16

Championship Section:

7. Brassband Rijnmond (Erik van de Kolk)

An exciting and at times over excitable mixture of the brilliant and the banal. When it hit the spot it was like snorting crystal meth up your hooter — smacking you between the eyes with a high that left you paralysed in pleasure. Then came the low.

The Toccata throbbed like the electricity generator that plugged life into Dr Frankenstein's monster — high voltage stuff that put the hairs on your neck on end. When the dynamics levels were more considered however, the connective tissue problems were evident.

The Ritornello was a mixed bag too — so much to enjoy, but at times also out of dynamic context. Bass trom had a blues voice that could cut through sheet metal — but the MDs musical intent was so persuasive — all the way to tubas who growled like old junk yard dogs fighting over a meaty bone. Odd but good.

The finale bounded along with spiteful playfulness — high on the drama meter and pushing towards it goal. It caught you by the throat and didn't let go. Heart on sleeve stuff and all the better for it as it gave it so much musical fission.

Overall:

One that made you sit up and listen for certain. Perhaps lacked contrast and consideration at times, but it was thrilling from start to finish.


Saturday 27, 20:32:15

Championship Section:

6. Provinciale Brassband Groningen (Richard Visser)

Well that was one that blew your cotton socks off — packed to the gunnels with drama, drive and determination. Not perhaps the most sophisticated approach, but it was dark and dangerous in a way old blues should be at times.

The Toccata pulsated with energy (with a bass drum that realigned your spine) — real dark matter charnel house viscera. You were drawn into it like being sucked ever downward by quicksand.

Really enjoyed the Ritornello too — crepuscular and moody. The bass trom had a voice that could have summoned Lazarus from the dead — oily as roofing tar and Bible black. Superb. MD allowed the music to find a lanquid, lazy pulse of sultry musicality. The tubas were like old busty showgirls showing just a bit too much cleavage to the punters. Fab.

The second Toccata raced a little, but it never lost that forceful drama despite the odd moment when the chattering semis got a little wayward. What reserves of stamina though — wading deep into the dynamics with plenty left to give it a honking turbo thrust to close.

Overall:

Impressive that — different, dark and dangerously on the edge at times, but by heck it worked. In the mixer.


Saturday 27, 20:04:40

Championship Section:

5. De Spijkerpakkenband (Erik Janssen)

A clever, expertly created and maintained account from the MD, that made such impressive use of the resources at his disposal. You almost couldn't hear the deliberate joins and fixes.

The Toccata was played with drive and determination — scruffy in places, but always with a nonchalant swagger underpinning the pulse. It certainly captured the mood.

So too the Ritornello — laid back and hazy in a whacky-baccy Amsterdam cafe sort of way. Classy bass trom lingered in his longueurs like an old hippy with no particular place to go, whilst the cornet paid tribute to Phil McCann's famous 'Contest Music' top C# on his ever lasting top D. The low brass miners dug deep into a rich seam of darkness to close.

The finale was a bit smoke and mirrors in places, but the MD again played his hand so well — the band drawing on wells of stamina and drama to make forcefulness sound easy. The last touch of energy gave the close a frenetic splendour.

Overall:

Lots to engage and admire about this. Had its limitations, but so well put together by the MD with his intentions delivered on by his fully committed players.


Saturday 27, 19:27:40

Championship Section:

4. Brassband Schoonhoven A (Ivan Meylemans)

This was high quality playing, added to by a pinch of mischievousness by the MD that gave the music so much character linking old with new, contemporary to bluesy rock.

The opening Toccata was power laden stuff — but with the torque never sounding strained. The tiniest element spoke with precise clarity and purpose amid the swagger.

The MD was in his element in the Ritornello — like Toulouse Latrec inhabiting a sleazy Parisian nightclub looking for his muse. He got it with the bass bone — a lanquid funnel of debonair depth. We were breathing intoxicating fumes of Blues through the bottom of an empty glass here. The Trojan tubas honked like old bull walruses.

It was rounded off with a spritley, sharp edged Toccata that showcased super finger technique allied to a touch of bombast and then the blast of exhaust fume energy to a crunching close.

Overall:

The quality shone through here from start to finish — inspired by the little dynamo of musicality stood on a small box at the helm. Stamped with class that and you suspect hard to beat.


Saturday 27, 18:55:16

Championship Section:

3. De Bazuin (Klaas van der Woude)

Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen must have a Dutch conductors fan club — for this was another subtly shaped and shaded take on his score by the MD.

Just little notches off the pace and dynamic are noted and marked, but they work so well — the opening Toccata, although not error free by any means, still having a furtive pulse and swagger.

The Ritornello was a treat — led by a female bass trom who must gargle with methylated spirits and granite stone chippings. What a great sound and played with such a relaxed bluesy feel — like a barroom floozie with a glint in her eye for mischief. It was carried on as well by her trom and tuba cohorts.

Rigour and resistance in the finale — helped by fine tuned Perc. Some great touches from the MD, and the bubbling energy was almost at boiling point. The contrasts with little moments of relaxation were so well observed before we got that persistent sense of forward motion that never lost that bluesy feel for the drama all the way to the thumping end.

Overall:

What a super reading of the score by the MD and a very fine show from the band — led by the stonking bass trom. That was a performance licked into shape with a real bluesy understanding.


Saturday 27, 18:24:38

Championship Section:

2. Amsterdam Brass (Paul van Gils)

An impressive MD had this score by the scruff here and moulded it to his will.

And although he didn't quite have the ensemble elements to add a sheen of the highest class polish to his iron grip, those who shone, did so brightly — including a bass trom with a deep throat sound Linda Lovelace would have envied.

The opening Toccata was paced neatly to allow detail to shine, although it just needed a tad more energetic pulse in places, whilst the Ritornello was played with artisan endeavour with that spotlight bass trom lead. Could have perhaps just done with a little more bluesy languidity but the tubas were splendidly sunken into the depths.

The finale just needed a few more volts of musical electricity — but that tight grip ensured it never lost focus, with neat contrasts on show before that final, impressive push to the end.

Overall:

Another performance that owed much to the MDs well judged appreciation of the intricacies of the score. Tight, neat and controlled, it may have just needed a bit more visceral drive, but it was still well delivered.


Saturday 27, 18:20:28

Championship Section:

1. De Waldsang (Rieks van der Velde)

A hard working, substantive performance notable for the subtle changes in pace engineered by the MD and the musical flexibility that it created.

The opening Toccata was driven and energetic, but just lacked precision (the acoustic here is not that helpful it must be said) although there were elements of wapishness the came through in the sop and euphs.

The central Ritornello retained that bluesy flexibility and showcased some fine solo moments as well as few noticeable moments of unease and camouflage. It had that smokey evocation of blues danger — although that deep, throaty tuba ending could have had a touch more suavity.

There was plenty of fine ensemble playing on show in the final section — again driven with purpose by the MD. Not quite razor edged in the ride for home, but it cuts a swayth (bravo sop) before the baroque return and power push to the frenetic but slightly scruffy close.

Overall:

A fine performance of a very diffuclt work: so well laid out by the MD and delivered with determined purpose and a fair dollop of passion.


Saturday 27, 17:55:26

Old Licks Bluesed Up

Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen's fearsome work was written in 2010 for Manger Musikklag Band and was revised the following year.

The title tells you all — nothing pretentious — just music inspired by elements of the baroque infused by blues, rock and jazz. The three movements — Toccata 1, Ritornell and Toccata 2 make up a work of 17 minutes or so in duration, free flowing and filled with pulsating bluesy energy.

The themes in the opening Toccata are explored feverishly, the central Ritornell (meaning 'little return') based on a recurring theme based on the baroque ABACA structure. The final Toccata is music inspired by the freedoms of blues and rock and the Hammond B3 organ — driving all the way to a frenetic last few bars.


Saturday 27, 17:42:46

Championship Section:

Draw:

Set-work: Old Licks Bluesed Up (Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen)
Adjudicators: Florent Didier; Arsene Duc; Ray Farr

1. De Waldsang (Rieks van der Velde)
2. Amsterdam Brass (Paul van Gils)
3. De Bazuin (Klaas van der Woude)
4. Brassband Schoonhoven A (Ivan Meylemans)
5. De Spijkerpakkenband (Erik Janssen)
6. Provinciale Brassband Groningen (Richard Visser)
7. Brassband Rijnmond (Erik van de Kolk)
8. Soli Brass (Anne van den Berg)


Saturday 27, 16:36:15

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2018 Champion: Pro Rege Heerenveen

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Pro Rege and their silverware

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Runner-up: Oefning en Uitspanning

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Third: Gloria Dei

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Best Trombones: Pro Rege Heerenveen

Result:

First Section:

Set-work: High Peak (Eric Ball)
Adjudicators: Florent Didier; Arsene Duc; Ray Farr

1. Pro Rege Heerenveen (Anne van den Berg) — 92
2. Oefening en Uitspangning (Anno Appelo) — 90
3. Gloria Dei (Jaap Musschenga) — 89
4. Excelsior Zalk (Rieks van der Velde) — 87
5. Brassband Breukelen (Syde van der Ploeg) — 86
6. Brassband Amersfoort (Vincent Verhage) — 85
7. Kunst naar Kracht (Pieter Koster) — 83

Best Trombones: Pro Rege Heerenveen


Saturday 27, 16:30:10

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2018 Champion: Excelsior celebrate

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First taste of success for three debutants with Exclesior

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Runner-up: Martini Brass Band

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Third: Constantijn Huygens

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Best Euphonium/Cornet: Excelsior

Result:

Second Section:

Set-work: The Town Beneath the Cliff (Philip Sparke)
Adjudicators: Sheona White; John Doyle; Luuk Tuinstra

1. Excelsior (Gijs Heusinkveld) — 92
2. Martini Brassband (Rieks van der Velde) — 91
3. Constantijn Huygens (Richard Visser) — 89
4. De Bazuin B (Sietse Hamersma) — 88
5. Brassband Schoonhoven B (Paul van Dalen) — 87
6. De Lofklank (Gerk Huisma) — 85
7. Gereformeerde Brassband (Jan Werkman) — 84
8. Euphonia (Hendry van Loo) — 83

Best Euphonium/Cornet: Excelsior


Saturday 27, 15:36:45

Break then Second and First Section results...

There will be a short break at the moment before they announce the Second Section results.


Saturday 27, 15:35:53

First Section: Iwan Fox's round-up and prediction:

You have to say that overall the First Section was a huge disappointment — both in terms of technical execution and especially musical understanding. Some of the playing was simply not anywhere near First Section standard and some of the interpretations bordered on the bizarre.

Just two bands got close to mastering it in different ways: The bolder, purposeful Pro Rege and the more refined but occasionally fragile, Excelsior to close. It could go either way depending on the judges, but we have just given it by a short head to Pro Rege.

After them it really is a toss up — with Breukelen's brave effort from Oefening en Uitspanning, Amersfoort and Gloria Dei.

4BR Prediction:

1. Pro Rege
2. Excelsior
3. Breukelen
4. Oefening Uitspanning
5. Amersfoort
6. Gloria Dei


Saturday 27, 15:21:45

First Section:

The final band of the contest provides us with the most authentic piece of Eric Ball music making of the competition — thanks to the experience and musical wisdom of Excelsior's MD, Rieks van der Velde.

He just opened the score and read it left to right, top to bottom and left the rest to speak for itself. The result was a finely constructed interpretation, that the occasional noticeable clips and blips only occasionally tarnished.

Thank you MD. Eric Ball can sleep easy again.


Saturday 27, 15:03:48

First Section:

A brace of determined, but inconsistent performances from Kunst naar Kracht and Brassband Breukelen follow — linked to the composer's intentions but bedevilled by errors, slips and poor tuning.

There were clearly nerves at play with a young Kunst naar Kracht, but the MD shaped the music without artifice and allowed the main lines to appear from the mists without overpowering. Some of the errors were painful though and the final ascent to the summit came with some eye watering intonation.

Much better from Brassband Breukelen — although the MD did take a few liberties with phrase endings. They got away with it though and the music never lost its flow despite the fragilities and occasional scrappiness.

Not quite Eric Ball as we know it, but at least you didn't need musical face-ware software to identity the source material.


Saturday 27, 14:36:29

High Peak?

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This is Vaalserberg — the highest peak in The Netherlands. It stands 322.4 meters above sea level or 1,058 feet above getting your feet wet.

It's not exactly the Eiger.

However, the mountaineering bands here have needed to find Sherpa Tensing to lead them to the top, such have been the troubles they have encountered on Eric Ball's piece. It has been puzzlingly disappointing to say the least.

Can we hope for at least one other band to scramble their way to a possible National title winning summit?


Saturday 27, 14:16:31

First Section:

At last — we get two interpretations from conductors that were faithful to Eric Ball's musical intentions, and not as if they were trying to contact him through a charlatan spiritualist with a wee-jee board.

Vincent Verhage may be young, but he had a mature musical head on his shoulders in understanding the pacing, dynamics and balances of the score, even if his band knocked over more than their fair share of small solo rocks and tuning boulders on their ascent to the top.

There was also a fine sense of musical maturity and understanding from Anne van der Berg as he drew a rich, passionate performance from Pro Rege.

Just a bit dynamically ripe in places, but there was a palpable sense of vision and aspiration, as well as drama in the storm and a glory to the final placing of the spiritual flag on the summit.

Thank the Lord....


Saturday 27, 13:58:39

Having a chat with John Doyle

John Doyle has been in the box with Sheona Wade and Luuk Tuinstra for the Fourth, Third and Second Sections this weekend.

We caught up with him before he left for home to find out more about what he felt about the performances and the test-pieces he had heard and judged on.


Saturday 27, 13:37:22

First Section:

We have been treated to a great deal of fine, intelligent playing this weekend, but on the evidence of the first two performances of 'High Peak' musical illiteracy has appeared in the ruck sacks of the bands.

The performances of both Oefening en Uitspanning and Gloria Dei had all the musical as well as allegorical sense of topographical attainment of two vicars trying to climb the Matterhorn in sandals with Kendall mint cake to sustain them on their bible studies.

Incoherent balances, dynamics, tempos, harsh sounds and interpretations that paid scant attention to the score at times left you all too often puzzled and bewildered.

The sound you heard from afar was Eric Ball spinning in his grave....


Saturday 27, 13:01:52

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High Peak for conductors: including the late John Childs, father of Robert and Nicholas, who annotated this score when it was used in 1974

First Section:

Draw:

Set-work: High Peak (Eric Ball)
Adjudicators: Florent Didier; Arsene Duc; Ray Farr

1. Oefening en Uitspanning (Anno Appelo)
2. Gloria Dei (Jaap Musschenga)
3. Brassband Amersfoort (Vincent Verhage)
4. Pro Rege Heerenveen (Anne van den Berg)
5. Kunst naar Kracht (Pieter Koster)
6. Brassband Breukelen (Syde van der Ploeg)
7. Excelsior Zalk (Rieks van der Velde)


Saturday 27, 12:23:46

Who will scale an epic High Peak?

Eric Ball wrote 'High Peak' in 1968 — perhaps at the zenith of his own creative abilities as a test piece composer for brass bands.

The year before he gave the movement 'Journey into Freedom' and whilst 'Kensington Concerto' and 'The Wayfarer' followed they were written through the prism of reflection on times past.

'High Peak' is in many ways an allegorical rhapsody — the final attainment of the summit of personal faith. First comes the 'Vision' — ever changing moods and contemplation borne of the phrase 'Behold the highest peak, glittering in the sun'.

It is followed by 'Aspiration' — the climber's eyes lifted to the hills and the battle to succeed, whilst 'Ascent', full of the trials and tribulations on the path to spiritual fulfilment is marked by a tempestuous storm breaking in fury over the exposed climber.

Finally though they glimpse the summit — evoking 'ecstasy' as Ball writes in his foreword to the score — music that 'imposes no rein upon an uninhibited climax' of joy in attainment.

What 'High Peak' means to the listener is left to them and them alone to decide.


Saturday 27, 12:06:30

First Section:

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The First Section battle on Eric Ball's 'High Peak' starts at 2.00pm local time, so there is a little bit of a break at the moment.

We will be back with the draw when the judges are in the box.


Saturday 27, 12:03:21

Second Section: Iwan Fox's round-up and prediction:

Well that was one heck of a fine way to spend a Saturday morning listening to brass bands. A super test-piece, written by a true master craftsman of his trade giving his familiar hallmark elements a neat tweak and polish to sound as good as ever.

The bands all responded too — with four performances in particular that could all make a solid case for being crowned champion. They are led for us by Constantijn Huygens, who had depth of sound to go with the level of their stage confidence, with Martini Brass Band close behind.

Euphonia and Schoonhoven were lighter in tonality but just a secure musically with their approach — so it may be down to a question of taste on the box. Behind them it could be DeBazuin and Gereformeerde making up the top six.

4BR Prediction:

1. Constantijn Huygens
2. Martini Brass Band
3. Brass Band Schoonhoven B
4. Euphonia
5. De Bazuin B
6. Gereformeerde


Saturday 27, 11:36:15

Second Section:

More delights from a contest that just keeps giving. The 2016 champion Constantijn Huygens produce a performance that stands out even against some high quality opposition today.

Stark contrasts in style, dynamic and pace all played with a richly balanced, darkly hued ensemble sound and soloists with artistry in their veins. The MD Richard Visser directs with a light touch but firm control — a tight leash that is only slackened for the wicked finale. A little stonker that!

The contest is rounded off with solid, artisan rendition from De Lofklank — boldly portrayed and delivered with a pinch of fizz and almost frenetic pace at times. Some lovely touches though and always interesting — but it just tired to close.


Saturday 27, 11:12:39

Second Section:

The quality of this contest continues to impress — and it is maintained by another duo who produce performances that combine confident technicality with considered musicality, thanks a major way to their conductors.

The vastly experienced Rieks van der Velde marshalls his Martini troops to fine effect. Anytime, anyplace, anywhere — it is solid, unpretentious music making. So well planned and delivered that — balancing excitement with reflection — all with something in reserve with the power and acceleration for a whiplash close.

For the second time in 24 hours, Gijs Heusinkveld captures the score by the scruff of its neck to produce an elegant, classy account — first with Looft den Heer and now with Excelsior. He does remind you of a young Walter Hargreaves on his raised podium with his super baton work.

Well structured and confident, it could just have done with more dynamic contrast, but it was a super show nonetheless.


Saturday 27, 10:25:27

Second Section:

As we hoped, the contest is turning out to be very enjoyable indeed — with another well-worked brace from Euphonia and especially Schoonhoven B.

Euphonia were light and breezy, and although it just got a little scruffy around the edges and slightly bogged down in the central hymn, when it came together it had warmth, balance and vibrancy. The MD also used his noggin not to overdo the dynamics or tempi.

Schoonhoven certainly raised the bar — with such a controlled, characterful account.

Once again it was so good hear a band keeping a lid on the dynamics and not trying to force excitement. The warm ensemble sound was splendid, the soloists secure and artful — and it was rounded off with the growing excitment of the finale. Bravo.


Saturday 27, 09:50:21

Famous Cliffs...

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Brass bands have played quite a few pieces inspired by cliffs of one sort or another — from Reissiger's overture 'Die Felsenmuhle' (The Mill on the Cliff) to Ian Wilson's European test-piece, 'Seascapes with High Cliffs' and even the classic paso-doble, 'Amparito Roca' (The Sheltered Cliff).

There was even an arrangement made of the 1968 Eurovision entry 'Congratulations' by old Cliff Richard himself (whose teeth remain as white as the Cliffs of Dover despite his age) so Philip Sparke's fine test piece is in good company, even if Cliff lost out to a piece called 'La, La, La' from the Spanish entry in the Euro contest....


Saturday 27, 09:34:58

Second Section:

Early impressions are that the Sparke piece has been well chosen for this level — with a brace of compact, well delivered performances from the opening duo of Gereformeerde and De Bazuin B.

Early impressions also that it another excellently crafted work of familiar traits and tropes from the composer — tuneful, flowing and always engaging. The finale has its Higgledy-Piggledy pulse and cross rhythms that we've heard from 'Harmony Music' to 'Hakon the Good', but nobody does it better and the central Hymn is a sumptious piece of lyricism — richly scored and evocative.

Lots to enjoy with the two early draw contenders — playing that was confident and considered, balanced by well paced excitement.

This could turn into a little cracker of a contest... Old Sparky does it again...


Saturday 27, 09:08:40

The Town Beneath the Cliff

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Holmestrand is a town in Norway — and as can be seen from the picture, it lives up to its name.

Philip Sparke wrote the piece for them to perform at the Norwegian Championships, and is a linked four movement sinfonietta. The first, 'Fanfare' is just that — bold and declamatory, whilst the following 'Toccata' is a Moto Perpetuo in continuous 3/4. The 'Hymn' that follows is a lyrical interlude featuring solos for the euphonium and cornet, before being rounded off with a typically Sparkesque 'Scherzo'.

The last movement features a short phrase from the town's traditional 'song' which is first heard in fragmented form before returning in full glory to close.


Saturday 27, 08:55:21

Welcome back to day 2...

After a fine night of chit chat at the free bar provided by the organisers (always a bonus) it's an early start with a clear head for the action here at the TivoliVredenburg.

This morning we have the Second Section with eight bands tackling Philip Sparke's 'Sinfonietta: The Town Beneath the Cliff', followed later by the First Section and the Championship battle to round things off.

It promises to be a highly enoyable day — hopefully ending in time for a quick free pint or two once more...


Saturday 27, 08:42:41

Second Section:

Draw:

Set-work: The Town Beneath the Cliff (Philip Sparke)
Adjudicators: Sheona White; John Doyle; Luuk Tuinstra

1. Gereformeerde Brassband (Jan Werkman)
2. De Bazuin B (Sietse Hamersma)
3. Euphonia (Hendry van Loo)
4. Brassband Schoonhoven B (Paul van Dalen)
5. Martini Brassband (Rieks van der Velde)
6. Excelsior (Gijs Heusinkveld)
7. Constantijn Huygens (Richard Visser)
8. De Lofklank (Gerk Huisma)


Friday 26, 22:00:48

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2018 Champion: Looft den Heer celebrate

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The Vikings have arrived with the winners

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Runner up: Immanuel

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Third place: Backum Brass

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Best Flugel: Blaast de Bazuin

Result:

Third Section:

Set-work: Viking Age (Thierry Deleruyelle)
Adjudicators: Sheona White; John Doyle; Luuk Tuinstra

1. Looft den Heer (Gijs Heusinkveld) — 94
2. Immanuel (Jan Werkman) — 91
3. Backum Brass (Vincent Verhage) — 89
4. Kunst en Vriendschap (Henk van Loon) — 88
5. De Nije Bazun (Jaap Wils) — 87
6. Apollo (Piet Visser) — 86
7. Blaast de Bazuin (Theun van Leijen) — 85
8. Greidebrass (Marco Middelberg) — 84

Best flugel horn: Blaast de Bazuin


Friday 26, 21:55:54

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2018 Champion: Halleluja celebrate

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The winners and their silverware

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Runner-up: Soli Deo Gloria

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Third place: Pro Rege B

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Best Baritones/Euphoniums: Soli Deo Gloria

Result:

Fourth Section:

Set-work: Second Suite in F (Gustav Holst)
Adjudicators: Sheona White; John Doyle; Luuk Tuinstra

1. Halleluja (Ido Gerard Kempenaar) — 93
2. Soli Deo Gloria (Titus van der Woude) — 92
3. Pro Rege B (Martine Reijenga) — 90
4. Euphonia (Chris van der Veen) — 88
5. Concordia (Gouke Gerben Wielenga) — 87
6. UDI (Johan Postma) — 86
7. De Bazuin (Hille van Hijum) — 84
8. Blaast de Bazuin (Piet Visser) — 83
9. Felison Brass (Alan Gibson) — 82

Best Baritone/Euphonium Section: Soli Deo Gloria


Friday 26, 20:44:45

Third Section: Iwan Fox's round-up and prediction:

What an engaging piece that was from Thierry Deleruyelle. From the depths of the earth with 'Fraternity' to the fjords of Norway with the Viking hordes.

It was a colurful work full of drama — but much like 'Fraternity', it only really came to life when played with a controlled sense of agression and passion. Those who went hell bent on the rape and pillage route came a bit of a self inflicted cropper.

Lots to enjoy though from each of the eight bands, with Loft den Heer a good margin ahead for us after giving such a classy performance. Who will join the, on the podium is a close run thing — but we enjoyed Immanuel and Kunst en Vriendschap, with Backum Brass, Apollo and Greidebrass behind.

4BR Prediction:

1. Looft den Heer
2. Immanuel
3. Kunst en Vriendschap
4. Backum Brass
5. Apollo
6. Greidebrass


Friday 26, 20:18:06

Third Section:

Kunst en Vriendschap is the latest band to roll up its sleeves and give it the full Viking beans — and a plateful of raw excitement it is too, with the viscera of conquest splayed about at times.

That said, it certainly captured the drama of the score with a solid confidence that pulsated with honest toil (super flugel). The final Christian hymn got a little American evangelical to close, but it rounded off a performsnce of notable substance.

Apollo round off the contest — with a musical account full of contrast and drive. Lots to enjoy with this one — not quite manic but still sounding like it could rip your guts out.

Tuning just gets a bit ripe in places, but the sense of drive and purpose remains to the close, despite the occasional bumpy conversion to Christianity.


Friday 26, 19:39:07

Third Section:

Well the crowd loved Backum Brass, but we remain to be convinced.

It was certainly exciting and dramatic, but it was a scratchy as a junk yard dog in places and left the odd self-inflicted bite mark along the way too. When it gelled it was certainly bold and bravura, but the overall impression was of a Viking scattergun approach that only at times hit its target.

It's followed by another one much like it off the long boat from Immanuel — bubbling with visceral, gutsy playing that wore its heart on its sleeve. There is drama by the bucketful when the dynamics are healthy — and the MD wields the baton like an avenging sword, but there are a few casualties along the way in the ranks.

It's certainly made a confident mark this — no doubt about that.


Friday 26, 18:57:48

Third Section:

What a thoroughly classy, richly characterised account that was from Looft den Heer and MD Gijs Heusinkveld. That was the Vikings travelling, raiding and exploring in business class to live happily ever after. Nothing down and dirty about that at all — but so clean and effective.

Broad, lyrical lines contrasted with rounded, deep toned drama — with an overarching sense of musicality inspired by the man on the rostrum. Top notch that.

It's followed by a more artisan rendition from Greidebrass — solidly done, but in contrast, just lacking that level of refinement and subtle control. This was a touch of wayward bludgeoning going on here in places, although the MD kept the music flowing with purpose.

Lots to enjoy, but just tired in purpose and musical fulfilment as the Christians persuaded the Norsemen to give up Odin and live happily ever after.


Friday 26, 18:33:47

Third Section:

A brace of colourful, detailed accounts to open the contest from Blaast de Bazuin and De Nije Bazun — although in terms of being blood red in tooth and claw they came across as quite urbane Vikings.

Perhaps both needed a touch more visceral drama when required, but the MDs certainly kept the pace of the music flowing in each of the movements — with the Heritage sections to close, played with building purpose and a sense of passion.

There is a hint or two of 'Fraternity' in the writing (the piece was written after that epic), with some of the chord structures having more than a bit of mining pedigree. Bravo to both Perc teams as well — adding texture and not overpowering.

A good test this you feel for the bands here — with these two producing solid performances.


Friday 26, 18:09:45

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The Vikings are coming...

The only time the locals on these parts may be wary of the appearance of the likes of Harold Bluetooth and his merry men nowadays is if Ajax play Rosenberg in the Champions League, but many a century ago it was a different story.

From the 8th to the 11th century the Vikings were the equivalent of an 18-30 holiday full of Beserkers — and hell bent on making a mark on the world.

Just think of the one-eyed Kirk Douglas with Tony Curtis in the famous film with the sound track from George Lloyd's 'English Heritage' ringing out in the background.

Thierry Deleruyelle's work celebrates both their achievements and reputations — from the opening 'Northern Men' through the 'Explorers' (and they reached the USA, deep into Russia and as far as Constantinople), the 'Raids' that gave them their fearsome reputation (though never their mythical horned helmets) and finally, their conversion to peaceful Christianity.

It's a colourful, evocative work, full of drive, excitment, energy and drama (with just the odd moment or two of reflection).

Lots to look forward to then....


Friday 26, 17:54:03

Third Section:

Draw:

Set-work: Viking Age (Thierry Deleruyelle)
Adjudicators: Sheona White; John Doyle; Luuk Tuinstra

1. Blaast de Bazuin (Theun van Leijen)
2. De Nije Bazun (Jaap Wils)
3. Looft den Heer (Gijs Heusinkveld)
4. Greidebrass (Marco Middelberg)
5. Backum Brass (Vincent Verhage)
6. Immanuel (Jan Werkman)
7. Kunst en Vriendschap (Henk van Loon)
8. Apollo (Piet Visser)


Friday 26, 16:49:49

Third Section:

A bit of a break now as the Third Section does not start until 7.00pm local time. Off for a quick cup of tea and a biscuit then...


Friday 26, 16:47:33

Fourth Section: Iwan Fox's round-up and prediction:

Well that was a contest that showed us that despite its age, Holst's 'Second Suite in F' is still one heck of a challenge, especially stylistically. It makes you wonder how many bands in the Third Section in the UK will really get to the heart of his 'First Suite'.

Tempo choices, especially in the first movement caused the greatest problems, with tuning in the second, balance in the third and pace again in the finale.

The best took a notch off the speed to emphasise the character of the music and it worked a treat — the top performances were very good indeed — helped it must be said by intelligent direction from the middle.

The best for us came late in the day from Pro Rege B, who were excellent, followed by a very nice show from Euphonia and a close match with UDI and Halleluja for the final point spot. Then its De Bazuin and Soli Deo Gloria for the top six placings for us.

The results come after the Third Section...

4BR Prediction:

1. Pro Rege B
2. Euphonia
3. UDI
4. Halleluja
5. De Bazuin
6. Soli Deo Gloria


Friday 26, 16:37:50

Fourth Section:

The contest is rounded off with a spirited account from De Bazuin — with a march that almost had a Scottish snap to it. It just lost a little flow and security in the 'Song', but the Blacksmith was well tempered and the Dragason to close was full of light brio and carefree verve.


Friday 26, 16:02:53

Fourth Section:

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The sign says 'Go for it' Pro Rege B

Hats off to Soli Deo Gloria for producing the best march of the day — trundling in like a medium pacer on a Worcester green top to pitch one bang on off stump with just the right hint of swing. Got a little less accurate with tuning and precision after this, but the stylish intent right to the close was admirable. Enjoyable and engaging that.

They are followed by another MD with Pro Rege B, who capture the style, pace and a touch of English nobility to open to a tee. You could have marched Sid James and the 24th Foot & Mouth up the Kyber Pass with that. It's followed by a well shaped 'Song', a harmonius Blacksmith and a fancy free Dargason to close. Super that — led by a very intuitive conductor in Martine Reijenga.


Friday 26, 15:28:28

Fourth Section:

Two finely styled shows from Euphonia and Halleluja have made their mark here — aided by MDs who must have a bit of Coleman's English mustard running through their veins — as these were as tasty as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on a Sunday cooked by Mrs Briggs from 'Upstairs, Downstairs'.

Euphonia got over the blobby opening bar to produce a tuneful, refined account (with some super lead lines) that had dynamic contrast and such a cultured sense of style. Bravo MD and band — spiffing.

Right in the same stylistic vein from Halleluja, although it was a little more fragile in the more exposed elements. Just the odd clip and blip robbed a delightful picture of the type of Englishness Nigel Farage would love to call his own....


Friday 26, 15:02:19

New trophies...

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There are the trophies to be presented in each section at the Championships this year — and a bright and impressive lot they are too — reminiscent of the old European Cup Winners Cup — won by Ajax of Amsterdam in 1987.

Perhaps the organisers popped up to the Johan Cruyff Stadium just up the road and took a picture.

The old trophies are being presented to the bands in each section that won them the most times in the 38 year history of this event. A nice touch that.


Friday 26, 14:46:20

Fourth Section:

Another brace of engaging efforts — this time from UDI and Concordia.

UDI took time to settle into a measured pace, but soon displayed a warm sound and a neat sense of style. There were some great little moments sprinkled in each of the movements — from a delicate blacksmith percussionist making horseshoes like Benvenuto Cellini, to an impish sop.

Decent stuff from Concordia too (with an MD who looks and conducts like Philip Harper's younger brother) — again just taking time to find that noble march pace to open. It was a little fragile in the more exposed elements, but it was good to hear an MD in search of a bit of melancholic passion. Just got the clogs tangled in the Dargason — but it certainly had a freewheeling spirit led by the sprightly tubas.


Friday 26, 14:14:10

Fourth Section:

The first two bands have given us two very different takes on Holst — and both very much with a marked European sense of style.

This really should be bucolic English music of village cricket, warm beer, Edwardian moustaches and a sense of Empire — paced like a slow sip of a gin and tonic before the yardarm is raised and the servants go to bed.

Both Blaast de Bazuin and Felison Brass fell into the same trap — playing at a tempo that robbed the opening and the finale of its character. There was plenty to enjoy (and raise an odd eyebrow to) with some of the individual playing, and the MDs brought shape to the middle sections in their contrasting ways.

Neither quite had that sense of refined delicacy and stately grandeur.

We wait for a performance inspired by an England on which the sun never set....


Friday 26, 13:45:02

What planet will the Dutch be on...?

Although most people associate Gustav Holst with the 'The Planets', his two little 'suites' are stars in their own right.

The second was written in 1911 but not published until 1922, and is a delicate, refined work that yearns for an England (and a touch of Wales) that was about to be lost forever in the horrors of the First World War.

It is perfectly crafted — three elements in one in the opening march, touchingly naive and longing in the second 'Song without Words', bold and brisk in the 'Song of the Blacksmith' (dedicated to Major James Causley Windram who later died in the tragic V1 bomb explosion on the Guards Chapel in London in 1944), and the neat dance fancy of the 'Dargason' fantasy to close.

A lively work — and a real test of the basics of good band playing.

UK Third Section bands get to play the First Suite next year — so how will the Dutch Fourth Section bands get on with the Second here this afternoon then?


Friday 26, 13:06:06

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Fourth Section:

Draw:

Start: 2.30pm
Set-work: Second Suite in F (Gustav Holst)
Adjudicators: Sheona White; John Doyle; Luuk Tuinstra

1. Blaast de Bazuin (Piet Visser)
2. Felison Brass (Alan Gibson)
3. UDI (Johan Postma)
4. Concordia (Gouke Gerben Wielenga)
5. Euphonia (Chris van der Veen)
6. Halleluja (Ido Gerard Kempenaar)
7. Soli Deo Gloria (Titus van der Woude)
8. Pro Rege B (Martine Reijenga)
9. De Bazuin (Hille van Hijum)


Friday 26, 10:26:44

Two days of action

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The 38th Dutch National Championships (NBK) take place this weekend at the Tivolivredenburg in Utrecht — the venue which hosted a highly successful European Championship earlier this year.

The excellent facilities, warm welcome and slick organisation is added to by the unique acoustic atmosphere in the main Grote Zaal auditorium — one which all the 40 bands should enjoy, but should also be wary of.

Old Licks

The Championship Division promises to be keenly contested, with defending champion De Waldsang up against a strong field of challengers — and all faced with the sternest of tests in Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen's demanding 'Old Licks Bluesed Up'.

Written in 2010 for Manger Musikklag and revised in 2011, the three linked movements connect the music to the past and the baroque through the prism of the 'licks' of blues, rock and jazz.

Whoever catches the ears of Florent Didier, Arsene Duc and Ray Farr in box will not only crowned champion, but will represent the nation at the 2019 European Championships in Montreux.

Classic Ball

Eric Ball's classic 'High Peak' will also provide a daunting ascent of ambition in the First Division — written 50 years ago, but still a test-piece that requires crampons and safety ropes thanks to its deceptive, elegant treachery.

Meanwhile, defending champion Excelsior will be looking to claim a sixth title since 2009 in the Second Division, as eight bands tackle Philip Sparke's 'The Town Beneath the Cliff', whilst 'Viking Age' by Thierry Deleruyelle is the colourful set-work in the Third Division, where Looft den Heer will look to defend its crown.

Old and new

The balance between something new and something old is maintained in the Fourth Division where adjudicators Sheona White, John Doyle and Luuk Tuinstra (in the box for the Second, Third and Fourth Division contests) will have to compare and contrast the performances of 'Second Suite in F' by Gustav Holst — led by defending champion Immanuel, who will be seeking a hat-trick of National titles wins.

The action starts on Friday afternoon (26th October) when the Fourth Division kicks off at 2.30pm (local time), followed by the Third Division.

There is an early start on Saturday (27th October) with the Second Division starting at 10.00am (local time) followed by the First and Championship Section (starting around 7.00pm).

4BR Editor Iwan Fox will be in Utrecht to bring you our live coverage of the action as it unfolds, so keep an eye out.

Competing bands

Championship Division:

Set-work: Old Licks Bluesed Up (Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen)
Adjudicators: Florent Didier; Arsene Duc; Ray Farr

Amsterdam Brass (Paul van Gils)
Brassband Rijnmond (Erik van de Kolk)
Brassband Schoonhoven A (Ivan Meylemans)
De Bazuin (Klaas van der Woude)
De Spijkerpakkenband (Erik Janssen)
De Waldsang (Rieks van der Velde)
Provinciale Brassband Groningen (Richard Visser)
Soli Brass (Anne van den Berg)

First Division:

Set-work: High Peak (Eric Ball)
Adjudicators: Florent Didier; Arsene Duc; Ray Farr

Brassband Amersfoort (Vincent Verhage)
Brassband Breukelen (Syde van der Ploeg)
Excelsior Zalk (Rieks van der Velde)
Gloria Dei (Jaap Musschenga)
Kunst naar Kracht (Pieter Koster)
Oefening en Uitspanning (Anno Appelo)
Pro Rege Heerenveen (Anne van den Berg)

Second Division:

Set-work: The Town Beneath the Cliff (Philip Sparke)
Adjudicators: Sheona White; John Doyle; Luuk Tuinstra

Brassband Schoonhoven B (Paul van Dalen)
Constantijn Huygens (Richard Visser)
De Bazuin B (Sietse Hamersma)
De Lofklank (Gerk Huisma)
Euphonia (Hendry van Loo)
Excelsior (Gijs Heusinkveld)
Gereformeerde Brassband (Jan Werkman)
Martini Brassband (Rieks van der Velde)

Third Division:

Set-work: Viking Age (Thierry Deleruyelle)
Adjudicators: Sheona White; John Doyle; Luuk Tuinstra

Apollo (Piet Visser)
Backum Brass (Vincent Verhage)
Blaast de Bazuin (Theun van Leijen)
De Nije Bazun (Jaap Wils)
Greidebrass (Marco Middelberg)
Immanuel (Jan Werkman)
Kunst en Vriendschap (Henk van Loon)
Looft den Heer (Gijs Heusinkveld)

Fourth Division:

Set-work: Second Suite in F (Gustav Holst)
Adjudicators: Sheona White; John Doyle; Luuk Tuinstra

Blaast de Bazuin (Piet Visser)
Concordia (Gouke Gerben Wielenga)
De Bazuin (Hille van Hijum)
Euphonia (Chris van der Veen)
Felison Brass (Alan Gibson)
Halleluja (Ido Gerard Kempenaar)
Pro Rege B (Martine Reijenga)
Soli Deo Gloria (Titus van der Woude)
UDI (Johan Postma)


Friday 26, 10:03:38

Welcome to Utrecht

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As that old Dutch song goes... the circles of your mind...

It doesn't seem so long ago that we were here in Utrecht boiling under the sun and enjoying the brilliance of the very best bands battling it out for the European title.

In those few short months, the city has undergone yet more of a transformation — with the train station (above) and central area no longer a bit of a building site. It's impressive stuff — and with amazing bicycle access.

The fine TivoliVredenberg plays host to the bands once more — with the action kicking off this afternoon with the Fourth and Third Sections.


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David W. Ashworth

RSCM, ABBA Exec Member, NABBC PRO.
Conductor, Band Trainer and Adjudicator