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Mediterranean attractions
How a brass band is core to attracting students to Antibes

Antibes Conservatoire of Music & Drama has a new state of the art concert hall — but it is a brass band that is being promoted as a star attraction for students.


The Conservatioire building has won widespread acclaim

If a British conservatoire were lucky enough to be provided with a new state of the art building, how likely would it be that its first major event would be based around a brass band? 

That is exactly what happened with Brass Band Mediterranée. Now in its twenty-first year in residence at the Antibes Conservatoire of Music & Drama, they were at the centre of its recent national tuba and euphonium competition.

Major event

It was the new building’s first major event – and one that sent out a remarkable message of musical intent proclaimed as such by the Mayor of Antibes who sees the band as priority attraction of excellence in a conservatoire that saw the local council invest 18 million euros in its construction.


The local council investment amounted to over 18 million euros

Box within a box

Based on the architectural concept of ‘a box within a box’, world class acoustic qualities and sound-proofing are at the heart of the design.  

It comprises a beautifully designed 300-seat concert hall, alongside 31 teaching rooms, each of which has an acoustic and humidity control system to match the instrument being taught. There are also two ‘cathedral studios’ extending up two storeys in height.

It comprises a beautifully designed 300-seat concert hall, alongside 31 teaching rooms, each of which has an acoustic and humidity control system to match the instrument being taught. There are also two ‘cathedral studios’ extending up two storeys in height.

The oak and ash wood concert hall has a stage that can be moved forwards when necessary so that the hall is equally suitable for a single soloist or an orchestra or band, whilst the acoustic inside is certainly match by the vistas outside – picture windows giving a 180 degree panorama from the Alps in the north to the sea in the south. 

Fifty-one members of staff cover the teaching of 23 instruments, with 1,225 students from primary age to degree level.  


The 300 seat concert hall offers a wonderful acoustic

Distinguished panel

The competition was organised by Medhi Virorello, the Conservatoire’s renowned Tuba Professor and conductor of its Junior Brass Band. He is also a founder member of Brass Band Mediterranée.  

Medhi had assembled a distinguished panel of adjudicators under the chairmanship of Gérard Hostein, the founder of Brass Band Mediterranée, who has just retired as co-director having seen through the new building project.  

Medhi had assembled a distinguished panel of adjudicators under the chairmanship of Gérard Hostein, the founder of Brass Band Mediterranée, who has just retired as co-director having seen through the new building project.  

He was joined by Micael Cortone d’Amore, Professor of Tuba at the Strasbourg Conservatoire and tuba soloist with the Strasbourg Philharmonic; Bastien Baumet, Professor of Euphonium at the Lyon Conservatoire Superieur and known to brass band audiences as the solo euphonium of Paris Brass Band; Guillaume Dionnet, solo tuba of the Orchestre National de Lyon and a Professor at the Lyon Conservatoire Supérieur , and Vianney Desplantes, a freelance euphonium soloist from Paris.

Over 60 entrants

With an age range from six to early twenties, more than 60 entrants came from the municipal and regional conservatoires across the south of France - including Marseille, Aix and Avignon, as well as Lyon, Strasbourg and Paris.  They were also joined by one student from the Liceu Conservatoire in Barcelona and one from Rome.


Gerard Horstein founder of Brass Band Mediterranée

Impressive standard

Grouped into Preparatory, Middle and Advanced Sections, the entrants were sifted through two preliminary stages before arriving at the finals. The standard of the ‘6-plus’ age group in the Preparatory Section was particularly impressive, as was their evident pleasure in performing.

The concluding Gala Concert proved as much of a test for Brass Band Mediterranée and its conductor Olivier Mauny – very much a crash-course in the art of accompanying. 

Finalists

The finals of the Advanced Section formed the first part of the concert, with the two tuba finalists joining the band for Martin Ellerby’s ‘Tuba Concerto’, and the three euphonium finalists playing Philip Sparke’s ‘Pantomime’

The band topped and tailed the second half with music by Paul Lovat-Cooper and Philip Harper, but again played an accompanying role.  


Prize winners: Fiorello Arcangelo, Amelie Rotl and Jo Chen

Special guests

Special guest Florian Wielgosik, tuba solo of the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, played the Gregson ‘Concerto’, Guillaume Dionnet delivered a virtuoso ‘Roumanian Dance’  arranged by Ionel Dumitru, and Bastien Baumet gave the first performance of the brass band version of ‘Dragonfly’, written for him by Thierry Deleruyelle. 

For the band, collaborating with seven soloists in one concert made for a crash-course in the art of accompanying, but in the end the results saw Jo Chen Wen and Fiorello Arcangelo share the tuba prize.

Jo Chen Wen is from Taiwan and studies at the Lyon Conservatoire, whilst Fiorello Arcangelo is a member of the Italian Army Band

For the band, collaborating with seven soloists in one concert made for a crash-course in the art of accompanying, but in the end the results saw Jo Chen Wen and Fiorello Arcangelo share the tuba prize.

Emile Berret, who studies at Lyon Conservatire took the euphonium honours with 13-year-old Marek Brun taking first prize in the ‘Middle Section’. Marek studies at Marseille Conservatoire.


Olivier Mauny, Roy Terry and Medhi Viorello

Coup de Coeur

The jury also awarded a number of ‘Coup de Coeur’ prizes to entrants who, as well as showing potential, showed a degree of flair and the ability to win over an audience. In the Advanced Section this prize went to 19-year-old Amelie Ratl, who studies at the Paris Regional Conservatoire and is a member of Brass Band Aeolus.

The competition was especially significant for the Jury Chairperson Gérard Hostein, given his key role both in the new building process and in founding Brass Band Mediterranée. 

The competition was especially significant for the Jury Chairperson Gérard Hostein, given his key role both in the new building process and in founding Brass Band Mediterranée. 

The warmth of the applause that followed Conservatoire Director Noel Bianchini’s vote of thanks was testament to the affection in which he is held by staff, students and parents.  

The Director was also full of praise for the work of both Medhi Virorello and Olivier Mauny as he concluded his speech with a seal of approval to holding another edition of the competition in 2022 and in maintaining the partnership with Brass Band Mediterranée into the future.      

Roy Terry

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