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2022 European Championships
Preview to Birmingham

The European Championships are back — and although its attractions may look familiar, events and ambitions are very different...


The European Championships return...

On the face of it nothing has changed. 

The European Brass Band Festival returns to Birmingham with all the regular features and attractions once again in place.

It's almost as if the two-year Covid-19 hiatus (let alone the 15 years since it was last here) had never happened.

11 bands will compete for the Blue Riband Championship title, four for the Challenge Section accolade. The European Youth Championships are included once more whilst the European Youth Band and European Composers’ Competition hope to attract a more ‘occasional’ audience into the cultural heart of a welcoming city.

However, look a little more closely and everything has changed – and not just cosmetically either.


It's not just the cosmetics that have changed

The European Championships were scheduled to be hosted at Sage Gateshead in 2024 – the third part of a four-year cycle that would have seen the event travel to Palanga, Malmo, England and Stavanger.

When Covid-19 swept across Europe that plan became redundant.

Bold endorsement

And so, with a financially fragile European Brass Band Association needing a solid foundation on which to build its post-Covid future, and with the brass banding infrastructures of Lithuania or Sweden understandably unable to offer a cast iron certainty of that, BBE stepped in to bring their event forward.

It was a bold endorsement of self-confidence; even if the ambition of their original cost-neutral proposal had to be tempered somewhat by having to accommodate the desire of EBBA to retain some of its more laudable, but expensive, ‘festival’ attractions.

In response, BBE has worked hard to make positive changes work and work well.

It was a bold endorsement of self-confidence; even if the ambition of their original cost-neutral proposal had to be tempered somewhat by having to accommodate the desire of EBBA to retain some of its more laudable, but expensive, ‘festival’ attractions.


The European Youth Championships have been brought forward to the Saturday morning

Re-energised

The European Youth Championships, for too long a worthy if sparsely supported addendum to the main competitive menu has been brought forward to the Saturday morning, whilst the Gala Concert has been re-energised into the ‘festival’ climax of the weekend.

The securing of Arts Council England funding for an outdoor Community Stage to provide a performance focal point for community ensembles and bands has been a major boost – one that has come with the even more significant acknowledgment of the ‘national significance’ of the event as a whole for UK banding.

National links

Meanwhile, the European Youth Band, led by the acclaimed French conductor Florent Didier (its costs helped by a donation from a Norwegian multi-millionaire) has been utilised to act as a musical ambassador with its concert appearances, whilst important links have been made with other organisations.

These include the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and The Band of HM Marines (who provide a concert on Thursday evening), as well as the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.


Prof Philip Wilby has written the set-work, 'Saints Triumphant' 

Musical outlook

The musical outlook has been widened too, with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vaughan Williams seeing the commissioning of a fine new Championship work, 'Saints Triumphant'   from Philip Wilby as well as a spring clean (courtesy of Phillip Littlemore) of his wonderful ‘Variations for Brass Band’. 

The youth events also get two works from composers in Simon Dobson and Christopher Bond who works are aimed at being accessible to a wider listening public.   


Making sure the locals know...

National significant

Even the cosmetic changes have been noted; the signage in and around the Symphony Hall complex making people aware that a ‘nationally significant’ cultural event is taking place in the heart of their city – something further endorsed by major local and regional political figures.

All that and those who can’t make it to Birmingham will also be able to enjoy the action thanks to the World of Brass live-stream broadcast - one that covers all the contests in full plus what is anticipated to be a thrilling Gala Concert appearance from the combined forces of defending champion Cory and jazz trumpet star Louis Dowdeswell.

And whilst the contest ticket sales were initially slow by pre-covid levels, a positive promotional campaign and well thought out ticketing structure should mean that Symphony Hall should buzz with the healthy sound of multi-lingual brass band lovers once again chattering about predictions and preferences.

Live stream broadcast

All that and those who can’t make it to Birmingham will also be able to enjoy the action thanks to the World of Brass live-stream broadcast - one that covers all the contests in full plus what is anticipated to be a thrilling Gala Concert appearance from the combined forces of defending champion Cory and jazz trumpet star Louis Dowdeswell.


Louis Dowdeswell will join Cory for the Gala Concert

Huge credit

Huge credit then to Brass Bands England – led by CEO Kenny Crookston, event manager Nigel Stevens and their team. 

They have met the demands of Covid-19, EBBA, a revamped Symphony Hall and a brass banding public both eager and somewhat apprehensive to return to major contests weekend, with vigour and ambition.   

The festival deserves to be an overwhelming success – and one that could also provide a cost-effective template from which future events can prosper. 

They have met the demands of Covid-19, EBBA, a revamped Symphony Hall and a brass banding public both eager and somewhat apprehensive to return to major contests weekend, with vigour and ambition.   

Kick off

It all kicks off on Thursday afternoon when the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain joins forces with The Band of HM Royal Marines perform in concert at Birmingham Town Hall (7.30pm).

Friday evening sees the official opening ceremony (invitation only) at Symphony Hall which acts as the prelude to the 8th European Composers’ Competition and Award Ceremony featuring Grimethorpe Colliery Band at the Town Hall (7.30pm).


Somethings may not change come the results though...

Blockbusters

The competitive action (see below) starts on Saturday morning (10.00am) with the European Youth Championships followed by the Championship Section set-work discipline in the afternoon (3.45pm).

Sunday sees the Challenge Section start at 9.00am, before the Championship Section band raise the roof of Symphony Hall with their own-choice blockbusters starting at 11.30am.

There will just be time for a quick breather before the Gala Concert climax (8.00pm) and the announcement of the results (around 9.30pm) before everyone can let their hair down for a ‘Players’ Party’.

Great bands, world class performers, fantastic music making – and an opportunity to have a beer or two after all the hard work is out of the way.

It’s good to know that some things never change at the European Championships.

Iwan Fox


Schedule:
European Brass Band Festival 

Thursday 28th April:

1.00pm: Band of HM Royal Marines Concert for Schools
Birmingham Town Hall

4.00pm - 6.00pm: European Youth Brass Band
Centenary Square

7.30pm: National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and Band of HM Royal Marines Concert
Birmingham Town Hall

Friday 29th April:

5.00pm: Opening Ceremony (by invitation only)
Symphony Hall

7.30pm: European Composers’ Competition Final
Birmingham Town Hall
Featuring works by Thibaut Bruniaux, Theo Rossier and Andy Wareham 
Grimethorpe Colliery Band
Conductor: Dr David Thornton

Saturday 30th April:

8.00am:  EBBC Championship Section Test-Piece draw & EBBA Challenge Section draw
Symphony Hall

10.00am: European Youth Brass Band Contest: Development Section
Symphony Hall

1.15pm: European Youth Brass Band Contest: Premier Section
Symphony Hall

2.30pm: European Youth Band Concert followed by Award Ceremony
Symphony Hall Concourse

3.20pm: Composer Talk - Paul Hindmarsh talks to Philip Wilby
Symphony Hall

3.45pm: EBBC Championship Section Set Work
Symphony Hall

Sunday 1st May:

7.45am: EBBC Championship Section Own-Choice Draw
Symphony Hall

8.00am: EBBA Annual General Meeting
Symphony Hall

9.00am: EBBC Challenge Section
Symphony Hall

11.30am: EBBC Championship Section Own-Choice
Symphony Hall

8.00pm: Gala Concert: Cory Band and Louis Dowdeswell Big Band
Symphony Hall

9.30pm: EBBC Result and Award Ceremony for Challenge and Championship Sections
Symphony Hall

10.00pm: Players’ Party
Symphony Hall Concourse

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Perth Festival of the Arts - BBC Big Band at Perth Festival of the Arts

Wednesday 25 May • Perth Concert Hall, Mill Street, Perth PH1 5HZ


Grimethorpe Colliery Band - Brassed Off Live at The Royal Albert Hall

Wednesday 25 May • Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London. SW7 2AP SW7 2AP


Perth Festival of the Arts - Opera Bohemia - Madama Butterfly

Thursday 26 May • Perth Theatre, Mill Street, Perth PH1 5HZ


Perth Festival of the Arts - Cross Trust Artists of the Year

Thursday 26 May • St Matthew's Church, Tay Street, Perth PH1 5LQ


Perth Festival of the Arts - The Voice of Desire

Friday 27 May • St John's Kirk of Perth, St John's Place, Perth PH1 5SZ


Derwent Brass

May 25 • PRINCIPAL EEb TUBA. Derwent Brass (Championship Section, Midlands) are seeking a Principal EEb Tuba - could it be you? We rehearse from our own facilitiy with a fully attended rehearsal just once a week - Thurs 20:00 - 22:00 (increased prior contests).


Garforth Brass

May 24 • Garforth Brass, a traditional brass band organisation, currently including a friendly 3rd section contesting band, concert band, and training band invites interested players to come along and see what we have to offer at your level.


Garforth Brass

May 24 • Garforth Brass, a traditional brass band organisation, currently including friendly 3rd section contesting band, concert band and learners band has vacancies for cornet players (position negotiable) to complete the team for contesting and concerts.


Mark Wilkinson


Cornet Soloist, Teacher, Adjudicator, Conductor


               

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