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2024 European Brass Band Championships
A road worth travelling

It has been a journey full of frustrations to finally get to Palanga, but it is sure to well worth it now that the destination has finally been reached.

It is rather appropriate that the set-work to be performed by the Championship Section bands at the forthcoming European Championships is entitled, ‘A Road Less Travelled By'.

It has certainly been a rather unexpected journey to Palanga; for EBBA, the local organisers and competitors alike. 

Ambition

The event was to have taken place in 2020 – yet just weeks before heading to the Baltic Coast, Covid-19 struck and everything, for everyone, changed. 

From the first presentations made to EBBA around 2013, to the initial proposal to host in 2019, they backed their ambition with openness, hard work and money. 

It seemed like a terminal blow for an event that had become increasingly beset by bad luck and rancour – although it must be said, none of which emanated from the local organisers.

From the first presentations made to EBBA around 2013, to the initial proposal to host in 2019, they backed their ambition with openness, hard work and money. 

Acrimony

And plenty of it.  Following concerns over the acoustic of the refurbished Palanga Concert Hall following visits by the EBBA Music Commission they reportedly spent an extra 180,000 Euros on improvements. 

Yet it still wasn’t enough, and like the bill to fix things, the acrimony between EBBA and the prospective hosts grew.  


Diplomacy won through with the Mayor and President

Diplomatic skills

It must be said that there was a time when EBBA President Ulf Rosenberg was not the most popular man in Palanga.

However, it also says a great deal for his diplomatic skills that what could have become a litigious nightmare eventually resulted in accommodating compromise, and the event was rescheduled for 2020.  

Neither could have foreseen the Covid-19 pandemic, but both have displayed considerable vision to ensure that 45th Championships finally take place. 

In large part that was also thanks to the statesmanlike approach taken by the Mayor of the Municipality of Palanga, Sarunas Vaitkus (recently re-elected) who will finally welcome Ulf Rosenberg and EBBA to the opening ceremony at the picturesque Amber Museum set in the 19th-century Tiskeviciai Palace on Friday 2nd May.

Vision

Neither could have foreseen the Covid-19 pandemic, but both have displayed considerable vision to ensure that 45th Championships finally take place. 

Thankfully there are no further obstacles in the way, with the outstanding Palangos Orkestras Project Manager Viktorija Puidoke and her indefatigable team ensuring that any last minute logistical problems have been sorted out so that bands and supporters can enjoy the delights of a wonderful host venue.

Due to the various time line delays it has been a somewhat unfamiliar route taken for many of the competing bands in the Championship and Challenge Sections as well as the European Youth Championships.

Banding detours

So much so that no fewer than six from the Championship and Challenge Section that were to have taken to the stage in May 2020 have detoured by the wayside for a variety of reasons.

Cory were to have competed at the 2020 event as the defending champion, but now take on the role providing a trio of performances at the 9th European Composer Competition  (Thursday May 2nd) as well as headlining the Gala Concert on the Saturday evening.  

So much so that no fewer than six from the Championship and Challenge Section that were to have taken to the stage in May 2020 have detoured by the wayside for a variety of reasons.

Philip Harper meanwhile is being kept busy by directing the European Youth Brass Band who will provide a series of local concerts as well as join Cory for the Gala Concert in addition to providing the Farewell Concert prior to the completion of the European Youth Championships on Sunday May 5th.

Strong line-up

Despite no Cory, Foden’s or Valaisia from the original 2020 cohort of qualifiers, there is an exceptionally strong line-up of a dozen bands all looking to lift the famous Milton Stevens treble clef trophy on Saturday evening at Palanga Concert Hall.


Will all the prizes be heading back to Switzerland?

With Philip Sparke’s engaging set-work reprised for the occasion and the usual blockbuster own-choice test-pieces to enjoy over the two days, there is sure to be plenty of great competitive music making to keep people glued to the 2,200 seats in the hall and at home across the world thanks to the live stream coverage provided by World of Brass through the http://www.wobplay.com media platform.

Challenge conumdrum

The Challenge Section remains something of an unresolvable conundrum for EBBA.

However, despite its variability in both quality and quantity it still offers a clear road of competitive travel that over the past decade or more has resulted in bands richly deserving their promotion to the elite level of competition.

despite its variability in both quality and quantity it still offers a clear road of competitive travel that over the past decade or more has resulted in bands richly deserving their promotion to the elite level of competition

Those include Brass Band Oberosterreich (Austria) and 3BA Brass (Germany), both of whom are once again in the Championship Section this year. 

No lack of ambition

It will be interesting to see if any of the trio from Northern Ireland, Italy and the hosts Lithuania can eventually achieve that in the years to come, but given the difficulty of the set-work, ‘Baltic Legends’  by Lithuanian composer Vaida Striaupaite-Beinariene, and the own-choice test-piece on show (‘Paganini Variations’,  ‘Of Distant Memories’  and ‘Music of the Spheres’) there is no lack of ambition.

Composer competition

The first of the competitive event takes place on Thursday evening when Cory provide a trio of world premiere performances at Palanga Concert Hall to help the adjudication panel of Edward Gregson, Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen and Vaida Striaupaite-Beinariene come to their decision in the 9th European Composers Competition.  

The three works to be featured are ‘Magdalena’  by Dupertius Gauthier from Switzerland, ‘Ascension’  by English composer Jack Ledger-Dowse and ‘Red Planet’  by Belgian, Lennert Van Laenen.

The three works to be featured are ‘Magdalena’ by Dupertius Gauthier from Switzerland, ‘Ascension’ by English composer Jack Ledger-Dowse and ‘Red Planet’ by Belgian, Lennert Van Laenen.

Previous winners include Bertrand Moren (adjudicating in the top section this year), Simon Dobson (who has an own test-piece featured) and Kevin Houben  (who wrote the set-work for the top section in 2017), so a future path of professional travel may well open for one, or all of the three at future European events.


Will the Norwegians triumph again in the Youth Championships

European Youth Championships

The festival is rounded off by the European Youth Championships which features eight bands looking to claim either the Development or Premier Section titles.

The UK has now fallen into line with European age appropriate rules for the event, with former Premier Section winners Youth Brass 2000 now in the Development Section and the University of Chichester Brass Band representing England in the Premier Section. 

The defending Development Section champion Smoras Skolemusikk returns to see if they can take the title back to Norway against a trio of excellent rivals

The defending Development Section champion Smoras Skolemusikk (above) returns to see if they can take the title back to Norway against a trio of excellent rivals, whilst there will be a new winner in the Premier Section as bands from Lithuania, Wales, England and Italy compete against each other.

Bravo Italy

A special mention goes to Brass Band del Conservatorio di Musica 'N. Piccinni' BARI though, as they more than most made it here after falling foul of the Kafkaesque frustrations of trying to negotiate a route through Italian government bureaucracy to get to Malmo last year.

Bravo to them and to all those who have finally made it to Palanga.

It may have been a road less travelled by, but it has been well worth the making.

Iwan Fox 


Competing Bands:

EBBC Championship Section:
3BA Concert Band (Corsin Tuor) - Germany
Brass Band Oberosterreich (Gunther Reisegger) - Austria
Brass Band Schoonhoven (Erik Janssen) - Netherlands
Brass Band Treize Etoiles (Frederic Theodoloz) - Switzerland (defending champion)
Brassband Burgermusik Luzern (Michael Bach) - Switzerland
Brassband Willebroek (Frans Violet) - Belgium
Brighouse & Rastrick (Prof David King) - England
Concord Brass Band (Jesper Juul Windahl) - Denmark
Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag (Florent Didier) - Norway
Gota Brass Band (Michael Thomsen) - Sweden
Hauts-de-France Brass Band (Luc Vertommen) - France
Tredegar Band (Ian Porthouse) - Wales

EBBC Challenge Section:
1st Old Boys Silver (Dr Jonathan Corry) - Northern Ireland
Brass Band Wipptal (Patrick Gruber) - Italy
Brass LT (Russell Gray) - Lithuania

EYBBC Development Section:
Brass Band Aukstyn (Remigijus Vilys and Piet Visser) - Lithuania
Smoras Skolemusikk (Magnus Brandseth) - Norway (defending champion)
Youth Brass 2000 (Chris Jeans) - England
Ytrebygda Skolekorps (Thor-Arne Pedersen) - Norway

EYBBC Premier Section:
Brass Band del Conservatorio di Musica 'N. Piccinni' BARI (Legrottaglie Antonio) - Italy
Brass Band Sklepucini (Vilmantas Vapsva) - Lithuania
Seindorf Ieuenctid Beaumaris (Peter Cowlishaw) - Wales
The University of Chichester Brass Band (Emma Button) - England


Adjudication panels:

European Composer Competition:
Edward Gregson
Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen
Vaida Striaupaite-Beinariene

Championship Section: (Set Test)
Bertrand Moren
Margie Antrobus
Thomas Ludescher

Championship Section: (Own Choice)
Andrew Duncan
David Thornton
Thomas Doss

Challenge Section:
Brett Baker
Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen

Youth Championships: Development Section:
Bertrand Moren
Andrew Duncan

Youth Championships: Premier Section
Brett Baker
Thomas Ludescher


Schedule:

Saturday 27th April:
European Youth Brass Band (EYBB)
Musical Director Philip Harper (first gathering)

Thursday 2nd May:
Final Concert European Composers Competition
Palanga Concert Hall
The Cory Band and EYBB
8.00pm (local time)

Friday 3rd May:
11.00am: Opening Ceremony (by invitation only)
Palanga Amber Museum Friday
2.00pm: Composer talk

3.00pm: Championship Section (Test Piece)
Palanga Concert Hall

Saturday 4th May:
8.00am: Draw for Championships Section own-choice
9.00am: Challenge Section (Own Choice programme incl. set test piece)
Palanga Concert Hall

11.30am: Championship Section (Own Choice)
Palanga Concert Hall

8.30pm: Grand Gala Concert and Award Ceremony
EYBB and Cory Band
Palanga Concert Hall

11.00pm: Brass Party with Big Al and the Jokers

Sunday 5th May:
8.00am: EBBA General Meeting

9.00am: European Youth Brass Band Contest
Development Section & Premier Section
Palanga Concert Hall

2.00pm: Farewell Concert EBBC 2024 with EYBB and Award Ceremony
Palanga Concert Hall

Website
Visit the website to EBBC 2024 Palanga
https://orkestras.pro/ebbc-2024/palanga/

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