Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag's grip on a newly refurbished Norwegian National Trophy could not be prised free by rivals in Bergen on the weekend.
Victory — their fourth in a row, the eighth in the last nine years and 19th in total, was secured at the Grieghallen thanks to a brace of outstanding performances led by their long term resident conductor Reid Gilje.
Although the eventual podium places were claimed by the heavyweight 'Anger' bands Stavanger and Manger Musikklag for the sixth year in a row, an engrossing contest also saw high-class renditions of the set-work, 'Concerto Grosso' and own-choice selections by the other top-six finishers Bjorsvik Brass, Jaren Hornmusikkforening and Tertnes Brass.
Halfway to victory
However, for the third year in succession it was Eikanger that turned their halfway point lead into ultimate victory, with a consummate rendition of Derek Bourgeois' epically proportioned work that saw them take a decisive two and half point margin over Stavanger into the following day.
An impressive Tertnes was third, whilst Manger Musikklag's exciting rendition, which found great favour in the hall but not so much the box (closed adjudication on the set-work, open on the own-choice), was fourth.
Saturday saw Eikanger's pragmatic selection of Philip Sparke's 'Perihelion: Closer to the Sun' finish third in the own-choice category, as Manger and Stavanger threw everything at them with their cutting edge selections of 'Concerto No10: ***** for Brass Band and Ondes Martenot' and 'Midnight's Butterflies'.
Behind them a flamboyant Bjorsvik Brass almost defied time with an edge of the seat 'Grosso' followed by an authentically rhapsodic 'Journey into Freedom', whilst the impressive Jaren Hornmusikkforening and Tertnes Brass once again showcased their impressive elite level credentials under conductors Florent Didier and Paul Holland.
Nuance and appreciation
However, speaking to both sets of judges following the results, they confirmed it was not technical aberrations that separated the best, but more a question of 'musical nuance and appreciation' that saw them end in the order that they did.
As one judge told 4BR; "At this level the odd clip doesn't make any difference to the quality of the music making that is being produced."
In that respect it was Eikanger who they felt was a clear margin ahead on 'Concerto Grosso', with the bold musical ambitions that were met in full by Manger and Stavanger in their own-choice selections under Peter Sebastian Szilvay and Allan Withington them, a packed hall and a worldwide audience turned into the live-stream internet broadcast.
However, despite the brilliance of their efforts it wasn't enough to make up the margin.
When the results were announced it was the Eikanger players who had to make quick return to the stage following their pre-results gala concert performance to once again celebrate with the hefty trophy.
"It's been a special result this year," Band Manager Viggo Bjorge told 4BR. "Reid Gilje is a wonderful musician who has given the band so much over the years; so to win it with him was wonderful.
We knew that we had to balance our playing over the two days as the Bourgeois was such a demanding choice, but thanks to Reid I think we managed to get that right!"
On a weekend of records, Reid Gilje has now added the Elite Division title to a personal National CV that also includes title successes at Second, Third and Fifth Division levels, whilst with exciting financial and artistic developments already secured for 2019, Viggo Bjorge confirmed that the band will head to Palanga in 2020 for the European Championships.
If Eikanger's elite level success was impressive enough, Krohnengen's victory in a remarkable First Division was equally as good, if not better.
It was also a victory that came with a special statistic, as conductor Prof Nicholas Childs notched up a century of senior level career wins. The Black Dyke Director of Music's 100th title came courtesy of a performance of 'Fraternity' that would have been worthy of a reprise at a European Championship.
It also gave Krohnengen a long awaited third National title success (their last being the Elite level in 1990), as the band bounced back from last year's relegation by emboldening the conductor's atmospheric interpretation with playing of stunning ensemble and solo security.
Joining them in the Elite Division in 2020 will be Kleppe Musikklag, who produced an outstanding rendition of 'Titan's Progess' under John Philip Hannevik (from memory as always), whilst the final podium spot went to a sparkling 'Sinfonietta No 3' by Rong Brass led by Erik Janssen.
The remaining top-six places in a contest of high class musical variety went to Askoy, Ila and Flesland Musikklag.
The first performance of the weekend was given at 9.30am on Friday morning by Brottum Brass in the Second Division.
It was also one that set a high bar of quality for the remaining 75 bands that followed, as Ray Farr inspired a super rendition of their ambitious choice of 'Rococo Variations' to repel 12 excellent rivals and secure their first National success since 1999.
Pushing them all the way was runner-up Sola Brass with a colourful 'Voyage of Discovery' led by Gwyn Evans, whilst Ray returned to lead Sorum Mussikklag to third place with an exciting account of 'Blackout'.
The remaining top-six places in another contest where a host of bands gave performance of substance went to Orskog Brass, Folesson Musikklag and Tysnes Musikklag.
Krohnengen Old Stars claimed their second title in three years as their followed up their 2017 Fifth Division win with victory in the Third Division under conductor Oyvind Raknes Nikolaisen.
In a contest that featured a number of fine performances of ambitious own-choices, their finely portrayed account of the former European Championship test-piece 'Tallis Variations' claimed a clear two-point margin over nearest rivals Nes Musikkforening, who played 'Connotations', with third place going to Lindas Brass with 'Spectrum'.
Agder's 'Dances & Arias', Laksevag's, 'Ascension' and Trondheim Politis Brassband's 'Oceans' made up a high-quality top-six.
There was a first National victory to celebrate for Valdres Brass in the Fourth Division, as a cultured performance of Percy Fletcher's classic 'Labour and Love', the oldest original work featured all weekend, saw them secure victory by the narrowest of margins over rivals Lyshornet Brass.
They in turn gave an almost equally refined account of 'A Malvern Suite', with Norheimsund Musikklag coming third playing the same work.
The remaining top-six places went to solid accounts from Flora-Bremanger Brassband, whose tubas won the 'Best Section' award, Tysvaer Brass and Moen Musikkforening.
The growing importance of the first step on the contest ladder at the Championships is one built on inclusion and friendly competition — something that was shown to fine effect in a enjoyable Fifth Division.
In the end IMI Brass secured their first National title as they gave excellent accounts of 'Petite Suite de Ballet' and 'Guardian of My Soul' under MD Linda Saglien Svensen.
There were also solid performances from podium finishers Saksumdal Musikkforening with 'Harmonius Variations' and Riska Brass Band with 'Saint-Saens Variations' respectfully, as well as top-six finishers, Lillehammer Brass, Indre Torungen Brass Ensemble and Langhus Brass.
Once again the Norwegian Music Federation has shown its determination to keep its event at the forefront of the brass banding movement.
The quality of the live-streaming service it provided to the world was excellent (hosted splendidly by Stein Skorpholm), whilst the clear promotion and relegation of bands between sections, which are balanced and reflective of realistic musical standards, still manages to enable competitors to show endeavour as well as ambition.
The youthful exuberance of the support within the hall (and especially with the Brass Night) is testament of the desire of everyone involved to keep the event inclusive, expansive, outward looking (the traditional programme has been replaced by an app) and thoroughly entertaining.
It's been a special result this year. Reid Gilje is a wonderful musician who has given the band so much over the years; so to win it with him was wonderfulBand Manager Viggo Bjorge
Set Work: Roger Argente; Christopher Parkes; Thomas Beiganz
Own Choice: Ingemar Roos, Halldis Ronning; Mark Heron
Set Work/Own Choice = Total
1. Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag (Reid Gilje): 96.5/96 = 96.25*
2. Stavanger Brass (Allan Withington): 94/97 = 95.5
3. Manger Musikklag (Peter Sebastian Szilvay): 91/98 = 94.5
4. Bjorsvik Brass (Andreas Hanson): 89.5/94.5 = 92
5. Jaren Hornmusikkforening (Florent Didier): 88/95.5 = 91.75
6. Tertnes Brass (Paul Holland): 92/91 = 91.5
7. Oslo Brass (Ivan Meylemans): 87/92.5 = 89.75
8. Oslofjord Brass (Frode Amundsen): 84/93 = 88.5
9. Molde Brass (Russell Gray): 86/89.5 = 87.75
10. Musikkorpset Gjallarhorn (Rune Gundersen): 85/88 = 86.5
Soloist Prize (Own Choice): Principal Cornet (Jaren Hornmusikkforening)
Section Award: (Set Work): Trombones (Eikanger Bjorsvik)
*Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag receives invitation to represent Norway at the European Championships in Palanga in 2020
Adjudicators: Jens Torolf Larsen, Thomas Beiganz; Christopher Parkes
1. Krohnengen (Prof Nicholas Childs) — 96
2. Kleppe Musikklag (Philip Hannevik) — 95
3. Rong Brass (Erik Janssen) — 93
4. Askoy Brass Band (Svein Henrik Giske) — 92
5. Ila Brass (Adam Cooke) — 91
6. Flesland Musikklag (Thor-Arne Pedersen) — 89
7. Tomra Brass Band (Frans Violet) — 88
8. Radoy Brass (Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen) — 87
9. Sandefjord Brass Symposium (Helge Haukas) — 86
10.Tertnes Amatorkorps (Tormod Flaten) — 85
11= Hasle Brass (Robert Solberg Nilsen) — 84
11= Oster Brass (Eirik Gjerdevik) — 84
Solo Prize: Euphonium (Radoy Brass)
Section Award: Percussion (Krohnengen)
Adjudicators: Ingemar Roos; Tom Brevik
1. Brottum Brass (Ray Farr) — 96
2. Sola Brass Band (Gwyn Evans) — 95
3. Sorum Musikklag (Ray Farr) — 94.5
4. Orskog Brass (Jonathan Bates) — 94
5. Folleso Musikklag (Thorgeir Thunestvedt) — 93
6. Tysnes Musikklag (Yngve Nikolaisen) — 92.5
7. Fjell Brass (Joseph Cook) — 92
8. Manger Old Star Brass (Bjorn Sagstad) — 91.5
9. Alexander Brass Band (Morten E Hansen) — 91
10. Jolster Musikklag (Arvid Anthun) — 90.5
11. Haukas Musikklag (Sindre Dalhaug) — 90
12. Sagvag Musikklag (Yngve Nikolaisen) — 89.5
13. Stangaland Brass (Melvin White) — 89
Solo Prize: Horn (Sola Brass Band)
Section Award: Cornets (Orskog Brass)
Adjudicators: Mark Heron; Halldis Ronning
1. Krohnengen Old Stars (Oyvind Raknes Nikolaisen) — 97
2. Nes Musikkforening (Thorbjorn Lunde) — 95
3. Lindas Brass (Hilde Brevik Grytten) — 94.5
4. Agder Brass (Thomas Swatland) — 94
5. Laksevag Musikkforening (Fredrick Schjelderup) — 92
6. Trondheim Politis Brassband (Espen Andersen) — 91.5
7. Gjovik Bybrass (Christian Tenfjord) — 91
8. Bergen Brass Band (Thor-Arne Pedersen) — 90.5
9. Tromso Brass (Tor Kristian Ravnanger Innbjor) — 89
10. Bjorvika Brass Band (Robert Solberg Nilsen) — 88
11. Skui Brassband (Jan Roger Oren) — 87
12. Kjolsdalen Musikklag (Arvid Anthun) — 86
13. Gjesdal Brass Band (Jonas Skartveit Rogne) — 85
14. Stavanger Kommunes Korps (Gwyn Evans) — 84
15. Filadelfia Hornorkester Drammen (Pal Andre G Worren) — 83
Solo Prize: Euphonium (Gjovik ByBrass)
Section Award: Tubas (Krohnengen Old Stars)
Adjudicators: Roger Argente; Rut Jorunn Ronning
1. Valdres Brass (Rune Furoy Johansen) — 94
2. Lyshornet Brass (Oyvind Raknes Nikolaisen) — 93.5
3. Norheimsund Musikklag (Patrik Randefalk) — 92
4. Flora-Bremanger Brassband (Phillip Goodwin) — 89
5. Tysvaer Brass (Paul Hughes) — 88.5
6. Moen Musikkforening (Ole Kristian Egge) — 88
7. Floro Hornmusikk (Torgeir Halvorsen) — 86
8. Grenland Brass (Tommy Sorby) — 85.5
9. Hetlevik Musikklag (Sturle Berntsen) — 85
10. Fraena Musikkorps (Randi Anita Dale) — 84.5
11. Frei Hornmusikk (Nick Ost) — 84
12. Randaberg Musikkorps (Pal Magne Austernes-Underhaug) — 83.5
13. Lismarka/Mesnali Brass (Andres Halla) — 83
14. Sotra Brass (Ben Hirons) — 82
15. Fla Musikkorps (Odd Steinar Morkved) — 81.5
Solo Prize: Cornet (Lyshornet Brass)
Section Award: Tubas (Floro-Bremanger Brassband)
Adjudicators: Jens Torolf Larsen; Rut Jorun Ronning
1. IMI Brass (Linda Saglien Svensen) — 94
2. Saksumdal Musikkforening (Andres Halla) — 92
3. Riska Brass Band (Espen Westbye) — 91
4. Lillehammer Brass (Jon Kristian Solberg) — 90
5. Indre Torungen Brass Ensemble (Lars Bjornar Strengenes) — 89.5
6. Langhus Brass (Tomas Austestad) — 89
7. Holmestrand Ungdomskorps (Arild Ovrum) — 88
8. Haus Musikklag (Jon-Vegar Sole Sundal) — 87
9. Brumunddal Brass (Gunnar Roen) — 86
10. Skeie Brass (Nigel Fielding) — 85
11. Alvik Musikklag (Torbjorn Dagestad Jnr) — 83
Solo Prize: Flugel (Lillehammer Brass)
Section Award: Saksumdal Musikkforening