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Eikanger Bjorsvik & Manger Musikklag

Conductors: Reid Gilje & Martin Winter
Soloists: Jonas Puntervoll (tuba); Vidar Nordli (trombone)
Knarvik Kyrkje
Bergen
Saturday 29th August




We had almost forgotten what the sound of a live brass band was like: Warm, passionate, occasionally capricious, but undeniably beautiful.

Congratulations then to Eikanger and Manger for reminding us of what we have been missing in these frustratingly isolated, socially distanced times.  

Resurgam

Knarvik Kyrkje provided an appropriately redemptive venue – all that was really missing was a rendition of ‘Resurgam’  to show that the Norwegian banding movement is slowly rising in musical optimism from the depths of its lockdown. 

However, others around the world (and especially the UK) may take longer to resurface given the 1 meter ‘distancing’ between players and the more relaxed audience set up in the hall (100 people were able to attend) that were allowed here. 

Knarvik Kyrkje provided an appropriately redemptive venue – all that was really missing was a rendition of ‘Resurgam’  to show that the Norwegian banding movement is slowly rising in musical optimism from the depths of its lockdown. 

The challenges were obvious to both see and hear – and not just in terms of the performance logistics, which were successfully overcome by both bands, but perhaps less so with the audience socialising in friendly chat during the extended half-time break. 

Perhaps they too were simply glad to be back enjoying the music. 

Energetic

Which was a huge credit to the bands: A youthful Manger opening with an energetic rendition of ‘The Plantagenets’  with just the occasional rusty spark or two flying off the duelling cadet swords of the Houses of Lancaster and York.

Tuba soloist Jonas Puntervoll was a tender, sonorous lead in Schubert's 'Erster Verlust', whilst 'Gloria'  from 'Messa per Percussione'  by the late Knut Nystedt, and featuring a super percussion quartet was a quixotic gem.

A passionate 'Elegy'  from 'A Downland Suite'  led into a rambunctious rendition of ‘The Year of the Dragon’  – from the Gatling gun opening through to a finely tempered ‘Interlude’  led by a confident solo trombone and a rollercoaster ride ‘Finale’.

A passionate 'Elegy'  from 'A Downland Suite'  led into a rambunctious rendition of ‘The Year of the Dragon’  – from the Gatling gun opening through to a finely tempered ‘Interlude’  led by a confident solo trombone and a rollercoaster ride ‘Finale’.

The extended interval was given over to socially distanced chat with the likes of Martin Winter, Sara Hamre Sekkingstad and Reid Gilje, who has just celebrated 20 years conducting Eikanger.

Uplifting

A little while later he returned to the stage to lead a romantically uplifting 'The Triumph of Peace'  by Eric Ball, as well as a touching homage to the late American trumpet player Ryan Anthony who died in June, with Peter Meechan's 'Song of Hope'  led by a quartet of soprano, two cornets and flugel. 

'Intermezzo from Suite No.1'  by Gustav Holst was a delicate challenge to overcome, whilst the trombone solo 'Fields of Gold'  was suavely performed by Vidar Nordli.

The band rounded things off with Peter Graham's pre-COVID-19 British Open test-piece, 'Dynasty' - with just occasional hints of understandable lactic acid in the lips. 

‘Holy, Holy, Holy’  was a nice way to close - with a prayer or two possibly offered in some quarters that this excellent concert effort by two fine banding organisations may signal the start of a permanent return to what brass band lovers not just in Norway, but across the globe, have been patiently waiting for.

Iwan Fox

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