First Section Review:
Date Posted: 09.05.02
The First Section of the European Championships has
now been going for nine years, but after listening to this years
contest on the Friday at the Palais des Beaux Arts, it surely the
time now for the organisers to reappraise its position.
Brass Band Nord Pas de Calais were the deserved winners, but the
contest as a whole was immensely disappointing and the standard
of performances was, with the exception of the winners, poor to
say the least.
The EBBA must be congratulated for trying so hard in developing
brass banding in countries where there is no cultural tradition
of it, but doing this in the way it has now done since 1994 has
not really developed things any further than they were then. A quite
radical reappraisal is needed to make the contest a success.
The contest for instance saw the French band win with ease and to
be truthful they were a class apart from the rest by some distance.
They gave a powerful rendition of Jan van der Roosts set work,
Excalibur and followed this with a pretty good effort
of A London Overture by Philip Sparke as well. There
was no doubt that they were clear winners.
As for the rest though. Arklow Silver came home second and gave
a fair account of the set work and a brave reading of Tam
O Shanters Ride to follow, but in truth they were
a league below the winners and in terms of UK banding they sounded
like a a decent second section band. Well done though for their
Third were Berga Brass Band from Sweden, who were OK as such against
this standard of bands but in UK terms would have been a good third
section band. They played the set work with character and gave a
decent run out to A Malvern Suite by Philip Sparke as
well, but there was nothing there to indicate that they would be
pushing for further honours or representation in the top section
in the immediate or long-term future.
Fourth was Mannheim Young Brass Ensemble who sounded as their
title indicated, as brass ensemble rather than brass band. Plenty
of effort and some nice touches in the set work, but they didnt
get to grips with Robert Redheads Corpus Christi
at all and made it sound a characterless piece of writing. Still,
there were a young band and there is hope that they could improve
further by the experience.
Finally, the Italian band Novedrate Brass Band and two performances
of the set work and own choice that were brave and committed if
nothing else. The experience will hopefully give them the incentive
to continue to develop as a brass band, but you had the feeling
that it is the development as a brass ensemble that occasionally
plays brass band works that will ultimately come of them.
So well done to the French they are a very decent band indeed
and could have played in the Championship Section as well, but we
will have to wait and see if that occurs for Bergen in 2003. As
for the rest?
Perhaps the time has now come to make the First Section contest
here, something approaching the UEFA Cup in football and open it
up to bands from the likes of England, Scotland, Wales, Norway etc
who compete in their own countries First Sections, and who would
use the contest as a stepping stone for further competitive development
rather than just an opportunity to perform in a contest as such.
Why not have the National winners of the First Sections from those
countries to compete in the contest with the winners moving into
the Championship Section the following year? The so called developing
bands could also still be involved, but at least the contest
would have more meaning and there would be a recognisable progression
to the contest as a whole which surely wouldnt dilute the
opportunity to encourage brass banding in those countries we hope
to see develop over the next decade or so. The contest needs it.