2005 Norwegian Brass Band Championships - Retrospectives: Third and Fourth Division

16-Feb-2005

There was some great playing and some great presentation in the Third and Fourth Divisions here. And 4BR enjoyed it - even if we didn't understand most of what was being said!


You have got to hand it to the Norwegians when it comes to forward thinking about brass band contests. The adjudication process didn't quite work out as they would have hoped for in the Elite Section, but they have still been brave enough to amend their system over the years to reflect not only what the bands feel they want, but also what the organisers feel the audiences want as well.

It is an approach that is desperately needed here in the UK – just look at the hullabaloo created over the ‘two in a box' for the Regionals, and it would be nice to think that the Brits will take on board many of the advances that have been used here, not just this year.

The three member panel for the Elite Section has in fact worked well over the past three or four years, so it would be hard to dismiss it as a failure this year because the choices of panel members didn't come up to scratch. What certainly did come up to scratch though was the decision this year to have open adjudication in both the Third and Fourth Divisions here.

Not only did it provide a much more up to date approach to the judging process, it also meant that the Peer Gynt Hall in the Greighallen complex was packed to the rafters with supporters, players and a great number of just interested third parties. Given the sparsity of the crowds that were to be found at Harrogate last year, this event proved to be food for thought.

One of the reasons why it proved so successful was that the bands themselves were encouraged to provide their own light hearted ‘pen portraits' of about three minutes in duration to be used by the comperes to inform (and entertain as it proved) the audience whilst they got themselves ready to play and the judges went about their deliberations. It was a fantastic success, helped by the way in which the bands didn't take this too seriously (they made plenty of jokes about themselves and their players) and that the comperes were very good at reading the introductions out to the audience as well as add libbing a bit as well.

4BR didn't understand a single word of what was going on, but it didn't matter, as a kind friend informed us of the salient points. It gave everything a fine relaxed feel – the audience laughed, the waiting players and MDs laughed – even the judges laughed and it certainly took away the nerves, for the standard of playing was very commendable here in both sections.  All we can hope is that this type of innovation continues and that it is even adopted back here in the UK – it works brilliantly and doesn't undermine in any way the importance of the contest that the bands are taking part in. 

The Third Division took place on the Friday – starting just after the Second Division ended in the main Greig Hall, but overlapping the Elite Section. As we have said the standard was very good – although once more some of the choices were a little over ambitious (one band chose to play ‘English Heritage') and overall the impression made on us was that these bands would be able to more than comfortably play in the Second Section in the UK.

The winners were Borge Brass Band conducted by the composer of the Elite Section set work, Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen, who produced a finely structured account of Leslie Condon's ‘The Present Age' to take the winners laurels from Tynes Musikklag in second place, two points behind and Laksevag Musikkforening a couple of points further back in third.

Borge hail from one of the more remote parts of Norway in Nordland and the tiny fishing port is the hometown, but not the current residence of the composer. They competed last year, but this year produced a cracking show to take home with them the first prize of 3000 Krone and provide Torstein with his first ever conducting National title. It also meant that on the weekend as a whole he had provided the test piece, conducted a winning band and had seen his 16 year old son gain second place in the Elite Section as he played with Manger Musikklag. Not a bad weekends work then!

Rong Brass: Euphonuims
Rong Brass: Euphonuims

Not only were the top three good musical value, so too were a great number of the other performances in this Division, and we particularly liked Rong Brass conducted by Reid Gilje, who is usually seen working with the Eikanger Band. His fine direction of Philip Wilby's ‘Postcards from Home' was as good an account of this work we have heard for a long time, and we think they may have been a touch disappointed not to come higher than their eventual sixth place.

Nes Musikkforening
Nes Musikkforening: Cornet section

Also worth a mention were Nes Musikkforening directed in fine style by Andres Halla on ‘Northern Landscapes' who came 11th and Russell Gray and his Gjesdal Brass Band who gave a very atmospheric account of Rodney Newton's ‘The Long Ships' to come 8th.

Fourth Section:

Finally, to round off the whole memorable weekend there was the playing and presentation of the bands in the Fourth Division.

This was grass roots banding at its best (if they call it such a thing here), with bands of all shapes and sizes, uniforms, tee shirts, multi coloured sweaters, strange shoes and some even stranger haircuts all taking to the stage and playing well above expectations.

This was a great occasion to enjoy – and enjoy it everyone did as well, as the contest had a great compere (a real Norwegian Jimmy Tarbuck) and some great playing.  The audience loved it, and on more than one occasion the bands got impromptu standing ovations.

The winners were Fagernes Musikkorps conduced by Tor Arthur Hagen, who although we didn't hear them, we were informed were a class above the rest of the field with their performance of Philip Sparke's ‘Triptych for Brass Band' which gave them the winners cup and 2000 Krone to take home with them. 

Manger Old Star Brass
Manger Old Star Brass: Euphoniums and trombones 

We did however hear the band that came second – Manger Old Star Brass conducted by Johannes Mangersnes – and they were a delight. Not only did they play their own choice selection of Gordon Langford's ‘Sinfonietta' very well (and what a joy it was to hear this now somewhat neglected piece again), they did so with huge smiles on their faces after they must have had the finest ever introduction from a compere a brass band anywhere in the world has had. For a full five minutes he entertained the audience about the band, the players, the MD and their history and the place was in stiches!

What he was talking about we hadn't a clue, but it must have been good considering the response he was getting. The band was them fully relaxed, the MD was excellent and they produced a little gem of a show which had the full hall on its feet at the end.  By all accounts the band is made up of many former players of the Manger Band – some of whom hadn't played for over 20 years or more and they are an extremely popular band here as a result. Wouldn't it be nice at a National Finals if a band had that type of response to a performance after it played from a full hall. As we have said – food for thought.

Grenland Brass
Grenland Brass

Of the performances we did get to hear, Grenland Brass impressed us with a bold account of Philip Sparkes' Triptych, which although only got them 6th place from the adjudicators, we were mightly impressed with their cornet section on the day.

Third place in the end was taken by Skittenelv Musikkorps conducted by Tor Kr. Ravnanger Innbjor, whose Principal Cornet player took the prize as the best on the day, whilst the Manger tuba section picked up the prize as the best group or section in the contest.

Iwan Fox 

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