2007 North American Brass Band Championships - Retrospective: Championship Section

19-Apr-2007

With standards ever rising in the USA, a superb Fountain City took the Nationals honours against some setrn opposition.


The Championship Section was a true battle this year.  Although the point totals may not have been quite as close as in years past, it was still a hotly contested race.

Fpuntain
Winning smiles: Fountain City celebrate their victory

Illinois Brass Band began the afternoon with the set piece.  They really struggled to get the notes in the technical sections.

Illinois
Journey into Freedom - but not first prize for Illinois on this occassion

The soft sections were not soft enough, and the fast bits were well under tempo.  Some good individuals shined including a very good flugel, a lovely solo euphonium sound and quite a powerful bass trombone.  ‘Journey Into Freedom' was a solid performance with only a few balance issues and once again the flugel featured nicely. 

Chicago Brass Band was up next and gave (in our minds) a much better performance of the set piece. Some excellent pianos and pianissimos really helped the dynamic contrast.  MD, Colin Holman didn't use a score, and it was quite apparent he knew the piece well.  The euphonium player featured and there was a big ending. The percussion section really shined in their choice piece ‘Tristan Encounters'. The quiet sections were stunning. The piece has some real traps with all of the exposed solos and it snared a few, but overall a very exciting performance.

Brass Band of Central Florida was not at the top of their game.  There was the occasional pitch problem throughout both pieces. ‘Dances and Arias'  opened their segment and was very clean and well balanced. 

BBCF
Florida keys: BBCF can't quite do enough to unlock the title this time
 
Perhaps, if anything, it was a little flat though, lacking some emotion, until the final section. ‘Dances and Alleluias'  could have been much softer at the beginning (like all the bands), but the good quiet dynamics did come at the scherzo.

Brass Band of the Western Reserve were, as most bands, too loud for the opening of ‘Dances and Alleluias'; hardly anybody seemed to want to play piano on the day.  There was a very nice EEb bass in the solo and quartet, although quite a few individual errors were costly.  In both the set and own choice piece, ‘Glorifico Aeternum' (Jones), some of the tempos were just too slow.  In fact, the band lost some momentum from the beginning of ‘Glorifico' and we were not quite sure if they ever got it back.

Atlantic Brass Band cruised along nicely in the set piece until the euph solo.  Fortunately, the trombone recovered nicely bringing the band back in the game; in fact, they a great trombone section full stop! (Highlighted in the bolero section).  The percussion may have been a bit too loud at times. The Tone Poem: ‘The Holy War' (Steadman-Allen) was a solid performance of a rather safe own-choice piece.

James Madison University Brass Band was only the second band to actually play softly.  There were fine soloists all around the band. 

JPG
Softly does it now! JMU head for the prizes once more

The Eb bass solo was bang on with good euphonium and baritones and the solo trombone was lovely.  The soprano was also tastefully under control. ‘Music of the Spheres' (Sparke) showed great ensemble, with a few individual blips.  This was a first class performance that would be difficult to top.

Fountain City Brass Band had a tough task ahead of them and stuck it.  Both ‘Dances and Alleluias' and ‘Paganini Variations' (Wilby) showed fantastic ensemble. 

Fountain
Alleluia! Fountain City take the title in sparkling style

The cornet showed such tight playing in their section.  Will Hess nailed the baritone cadenza in ‘Dances' (the only one to do so on the day) with both fantastic tone and technique. This was one of only three bands that really got quiet, which considering past digs on the brightness of this group, was an example of excellent preparation they had made. 

When all was said and done we thought the adjudicators would probably pick Fountain City over James Madison for the top spot, which they ultimately did.  We thought Central Florida would get third over Chicago, Atlantic would claim the fifth spot and Western Reserve would be battling out the final spot with Illinois.  As it turned out Illinois won a bit more favour with the adjudicators than with 4BR, and since they have proper qualifications and get paid to decide the outcome, their opinion is all that really matters.

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