2008 Norwegian National Championships - Retrospective: Third Division

13-Feb-2008

Despite having to take place at the same time as the Elite bands, there was plenty to enjoy inthe Third Division, especially if you liked classics from brass band history.


Third Division winners
A rose by any other name: The last three bands await their fate - the winner was the lady biting her tongue!

The Third Division contest took place on the Friday afternoon at roughly the same time as the Elite bands were doing battle on ‘Odin’ – a pity really as it meant that not only did 4BR miss out on listening in this year, but so did many others too. 

The organisers are very slick about how things are run here, so we did wonder why it was necessary to run the two contests parallel to each other. Perhaps next year things could be changed – there is certainly the room and the time in which to do it on the weekend.

Classic test pieces

More was the pity as the contest saw the top three places at the contest go to bands that performed classic test pieces from the brass band genre.

Over the years there has been much debate about the understanding – or lack of it – by the bands and conductors here of works written more than a generation ago. A couple of years ago the Elite bands made something of a pig’s ear of ‘A Kensington Concerto’, so it was intriguing, as well as pleasing, to report that these three bands made the most of the chance of delivering fine performances of three old classics.

The best of which was Rong Brass conducted by the splendid Reid Gilje who really did dip into the archives to exhume ‘Kenilworth’ by Arthur Bliss. It proved to be an inspired choice though as adjudicator Jan Roger Oren told 4BR after the announcement of the results.

Very good standard

He felt that the overall standard of the contest was very good, with the top three bands in particular of a very high standard. What impressed him most (and remember the contest is open adjudication) was that such older repertoire was given ‘new light’ as he put it, by young musicians without losing its ageless essential characteristics.

That was certainly the case with Rong who delivered a very good performance to claim the top prize of Kr .5,000 and with it promotion to the Second Division in 2009.

Joining them there will be Flesland Musikklag conducted by Patrik Randefalk – making it something of an Eikanger one two on the day. The principal euphonium player of Eikanger (Reid Gilje is its resident conductor) helped his band deliver a solid account of Eric Ball’s ‘Sinfonietta – The Wayfarer’ – which Jan Roger described as ‘ a brave choice’, especially given the exposed nature of much of the writing. The band’s solo cornet player picked by the ‘Best Soloist’ award, whilst the euphonium players of Bergen picked up the section award.

There was also a fine performance from third placed Trondheim Politis, directed by Peter Hatfield (who as far as we know hasn’t played for Eikanger). They too delivered a well constructed reading of the Eric Ball classic ‘Resurgum’ – again a brave choice given the emotive content of the inspiration and the quiet ending.

Jan commended all three bands on having control over the basics of good brass playing too – something that was not always the case with the bands that featured further down the prize list.

Best of the rest

The best of those was Bergen Brass Band conducted by Trond Elnes who produced a decent effort on ‘Variations on a Chord’ by Jan de Haaan, whilst 5th place went to Lindas Brass directed by Hogne Holmas who played ‘Kaleidoscope’ by Philip Sparke. The final top six spot was taken by Grenland Brass conducted by the experienced Morten E Hansen with their performance of ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ – a piece which will be heard on more than a few occasions in the next few weeks this side of the North Sea.

After the top six it was a question of bands trying to make the right impression with a host of pretty well chosen works. Gjovik took 7th spot with another decent ‘Resurgum’ whilst Borge, Fraena, Kjolsdalen and Hasle tied for joint 8th place with their accounts of ‘Laudate Dominum’, ‘Prillar-Guri – The Voice of the Valley’, Triptych’ and ‘Firestorm’ respectively – all of which had many more positives than negatives according to the judges.

The bottom four of Tromso, IMI Brass, Lismarka/Mesnali and Langhus perhaps found it a bit tougher, but even their renditions of ‘Journey into Freedom’, ‘A Pastoral Symphony’, Northern Landscapes’ and ‘Sogar fra Fysjenes’ all had their moments.

Overall though the moment of celebration went to Rong Brass and Flesland both of whom fully deserved their promotions. There must have been something in the Eikanger waters this weekend. 

Iwan Fox

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