2009 Norwegian National Championships - Preview

4-Feb-2009

4BR will be in Bergen this weekend to bring you a flavour of one of the most exciting brass band championships in the world - the Norwegian Nationals.


Greig HallAfter the splendid success of the European Brass Band Championships in Stavanger last May, Norwegian banding returns to domestic contesting matters in Bergen this weekend.

Over 70 bands will battle it out in five sections at the splendid Grieghallen on Friday and Saturday to decide which of them can claim the nap hand of National titles on offer.

Norwegian buzz

Nowhere in the world at present is there such a buzz about the future prospects of the banding movement. Norway is leading the way – we say it time and time again, but it is true.

Where the foundation base of the banding movement in the UK is shrinking amid financial uncertainty and organisational ineptitude, Norway’s investment in community based brass banding is bearing long term fruit.

Investment

The Norwegians have been prepared to invest the time and the money in getting things right, and it is starting to pay off big time.

All eyes will of course be on the Elite Section and the battle to claim the European qualification place for Austria in 2010.

Quality rather than quantity

Here, the emphasis on quality rather quantity is heard at its best, with each of the ten bands more than capable of giving the very topUK bands a run for their money.

We all know about the the likes of Eikanger, Manger and Stavanger of course, but others such as Molde, Oslo, Ila and Jaren are all performers of great talent.

The two legged contest should be a cracker this year with the set work, ‘Rococo Variations’ by Edward Gregson set not only to test the bands to the full, but also to allow the critics the chance to assess just how good they really are in relation to the performances heard at last year’s British Open.  

Professor Gregson is also here to judge – although not on the set work, so it will be equally as interesting for him to sit back and enjoy 10 more performances of his popular work.

Significant progress 

However, it is in the ever growing Fourth Division that the most significant progress is being made. Now in its seventh year, the contest has expanded to encompass bands from just about every musical fjord of the country.

What is most encouraging about the Fourth  Division though is the sense that it has been set up for the right reasons – as a development section of relaxed competition.

Here, occassional contesting outfits can come and play together without having to meet the type of over-prescribed rules found in the UK.

Enjoy the fun

Open adjudication, liberal registration requirements, own choice music and a sense that it is not competition for competitions sake, make it a delight. Players have fun, audiences have fun, the music is varied and if you win great. If you don’t, just enjoy the occasion – and other performances. It is the most friendly rivalry you would ever wish to experience.

Veterans

Interestingly, it also encourages the formation of what are termed ‘veteran’ bands – ensembles made up of former players, many from Elite Section bands, who have found that they wish to carry on enjoying their playing with friends and family without having to sacrifice their home life in the process.

This year we therefore get to hear a band made up of former players of Eikanger Bjorsvik – including Martin Winter on soprano cornet. Bjorsvik Brass will be conducted by Russell Gray no less, on ‘Journey into Freedom’ – this in the Fourth Division mind you.

Relaxed attitude

It could be argued that having such a band makes it a little unfair on less fortunate rivals, and that is true, but the Noregians have a very relaxed attitude to competing at this level and their participation is seen as a bonus to the overall health of the banding movement rather than a cyncial ploy for some old players to gain a cheap bit of domestic silverware.

Live coverage

Elsewhere there will be the usual ambition shown by both the organisers and the bands.

The organisers have ensured a live feed to internet viewers at: http://nrk.no/hordaland/ [Elite bands only we think]

The organisers have also shown where they believe the future of the contest should head with their decision to open up the adjudication process in all sections except the Elite Division (although we are told that may soon change too), whilst the bands, great and small will invariably show their sense of adventure with some of the choices of music.

All this and there is the delight of the ‘Brass Night’ to look forward to, the major events streamed onto the internet and the thought that your pound of sterling will buy you an even smaller glass of the local brew than ever before.

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