Once again Norway leads the way.
The first major European title of 2011 will be decided in Bergen this weekend, where Manger Musikklag defends the title they won last year in such thrillingly controversial fashion at the magnificent Grieghallen.
75 bands will descend on the iconic venue, all to be judged in the open and transparent manner that has become a ground breaking feature of this wonderfully vibrant event.
Further interest, as well as an even bigger audience will be created this year as the Elite and First Division contests will be streamed live through www.musikkorps.no/nett-tv
Plenty of debate
However, there is sure to be plenty of debate and discussion long into the dark hours of the local bars (especially in the Musician’s Bar just up the road from the hall) after the post results Brass Night celebrations have finished, if last year’s Elite battle is played out again.
The Norwegians have commissioned a new work entitled ‘The Power of the Soul’ from the pen of the well known Dutch composer Maurice Hamers (right), as the set test this year and it promises to stretch the bands and their soloists to the full.
It’s rather illusionary esoteric inspiration: ‘…from caterpillar to butterfly from death to rebirth’ will almost certainly ask a few questions of the MDs understanding of all things great and good.
The decision making this year is in the hands of an experienced mix of judges, who cover all the sections over the two days – including the composer himself, although intriguingly not on his own work.
There may be a bit of soul searching going on before the announcement of the 2011 champion and Norwegian representative for the 2012 Europeans in Rotterdam.
As always the real musical fireworks will be exploded with the own choice selections on the Saturday, with at least two brand new works being premiered, whilst the contest winning expertise of five British conductors is employed by the bands this year – with the keenest eyes surely on the partnership of Professor David King and Eikanger Bjorsvik.
It’s going to be a contest not to be missed.
However, it is not just in the Elite Division where new works will be played.
As well as the ‘Elite’ premieres of compositions from Gary B. Peterson (‘Vocalise, Fanfare and Rondo’) and Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen (‘Old Licks Bluesed Up’), there is the chance to hear the first airing of Peter Meechan’s ‘Fire in the Sky’, inspired by one of the most famous heavy rock tracks of all time from in the First Section, Kevin Houben’s ‘Lake of the Moon’ in the Third and a first for 4BR at least, with ‘Galdhopiggen’ by Simon Kerwin in the Fourth.
And not forgetting of course, the kaleidoscope of own choice selections made too – some inspired, some ambitious, some, completely bonkers.
Only in Norway will you find Fourth Division bands playing ‘Royal Parks’ and ‘Firestorm’, ‘Tallis Variations’ in the Third, ‘Blitz’ in the Second and ‘Year of the Dragon’ in the First.
Not a single ‘Carnival Romain’ or ‘Resurgam’.
It all kicks off on Friday morning when the 13 competitors in the Second Division take to the main stage to perform their eclectic own choice selections for adjudicators Armin Bachmann and Bjorn Sagstad.
The 15 Third Division bands will start their competition a little later in the day in the Peer Gynt Hall, where Peter Bassano and Harald Eikass will adjudicate the pick & mix on offer, whilst the Elite bands will perform the set work on Friday afternoon.
There is sure to be a packed hall from first (Oslo Brass) to last (Oslofjord), and the three judges, Cathrine Winnes Trevino, Ian Porthouse and Karl Ole Midtbo will have plenty to ponder over.
Bright and early
Bright and early on Saturday morning the 12 First Division contenders battle for glory in the main auditorium trying to catch the ears of Bjorn Sagstad and Ian Porthouse, whilst at the same time in the Peer Gynt Hall, there will be a great atmosphere of friendly rivalry as the 23 bands in the Fourth Division lay out their championship winning credentials to Cathrine Winnes and Karl Ole Midtbo.
The climax of the whole weekend starts on Saturday afternoon when Ila Brass will be the first Elite contender to take to the stage with their own choice selection to impress Armin Bachmann, Peter Bassano and Maurice Hamers.
As is the tradition at the Norwegian Championships, the results ceremony follows the highly entertaining Festival Concert, which this year features Black Dyke under the command of Dr Nicholas Childs (who will surely be keeping a keen eye on proceedings).
With the winners in each of the Divisions declared, the fun and games begin: And the Norwegians do know how to party, believe you me.
4BR will be there as usual, providing live commentary on the Elite bands as well as bringing you a flavour of what is going on over the two days through the 4BR site daily blog, Twitter (#nmbrass2011) and Twit Pic.