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2017 European Championships
Championship Own Choice selections

4BR Editor Iwan Fox finds out a little more about each of the top flight own-choice selections being played at this year's event in Oostende.

Goldberg 2012 (Svein Henrik Giske)

Svein Henrik Giske's work, written for the Norwegian National Championships in 2012, was inspired by what he called ‘parallel musical lives’ – those as diverse as the composer of the classic ‘Goldberg Variations’ J S Bach and the troubled genius of the pianist Glenn Gould, to the Nordic jazz funk pulses of the Brazz Brothers, his own new born son Olav, and his recently deceased father Svein J Giske.

It is a fusion of memory and miasmic impression, love, loss, reminiscence and dedication; constructed of several layers of differing musical styles and genres4BR

It is a fusion of memory and miasmic impression, love, loss, reminiscence and dedication; constructed of several layers of differing musical styles and genres – all starting from a personal recall of the music that accompanied part of the Oscar winning film, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’.

The composer forensically explores elemental fragments of the 30 variations of Bach's 1741 masterpiece by bringing them into the present age in series of contrasting musical landscapes; each individually defined but not in essence linked to each other than by an underlying basic pulse - ‘almost unaware of each other’ as he says.

It results in a free-flowing rhythmic whole that encompasses thumping pop/jazz, elegant baroque and even folk music – although at its core is a icy, melancholic paean of loss entitled, ‘From Long Ago’, dedicated to his late father.


Fraternity (Thierry Deleruyelle)

Thierry Deleruyelle’s work was originally commissioned as the set-work for the 2016 European Championship in Lille, and was received with widespread popular and critical acclaim.

It is inspired by the tragic circumstances of a 1906 mining disaster in Douai in France that claimed over 1,000 lives, and is written in an open, tonal fashion - eschewing high-energy injections of volume and speed for more considered pacing and texture, subtly scored balances and lengthened lyrical lines.

The solemn task of bringing out the dead leads to a bleak paean of reflection, before the piece ends in uplifting fashion in the form of a 'Fraternity Prayer' that pays tribute to those lost4BR

The musical narrative, with nods of Gallic appreciation to the likes of composer Paul Dukas sets the scene; telling the tale and recalling the aftermath in seven linked sections; from the ‘Black Land’ and ‘Towering Colliery’ above ground, to the journey to the face to extract the coal. The catastrophe is ignited by a fractured, frenzied forcefulness, the prelude to which is the ghostly on-rush of air through instruments; life or death a matter of luck.

The solemn task of bringing out the dead leads to a bleak paean of reflection, before the piece ends in uplifting fashion in the form of a 'Fraternity Prayer' that pays tribute to those lost.


The Triumph of Time (Peter Graham)

Peter Graham’s work was commissioned by Black Dyke Band and premiered by them at the 37th European Brass Band Championships held in Scotland in 2014. 

It draws its inspiration from the 25th anniversary of one of the composer’s earliest works for the medium, ‘The Essence of Time’, which was also used as a European set-work in Scotland in 1989.  Like it, ‘The Triumph of Time’ is a set of linked variations which follow roughly the same moods and characteristics of its older musical sibling - although not using any of the original material, nor referring to its Ecclesiastes biblical references.

the composer uses some of its structural elements to draw on what he calls its ‘energy, optimism and sheer joie de vivre’ to evoke a celebratory spirit of hopefulness and passionate vibrancy4BR

Instead, the composer uses some of its structural elements to draw on what he calls its ‘energy, optimism and sheer joie de vivre’ to evoke a celebratory spirit of hopefulness and passionate vibrancy, although he also encompasses elements of mature reflection on the passing of time in exploring unfamiliar compositional concepts (such as a witty reference to a well known 1970s US cop series) within his familiar lyrical style of writing.  

This comes with a flugel led focal point  marked semplice e molto cantabile followed by a trademark pianissimo ensemble chorale before the glorious recapitulation that drives the music to a conclusion that throbs with justification.


Journey of the Lone Wolf (Simon Dobson)
(Being performed twice)

Simon Dobson's work is an evocative portrait of the musical, social and political life of the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok – an alienating figure greatly misunderstood during his troubled and lonely life time - much of which was spent away from his beloved homeland.

It pays homage to his early ethno-music work in the Balkans in which he recorded folk melody and song traditions that were soon to be consumed by the horrors of Nazi Germany, as well as touching on his troubled time in America, where his love of jazz proved to be a solitary comfort in a life of increasing isolation.

Poetic and passionate, it explores the psyche of a truly unique figure; an eccentric, troubling enigma to categorise and comprehend4BR

Poetic and passionate, it explores the psyche of a truly unique figure; an eccentric, troubling enigma to categorise and comprehend; doubtful, melancholic, proud, stubborn, cold, depressive - yet able to write music of such glorious luminosity of spirit, atmosphere and confidence.  

It ends with his personal ambiguities powerfully unresolved; as Bartok’s coffin is lowered into its self-willed, pitiless grave.


Destination Moon (Paul Raphael)

Belgian composer Paul Raphael’s 'Destination Moon' is inspired by one of his nation’s most famous literary characters -  the intrepid young reporter turned detective, Tintin, created in 1929 by writer Georges Remi under the pseudonym Hergé.

‘Destination Moon’ was Tintin’s 16th adventure; first serialised in 1950 and predating the escalating space race between the USA and the USSR which culminated in the moon landings in 1969.

The music broadly follows the story’s narrative line in three main sections: The first describes the technical explorations of formulae and equations in the secret scientific laboratory of Professor Calculus, whilst the second explores the very human reaction of those taking part in terms of spiritual, philosophical and existential questioning to what may await them. The finale builds in tension before the thunderous rocket launch into the void of space.

It is a musical tale of mystery, espionage and excitement as well as communal technical achievement and personal moral insight4BR

It is a musical tale of mystery, espionage and excitement as well as communal technical achievement and personal moral insight. It also speaks of the triumph as well as the potential for disaster for the young hero and his crew. In reflecting the end of the book as the rocket disappears into the heavens, Herge keeps the reader transfixed as the ground crew attempt to contact those aboard, repeating the phrase: “Earth calling Moon Rocket… Are you receiving me?”


Dial ‘H’ for Hitchcock (Nigel Clarke)

Nigel Clarke’s work looks back to a golden era of cinema – and in particular a genre of film-making led by Alfred Hitchcock, the peerless master of suspense and psychological thrillers. 

This was cinema that explored the underbelly of the American dream. Troubled heroes were portrayed as rugged but weak; their liquor strong and the lit cigarette a compulsory accessory. The femme-fatales were sassy and strong-minded; oozing sexuality with figures like hour glasses on stiletto legs. The unexpected and unexplained was around every corner. Morals were loose, danger ever present.   

Troubled heroes were portrayed as rugged but weak; their liquor strong and the lit cigarette a compulsory accessory. The femme-fatales were sassy and strong-minded; oozing sexuality with figures like hour glasses on stiletto legs4BR 

Clarke plays homage to the composers who wrote the memorable music of the film noir era; Rózsa, Jarre, Mancini, Goodwin, Tiomkin, and most notably Bernard Herrmann, who scored for Hitchcock: ‘Psycho’, ‘North by Northwest’ and ‘Vertigo’.   

‘Dial `H’ for Hitchcock’ is the composer’s own Herrmannesque score; packed with dark drama, bubbling passion and illicit romance, suspense and danger - linked into a series of 23 vignette scenes that reference film noir movie titles from the past.


A Brussels Requiem (Bert Appermont)

The terrorist attacks in Brussels in March 2016 shocked the world, with similar outrages in Paris, Nice and Berlin leading to an increase of fear and misunderstanding throughout Europe. Following the attacks people asked questions of how cultures that spoke openly of tolerance and peace had apparently grown so far apart that they could longer understand each other.

Bert Appermont’s composition is a personal tribute to the victims of those attacks; but does not seek to describe what happened in Brussels in any narrative form: Instead it sets out to reflect on the experience and to express the complex emotions triggered by the terrible events.

The four movements are linked by the underlying children's song ‘Au Claire de la Lune’, which in the first movement is used as a cipher for the loss of innocence4BR

The four movements are linked by the underlying children's song ‘Au Claire de la Lune’, which in the first movement is used as a cipher for the loss of innocence. It then moves through a militaristic second section of brutal disturbance as hell descends, before a minor coloured chorale leads into a paean of grief and pain.  

The works closes in hopefulness however; a search for meaning, optimism and even child like fun as the nursery tune is recalled before a fierce, passionate climax.


The Turing Test for Brass Band and Percussion (Simon Dobson)

Alan Turing is considered the father of modern computational science; mankind owing a immeasurable debt of gratitude to a truly great, but deeply troubled soul.

His pioneering work on mathematical theories ultimately led to the cracking of the Nazi Enigma Machine code, yet his life ended in lonely tragedy with his apparent suicide - a victim of intolerance and ignorance towards his homosexuality.

His pioneering work on mathematical theories ultimately led to the cracking of the Nazi Enigma Machine code, yet his life ended in lonely tragedy with his apparent suicide4BR

Simon Dobson’s work, although non-programmatic, seeks to detail something of the emotion and colour of Turing’s life – from his imagined beginnings into bio-digital life forms (AI) and his entry into the scientific community, to his ever more complex solutions to ever more deadly war time problems. 

His 1952 arrest for ‘indecency’ leading to the choice between imprisonment or the unbearable punishment of chemical castration (which he chose) so that could continue his work, is explored in sombre relfection. The last section tells of his eventual posthumous pardon and the sense of chaotic sadness rather than triumph, that one of the greatest minds had been treated with such abject cruelty at a time when his own work was on the verge of reaching a remarkable resolution.


HorrorShow for Brass Band and Percussion (Simon Dobson)

In November 2015 the world looked on in horror as Paris came under terrorist attack.  However, within days France displayed a defiant outlook and its people became unified in hope. 

However, with further intolerant attitudes seeping through the world, Simon Dobson explores the themes of senseless violence that he describes as a ‘HorrorShow’ - a term he first read in the celebrated book, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess. 

Simon Dobson explores the themes of senseless violence that he describes as a ‘HorrorShow’ - a term he first read in the celebrated book, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess4BR 

The three movement work uses distorted quotes from both Beethoven and Bach which feature heavily in the book and subsequent Stanley Kubrick film.  ‘La Vie - We start from nothing’, describes the difficulties of living in a changing world and attempts to portray a celebration of different peoples living together in an often scary, alien environment.

‘La Mort - We return to nothing’ is a chorale and lament that evokes the memories of the Bataclan nightclub tragedy, whilst ‘…Mais nous avons des fleurs…’ is inspired by the kindness and sense of togetherness that was shown its aftermath. It brings to a close the composer’s own tribute to those who died, and to the unbreakable spirit of both France and its people that serves as a testament of the good of humanity and its ability to embrace rather than repel change.


Prophecies (Gavin Higgins)

Gavin Higgins’ composition is inspired by the paradoxical figure of the 16th century astrologer Nostradamus - and in particular his series of enigmatic, poetic quatrains; or what he called, ‘nocturnal prophetic calculations’.

In the five hundred years since they were written, they have beguiled, intrigued and troubled those who have sought to interpret them - being linked to worldwide events such as the jousting death of the French King Henry II and the Great Fire of London, to the rise of 20th century fascism and eventual Armageddon. 

Higgins takes five quatrains to form the core of the linked movements to his contemporary composition – one that deliberately asks interpretative questions of the listener4BR

Higgins takes five quatrains to form the core of the linked movements to his contemporary composition – one that deliberately asks interpretative questions of the listener.

The opening implores those, ‘Who read these lines consider them with care’, whilst the second quatrain evokes the ‘battered din of war’ and the third asks to consider the meaning of a ‘lover’s heart rent by a furtive love' . The infamous quatrain, ‘The eldest prince on his galloping stead’, leads into a finale that implores, 'The gods shall make it clear to mortal eye’.  It is a work that asks questions on the themes of past, present and future, fear and passion, tragedy, superstition and the eschatological morality for a world in crisis.


Visitations from Beyond (Thomas Doss)

Thomas Doss has long been inspired by what he calls ‘the musical purity’ of Johann Sebastian Bach – and in particular his series of renowned chorales.

With his latest work, ‘Visitations from Beyond’, he takes inspiration from, ‘O herzensangst, O bangigkeit und zagen!’ (BMV 40) - (‘O anguish, o anxiety and trembling!’) 

From this source the composer explores and develops fragments and themes as a form of musical mantra, or motif that runs through the work in a variety of different structural and elemental parts.

It is also through this prism that the composer views different questions of perspective and understanding on themes of meditation and conflict, reflection and anxiety, internal and external struggles of morality4BR

It is also through this prism that the composer views different questions of perspective and understanding on themes of meditation and conflict, reflection and anxiety, internal and external struggles of morality and whether we as humans can bridge the world of the here and now, and that of the ever after.

These are the questions of faith that the composer believes were so simply and elegantly expressed by Bach, but which in the intervening eras have become increasingly fraught with the complications of a materialistic world that has little time to question the greater elements of our existence.



Walsall Brass Band - Willenhall Singers

Saturday 18 November • Sneyd Communnity Centre, Vernon Way, Bloxwich, Walsall. WS3 2PA


Rushden Town Band -

Saturday 18 November • Park Rd Baptist Church, Rushden, Northamptonshire NN10 0RW


Contest: Brass in Concert

Saturday 18 November • Sage Gateshead, St Mary's Square, Gateshead NE28 2JR


Foden's Band - Morley Town Hall

Saturday 18 November • Queen Street, Morley LS27 9DY


Black Dyke Band - Waterford, Ireland

Saturday 18 November • Carriganore Arena, Waterford Institute of Technology Sports Campus tbc


Newstead Brass

November 18 • Bb Cornet (position negotiable). . Newstead Brass, established Midlands Championship section, have opportunity for an additional cornet player. Suitable for experienced player or someone looking to take the next step in their development.


Wakefield Metropolitan Brass Band

November 17 • FRONT ROW CORNET. SOLO TROMBONE. . The band have an exciting concert/contest/marching schedule ahead. We are looking for a committed front row cornet and solo trombone player to come and join us in the Yorkshire 1st Section! MD: Richard Larder.


Glossop Old Band

November 17 • SOLO TROMBONE. The Glossop Old Band Welcomes applications for the Solo Trombone Chair. The Band will be competing in the First Section as of 2018 and are looking to continue its progression back to the top levels of performance


Gary Davies


Conductor, Band Trainer, Adjudicator