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Report & Results: 2017 Netherlands National Championships

De Waldsang secures a 15th National title in Utrecht to lead the Dutch challenge at the 2018 European Championship, as Oefening en Uitspanning, Excelsior, Looft den Heer and Immanuel claim division awards.

Looft den Heer
  De Waldsang has won the 2017 Dutch National title

The most successful band in Dutch National Championship history added to their impressive list of achievements in Utrecht, as De Waldsang led by Rieks van der Velde claimed a 15th victory at the event.

It was however the Buitenpost band's first success at the contest since 2009, although it now means that they will return to the TivoliVredenburg next May to proudly represent the home nation at the 2018 European Championships.

New trophy

As soon as the result was announced, De Waldsang players raced to the stage to lift the brand new National Trophy, although due to its impressive size, even the 1,000 Euro first prize may not have been enough to cover the bar bill to fill it with celebratory champagne.

That will have been the least of their worries though as they headed for what promised to be a late night of revelry, and to reflect on a success that saw them repel the high quality challenge of defending champion Brass Band Schoonhoven, with De Bazuin Oenkerk in third.

Kenneth Downie's elegant composition 'Handel in the Band' (revised and refocused from its original 2013 commission format) proved to be a popular choice with both audience and performers alike.

The neatly proportioned variations on Handel's famous 'Sarabande' asked searching questions of style as well as substance, with its dry humour adding an extra touch of subtlety into the mix.

Tasteful characterisation

For the judges, Garry Cutt, Florent Didier and Jan Van der Roost, that came from De Waldsang as the penultimate band of day, in a performance rich in tasteful characterisation and confident delivery, led by an energised MD.

Behind them came a refined interpretation from Schoonhoven — although even their most ardent fans will have known that a series of noticeable unforced errors just tarnished Ivan Meyleman's wonderfully subtle appreciation of the score.

Third place went to a vibrant De Bazuin Oenkerk, who rounded off an engaging contest with a rendition of spirited verve — one that meant that the judges were left with plenty to think about in the box — and later telling 4BR that there was little to choose between the top three.

Most complete

However, they felt De Waldsang delivered the most complete account; combining technical security with artistic nuance, excellent ensemble dynamics and colouring allied to confident solo interventions.

"The top three were clear from the rest," Garry Cutt and Florent Didier told 4BR. "We enjoyed the different interpretations, although it was a question of balancing the chosen stylistic approaches with the more obvious technical execution.

That's what tipped it in favour of the winners: Theirs was the most complete performance we heard."

Behind the podium finishers came varied accounts from top-six finishers Provinciale Brassband Groningen, Soli Brass and Brassband Rijnmond, although each had their admirers in the hall, whilst the remaining bands will have had little cause for complaint over their placings.

Noted acoustic

However, with the judges also noting the lively acoustic characteristics of the hall (the very top end of the power band becoming noticeably distorted), those who tried to exert sheer volume rather than dynamic compactness failed to impress, whilst 2018 European contenders may wish to make an early note of what dynamic levels can and cannot be successfully delivered with the adjudicator's box less than 10 meters from the stage.

One band that will have got an early indication though was the winner, although the players and supporters of De Waldsang certainly went on to test the acoustic of the TivoliVrendenberg bar with their celebrations.

First Section

Earlier, the First Section title was secured in impressive fashion by Oefening en Uitspanning, conducted by Anno Appelo.

Jan Van der Roost's evocative 'Stonehenge' proved to be a demanding test for the four competitors, with its atmospheric ensemble scoring and searching solo interventions (especially the soprano) stretching even the winners to the limit.

The 2013 champion returned to the winner's enclosure by a clear margin though, as the MD brought a level of flowing musicality to bear to his reading of the score, aided by fine solo contributions and balanced dynamic contrasts.

Behind them came hard working accounts from Excelsior, led by a busy Rieks van der Velde (who ended the championships with one win and second second place finishes with his three bands), with Kunst naar Kracht in third.

Second Division

Saturday's contesting also saw Excelsior (from Ferwert) led by Herbert Sibma claim their first National success since 2012.

An exciting rendition of Steven Bulla's engaging set-work, 'Frontier Vision' saw them claim a narrow single point margin of victory over Martini Brassband, with defending champion Constantijn Huygens two points further back in third.

Inspired by the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his famous '95 Thesis' to the door of Wittenberg Church, the test-piece elicited a host of solid performances from the nine competing bands, with the final top-six placings going to Brassband Amersfoort, Gloria Dei and Brassband Schoonhoven B.

Third Division

The NBK Championship organiser's decision to encourage young writing talent was rewarded by the inclusion of Pimpanit Karoonyavanich's 'A Journey to the Bermuda Triangle' as the Third Section test-piece.

Inspired by a favourite sea view portrait as well as a Chopin etude, it made for an engaging work of developing motifs and colourful textures in a contest between five well matched bands.

Loft den Heer eventually come out on top led by their talented young MD, Gijs Heusinkveld. It was the band's first National success since 2013, as they secured a single point victory over impressive rivals Gereformeerde Brassband Groningen with Greidebrass in third.

Fourth Division

Although players from top flight bands are able to perform with local ensembles in different sections, the six competitors in the Fourth Division showed that the foundation level of Dutch banding, although small, is of a good overall standard.

The contest also benefitted from an excellent set-work 'Purcellian Fantasia', commissioned for the event by the NBK organisers from composer Jan de Haan.

Inspired by the famous Henry Purcell funeral music for Queen Mary from 1694, it enabled each competitor to show control of banding basics, as well as more complex technical challenges (including a standing quintet opening).

In the end it was defending champion Immanuel under MD Jan Werkamn who gave the judges the Cortege music they were looking for, to secure a clear three-point margin of victory from rivals Ere Zij God, with Soli Deo Gloria two points further back in third.

Euros next

With the 2018 European Championships due to take place here in just over six months time, the visiting EBBA delegation will have been encouraged by the excellent local organisation and contest infrastructure, as well as the warm, friendly support given to all competing bands.

And whilst the hall provides an acoustic experience that needs careful consideration for the heavyweight European juggernauts that will play here next May, it also offers a wonderfully vibrant, intimate atmosphere, that as was shown by the new National Champion De Waldsang, can also inspire the very best to produce memorable winning performances.

Iwan Fox

For the judges, Garry Cutt, Florent Didier and Jan Van der Roost, that came from De Waldsang as the penultimate band of day, in a performance rich in tasteful characterisation and confident delivery, led by an energised MD4BR


Championship Section:

Set Work: Handel in the Band (Kenneth Downie)
Adjudicators: Garry Cutt, Florent Didier, Jan Van der Roost

1. De Waldsang (Rieks van der Velde) — 97*
2. Brassband Schoonhoven A (Ivan Meylemans) — 96
3. De Bazuin (Klaas van der Woude) — 95
4. Provinciale Brassband Groningen (Richard Visser) — 93
5. Soli Brass (Anne van den Berg) — 92
6. Brassband Rijnmond (Erik van de Kolk) — 89
7. Altena Brass (Anno Appelo) — 87
8. ProClass Brassband Limburg (Renato Meli) — 86
9. Amsterdam Brass (Pierre Volders) — 85
10. Spijkerpakkenband (Erik Janssen) — 84

* De Waldsang will represent The Netherlands at the 2018 European Championships in Utrecht.

Best Soloist: Principal cornet of Provinciale Brassband Groningen

First Division:

Set Work: Stonehenge (Jan Van der Roost)
Adjudicators: Garry Cutt, Florent Didier, David Thornton

1. Oefening en Uitspanning (Anno Appelo) — 94
2. Excelsior (Rieks van der Velde) — 91
3. Kunst naar Kracht (Erik Kluin) — 89
4. Brassband Breukelen (Syde van der Ploeg) — 86

Best Soloist: Flugel of Oefening en Uitspanning

Second Division:

Set Work: Frontier Vision (Stephen Bulla)
Adjudicators: John Doyle, Durk Lautenbach, David Thornton

1. Excelsior (Herman Sibma) — 92
2. Martini Brassband (Rieks van der Velde) — 91
3. Constantijn Huygens (Richard Visser) — 89
4. Brassband Amersfoort (Vincent Verhage) — 88
5. Gloria Dei (Jaap Musschenga) — 87
6. Brassband Schoonhoven B (Robbert Vos) — 86
7. De Lofklank (Gerk Huisma) — 84
8. De Bazuin B (Sietse Hamersma) — 83
9. David (Wilbert Zwier) — 81

Best Soloist: Euphonium of Excelsior

Third Division:

Set Work: A Journey to the Bermuda Triangle (Pimpanit Karoonyavanich)
Adjudicators: John Doyle, Durk Lautenbach, Jan van der Roost

1. Looft den Heer (Gijs Heusinkveld) — 92
2. Gereformeerde Brassband (Jan Werkman) — 91
3. Greidebrass (Marco Middelberg) — 90
4. Blaast de Bazuin (Theun van Leijen) — 89
5. Backum Brass (Vincent Verhage) — 88

Best Section: Percussion of Looft den Heer

Fourth Division:

Set Work: Purcellian Fantasia (Jan de Haan)
Adjudicators: John Doyle, Durk Lautenbach, David Thornton

1. Immanuel (Jan Werkman) — 93
2. Ere Zij God (Gerben Huizinga) — 90
3. Soli Deo Gloria (Sijtze van der Hoek) — 88
4. Euphonia (Paulus de Jong) — 86
5. Blaast de Bazuin (Paulus de Jong) — 85
6. Felison Brass (Patricia Geertse) — 84

Best Section: Trombones of Ere Zij God


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MA (Dist), Mus.B (hons), ARCM (hons), LRAM, LTCL, PGCE
Conductor, composer, arranger, tutor and pianist