The European Brass Band Association (EBBA) has announced that the 2019 European Championships are to be held in Montreux, Switzerland, following its decision not to pursue further proposals to hold the event in Palanga in Lithuania.
Despite the city itself offering good travel, recreational and hotel facilities, EBBA has revealed that the acoustic properties of the refurbished Palanga Concert Hall could not in their opinion, "…provide the capability and experience for the level of critical listening which the bands, conductors, jury and audience would expect at the world's most prestigious brass band contest."
Although the decision will come as disappointment to EBBA after working closely with the Lithuania organising committee since 2015, the news was not totally unexpected, as concerns over the suitability of the concert hall were aired on their visits to Palanga as late as May 2017.
Wales in question?
4BR understands that EBBA had informally looked at the possibility of moving the 2019 event if the matter could not be resolved, with Montreux as a feasible option.
It will be the fourth time (following 1994, 2001 and 2011) that the Championships will be held in the Montreux Music & Convention Centre, the annual host venue for the Swiss National Championships.
The decision also comes at a time when there are concerns over the ability of Wales to host the 2020 Championships. 4BR understands that a meeting will take place in Cardiff later this month to discuss its feasibility.
Strong and enthusiastic
In a statement, EBBA President Ulf Rosenburg said: "The Executive Committee of EBBA was given the mandate to enter a contract with Palanga for the 2019 event, given that the organisation, concert hall (at that time not yet constructed) and other facilities could meet the all demands of the European Championships.
It was clear that hotel and restaurant facilities were sufficient to host such an event, and that the local governmental support was strong and enthusiastic. During the last part of the evaluation process we also acknowledged improvements on the organisational side.
However, there has always been a question over the quality of the concert hall. The new hall was opened late in 2015 and, after a visit by EBBA representatives, it was apparent that its acoustics were in need of improvement.
This was also the conclusion during our visit in May 2017, and following another visit in late September we have concluded that, while the Palanga Concert Hall provides an attractive concert environment for general listening, it would not provide the capability and experience for the level of critical listening which the bands, conductors, jury and audience would expect at the world's most prestigious brass band contest."
Palanga Concert Hall would not provide the capability and experience for the level of critical listening which the bands, conductors, jury and audience would expect at the world's most prestigious brass band contestEBBA
In respect to the move to Montreux, Ulf Rosenberg added: "While we are very disappointed for the local organisers in Palanga, especially with respect to the tremendous amount of hard work they have committed to the project, we are very grateful to the excellent Swiss organising team and now look forward to welcoming all the bands, audiences, sponsors and other stakeholders to Montreux in 2019.
Previous European Championships held at the magnificent Stravinsky Auditorium, on the bank of Lake Geneva, have been memorable occasions and we have no doubt that the 2019 event will be another great chapter in the history of this great event."