For the second successive year there were scenes of surprise celebrations on the stage of the Tivoli Vredenburg Hall in Utrecht, as Provinciale Brassband Groningen claimed the Dutch National title for the first time since 2002.
Under the baton of Richard Visser, their bold rendition of the set-work, 'Terra Incognita' by Jan de Haan certainly ticked the boxes of the adjudication panel of Steve Sykes, Stephen Bulla and Tijmen Botma, as they placed it ahead of Soli Brass and audience favourites Brass Band Schoonhoven.
Not only did the band raise the National Trophy for the first time in thirteen years, but in the process booked its place as the nation's representative at the European Championship in Lille next May.
Groningen also headed for home with a Besson Sovereign euphonium, a 'Best Bass Section' award and 1,000 Euros to start their European fund raising, as a delighted Band Chairman Wilbert Zwier told 4BR: "To be honest we didn't expect this at all. We delivered a performance we were proud of on stage, but we still felt we were outsiders.
We are totally surprised but so happy. We have come such a long way under Richard and we know we can continue to get better and better. The European is now an inspiration to us — and we have got off to a nice start with our fund-raising despite us spending plenty of money at the bar!"
Wilbert added: "We are a young band — with only four players remaining from 2002 — but an ambitious one. Richard knows us inside out as he was a great soprano player with us for many years. Now we will start preparing for Lille — after we recover from the celebrations!"
It was the clarity and definition of a well thought out reading of the score from Groningen that made the title winning impression on the judges, according to Steve Sykes.
"It was an interesting contest with a very interesting test-piece that required players and MDs to be on the top of their game," he told 4BR. "Groningen produced a performance of clarity and definition, full of energy when required, complimented by balance and texture when needed.
It was very close between the top three bands, but that extra definition they produced just gave them the edge."
Wanted to achieve
That was something that certainly pleased the winning MD. "It was good to hear that said about us from the stage and in our written remarks," Richard Visser added. "That was what we wanted to achieve with our performance. The players did everything I asked — so the result is down to them."
A very happy Soli Brass claimed second place — their best return since their victory in 2005, thanks to a well structured performance under Anne van den Berg, although there was disappointment for audience favourites Schoonhoven directed by Ivan Meylemans who ended third.
However, their Band Chairman Leon Monteny was the first to offer his congratulations to the new champion.
"We are very happy for Groningen and offer our congratulations. We were delighted at the way we played but that is contesting. We will continue to rebuild after losing 14 players from 2014 and look forward to next year."
Episodic test piece
Jan de Haan's set-work certainly created technical problems for the competitors, although its curious mix of styles inspired by the search of 'The Unknown Land' of 'Terra Incognita' via portraits of his three musical daughters offered little in terms of musical exploration other than episodic snapshots.
Defending champion De Bazuin could only manage 8th in defence of their title, whilst crowd favourites De Waldsang and Rijnmond could only end seventh and fifth respectively, as the contest ran a long and at times frustratingly inconsistent course.
Those able to find textural and dynamic balance were rewarded according to Steve Sykes, who also revealed that with a turn-a-round of just two bands per hour, it left ample time for the judges to discuss their views in the box — the result of which was a very close, but unanimous verdict.
There was also something of a surprise result in the First Division, where Pro Rege directed by Anne van den Berg claimed their first ever National title with a spirited rendition of 'Sounds'.
John Golland's former European set work proved a stern test of character for the seven contenders, with a number failing to capture its integral textural and dynamic contrasts — something that adjudicator Steve Sykes felt marked out the winners.
"Theirs was a very good performance of a very difficult work," he said. "The MD should take great credit for the way in which he found those balances, colours and textures and maintained them throughout."
The victory came on a memorable weekend for Anne van den Berg, who also led Soli Brass to second place in the top section. "I'm very happy," he told 4BR. "We are a young band that enjoyed playing this music. We came off stage knowing we couldn't have played any better."
With Pro Rege's excellent cornet team taking the 'Best Cornet Section' award it meant they pipped defending champion De Spijkerpakkenband to the Besson Sovereign Cornet and 750 Euro first prize after they boldly recovered from a hesitant start. Third place went to Oefening en Uitspanning.
There was cause for Schoonhoven celebration on the weekend in the Second Division, where the senior band's euphonium star Robbert Vos led the B Band to a memorable victory — regaining the title they last won in 2013.
They set an imposing mark off the number 1 draw that could not be beaten, despite a number of exciting and colourful interpretations of Jacob Vilhelm Larsen's set work, 'The Saga of Tyrfing' by nine well directed rivals.
The composer was also in the audience and later told 4BR that he was thoroughly impressed by the winners who he felt had brought the story of malevolent sword making dwarves to life.
So too was adjudicator Luc Vertommen who later told 4BR: "It was a unanimous decision in the box. Schoonhoven brought clarity to their articulation to create energy and drama, but retained their balance and warmth of sound too. It was very impressive and a clear winner."
That was something that certainly pleased the winning MD, who had to curtail any celebrations until after he had played with the senior Schoonhoven counterparts later in the day.
"We knew we had played very well — as we knew we had to off the number 1 draw," Robbert Vos told 4BR. "It was a great piece to play and we enjoyed. We are delighted to have been able to regain the National title."
A fine performance from Constantijn Huygens led by Richard Visser featuring their prize winning 'Best Trombone Section' eventually ended runner-up, with a well directed account from Martini Brassband Groningen in third.
One of the nation's fast rising bands claimed a third National title in just six years as Backum Brass directed by Vincent Verhage took the Third Division honours with fine account of Philip Sparke's 'Triptych'.
It proved to be the clearest winner of the weekend, ending three points ahead of runner-up, Apollo with Greidebrass a point further back in third. The euphonium team of fifth placed De Nije Bazuin took the 'Best Euphonium Section' award.
Made their mark
After winning the Fourth Division in 2010 and 2011, the band took its time to find its feet at the higher level — coming 11th last year — although on this occasion they certainly made their mark, as adjudicator Ian Porthouse told 4BR.
"Philip Sparke produces great pieces at this level — and it makes the judge's job much easier when bands do what he sets out on the score. The winners made the music come to life — didn't overblow, marked the tempos clearly and played with good intonation. Lots of bands nearly did that, but the winners did it all."
The first title to be decided saw Euphonia under the baton of Gatse Hylkema claim a first National victory thanks to a well delivered performance of Stephen Bulla's enjoyable 'Beecher Variations' set work.
Based on the famous 1870 hymn tune it tested both the musical and technical qualities of the nine competitors, with Euphonia eventually coming out on top from rivals Halleluja, with UDI in third. Anita Bremar of Wilhelmina took the 'Best Soloist' prize for her fine tenor horn playing.
Adjudicator Ian Porthouse told 4BR: "This was a cracking test, with Stephen enabling the bands to showcase their technique and musicality. The top two bands were very good with the winners just having that little extra touch of finesse in what was a very enjoyable contest."
With a record number of bands taking part in the 35th Championships, and with the slick organisation of the NBK ensuring that things ran smoothly, there was plenty of wonderful music making to enjoy over two days of competition, boosted by a fine afternoon gala concert performance by Tredegar Band.
With excellent communication links, hotels and facilities, the Tivoli Vredenburg is an ideal host for these exciting Championships and will surely prove to be a welcoming host for the 2018 Europeans.
We are totally surprised but so happy. We have come such a long way under Richard and we know we can continue to get better and better. The European is now an inspiration to usPBB Groningen Chairman Wilbert Zwier
Set Work: Terra Incognita (Jan der Haan)
Adjudicators: Steve Sykes, Stephen Bulla, Tijmen Botma
1. Provinciale Brassband Groningen (Richard Visser) — 96*
2. Soli Brass (Anne van den Berg) — 95
3. Brassband Schoonhoven (Ivan Meylemans) — 94
4. Amsterdam Brass (Pierre Volders) — 93
5. Brassband Rijnmond (Erik van der Kolk) — 92
6. Altena Brass (Anno Appelo) — 91
7. De Waldsang (Rieks van der Velde) — 90
8. De Bazuin Oenkerk (Klaas van der Woude) — 89
9. Van de Kreeke Brass Band Limburg (Renato Meli) — 88
Best Bass Section: Provinciale Brassband Groningen
* Provinciale Brassband Groningen will represent The Netherlands at the 2016 European Championshihpnin Lille, France
Set Work: Sounds (John Golland)
Adjudicators: Steve Sykes, Stephen Bulla, Tijmen Botma
1. Pro Rege (Anne van den Berg) — 92
2. De Spijkerpakkenband (Erik Janssen) — 91
3. Oefening en Uitspanning (Anno Appelo) — 90
4. Excelsior (Rieks van der Velde) — 88
5. Kunst naar Kracht (Erik Kluin) — 85
6. Brassband Breukelen (Syde van der Ploeg) — 84
7. Excelsior (Bart Van Neyghem) — 83
Best Cornet Section: Pro Rege
Set Work: The Saga of Tyrfing (Jacob Vilhelm Larsen)
Adjudicators: Luc Vertommen, Luuk Tuinstra, Jan de Haan
1. Brassband Schoonhoven B (Robbert Vos) — 92
2. Constantijn Huygens (Richard Visser) — 90
3. Martini Brassband Groningen (Rieks van der Velde) — 89
4. Gloria Dei (Piet van der Heide) — 88
5. Brassband Amersfoort (Vincent Verhage) — 87
6. Excelsior (Herman Sibma) — 86
7. De Bazuin B Oenkerk (Jan Werkman) — 85
8. De Lofklank (Gerk Huisma) — 84
9. Euphonia (Syde van der Ploeg) — 83
10. David (Wilbert Zwier) — 82
Best Trombones: Constantijn Huygens
Set Work: Triptych (Philip Sparke)
Adjudicators: Ian Porthouse, Luc Vertommen, Luuk Tuinstra
1. Backum Brass (Vincent Verhage) — 92
2. Apollo (Piet Visser) — 89
3. Greidebrass (Marco Middleberg) — 88
4. Gereformeerde Brassband Groningen (Jan Werkman) — 86
5. De Nije Bazun (Piet van der Heide) — 85
6. Looft den Heer (Paulus de Jong) — 84
7. Blaast de Bazuin (Aline Werkman-Schipper) — 83
8. Brassband Excelsior (John Blanken) — 82
9. Kunst en Vriendschap (Henk van Loon) — 81
10. Soli Deo Gloria (Chris van der Veen) — 80
Best Euphonium Section: De Nije Bazun
Set Work: Beecher Variations (Stephen Bulla)
Adjudicators: Ian Porthouse, Luc Vertommen, Luuk Tuinstra
1. Euphonia (Gatse Hylkema) — 89
2. Halleluja (Ido Gerard Kempenaar) — 88
3. UDI (Gijs Heusinkveld) — 86
4. Felison Brass (Patricia Geertse) — 85
5. De Bazuin (Hille van Hijum) — 84
6. Immanuel (Jan Werkman) — 83
7. Wilhelmina (Jaap Hoekstra) — 82
8. Blaast de Bazuin (Paulus de Jong) — 81
9. Ere Zij God (Gerben Huizinga) — 80
Best Tenor Horn: Anita Bremar (Wilhelmina)