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Report & Results: 2017 European Youth Championships: Development Section

There was European joy in Oostende for Elland Silver Youth as they came out on top in a super Development Section competition.

Elland Cheer
  Elland Silver Youth Band's celebratory cheers could have been herd back in Yorkshire

The piercing screams of unbridled delight were the only remotely unmusical sounds to emanate from the members of Elland Youth Band at the European Youth Championships in Oostende.

A wonderful victory in an outstanding Development Section competition was the stuff that dreams and stratosphere-pitched joy of were made of: It was also a clarion call for the stunning achievement of a community band that has long been a beacon of musical and organisational excellence under MD Samantha Harrison.

Heard back home

No strangers to major competition success since their formation in 1995, the European title had so far eluded their grasp — but no longer. You could have heard the cheers back home in Yorkshire.

A cracking programme that included a fine rendition of the 'Little Suite No 2' test-piece, 'Fanfare for a New Age', 'Starburst', 'Little Hymn' and a super 'Best Instrumentalist' award winning rendition of 'The Wind Beneath My Wings' by trombonist Joseph Heartfield, saw them repel the formidable Nordic challenge of defending champion Tertnes Skoles Musikkorps and former winners Manger Skulemusikklag, to lift the trophy.

Little wonder their MD summed things up by saying; "What a feeling. I can't really put it into words. The players and supporters all deserve this success for their commitment and dedication to the band. It's incredible."

You would have been hard pressed to disagree after a performance that was a showcase of discipline, musicality and sheer joyful enthusiasm. And although the band had to raise every single penny to get to Oostende, Sam Harrison added that they were determined to return to defend their title in Utrecht in 2018.

Amazing effort

"It's been an amazing effort, especially as we've also competed in two major events in the UK so far this year," Sam said. "We're always developing new playing talent, so although we lose four this year to university, existing players will step up and new ones will come in. We are determined to defend our title."

One of those who will now leave, but who has enjoyed every minute of being part of the band was trombonist Charlotte Horsfield, who added: "Sam is a very special person and a great conductor. She's done so much for us all — and when we go on stage no one wants to let her down. It's a brilliant band to play for."

And with a wonderful organisation to back up her inspirational musical leadership, you wouldn't bet against Elland coming out on top once again in The Netherlands. "That's something we will plan towards as soon as we get back," Sam explained. "We never stand still. It's our greatest strength as a band."

Nordic pride

Although there was to be no Nordic 'Euro-double' this year, both Tertnes Skoles Musikkorps and Manger Skulemusikklag will have returned home proud of their efforts under MDs Jan Egil Jorgensen and Thorgeir Thunestvedt.

They also gave performances of remarkable musical maturity; producing warmth of tonality and technical security that belied their years (the section is open to players under the age of 18) and that was an admirable indictment of the musical education they receive alongside the investment made by the Norwegian Music Federation in supporting their progress.

You really did have to give yourself a mental 'double-take' when hearing these bands perform. The likes of Eikanger, Manger, Tertnes and many more in the Hordland area around Bergen have, what appears to be, a never ending supply of formidable talent to tap into in the coming years.

Hearing these bands whizz through technically demanding works such as 'Unisons' and 'Caravan', 'The Incredibles' and 'Pseude-Yoik' as well as feature nerveless soloists, was a reminder that the next generation of top-flight Norwegian players could very well be better than the current crop — and that is saying something.

Encouraging signs

There were also encouraging signs of long term grass root investment starting to mature with the likes of Brass Band Aukstyn from Lithuania, 1st Old Boys Youth from Northern Ireland and Scottish Borders Youth.

Over the past three years at this event Aukstyn have literally lived 'up' to their name with the substantial progress they have made, and once again there was a great deal to enjoy, as under MD Steve Legge (who has been keeping a close eye on their development since 2007 by regular visits from his base in Gloucestershire) they showcased their talents with drive and determination.

So too 1st Old Boys Youth, who give it their all led by Jacklin Bingham (who had a smile on her face as wide as Oostende beach from start to finish), whilst the whole of Scottish banding will have been proud of Scottish Borders Youth, who hail from an area of the country that encompasses numerous small rural towns, that have been brought together in impressive fashion in just two years by Alan Fernie.

Joined-up thinking

Both bands are excellent examples of 'joined-up' thinking by their parent organisations — and will surely bear even greater musical fruit in the years to come for the senior 1st Old Boys Band and the Borders brass bands of Peebles, Innerleithen, Selkirk, Galashiels, St Boswells, Hawick, Langholm and Jedforest.

Victory though deservedly belonged to Elland Youth Band, with a performance that will surely inspire even more Yorkshire youngsters to head to their bandroom and ask to pick up a brass band instrument.

And that is the type of 'development' EBBA has been hoping to stimulate ever since this event was set up in 2014.

We're always developing new playing talent, so although we lose four this year to university, existing players will step up and new ones will come in. We are determined to defend our titleElland Youth Band MD, Sam Harrison


Development Section:

Test Piece: 'Little Suite for Brass No.2 (Sir Malcolm Arnold) & Own Choice Programme
Adjudicators: Anne Crookston, Bart Picqueur

1. Elland Silver Youth (Samantha Harrison) — 95
2. Tertnes Skoles Musikkorps (Jan Egil Jorgensen) — 92
3. Manger Skulemusikklag (Thorgeir Thunestvedt) — 90
4. Aukstyn (Steve Legge) — 88
5. 1st Old Boys Youth (Jacklin Bingham) — 87
6. Scottish Borders Youth (Alan Fernie) — 86

Best Instrumentalist: Joseph Heartfield (trombone) — Elland Silver Youth

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Derek Renshaw

ABBA Member
Conductor, Band Trainer and Adjudicator.