2006 Norwegian National Championships - Preview: Elite Section


4BR will be in Bergen to listen to the very best bands in Norway battle it out to see who will represent them at the 2007 European Championships. Can Eikanger retain their title or can someone else stop them?

Grieg HallSet Work: Klang(!) - Ørjan Matre
Friday 10th February

Own Choice:
Saturday 11th February

James Gourlay, Per Kristian Svensen and Lars Erik ter Jung

This should prove to be a tremendous contest yet again this year, what with Eikanger trying to retain the trophy ahead of their trip to represent their country at the European Championships in Belfast; Stavanger trying to wrestle back again and others such as Manger, Sandefjord and Krohnengen all looking to regain their top place as the best band in the country.

The added spice of course is the list of major conducting talent that has been shipped in once more to try and steer those bands to victory. This time it is the likes of  Dr Nicholas Childs (looking for his fourth title), Garry Cutt, Helga Haukas, Allan Withington, Michael Antrobus and Ray Farr (looking for their second) and Dr Robert Childs (looking for his first) who will be in front of the bands – not forgetting the likes of Russell Gray (looking to supplement his first UK National).

The European style format of a set work and own choice selection tends to bring the best out of the bands here and once again the organisers have selected a modern contemporary work as the test piece for the Friday night. 

This time it is Ørjan Matre and his very interesting Klang (!) that will test the bands to the full. It is a pretty difficult work technically for the bands to master, but we have heard it a few times now and it is an accessible work for the listener to get to grips with. We heard it played by Jaren here in 2002 and it wasn't that too far out even if like last year's piece it utilizes electronics in parts to enhance the effects.

The judges for the contest are James Gourlay, Per Kristian Svensen and Lars Erik ter Jung and they will have some eclectic choices to listen to in the own choice section for sure.

These include Cantigas by Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen; Contest Music by Wilfred Heaton; Eden by John Pickard; Ginnungagap - ...seeming emptiness by Johan Evenepoe; Gouvssahasat by Per-Anders Emilsen; Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Peter Graham; Montage by Peter Graham; Music for the Moving Image by Philip Wilby; Music of the Spheres by Philip Sparke and Whitsun Wakes by Michael Ball.

Whoever wins, gets the invite to the 2007 European Championships, but more importantly will have the bragging rights in Norway for the next twelve months at least.

So who do we think will win? Check out after the list of competing bands to find out. 

Nicholas ChildsEikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag
  Dr Nicholas Childs
4BR Ranking: 31 

National Record:
2005: Winners (Nicholas Childs)
2004: 2nd (Reid Gilje)
2003: 2nd  (Nicholas Childs)
2002: 7th  (Howard Snell)
2001: Winners  (Nicholas Childs)
2000: 2nd  (Nicholas Childs)  
1999: Winners  (Nicholas Childs)
1998: 4th  (I. Bergby)
1997: 2nd  (Howard Snell)
1996: 2nd  (Howard Snell)
1995: 5th  (Howard Snell)
1994: 4th  (Howard Snell)
1993: Winners  (Howard Snell)
1992: 3rd  (Howard Snell)
1991: Winners  (Howard Snell)

Overall Record:
Winners in 1981, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1999, 2001, 2005

Last Year: Winners Overall: 1st on set work/1st on own choice

Own Choice Selection:
2005: Concerto Grosso
2004: Concerto No 1 for Brass Band
2003: The Trumpets of the Angels
2002: Daphnis and Chloe

The 9 times winners will be coming to this years contest trying to retain their title. Dr Nicholas Childs returns once more to lead them and he seems to have a bit of a golden touch with the band here. 
Eikanger was formed in the 1960s and has been European Champions on two occasions as well as SIDDIS winners on 10 occasions.

Musically, Eikanger remain a class act, but they do sometimes forget about the practicalities of winning a brass band contest.  Their innate musicianship can also be their contesting Achilles heel. If they hit top form and use their heads and not their musical hearts then they could be unbeatable – if not, they may be beaten.

They have produced winning own choice performances in 1996 (Revelation), 1997 (Montage), 1999 (Year of the Dragon), 2000 (Dove Descending) and last year. If they can repeat the form from twelve months ago they should book themselves yet another title. 

Ila Brass Band
  Trond Korsgard
4BR Ranking: 156

National Record:
2005: 8th  (Catherine Winnes)
2004: 3rd (Thomas Rimul)
2003: 7th  (Bjorn Sagstad) 
2002: 8th  (Frank Renton)
2001: Winners 1st Division  (B. Sagstad)
2000: 7th  (B. Sagstad)
1999: 5th  (H. Haukas)
1998: 6th  (N. Childs)
1997: 5th  (N. Childs)
1996: 4th  (Ray Farr)
1995: 4th (Maurice Hamers)
1994: 3rd  (Maurice Hamers)
1993: 3rd  (Maurice Hamers)
1992: 7th   (Maurice Hamers)

Overall Record:
Winners 1989
Winners of 1st Division in 2001

Last Year:
8th Overall: 8th on set work/6th on own choice

Own Choice Selection:
2005: Montreux Wind Dances
2004: Exergy Re-Revisited
2003: Salamander
2002: Between the Moon and Mexico

The band hails from the large town of Trondheim and in 1989 they were the first band to break the early stranglehold of the "Anger" bands, Eikanger, Stavanager and Manger by winning the National title. This has been their only success and since then they have achieved three third places under Maurice Hamers in 1993 and 1994 and again in 2004 under Thomas Rimul to show for their attempts to repeat that historic feat under Karl Ole Midtboe in 1989.

They have been consistent performers though every year, although they did drop out of the Elite Division after coming 7th in 2000, only to return after winning the 1st Division under Bjorn Sagstad.  Last year  they were very good under the exciting (and very attractive) baton of Catherine Winnes, although they found themselves coming 8th and 6th for an overall 8th position. That was a bit unlucky, so it will be interesting what their approach will be this time around.   

Helge HaukasJaren Hornmusikkforening
  Helge Haukås
4BR Ranking: 128

National Record:
2005: 4th (Helge Haukås)
2004: 8th (Helge Haukås)
2003: 9th  (Helge Haukås)
2002: 9th  (Helge Haukås)
2001: 6th  (Helge Haukås)
2000: 2nd in 1st Division (N/K)
1999: 6th in 1st Division (B. Eklund)
1998: n/k 
1997: 9th in 1st Division (T. Elnes)
1996: 4th in 1st Division (T. Elnes)
1995: 3rd in 2nd Division (T. Elnes)

Overall Record:
Best of 4th in Elite Division (since 1994)

Last Year:
4th Overall: 3rd on set work/ 5th on own choice

Own Choice Selection:
2005: Ballet for Band
2004: English Heritage
2003: Riffs and Interludes
2002: Klang! – Orjan Matre

Although Jaren were founded as far back as 1936, they did not make their debut at the Nationals until 1980.  They have made steady progress over the years and were promoted into the Elite Section in 2001. That followed as a result of them being runners-up to Oslofjord in the 1st Division in 2000 and under Helge Haukas they have held their own since that time.

They have also gained something of a reputation of pushing the boundaries with their own choice selections. In 2002 they performed  "Klang!" by Orjan Matre (so they won't be afraid of it this year) and in 2003 played the equally risqué Prelude and Riffs.

What they will choose this time is anyone's guess, but with the excellent Helge Haukås at the helm, you can be guaranteed it will be slick and polished, and they will be looking to keep on that upward trend at the contest which last year saw them take 4th place, after once more taking a risk with the lovely Ballet for Band. Brave ain't the word to describe them.  

Alan WithingtonKrohnengen Brass Band
  Allan Withington
4BR Ranking: 114

National Record:
2005: 5th (Ray Farr)
2004: 7th  (Ray Farr)
2003: 6th  (Ray Farr)
2002: 2nd  (Ray Farr)  
2001: 3rd  (Ray Farr)  
2000: 3rd  (Ray Farr)  
1999: 2nd  (Ray Farr)  
1998: 7th  (Kim Lofthouse)
1997: 3rd  (K.O. Midtbo)
1996: 3rd  (K.O. Midtbo)
1995: 6th  (Allan Withington)
1994: 2nd  (K.O. Midtbo)
1993: 4th  (K.O. Midtbo)
1992: 4th  (N/K)

Overall Record:
Winners 1990
Second Division Winners 1986

Last Year:
5th Overall: 5th set work/ 8th own choice

Own Choice Selection:
2005: …Dove Descending
2004: Harrison's Dream
2003: Masquerade
2002: Revelation

Founded by former school members in 1969, Krohnengen made early progress under the tutelage of Allan Withington who directed them to the First Division title in 1986, whilst their 1990 win here was directed by Karl Ole Midtboe on "Blitz". Allan returns once again after a seven year period when the band made excellent progress under Ray Farr.

They have been one of the most consistent bands at the championships and in the past six years they can boast two runners up places and two third prizes. In the last couple of years they have fallen off the pace slightly and came 5th last time out.

Overall though it is an excellent record and the return to Allan Withington should give them an extra boost of confidence. If they can put two top-notch performances together (last year they fell away on their own choice selection) they could well feature back on the podium.  

Robert ChildsManger Musikklag
  Dr. Robert Childs
4BR Ranking: 54

National Record:
2005: 2nd (Jesper Juul Sørensen)
2004: 5th (Jesper Juul Sørensen)
2003: 4th  (Allan Withington)
2002: Winners  (Allan Withington)
2001: 5th  (Allan Withington)
2000: 4th  (Allan Withington)
1999: 4th  (Allan Withington)
1998: 2nd  (David King)
1997: Winners (David King)
1996:  Winners (David King)
1995:  Winners (David King)
1994:  Winners (David King)
1993: 2nd  (David King)
1992: 2nd

Overall Record:
Winners in 1980, 1983, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2002

Last Year:
2nd Overall: 2nd on set work/2nd on own choice

Own Choice Selection:
2005: Harrison's Dream
2004: Paganini Variations
2003: Harmony Music
2002: Montage

Manger was founded in 1922 and have long been recognised as one of the premier Norwegian brass bands. They picked up the first of their 7 National titles way back in 1980 under the baton of Tom Brevik and that year went on to gain runners-up spot at the European Championships.

Since then they have won under Michael Antrobus in 1983 before an unprecedented run of four consecutive titles between 1994 and 1997 under David King. In 1998 they missed out on a fifth title when they came runners-up to Sandefjord Brass Symposium. Since 1999, Allan Withington has directed the band, but in 2004 they opted for the talented Jesper Juul Sorensen who was crowned the 2003 European Conductor of the Year.

Last year they surprised many (4BR included) by turning back the clock and posting their best result here since 2002. That was based on Jesper Juul Sørensen's bold approach, especially on their own choice selection and good for them - it paid off. This time they have opted for Robert Childs and this could give them their best chance of taking the title as you can be assured that they will be thoroughly well prepared. Ones to watch out for this year we think.   

Garry CuttMolde Brass Band
  Garry Cutt
4BR Ranking: 143

National Record:
2005: 7th (Nigel Boddice)
2004: 4th (Alan Morrison)
2003: 5th  (Alan Morrison)
2002: 4th  (Alan Morison)
2001: 2nd in 1st Division (A. Morrison)
2000: 4th in 1st Division (N/K)
1999: 7th (N Albelseth/A. Morrison)
1998: Winners in 1st Division  (Nils Magne Abelseth)
1997: n/k
1996: 12th in 1st Division  (N/K)
1995: 7th in 1st Division (A. Dalhaug)

Overall Record:
Best of 4th in Elite Division in 2002 and 2004
Winners of First Division 1998

Last Year:
7th Overall: 6th on set work/ 9th on own choice

Own Choice Selection:
2005: Contest Music
2004: Concerto Grosso
2003: …..Dove Descending
2002: Harrison's Dream

Molde were formed in 1979 and they have worked their way up through the sections in Norway ever since. This is the fifth time they have played in the Elite Division and this year they will surely be looking to improve on their slightly inconsistent performance of last year.

After the heroics of the year before the band did play well under the elegant baton of Nigel Boddice, but somehow it never quite came to life and 6th and 9th was about right. They did show that they have the capability to do well here, so the choice of Garry Cutt could well be inspired as he is the one conductor who can make the most out of the most limited of resources.

Oslofjord Brass
Michael Antrobus 
4BR Ranking: 178

National Record:
2005: 9th (Garry Cutt)
2004: 9th (Christian Tenfjord)
2003: 8th  (Robert Childs)
2002: 5th  (Peter Parkes)
2001: 8th  (Selmer Simonsen)
2000: Winners of 1st Division (Selmer Simonsen)
1999: 8th  (J.P. Hannevik)
1998: 6th  (J.P. Hannevik)
1997: 2nd in 1st Division  (J.P. Hannevik)

Overall Record:
Best of 5th in Elite Division
Winners of 1st Division 2000

Last Year:
9th Overall: 10th on set work/ 7th on own choice

Own Choice Selection:
2005: Paganini Variations
2004: Montage 
2003: Revelation
2002: Contest Music

Just seven years after they were founded in 1995, Oslofjord finally came of age at the Norwegian Nationals by coming 5th at the 2002 Championships under the baton of Peter Parkes. That performance was based on two cracking performances and although they couldn't quite repeat it a second time in 2003, they did give two very convincing performances under the direction of MD Robert Childs.

Last year they were off the pace a touch and for a second consecutive year found themselves in 9th place. This time they have opted to put their faith in Michael Antrobus, who is something of a legendary figure in the country and will surely bring a degree of stability to their performance. He is though the sixth new MD to take the band here in the past six years, so stability is something they desperately need.       

Ray FarrSandefjord Brass Symposium
  Ray Farr
4BR Ranking: 76

National Record:
2005: 3rd (Robert Childs)
2004: 6th (John Philip Hannevik)
2003: 3rd  (Garry Cutt)
2002: 6th (N/K)
2001: 4th  (Bryan Hurdley)
2000: Winners (Garry Cutt)
1999: 3rd  (Gareth Pritchard)
1998: Winners (Gareth Pritchard)
1997: 6th  (Gareth Pritchard)
1996: Winners in 1st Division (Gareth Pritchard)
1995: 3rd in 1st Division (Ray Farr)
1994: 3rd in 1st Division (Michael Antrobus)
1993: N/K
1992: 8th (N/K)

Overall Record:
Winners in 1998 and 2000
Winners First Division 1996

Last Year:
3rd Overall:  4th on set work/ 2nd on own choice

Own Choice Selection:
2005: St. Magnus
2004: Apocalypse
2003: Of Men and Mountains
2002: …Dove Descending

Sandefjord Brass Symposium were champions here both in 1998 under Gareth Pritchard and 2000 under the baton of Garry Cutt but since then they have floated around the top six without really showing the form to suggest they will win again.

Last year they were as good as they have been for many a year under the baton of Robert Childs – inspired even and they fully deserved their third place. Ray Farr takes them this year, and so we can be assured of a musical approach. Whether they can equal or better last year's result we will have to wait and see.  

Russell GrayStavanger Brass Band.
  Russell Gray
4BR Ranking:  22

National Record:
2005: 6th (David King)
2004: Winners (David King)
2003: Winners  (David King)
2002: 3rd  (Steve Bastable)
2001: 2nd  (Frank Renton)
2000: 5th  (Frank Renton)
1999: 6th  (Philip McCann)
1998: 3rd  (James Gourlay)
1997: 4th  (James Gourlay)
1996: 6th  (Garry Cutt)
1995: 3rd  (Garry Cutt)
1994: 5th  (Garry Cutt)
1993: 5th  (Richard Evans)
1992: Winners (Richard Evans)

Overall Record:
Winners in 1982, 1984, 1986, 1992, 2003, 2004

Last Year:
6th Overall: 9th on set work/ 4th on own choice

Own Choice Selection:
2005: Music of the Spheres
2004: Masquerade
2003: Concerto Grosso
2002: Tristan Encounters

Stavanger were formed in 1980, but since that time they have won the National title on no less than six occasions – 1982, 1984 and 1986 under Kjell E. Larsen, 1992 under the baton of Richard Evans and then in 2003 and 2004 under David King.

Last year though was a year to forget as they were drawn first in both sections of the event and to put it bluntly they were shafted. They may not have won – Eikanger were too good for them but they were certainly second best and no way 9th or 4th.

Russell Gray has the task of bringing this fine band back to form (and luck) and they have certainly picked the right man for the job. If he clicks with them they could well post another win, although they will be praying they don't have the same luck with the draw.   

Tertnes Brass
Bjorn Breistein
4BR Ranking: N/R

National Record:
2005: Winners of First Division (Bjorn Breistein)
2004: 10th in Elite Section (Bjorn Breistein)
2003: Winners of First Division  (John Hinkley)
2002: 10th in Elite Division
2001: 7th in Elite Division
2000: 6th in Elite Division
1999: 2nd in 1st Division

Overall Record:
Winners First Division 2003, 2005
Winners Second Division 1984 and 1985

Last Year: Winners of First Division

Own Choice Selection
2005: Dances and Arias
2004: …Dove Decending
2003: Variations on an Enigma

Tertnes seem to be a bit of a yo-yo band based on the past four years at the contest. Too good for the First Division, not good enough for the Elite. They were very good last year in winning once more and in Bjorn Breistein they have a very talented MD at the helm. What they do need though is perhaps a touch of confidence and perhaps a bit of brashness to enable them to take a few scalps.

2006 Own Choice Selections:
Journey to the Centre of the Earth (P.Graham)
Guovssahasat (P.A. Emilsen) *
Montage (P.Graham)
Music of the Spheres (P.Sparke)
Cantigas (T. Aagaard-Nilsen) *
Ginnungagap (J.Evenepoel)
Whitsun Wakes (M.Ball)
Music for the Moving Image (P.Wilby)
Eden (J.Pickard)
Contest Music (W.Heaton)

* These pieces are commissioned for the event.

4BR Prediction:
Let's jump straight in on this one. We think Eikanger will retain their title. In the past 12 months they have moved forward at quite a pace and seem to be full of confidence. Under Nicholas Childs they are a very formidable band indeed and if they play to form they should win with a little bit to spare.

They should be challenged by a number of bands though, with Manger and Stavanger the two most obvious candidates. Robert Childs enjoyed himself here last year, and we think he will fancy his chances of putting one over his brother with Manger, whilst Russell Gary has the knack of winning – a priceless commodity in the brass band world. Stavanger will be there or thereabouts for sure this time.

After that it could be a bit more open, with Krohnengen and Molde in with a good shout and Sandefjord determined to show that last year's third place wasn't a one off. Add to them Jaren as our dark horse and we think you have the mix for a fantastic contest.

1. Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag
2. Manger Musikklag
3. Stavanger
4. Krohnengen Brass Band
5. Molde
6. Sandefjord

Dark Horse: Jaren Hornmusikkforening

2005 Result:

1.  Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag (Nicholas John Childs)  (98/97)  - 97.5
2.  Manger Musikklag  (Jesper Juul Sørensen)  (95/95) - 95
3.  Sandefjord Brass Symposium (Robert Childs) (93/96) - 94.5
4.  Jaren Hornmusikkforening (Helge Haukås) (94/92) - 93
5.  Krohnengen Brass Band (Ray Farr) (89/88) - 88.5
6.  Stavanger Brass Band (David King) (82/94) - 88
7.  Molde Brass Band (Nigel Boddice) (88/87) - 87.5
8.  Ila Brass Band (Cathrine Winnes) (83/91) - 87
9.  Oslofjord Brass(Garry Cutt) (81/90) - 85.5
10.  Sola Brass Band (Benny Wiame) (84/86) - 85
Soloist prize: Flugelhorn, Eikanger-Bjørsvik MusikklagBest section: Cornets, Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag


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