2009 European Brass Band Championships - Own Choice retrospective


Saturday was all about showmanship - and none came better than Cory as they took the 2009 European title by a massive 8 point margin...

Draped in victory: Cory's Ian William's enjoys that winning feeling

More pictures of presentataions at:

More pictures of own choice selections at:

Saturday dawned with radiant sunshine and high hopes from the bands stationed in their various hotels along the Ostend seafront.

Final touches

As the B Section provided an enjoyable aperitif in the Kursaal, and overweight Belgians tucked into the delights of fresh waffles and chips covered with mayonnaise on the Promenade, the Elite bands were putting the final touches to their last minute preparations ahead of the showcase own choice section later in the day. 

Each of the contenders had plenty to ponder – and so too the three man adjudication team of Ray Farr, Blaise Heritier and Rob Goorhuis: 11 eclectic choices that included two new works from Peter Graham and Hermann Pallhuber, the classics of Heaton and Bourgeois and blockbusters from Sparke and Wilby. No wonder the Kursaal was packed to the rafters with a highly excitable and generously spirited audience.

Panned out

The draw had been made earlier that morning and had panned out with something for everyone.

The Austrians would kick things off, followed by Cory at 4 and Eikanger and Grimethorpe towards the tail. There was to be just the one break in proceedings, but even then few people left the packed hall in fear of losing their seats – the old place was buzzing with anticipation and expectation from first to last. 

They were not to be disappointed either.

House to its feet

Oberosterreich delivered the rarest quality playing that brought the house to its feet with the breathtaking ‘Spirits of Puccini’ by Hermann Pallhuber.

This was brass playing (perhaps not pure brass band playing it must be said) of incomparable brilliance on a work that took the early 20th century ‘Gem’ selections from the likes of Charles Godfrey and Alexander Owen, placed them in a time machine, rebuilt them like the six million dollar man and let them loose to create musical havoc on the senses.

It was magnificent in concept and execution, and whilst the brass band traditionalists still baulk at their sound structure (the middle of the band is lightweight in comparison to others) the brilliance of the individual contributions and sheer artistic musicality that is drawn from Hannes Buchegger’s direction is to be cherished.

Once again though the judges didn’t like it as much as the delirious audience and placed it 7th (we had it as our winner) but some of the playing (especially the contributions of that amazing soprano) will live a long time in the memory banks.     

Bravura account

With that audience still recovering their musical bearings, Brass Band Rijnmond delivered a bravura account of ‘Concerto Grosso’ that had more rough moments than a Belgian badger’s backside, but somehow still managed to make an impression of note in the box.

To be fair, there were times when the playing was top notch (especially a super flugel player), but the over excitable tempos and the lack of wit in the final ‘Tico, Tico section’ left many bewildered.

That they came 5th on the day and 4th overall also came as a major surprise too  – not that the very personable and friendly members of the band will care what we thought.

Tasteful interlude

An interlude of tasteful reflection came once again with Treize Etoiles and a performance of ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ that proved to be as craftily chosen as it was well played.

James Gourlay once again laid out everything with such cultured appreciation, so that even the dinosaur fight to the death was undertaken with an appreciation of the Queensbury rules.

Not the hardest of works to be heard for certain, but one that was played almost flawlessly and with the precision of the best Swiss watches. Their reward for that touch of musical diplomacy was 3rd on the day and runner up overall.  They were yodeling in the Cantons on Saturday night.   

Shoulders of Giants

then proceeded to win the contest.

’On the Shoulders of Giants’ came as something of a surprise. The three movement work drew inspiration form across the water – not across the English Channel in Britain as many may have thought, but over the Atlantic Ocean in the USA.

The opening Bruckner fanfares and Chicago Brass inspired technical filigree work were eye popping enough, but it was the extended middle section, inspired by the cool jazz of Miles Davis and Gil Evans that was so startling. Dramatically subdued in dynamic, treacherously transparent in scoring and asking a great deal in terms of stylistic approach it really was something very different, and so slickly executed.

Even with a final section full of the usual bells and whistles (and an ending that sounded very much like the final bars of ‘Checkmate’) it was this movement of sustained excellence that surely won the day.

By the time the final chord was submerged in almost delirious appreciation from the hall, a brave choice (and one that didn’t overtly feature their trump card performer David Childs) had set them apart from the field. 

Not that they knew it, but the European trophy was Cory’s once more.

High error count

Whitburn had the unenviable task of following Cory onto the stage, and with the audience still packed into the hall, the Scots gave a brave account of themselves.

What killed them off though was the high error count – not one that at another level would have punished them so heavily, but against this class of field was a death knell to their chances of making an impression.

Despite the lovely musical shapes that unfolded throughout ‘Vienna Nights’, it gave the easy option to the judges and one they could not ignore. 9th on the day was a tad unlucky, as was 10th place overall, but they just hadn’t played to form.


With a half hour break to give the chance for a collective breather there may have been a thought that there would be a lull in the excellence in the standard of playing that followed. Not a chance.

Upped their game

Festival Brass
had impressed many with their playing on the Friday, and on the Saturday they certainly upped their game with an admirable performance of ‘The Promised Land’ that was made all the better for it not being drowned in unwarranted cloying sentimentality.

Glen Van Looy on euphonium must have come exceptionally close to winning the ‘Best Instrumentalist’ prize for his amazingly mature playing, whilst the band really did show just why they defeated Willebroek to take their place here this year. 4th place on the day was deserved and propelled them into 7th place overall.

Degree of flair

Brass Band Aeolus
once again showed a degree of flair and artistry that promised much on ‘Music for Battle Creek’ – or ‘Music pour Creek Battle’ as they would have it.

The usual problems arose however as the band tired on such a difficult work, and even though they eventually ended up in 10th place on the day and 11th overall, they are a band that given the right encouragement has the ability to make a significant mark at these championships in future years.

Norwegian snorter

has certainly done that over the years, and with a real snorter of an ‘Extreme Make Over’ they seemed to have even done enough to have just denied Cory of the title.

It was not to be as the judges we were told later thought it one of two performances that disappointed them on the day (the other was Contest Music from Tredegar).

Somehow the odd clip here, and the very orchestral styling there, (especially of the opening quartet) didn’t find a fancy in the box and despite some truly exceptional tuned percussion work and a rousing final section that nearly took the roof off the Kursaal they were placed 6th on the day and 3rd overall.

Top man: Michael Dodd prepares to be interviewEd by 4BR


Brilliance that was rewarded came with Grimethorpe on ‘Masquerade’.

Whatever Allan Withington had said to the band brought a response from their seemingly dead contesting chances of almost Lazuras like proportions.

From the start it was Grimethorpe in controlled overdrive with wonderful ensemble work (a stunning full cornet section fanfare) topped by brilliant individual contributions, notably from soprano and the award winning Michael Dodd on euphonium.

He delivered the treacherous cadenza with its fearsome intervals leaps with such artistry that it came as little surprise that he took the prestigious individual award on a day when many players performed to the very top of their ability.

By the time they whipped through the final ‘last laugh’ section Grimey were almost doing the same themselves – coming a richly deserved 2nd on the day. What might have been if only they could have played like that on the Friday?

Contrasting performances

The contest was rounded off with two contrasting performances from Lyngby Taarbaek and Tredegar.

The Danes seemed tired and jaded after their efforts the previous day, and their performance of ‘Harmony Music’ although containing moments of quality (a fine sop and solid solo cornet) never rose above the merely decent, and as a result found itself relegated to 11th place – giving the band 9th place overall.

Little clips

That just left Tredegar, who many had tipped as a possible podium finisher after their excellent performance on the Friday.

Unbeknown to them they were in fact in 7th place, and so they could ill afford the annoying series of little clips and unforced errors that just took the edge off the first movement of ‘Contest Music’ in particular.

A fine recovery after a 10 second top C# from the principal cornet wasn’t going to be enough, especially as a well shaped reading didn’t find favour in the box. 8th it was then and 8th overall too. Another seaside trip – this time to Blackpool, now beckons, but they go in very decent shape.


Some five hours later and the destination of the 2009 European Championship Trophy was announced (after an interminably long Gala Concert in which Cory thankfully delivered a great crowd pleasing second half to lift the spirits after the worthy, but ever so slightly boring contributions in the first hour or so).

The organizers had certainly made sure they got their money’s worth out of the 2008 champions, before they made the announcement that they were in fact the 2009 champions of Europe too.


That announcement, plus the combined prize of 9,500 Euro (a new euphonium and 2,500 Euro in cash) and iconic trophy, was greeted with warm approval in the hall and that emotion filled accompaniment to the playing of the Welsh National anthem, with close harmony singing that the MD would have been delighted with in terms of musicality and precision!

It meant that Cory had stamped their authority on a contest in a way no other band had done since 1990, and in a manner that suggests that a hat trick of titles could well be theirs for the taking in Linz in Austria in 2010.

They will take some stopping.

Iwan Fox


2016   2015   2014   2013   2012
2011   2010   2009   2008   2007
2006   2005   2004 (1)   2004 (2)   2003
2002   2001