Very much like 2010, 2011 was a year of contesting flux.
No one band really dominated the major championships, which made for considerable excitement and interest, and no little amount of bar room debate.
The one thing we noticed was that there is a growing force of excellence from Europe as the standard of top level banding gets stronger and stronger – and that is reflected in our bands for consideration.
If we did have one wish for 2012, it would be that the British Open would really become just that - the world’s leading ‘open’ contest. Then we would surely find out exactly where the best bands on the banding globe come from.
Lots of quality outfits to choose from as a potential ‘Band of the Year’, with our five for consideration in no particular order: Brass Band Schoonhoven, Brighouse & Rastrick, Cory, Eikanger Bjorsvik and Manger Musikklag.
Plenty of others to consider too – from the USA to New Zealand. However, these were the nap hand that stood out for us in what was an intriguing season, so perhaps a harder choice this year than ever before.
Brighouse & Rastrick
Winner of the Yorkshire Area and the National Championship of Great Britain – again.
They are unlike any other band – the turnover of personnel sees to that, but whoever donned the purple jacket this year they were inspired at times to perform in a way no other band could get within sniffing distance of.
The victories were truly memorable – the tsunami of appreciation that flooded down at St George’s Hall at the Yorkshire Area, to the force of musical will power that won the National title at the Royal Albert Hall was proof of that.
They did enjoy a huge slice of luck at the English Nationals, but also bagged the dosh at Whit Friday and made the top six at the British Open. 2012 could prove to be even better.
Not quite the unstoppable contesting force of old – but still a juggernaut that has the propensity to flatten all those that have the temerity to step in their way.
The victory at Symphony Hall was the most emphatic of all their British Open triumphs under Robert Childs, although they did show hints of vulnerability at the Nationals and misjudged the power requirements at the European Championships.
Reasserted their domestic supremacy and showed that they are the most professional of ambassadors for the banding movement on the wider concert stage.
The performance at the high profile Light Fantastic weekend at the South Bank in London saw them creates a huge bit of positive general media coverage.
2011 saw Eikanger back to their very best.
The Norwegian National Championship victory in Bergen under the baton of David King came courtesy of playing of the rarest brilliance, whilst the domestic double was claimed by an equally high class performance of concert entertainment at SIDDIS under the direction of Reid Gilje.
When inspired to these heights they are a band that inhabits a different musical planet.
In 2011 they were just that and more.
They may have been beaten by their great rivals in Bergen, but even there their performances more than hinted at their awesome potential under the baton of the truly mesmeric Peter Sebastian Szilvay.
That potential came to startling fruition at the Europeans in Montreux, where they delivered a brace of performances that will live long in the memory.
This was a victory borne of intuitive musicianship – subtle, textured, sensuous, sublime. They were performing from a totally different contesting blueprint.
Ended the year losing their SIDDIS crown – but that almost didn’t matter.
They made brass band history in Montreux in a manner that unquestionably marked them as a truly great band.
Brass Band Schoonhoven
The quiet emergence of a new banding force from The Netherlands may have gone unnoticed by the Euro sceptics, but they should heed the warning this superb band gave in 2011.
The Euro Brass title was claimed with consummate ease, but it was their twin performances in coming fourth overall at the Europeans in Montreux under the baton of the deeply impressive Erik Jansen that confirmed their new found stature.
A cultured, musically flexible ensemble, they reaffirmed they growing maturity with a second successive high class victory at the National Championships too.