Norway hosts the European Championships for the fifth time this year with the premier contest in the brass band world centred on the imposing Konserthus in the heart of the nation’s capital city.
Oslo is a wonderful place to visit; steeped in history and full of contrasting cultures, music, trade and splendid architecture.
It is a much more cosmopolitan city than Bergen or Stavanger, both of whom have also been excellent hosts in recent years, with its strong links to the East as well as the West and a population that is amongst the fastest growing in Europe.
It is also eye-wateringly expensive to live in though (despite being ranked number 1 as the European city which offers the best quality of life to its citizens), so bands, many of whom have had to raise over £20,000 to get here (there is no Scottish representative this year) may well find they don’t get as much for their Kroner as they would possibly have thought.
No more B Section this year...
That said, neither have the European Brass Band Association, as Oslo also plays host to an event that is poised at something of a musical crossroads.
Like its EU political counterpart, thoughts of future expansionism into new banding territories have been superseded by a rather hastily enforced entrenchment policy.
That was signified by the dropping of the much maligned B Section through what appears to have been a combination of increasing expense, bureaucratic gentrification and general disinterest.
After nearly two decades of existence, even on its death bed nobody really knew what its purpose was in life – and you sense its passing won’t be mourned for too long.
Sinking feeling.... The Europeans will not be held at the stunning Opera House...
Meanwhile, bands may wonder why the contest, as originally hoped for by the Norwegian Band Federation (NMF), isn’t taking place at the city’s stunning new Opera House, which sinks menacingly into the waters of the seafront like a razor edged iceberg.
Unfortunately, financial prudence (austerity has yet to really hit these parts) has meant that the NMF’s grandiose optimism has been replaced by more purposeful realism, although the excellent Oslo Konserthus can still accommodate 1,404 fervent brass band supporters, with the competitors able to enjoy the wonderful acoustic of its main hall (home to the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra).
Wide expanse: Over 1400 people will be packed in to hear the bands play though...
The impressive NMF still manages to produce an event that seeks new horizons however, with their excellent organisational abilities allowing banding fans all over the globe to enjoy the action unfold at a much more reasonable financial outlay, and in the comfort of their own home, with the live streaming of the championship contest and Gala Concert.
Further details can be found at: ebbc2013.no/Live+to+Europe.b7C_wZvQ3K.ips
By the time the main competitors arrive in town, the European Youth Band will have already performed their first concert under the baton of Irene Anda, whilst the contenders for the 6th European Conductor’s title on Thursday evening will have been whittled down to the final trio by three rounds of imposing musical battle.
As ever there are sure to be many highlights to savour – from the musical ones that will come with the intriguing ‘Myth Forest’ set work by composer Stig Nordhagen, to the blockbuster own choice selections that will test the foundations of the building.
As usual 4BR will be there in force to bring you the action as it unfolds, with our live coverage of the main events, news, views, Twitter (#ebbc2013), pictures, video interviews and pre and post contest analysis.
2013 EBBC Event Schedule:
Thursday May 2nd:
20.00: Gala Concert and Final of the European Conductor’s Competition featuring Oslo Brass Band and the European Youth Band, followed by the award ceremony (Oslo Concert Hall)
Friday May 3rd:
09.00: Masterclass with conductor Philip Harper. Free entry (Ridehuset)
10.30: Press Conference (Rica Victoria Hotel)
12.00: Opening Ceremony and Official Reception for EBBC 2013, including the official draw for the Set Work. By invitation only (Oslo City Hall)
16.00: Composers talk about the Championship Section test piece (Oslo Concert Hall)
17.00: Championship Section EBBC test piece (Oslo Concert Hall)
Saturday May 4th:
08.00: Official draw for Own Choice (Oslo Concert Hall)
09.00: EBBA Conference (Oslo Concert Hall)
11.00: Concert with European Youth Band and Aura Brass Band (Oslo Concert Hall)
12.00: Championship Section Own Choice selections (Oslo Concert Hall)
20.00: Grand Gala Concert followed by awards ceremony (Oslo Concert Hall)
22.00: European Brass Party (Oslo Concert Hall)
Sunday May 5th:
09.30: Annual meeting EBBA (Rica Victoria Hotel)
12.00: Free outdoor concert with Cory Band and Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag in the bandstand by the National Theatre