2014 North American Brass Band Championship — As it happened

All the action from the 2014 North American Brass Band Championship — as it happened.

Sunday 13, 02:44:11

4BR Editor Iwan Fox talks to Allan Withington after he led Stavanger to the 2014 North American Brass Band Championship title in Grand Rapids.

Sunday 13, 00:22:14


Championship Section:
Set Work/Own Choice
Set Work: Symphony in Two Movements (Edward Gregson)
Adjudicators: Edward Gregson (Set Work) & William Himes (Own Choice)

1. Stavanger (Allan Withington): 96/99 = 97.2
2. Fountain City (Joseph Parisi): 95/96 = 95.4
3. Brass of the Potomac (Stephen Bulla): 94/94 = 94.0
4. Atlantic Brass Band (Salvatore Scarpa): 92/95 = 93.2
5. James Madison University (Kevin Stees): 93/91 = 92.2
6. Brass Band of Central Florida (Chad Shoopman): 88/97 = 91.6
7. Princeton Brass Band (Dr Stephen Allen): 91/92 = 91.4
8. Chicago Brass Band (Colin Holman): 87/89 = 87.8
9. Five Lakes Silver Band (Neil Barlow): 84/90 = 86.4

First Section:
Set Work: Connotations (Edward Gregson)

1. Oakland University Brass Band (Kenneth Kroesche): 97/98 = 97.4
2. Central Ohio Brass Band (Jessica Sneeringer): 96/96 = 96.0
3. Illinois Brass Band (Stephen Squires): 95/96 = 95.4
4. Madison Brass Band (Craig Mason): 95/93 = 94.2
5. Motor City Brass Band (Craig Strain): 93/94 = 93.4
6. Chesapeake Silver Cornet Brass Band (Russell Murray): 92/91 = 91.6

Second Section:
Set Work: Laudate Dominum (Edward Gregson)

1. Weston Silver Band (Larry Shields): 92/96 = 93.6
2. Capital City Brass Band (William Waterman): 87/89 = 87.8
3. Bend in the River Brass Band (Faril Bunner): 87/85 = 86.2
4. Dublin Silver Band (Tim Jameson): 86/86 = 86.0

Third Section:
Set Work: Partita for Brass Band (Edward Gregson)

1. Fountain City Youth Brass Academy (Helen Harrelson): 96/94 = 95.2
2. Milwaukee Festival Brass (Mark A Taylor): 94/92 = 93.2
3. Crossroads Brass Band (Don Bookouit): 91/90 = 90.6

Open Section:
Own Choice Selection:

1. Old Crown Brass Band (Anthony Alessandrini & T.J. Faur): 94/94 = 94.0

Youth Open Section:
Own Choice Selection:

1. Motor City Youth Brass Band (Bona Opatich): 90/90 = 90.0

Saturday 12, 21:44:22

9. Stavanger (Allan Withington)
Myth Forest (Hestefallstjonn) (Stig Nordhagen)

When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you - Friedrich Nietzsche

That's what you have to remind yourself of with this amazingly evocative, challenging work; a crepuscular journey to the margins of a gloomy, Stygian local pond, the surface of which bubbles with a menacing miasma of sulphurous intent - and with the corpse of a frozen putrified dead horse floating in it too.

And that is what we get - with hooves on. This is wonderfully dark and atmospheric, but it is the balance of the individual lines and the layers of precise texture that make the music come to life.

You feel the impending sense of doom - as if you are being drawn inexorably towards your frozen death - each breath freezing before your eyes.

The ensemble work is so well delivered - dark, morose, chillingly cloying. The solo lines are played with such reserve too, before we get that first terminal crack as your foot breaks through the ice. The beauty of some of the playing is quite outstanding though - such a feel of all pervading sadness.

Super solo interventions - from cornet, euph, trom and delicate sop (bolstered by fine perc) ring the bell as the waters lap to the chin and the last vestiges of life ebb quickly away. The final scrabble is so well portrayed - with a band masterfully controlled by the MD heading all the way to the bottom and oblivion.

What a cracking performance - played with such authority and understanding.

Saturday 12, 21:38:41

Well Fountain City could have done no more to try and reclaim the title - and so it is left to the visitors from Stavanger to see if they can spoil the party.

They take to the stage to set up as the Americans go bonkers over more free goodies being chucked at them.

It's all in their hands now.....

Saturday 12, 21:10:56

8. Fountain City (Joseph Parisi)
Vienna Nights (Philip Wilby)

Wilby's masterful concoction of genres and characters is one of his great works for brass band. How on earth he manages to so brilliantly mix and match Mozart's Piano Sonata in A, K331 with Sigmund Freud, Mahler and Schoenberg's 12 note tone row with the aid of a Turkish romp and Jingling Jonny borders on sheer genius.

It takes some playing too: The virtuosity of the Wilby episodes need to be contrasted expertly with the simplicity of the Mozart interventions - all rounded off with that epic bit of Turkish Delight.

This is fine playing from the very start - with that mix an snatch balanced so well by the MD in his approach: the Mozart elements played with such simplicity.

Each of the variations tells the emerging story - the cafe scene, suave and sophisticated with the occasional thump of the table. The Soliloquy on tuba followed by the impish Galop and beautiful Scena and Notturno are so well laid out despite the occasional hint of fragility and imprecision. The cornet and euph duet is a real Mr & Mrs love affair - and the quartet to follow is a delight.

If there is a question mark it comes with the slow burn Turkish romp, which finally catches fires before we head into the epic finish and those huge chords and final affirmation of two bullet like bull's eyes.

This was a very high class, and very enjoyable performance and interpretation from players and MD. Bravo one and all.

Saturday 12, 21:09:32

We are now coming to the climax of the whole weekend with Fountain City looking to secure their fifth title, but their first since 2010.

If they can show the same type of form that was displayed yesterday then they will surely be in with a chance - but they will have to produce a bobby dazzler on 'Vienna Nights' to do it.

The hall has really filled up now as we are currently having a very American feature - someone throwing free goodies into the audience accompanied by the kind of hollering that you usual find at one of those Dukes of Hazzard reunion conventions.

Cool. All that was missing was Boss Hogg.

Saturday 12, 20:40:37

7. Atlantic Brass Band (Salvatore Scarpa)
Red Priest (Philip Wilby)

Philip Wilby’s sixth British Open test piece is an elegant, affectionate portrait of a somewhat troubled musical soul - although it is also very much a musical portrait of personal journey of rediscovery too.

This is a weekend break that encompasses everything from the rumbling rubber of take off to and from Marco Polo airport to the cold shiver of a day in search of old Vivaldi haunts. There is dry wit to go with the delicate beauty of the music - and despite the well known favourites, its the lesser known motifs from his ‘Nisi Domiunus' that leave the lasting impression on the mind.

Its a knowledgeable approach by the MD that picks up on those very elements, although its a pity that the execution is at times lacking precision and security.

There is a fine flow to the music - and some tasteful solo playing too from the euph in particular, but it just doesn't quite capture the fragile perfection of the music - like holding a snowflake in the palm of your hand.

The fugue is so well played though - bouncing along with its King Singers feel of 70 pop undercurrent. Bravo troms and the ensemble as a while for not letting this fly away like a Ferrari driving taxi driver back to the airport for the flight home. That final reprise is well handled too, to bring a well directed performance of note to an end.

Saturday 12, 20:27:39

It's getting more and more interesting as we come to the climax of the contest.

Princeton and now Florida has given two exciting, and at times over excitable performances in their bid to claim the title, but neither quite managed to deliver that killer blow to their rivals chances in the process.

The sheer verve and never say die attitude of the playing here is wonderful to behold, but you wonder if a little more control will have served them better. The adrenaline pumps through the veins with these bands like top grade gasoline. The contrast with the likes of Fountain with 'Vienna Nights' and especially with Stavanger with 'Myth Forest' could be marked.

It's making for a great contest though with Atlantic up next with 'Red Priest' - and they are not out of it by any means...

Saturday 12, 20:03:26

6. Brass Band of Central Florida (Chad Shoopman)
Audivi Media Nocte (Oliver Waespi)

The composer describes his work as '...oscillating somehow between past and present, between contemplation and frivolity, between prayer and rave’.

When you hear it you can only but agree - it is simply ferociously, brilliantly intense and satisfying to listen to - but only if it is held in a vice like grip by the band and by every single player - from the two groups of triptych soloists to the ensemble foundation stones.

Florida give it one heck of a go - from a ripe old opening to the first trio (tuba, bongos and exceptional trom) who wazz it wonderfully. The second trio (side drum, euph and cornet) is less successful though (although the side drum playing is fab), whilst the intervening link is not totally convincing.

It's a piece that suits the band's bright tonal quality - with the drive and pulsating energy bringing the best out of them, even if there are quite a few question marks over the precision and accuracy of some of the inner workings.

The ride for home accelerates like an Indy 500 car at full pelt - although it does rock and roll a bit in its Arabic inspired shock and awe treatment. Its on the edge at times, but it holds together its form and brilliance to a stomping close.

Saturday 12, 19:53:19

The hall is really filling up now and there is a great murmur of chatter and opinion floating in the air as people share views on what they have heard so far.

It's been pretty good stuff - although I don't think we have heard something which has delivered a knock out blow quite yet.

That may come next with Brass Band of Central Florida if they can master 'Audivi Media Nocte' - but that is one heck of a huge ask. It is a quite phenomenal work of stunning virtuosity.

Princeton certainly gave it the full welly - romping through the Gregson up to its armpits in romanticism and heart on sleeve emotion.

Thre is more to come though with the contest rounded off with Fountain City and Stavanger - so plenty more high class action to enjoy here.

Saturday 12, 19:26:20

5. Princeton Brass Band (Dr Stephen Allen)
Of Distant Memories (Edward Gregson)

Edward Gregson's homage to the pioneers of the brass band repertoire in the early part of the 20th is a wonderful, elegiac façadism of masterful craftsmanship and intuitive musicality. It takes some playing too - as the very best bands found out at the Albert Hall last year.

It needs an appreciation old and new - and how to mould them together without it becoming cheap pastiche. Think of how the architect Norman Foster combined it to perfection with the new Reichstag building in Berlin - not how premiership footballers make their old country pads houses look like the Southfork Ranch in Dallas.

We got a bit of both here though - a very emotive reading from the MD that tended to lay on the new frontage with a trowel in places - some of the solo work from the horn and tuba in particular was immensely impressive but more than a little OTT.

It carried on in the same vein - bold, robust, romantic, dramatic (it was like a silent movie score at times with the heroine strapped to a train track with a demonic Casey Jones at the wheel of the on rushing puffer) but it didn't half get the senses tingling in enjoyment.

Not quite what you would have thought Edward Gregson envisaged perhaps (Percy Fletcher will have wondered how on earth trombones could sound so huge) but it was a very individual, almost idiosyncratic interpretation that was full of colour and sheer ballsy verve.

Different and very enjoyable. Some people have very different sepia tinted memories of the olden days it seems.

Saturday 12, 19:16:26

A contest that is slowly but surely coming to the boil now.

We have heard some of the outsiders for the title, but we may getting a better picture of how the musical land lies with the next two performances from the reigning champion Princeton who will play, 'Of Distant Memories' and Brass Band of Central Florida who tackle, 'Audivi Media Nocte'.

That's what we call contrast - and it may well contrast the differing approaches the best bands in the USA seem to be taking now - some trying to copy the warmth and rounded traditional tonal qualities of the 'British' style, and others the more modern brass ensemble direction of many European exponents.

It will be interesting to hear which one comes out on top tonight - both with these two bands in the next hour, and overall.

Saturday 12, 18:50:40

4. Five Lakes Silver Band (Neil Barlow)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Peter Graham)

Graham's homage to the diverse characters as well as the musical genres encompassed in his use of Isaac Newton's aphoristic quotation is an enjoyable old romp - from the militaristic bombast of Bruckner's '8th Symphony' to the central interlude that evokes suave memories of Tommy Dorsey and Miles Davis. The finale is a bit of good 'ol US of A showmanship from the old masters of Sousa's Band.

The opening on this occasion perhaps doesn't quite have that Germanic pomposity that thumps you in the spine, whilst the fleet footed section that follows is a bit scrappy in places too. It's played with a fine amount of vivacity and energetic pulse though (esp tuned perc)

Some brave playing in the central section - with tasty leads from trom, flugel and sop, but it just gets a little fragile and uneven - especially towards the close with the 'steal away' references. A couple were nicked before they left the bells of the cornets.

A finale of brio and bravery closes things off with a thump or two - with some cracking efforts (and a little bit of good bluff work) in the mini solo showcase passages (including bass drum). Just gets tired and loses focus though in the last Checkmate coda, but this was a well managed effort though.

Saturday 12, 18:39:03

It will be interesting to hear how the bands at the Grand Shield cope with 'On Alderney Edge' after this enjoyable reminder of its challenges.

The best bands with a quartet of high class soloists in the horn, sop, cornet and euph should fancy their chances of getting to Symphony Hall, but it only needs one of them to be slipped a Mickey Finn in their late night cocoa (a bit like Gordon Banks in Mexico in 1970 before they played West Germany) and any disaster can be snatched from the jaws of Open glory at the drop of a hat.

Its a piece that has the propensity to scupper the best laid pre-contest plans....

Whatever happened to Peter Bonetti anyway?

Saturday 12, 18:05:15

3. Brass of the Potomac (Stephen Bulla)
On Alderney Edge (Peter Graham)

Interesting to hear Peter Graham's precursor to his musical links to the fantastical world of tales of myth, legend and science fiction.

Inspired by the bucolic but somewhat menacing beauty of a 600 foot wooded escarpment high above the acres of millionaire footballers mock Tudor mansions, it both tells a story as well as creating unsettlingly atmosphere - from references to Weber's 'Wolf's Glen' from 'Der Freischutz' to the later sign post elements found in 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' and those nods of appreciation to earlier works such as 'Essence of Time'.

It still takes some playing (although not in the league of some choices today) - especially by the leading solo lines of cornet, sop, horn and euph - delivered admirably on this occasion.

As yesterday, the MD lays out the score in transparent fashion - allowing the drama is develop slowly but surely. However, you get the feeling that its a piece that doesn't quite stretch the ensemble enough - limiting them to a supporting role that doesn't quite allow them to shine.

Lots to enjoy - the MD pulling the music around with just the right amount of late Victorian romanticism to round off a performance of note. You just felt that it was a choice that didn't quite make the most of their obvious talents.

Saturday 12, 18:01:16

Well James Madison University certainly created an impression with their performance, even if it wasn't fully understood by the audience.

I think they are missing out a bit here by not having the the compere give a précis of the background and inspiration behind the own choice selections that have been made.

Edward Gregson gave a wonderful 30 minute presentation on 'Symphony in Two Movements' yesterday and as a result the scales fell off the eyes of many listeners. Just a couple of minutes on each work here could do the same - the likes of 'Goldberg 2012' and especially 'Myth Forest' would benefit from it.

How else can middle America make sense of a work that is ostensibly about a horse falling through a frozen stagnant Norwegian pool, sinking slowly to a terrible death with chilling inevitability, it's dying cries freezing in the air as it inches below the inky black surface.....

Then again they never quite got the measure of Ingmar Bergman films about death playing chess here either...

Saturday 12, 17:35:50

2. James Madison University Brass Band (Kevin Stees)
Fragile Oasis (Dr Peter Meechan)

A work of almost allegorical meaning - each of the five interlinked sections demand an understanding of the aesthetic behind the colourful writing - from the visual beauty of the Aurora Australis and a terrifying storms to the unwritten desire to help create lasting beauty through man made means on earth.

It is a work that requires a huge sense of self belief - and that is what we got here from the MD and his young band. Lots to admire in the way they played with such verve (especially the main soloists and perc) although not quite all the technical aspects were totally precise in the ensemble.

A clever choice this for a young band - and one that came off very well as a result.

Saturday 12, 17:34:44

There is a decent sized audience once again in the main auditorium - although a little lost in the vast blackness of the 2404 seat hall.

A very fine female compere does a great Bible joke. 'Why didn't Noah do much fishing whilst he was on the Ark? Because he only had two worms."

Perhaps not quite up there with a Dave Allen sketch but then again, this is America, and Sunday morning worship is an important central event in many peoples lives.

On with the contest...

Saturday 12, 17:01:30

1. Chicago Brass Band (Colin Holman)
Goldberg 2012 (Svein Henrik Giske)

Well now. Its hard to think of another test quite as difficult to master as this study in 30 shades of Giske - from the skunk funk of the Brecker Brothers to Glen Gould's equally idiosyncratic take on the famous bit of Bach.

This was a damn decent effort - but that was never going to be enough to master a work that is perhaps without equal on the Mohs scale of musical hardness. This is diamond edged stuff.

There was some great individual playing on show (a superb trom lead and top notch perc) but the ensemble work lacked control and precision, and whilst the funk elements were played with a splendid sense of 70s mojo jive, the melancholic, chilling beauty of the memories of love and loss were missed.

There needed to be a detachment to these elements - deeply profound sadness that could never be shown as raw emotion.

A very brave and ambitious choice, but ultimately one that could not quite meet its simply immense technical or musical challenges. To be fair, very few bands in the whole world can do that.

Saturday 12, 16:42:22

Welcome back to the 4BR coverage of the Championship Section of the North American Brass Band Championships at the DeVos Centre in Grand Rapids.

Lots to play for today with rumours that any one of six bands may still be in the hunt for the title - although the common thread of opinion seems to think that Stavanger and Fountain City were the clear leaders to emerge from yesterday's set work discipline.

William Himes is the man in the box today and he one heck of a selection box of own choice goodies to look forward to as shown below in the order they will be played.

Goldberg 2012 (Svein Henrik Giske)
Fragile Oasis (Peter Meechan)
On Alderney Edge (Peter Graham)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Peter Graham)
Of Distant Memories (Edward Gregson)
Audivi Media Nocte (Oliver Waespi)
Red Priest (Philip Wilby) Henrik Giske)
Vienna Nights (Philip Wilby)
Myth Forest (Stig Nordhagen)

It all kicks off here in about 10 minutes

Saturday 12, 13:01:50

4BR Editor Iwan Fox talks to Kevin Stees, the Musical Director of the James Madison University Band.

Kevin talks about his young band and how he has developed a love for brass band music making at the leading US university.

Saturday 12, 12:56:56

4BR Editor Iwan Fox talks with Helen Harrelson and David Childs about the forthcoming North American Brass Band Summer School to be held in Nova Scotia between the 28th June and 8th July

Saturday 12, 11:55:37

4BR Editor Iwan Fox talks to North American Brass Band Association President Stephen Allen about the current championships in Grand Rapids, as well as his views on the future development of the brass band movement in the USA and his delight at welcoming Edward Gregson and his brother Bram to the event this year.

Saturday 12, 11:26:18

Time to take a bit of stock before we delve into the action later today with the eclectic own choice selections that will be performed by the nine top flight bands.

There was little doubt that the standard in the set work was much better than 12 months ago - with Edward Gregon's work demanding an appreciation of lyrical musicality that relied less on forcefulness and more on finesse.

Both Stavanger and Fountain City certainly showed that, but there was also a number of well constructed and thoughtful performances elsewhere too, even if they weren't in the same class.

How that will translate today will be intriguing as the own choice selections made are ambitious to say the least.

Will we hear more considered musicality, or will the American bands resort to a form of contesting bling - all sparkle and bluster on the surface but little concrete substance the closer you examine things?

Here are the very interesting own choices in no particular order:

Myth Forest (Stig Nordhagen)
Of Distant Memories (Edward Gregson)
Fragile Oasis (Peter Meechan)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Peter Graham)
Vienna Nights (Philip Wilby)
On Alderney Edge (Peter Graham)
Goldberg 2012 (Svein Henrik Giske)
Audivi Media Nocte (Oliver Waespi)
Red Priest (Philip Wilby)

Saturday 12, 11:18:36

4BR Editor Iwan Fox meets up with Allan Withington who is conducting the Stavanger Band at the North American Brass Band Championships in Grand Rapids this weekend.

Saturday 12, 00:02:29

It's the end of a a very long day at the NABBC - but it has been well worth it with great performance from first till last - especially last with Stavanger.

They produced an outstanding performance of 'Symphony in Two Movements' to lead the way for us from a very fine account from Fountain City. These two are some way ahead of the rest of the field with Central Florida, Princeton, Atlantic and Potomac making up our top six.

We will see what Edward Gregson thinks sometime tomorrow, but as it stands we opt for the Norwegians as our clear leader.

4BR Prediction:

1. Stavanger
2. Fountain City
3. Brass Band of Central Florida
4. Princeton
5. Atlantic Brass Band
6. Brass Band of the Potomac

Friday 11, 23:17:22

9. Stavanger (Allan Withington)

What a wonderful bit of playing to open: So balanced and precise, warmly hued but with a cutting edge of precision that pinpointed each of the flowing tone row elements. Great ensemble playing this with classy solo interventions - especially horn and sop. The pulse never let up for a second even in the most dislocated time signature flow.

More high class playing to follow: The theme is set out so deliberately - but the elusiveness of the first variation and the dark menace of the militaristic second variation show such contrast. So much to admire about the approach and the execution as the third variation unfolds with emotional splendour. Bravo - wonderful musical playing this.

We really do hear all the initial elements laid out in the first movement coalesce and absorb into the main body of the fourth variation and finale. The drive is fearsome, helped by such a well chosen pace that only hits the accelerator pedal at the right moment of the MDs choosing.

It rounds off a very impressive piece of top class contest playing from a band and MD at one with each other.

Friday 11, 22:55:26

8. Brass of the Potomac (Stephen Bulla)

A very deliberate opening section - laid out with such clarity of thought by the MD. There is a touch of reserve about this without losing the underlying pulse. Not everything quite comes off in the execution, but there was a stately maturity about the approach.

That cerebral approach continues with a cultured theme followed by a fleet footed first variation and darker sense of menace to the second. There are noticeable unforced errors that eventually tarnish the musical veneer but the music still retains its coherence and underpinning structure.

More clearly defined structural work in the fourth variation and finale may just have needed a little more bubbly verve, but once again the deliberate intent was delivered in spades to close a performance of intellectual rigour and cultured musicality.

Friday 11, 22:54:11

We are getting to the tail end of the contest now and it has been highly enjoyable and interesting - with Fountain City out in front by a good margin for us, from the closely matched duo of Central Florida and Princeton.

Some great individual playing has been in display, although it would have been nice to have heard warmer ensemble sounds - it has been a bit brash and straight at times. The overall standard has been pretty good and the audience is sticking around despite it now being 10.45pm with two bands left to play!

Any chance of a sneaky night cap may be going out of the window....

Friday 11, 22:24:58

7. Chicago Brass Band (Colin Holman)

The MD has certainly done his homework on the first movement - played with an energy and pulse that has consistency even amid the plethora of time signature changes. There are a few other issues however - with some dodgy tuning just tarnishing things and the precision at times losing focus in the tone row.

This is a very coherent musical approach by the MD - the theme followed by an elusive first variation and darkly menacing second that draws out the inversions and retrograde elements of the scoring with real clarity. Not everything comes off in the execution and that wayward tuning again grates, but this is musically eloquent.

A well worked fourth variation full of bubbling drive and Bernstein inflections brings things to a commanding close in the finale.

This was a nearly one for us - all the elements there or thereabouts, without quite fully gelling together.

Friday 11, 21:52:56

6. James Madison University Brass Band (Kevin Steers)

This is just on edge from the start. It's a pity as all the elements are there to be heard - pulse and dislocated flow, detail and balance. The desire of the players to make their dynamic mark though is just tarnishing the deliberate musical picture created by the MD. Its forcefulness becomes scrappy and harsh - the tone row is a bit hit and miss as a result.

The theme and first and second variations are so clearly laid out by the MD, but that collective enthusiasm to impress means that dynamic contrast has become overwrought. Bravo for giving it the works, but just a bit more dynamic control would have worked better. The scherzo has an almost a Shostakovich menace that works well with the West Side Story undercurrents.

The final section is heavyweight stuff - just a little too overwrought to be majestically glorious, but one to certainly leave an impression.

Friday 11, 21:51:47

The wait was well worth it after we heard Fountain CIty.

They have been the most 'British' sounding band so far - built on a very solid tuba foundation, that has well defined sectional layers topped by a sparkling sop. The tonality was warm and the musical approach more reserved, led by a very thoughtful and considered MD.

Florida are one heck of an exciting band to listen to - a much more up front ensemble full of verve and vibrancy, whilst Atlantic and Princeton are a mix of the two.

Its intriguing how the bands have developed their style and approach here in the last few years - and they have certainly improved from what we heard 12 months ago. It may depend just how ambitious - or over ambitious - they have been with their own choice selections tomorrow.

Friday 11, 21:09:05

5. Fountain City Brass Band (Joseph Parisi)

What a fine start - big, bold, warm, pulsating and dislocated. There are layers of texture, dynamic and balance on show as the MD allows just enough flexibility for the music to find a persuasive path. The tone row is accurate too and the sense of control is admirable.

More quality to follow: The theme is simply set out before a fleet footed elusiveness in the first variation is contrasted by a darkly menacing second variation. There is some splendid solo work on show in the third variation - especially the superb trom (although all the others are not far behind). Bravo MD - lovely understated musicality this.

A great build through the scherzo to the finale - played with impish malevolence that maintains pulse, detail and character. A cracking last section has real presence and uplifting command to round off a high class performance in anyone's measure.

Friday 11, 21:07:49

The atmosphere is building in the hall little by little - with the audience appreciating the endeavours of the competing bands and the skill and mature musical quality of the test piece.

There is a little bit of a delay between bands that is a bit puzzling though - but the hiatus is helped by the good humour of the comperes and warm welcome you get when you talk to the people around you.

It will be interesting to hear what Edward. Gregson has to say about the performances though - especially after his talk. He seemed to give the hint of what he was looking for in his clever, almost oblique way - but we may not have heard anyone who has really picked on it as yet.

Friday 11, 20:37:30

4. Princeton Brass Band (Dr Stephen Allen)

Another straight for the jugular opening - red blooded, direct and two pronged with its drive and energy. Paced neatly too this - allowing the detail to come through but still maintaining the dislocated time signature pulse, although not all the tone row intervals are bob on.

A well worked first movement leads into a solidly delivered theme and elusive first variation. Little inverted motifs are heard with a touch of sparkle and the menace of the second variation has a sharp edge to it. MD employs malleable musicality in the third - although not all of the ideas or execution quite come off, whilst the fourth has a driven scherzo feel despite the MDs disco dance moves!

The seriousness still comes through the music though - boldly driven to its conclusion with a touch of edginess that captures just the right element of excitement in a performance of real character.

Friday 11, 20:36:15

It's already turning into an interesting contest.

Three performances of wide ranging inspiration from their MDs - each going for a level boldness that would seem a little reckless if employed by the top bands in the UK at a major event. They don't hold anything back here - setting their stalls out from the very first note.

It is noticeable that the overall tonality of the bands so far is a little robust and edgy - the lyricism has a touch of the Bel canto about it. Not the most elegant playing, but very emotive nonetheless and it certainly makes an impression.

It will be interesting to see how this contest develops.

Friday 11, 20:04:45

3. Atlantic Brass Band (Salvatore Scarpa)

Another bomper opening - played with the requisite pace and energy, even if it is a little hit and miss with the precision with the emerging tone row. We get that sense of dislocated pulse with the inconsistent time signatures and the rising motifs. Just lost a bit of focus as we came to the close, but this had real flow.

MD wears his heart on his sleeve at times as he pulls things about like a bit of Wrigley chewing gum, but its on the right side of tasteful. There are some great little solo moments too - from tuba to sop. The menace was there in the march like second variation to add contrast, and the third section certainly had a touch of pathos.

Just gets a bit overwrought in the final variation, but the finale has real drive and forcefulness right to the close to round off a performance of contrasting dynamism.

Friday 11, 20:01:43

There isn't a bad crowd into to listen to the bands - although it does look a little sparse in a 2,404 seat auditorium.

Its a fine acoustic though - and you can hear the detail with real clarity.

Edward Gregson earlier gave a superb talk about his work, revealing its inspiration as well as its structure. So much came to light - from the Sonata form and 11 tone row building blocks all the way through to his enlightening description of the third movement which he felt was the crux of the work both as a composer and as an adjudicator.

Friday 11, 19:49:53

2. Brass Band of Central Florida (Chad Shoopman)

A real stamp of tonal authority to the opening statements as the tone row is delivered with pointed purpose. The dislocated rhythms of the complex time signature patterns are accentuated too to enhance the sense of tension. A little raw with the timbre, but this has real presence and the detail is shown.

More power play stuff as we follow on, with the theme followed by the elusive first variation, the menacing march of the second and the emotional impact of the third - played by confident soloists. Just in need of a little bit of lyrical contrast perhaps? The scherzo final section is so bold and driven too - with a touch of hard edged virtuosity right to the thumping close.

A bit edgy and even harsh this, but it certainly made an impression.

Friday 11, 19:40:40

1. Five Lakes Brass Band (Neil Barlow)

Certainly a bold performance from the newly promoted band to open proceedings.

An slightly untidy opening didn't quite manage to get all of the tone row of intervals precisely pitched, but there was a dark menace about music as it developed - helped by a great timp player and some fine solo interventions.

It's a pity the scrappy ensemble tarnished the picture as the MD certainly knew what he wanted to bring out in the music in the second movement, with a deliberate theme followed by a well managed set of four variations.

The third (which Gregson earlier said was the crux of the piece for him both as a composer and as an adjudicator) nearly came off, but just that untidy ensemble once again took the polish off. A well worked finale saw everything come back together in major recapitulation and a bold climax.

Friday 11, 19:34:29

Championship Section:

Set Work: Symphony in Two Movements (Edward Gregson)
Adjudicator: Edward Gregson

1. Five Lakes Silver Band (Neil Barlow)
2. Brass Band of Central Florida (Chad Shoopman)
3. Atlantic Brass Band (Salvatore Scarpa)
4. Princeton Brass Band (Dr Stephen Allen)
5. Fountain City Brass Band (Joseph Parisi)
6. James Madison University Brass Band (Kevin Steers)
7. Chicago Brass Band (Colin Holman)
8. Brass of the Potomac (Stephen Bulla)
9. Stavanger (Allan Withington)

Friday 11, 18:12:26

It's been a very interesting day at the NABBA Championships - one that has confirmed the thought that this is a brass band movement that continues to thrive.

Two excellent venues have enhanced things - with the main auditorium at the DeVos Centre as good as just about anything the bands in the UK or Europe play in for their major contests.

Some of the solo playing has been exceptional too - with some bobby dazzler performances in each of the sections, whilst the ensembles have given us plenty of entertainment too.

Now comes the serious stuff though - and in just under an hour we have the Championship Section set work, with nine bands getting to grips with Edward Gregson's 'Symphony in Two Movements' .

He's in the box too, so there won't be many arguments to make about his result......

Friday 11, 13:33:00

The NABBA event is well underway now with the solo and ensemble competitions taking place both in the Amway Hotel and the DeVos Convention Centre.

There has been some pretty impressive playing on show too - from some cracking low brass to the tremendous ensembles. Lots more to look forward to later in the day with the top section at 6.00pm.

Friday 11, 11:55:07

The Championship Section bands taking part are as follows:

Atlantic Brass Band (Salvatore Scarpa)
Brass Band of Central Florida (Chad Shoopman)
Brass of the Potomac (Stephen Bulla)
Chicago Brass Band (Colin Holman)
Five Lakes Silver Band (Neil Barlow)
Fountain City Brass Band (Joseph Parisi)
James Madison University Brass Band (Kevin Steers)
Princeton Brass Band (Dr Stephen Allen)
Stavanger (Allan Withington)

There are some very interesting own choices too in no particular order:
Myth Forest (Stig Nordhagen)
Of Distant Memories (Edward Gregson)
Fragile Oasis (Peter Meechan)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Peter Graham)
Vienna Nights (Philip Wilby)
On Alderney Edge (Peter Graham)
Goldberg 2012 (Svein Henrik Giske)
Audivi Media Nocte (Oliver Waespi)
Red Priest (Philip Wilby)

Friday 11, 11:37:20

The organisers are delighted with the line up of bands taking part this year, with the strongest top section for many years.

The American challengers are also faced with the Norwegians of Stavanger, who are here under the baton of Allan Withington.

Its a very open and transparently organised event with a pre-draw for the bands and notification of what they are all playing with their own choice selections.

The top section kicks off at 7.00pm tonight with the first if nine performances of Edward Gregson's 'Symphony in Two Movements' - withe the composer himself as the single adjudicator. The following day William Himes will cast his opinions over the own choice selections.

Friday 11, 11:23:45

Finally made it to the DeVos Performance Hall - and what an impressive place it is too.

A huge stage and a four tiered auditorium that seats 2,404 people. Somehow you didn't quite think it will be full for the event, but by heck its some place and has a lovely immediate and clear acoustic.

Edward Gregson is here and enjoying himself immensely and will be giving a talk about his test piece later today. You can also get an autographed copy of a study score for 5 bucks too!

The low brass and ensemble competitions are going on at the moment in the hall with William Himes adjudicating

Friday 11, 09:04:22

After an enjoyable evening spent chewing over the brass band cud with David Childs, it's an early morning call and straight down to enjoy a fine brass band day breakfast.

We may need it too as there is an anticipated 14 hours and more of playing ahead - from the various solo and ensemble competitions throughout the day to the Championship Section set work which starts at 7.00pm this evening.

We will be dropping to find out more and have a listen to as much as we can.

Remember - The set work will be streamed live on the internet this evening, so if you have the chance, make sure you enjoy the action too.

To find out more go to http:/­/­www.nabba.org

Thursday 10, 22:43:31

There is a full day of solo, ensemble and band performances to enjoy on Friday - from just before 9.00am to 11.00pm at night.

The Low Brass Slow Melody starts things off at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel at 8.40am, with the last performance of the set work 'Symphony in Two Movements' in the top section due to take to the stage at 11.00pm. That is one heck of a day of competition.

We will be in and around both the Amway Grand Plaza and De Vos Place Convention Centre to bring you a taste of all the action.

Thursday 10, 19:55:10

4BR has finally made it to Grand Rapids - and a splendid place it is too, with a warm welcome from a football crazy Haitian taxi driver reliving the memories of the 1974 World Cup in Germany to the sight of a Brontasauras seemingly on the loses across the river from the hotel.

A start like this should hold great promise for things to come tomorrow then....

First things first though - and a quick snifter in the hotel bar before we try to find a band to listen to before the action starts in the morning.

Thursday 10, 15:17:25

Waiting for the last leg of the long journey to Grand Rapids.

Currently enjoying a pomegranate and blueberry smoothie whilst watching the planes land at O'Hare airport - named after a pretty nifty navy pilot who short down quite a few Japanese planes in the War. His tiny fighter plane is on display as you walk into Terminal 3 here. One heck of a brave man.

As we speak there is a fire or something out on the airfield.... Don't know if its a plane or what, but everyone is now looking a bit worried....

Thankfully its a training run for the fire fighters...

Thursday 10, 00:53:14

The Editor is currently enjoying a quiet cup of tea before boarding United Airlines finest economy class package steamer of the skies to fly to Chicago and then onto Grand Rapids for the 32nd North American Brass band Championships.

My puzzle for this early morning though has been how to open one of those triangular sandwich packages without knocking over my cup of tea whilst still trying to type something of interest on the iPad.

What a cultured life I lead....

Tuesday 8, 08:29:59

The 4BR Editor will be packing his bags and heading for the airport in the wee dark hours of the night to catch a couple of flights to end up in Grand Rapids in Michigan for the North American Brass Band Championships.

It's the second year in a row that we have been welcomed warmly to the event, and with plenty of brilliant Edward Gregson inspired music to look forward to and lots of great bands it should be well worth the cramped leg room in in the cheap seats of an United Airlines 767.

Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band - Reading Festival of Brass: Open Workshop Rehearsal

Saturday 27 April • St Laurence Church, Reading RG1 3EJ

London Central Fellowship Band - Hemel Hempstead Salvation Army

Saturday 27 April • Waterhouse St, Hemel Hempstead HP1 1ES

Haverhill Silver Band - Friends' Requests

Sunday 28 April • Haverhill Arts Centre, High Street, Haverhill, Suffolk CB9 8AR

Boarshurst Silver Band - Sunday Brass Concert - Stockport Silver Band

Sunday 28 April • Boarshurst Band Club, Greenbridge Lane OL3 7EW

Contest: European Brass Band Championshiips

Friday 3 May • Palanga Konsortu, Vytauta st. 43, LT-00135, Palanga 43, LT-00135

Chinnor Silver

April 23 • We are looking to strengthen our team ready for 2025 and require Bass (Bb or Eb), Bass trombone, Soprano and percussion players. We are a very friendly, progressive 2nd section band who will start next year at the top of their regional rankings table.

Sandhurst Silver Band

April 23 • Sandhurst Silver Band have vacancy for a Front row cornet player to complete our line-up. Ambitious and community minded championship section band looking to build on recent Area and LBBA successes. Rehearsals every Tuesday 8-10pm

Croy Silver Band

April 23 • We currently have several seats available across the cornet, tenor horn, trombone and bass sections - positions negotiable. These come with the opportunity to compete at Cheltenham this September!

Stan Lippeatt

Conductor, adjudicator, tutor


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