Awards all round for Philip Sparke and Philip Harper
A victory for bravery
It may seem curious to call the world’s number 1 ranked band ‘brave’ when it comes to a major contest appearance, but Cory’s victory in Lille was surely that and more.
In the past two years Philip Harper’s usual laser guided own-choice musical radar had been off beam: His own composition ‘The Divine Right’ and Wilfred Heaton’s ‘Partita’ seemed curious picks given the growing trend towards the epic blockbusters that were being performed with almost freakish virtuosity by their main rivals.
And more than a few eyebrows were raised when it was announced that he was returning to the pen of Philip Sparke for his 2016 assault. Hadn’t he become passé - a composer of yesteryear at an event that was embracing the musical exotica of the future?
Where others would surely mine the William Blake inspired dark recesses of the subconscious mind, sci-fi stories and re-workings of medieval chants, Philip Harper opted for a waltz.
It was a remarkably brave decision to return to a compositional genre (organic rather than episodic) that seemed to be from a bygone era, when refined style mattered more than leviathan substance.
However, ‘Raveling, Unraveling - The Search for La Valse’ was an inspired piece of composition and an equally inspired choice. It deserved a contesting George Cross.
Now everyone else is wondering what Cory and their MD will come up with next...
We are all Europeans now...
All together now...
English players performing for a German band, Norwegians for Belgians, Welsh for Austrians, Swiss for English...even New Zealanders and Aussies thrown into the mix for good measure.
We are all Europeans now.
Amid the usual opinions and viewpoints about the lack of a coherent registration process that can underpin the whole of European contesting, we shouldn’t forget that unless EBBA decides to become a true governing body the European Championships will remain a contest that sees bands represent nations and not themselves.
And if we really want it to be a European-wide level playing field of ‘one player, one band, one contest’, it is EBBA that will have to take the lead and formulate a registration system that is both transparent and equitable.
Until then the brass band version of the Schengen Agreement will continue to hold sway.
All inclusive please...
Kids go free
If the European Youth Championships are to become an integral part of the annual EuroFestival, then EBBA must surely ensure that the participants are not treated with a disdain that bordered on being cynically exploitative.
Adult players may well want to spend their Euros in the nearest bar rather than dig deep into their pockets to pay to listen to rivals perform, but it was a woeful decision to charge 20 Euro each for young players to be able to sit in the hall and listen to rival bands on the Sunday in Lille.
Not only did it rob the contest of a vibrant atmosphere (which contrasted so starkly when everyone was let in for free for a truly wonderful results ceremony with the European Youth Band at its core), but it sent out a terrible message of inequality and exclusion to those taking part.
EBBA will need to ensure it is not something that is repeated in future.
Prizes, banners and vouchers...
It’s a bit of an old chestnut when it comes to this event, but EBBA can surely look at a more equitable way of dishing out its prize money.
Jeremy Coquoz won the European Solo Competition title and walked away with 3,000 Euros in cash (out of a cash prize fund of 7,500 Euros).
Cory on the other hand was crowned Champion Band of Europe and ended up with 1,000 Euros and an instrument voucher worth 7,455 Euros (the cost of Besson Prestige euphonium). They also got a plate.
Meanwhile, the Challenge Section champion got 1,000 Euro (plus a voucher worth 6,200 Euros) whilst the winners of both the European Youth contests received a few souvenirs and absolutely nothing to cash in at the airport Bureau de Change on the way home.
Elite bands need a new euphonium or flugel as much as Real Madrid players need new football boots for winning the Champions League. They invariably get sold as soon as possible anyway to help pay the hotel costs of competing at the event.
Whilst sponsorship support is essential, surely the instrument vouchers could be used in the Youth Sections (and what a neat marketing ploy that would be), whilst the cash (and each band does get 1,000 Euros for taking part) could be more inventively proportioned to the main prize winners in the Championship and Challenge events.
It could also leave more than enough to make sure the solo/composer/conductors have something to compete for as well.
Making the right connections...
Making things interactive
The French contest organisers, the Nouveau Siecle Concert Hall, and EBBA did many things so well in Lille - although the one thing they failed to ensure was that the event fully embraced the interactive technology of the 21st century.
Wi-fi internet connections in and around the auditorium were terrible (despite assurances that things would be OK), whilst the live broadcast streaming suffered for a second successive year through technical mishaps. Meanwhile, the EBBA Brass Forum was a great idea crippled by lack of time, focus and essential equipment.
In an age when we are all dependent on interactive social media technology (4BR especially) the event seems to be missing the opportunity to get things right in different, but interlinked, spheres.
Hopefully in Ostend in 2017 we won’t have anything to worry about; the wi-fi will be as quick as the Eurostar train, the live broadcast as robust as anything the BBC could manage, and EBBA will utilise the skills of Ian Anderson Gray, who gave a tantalising glimpse into future possibilities at the Brass Forum before having his interactive portal cut off in its prime...