Howard Snell recently made a memorable return to conduct the Eikanger-Bjørsvik Band for the first time in three years, as he led the Norwegian champion in a high profile concert featuring a quintet of classic brass band test pieces.
Entitled, ‘Contest Music’ – and appropriately featuring Wilfred Heaton’s masterful composition, the event took place in Bergen’s wonderful Korskirken Church.
A large and appreciative audience also enjoyed performances of Percy Fletcher’s ‘Epic Symphony’, ‘Comedy Overture’ by John Ireland, Eric Ball’s ‘A Kensington Concerto’ and ‘Variations on an Enigma’ by Philip Sparke, in a concert that received critical acclaim in local, regional and national press.
Band spokesperson Viggo Bjørge told 4BR that the event also celebrated the 25th anniversary of Eikanger’s ground breaking 1988 European Championship victory – a success masterminded by the conductor.
"Howard has been a great mentor to everybody associated with Eikanger-Bjørsvik since he first came to visit us in the autumn of 1986.
Every visit since has been eagerly anticipated and enjoyed – and this was no exception. Everyone who has a love for brass knows just how important his contribution has been to this band."
The latest visit saw the conductor lead four days of intense rehearsal following the essential ground work laid in preparation by MD, Reid Gilje, and the band still had just enough stamina left after such an exhaustive programme to give a wonderful rendition of Heaton’s ‘Praise’ as an encore.
The inclusion of Philip Sparke’s ‘Variations on an Enigma’ was especially poignant, as it was the work that the band played on both its 1988 and 1989 European victories under his baton.
Howard has been a great mentor to everybody associated with Eikanger-Bjørsvik since he first came to visit us in the autumn of 1986Viggo Bjørge
A special invitation was sent out to former members who had played on the victories, to once again perform with the band.
"We invited all the players from those two memorable victories to join us once more," Viggo Bjørge explained. "It was wonderful to see so many take to the stage once more."
Amazingly, trombonists Grethe Tonheim and Sølvi Ones still play solo and second trombone with the 2013 band, with a trio of former players, including current MD Reid Gilje, vice-chairman Viggo Bjørge and musical advisor and arranger Frode Rydland also performing.
To round off the memorable trip, Howard Snell and his wife Angela were taken on a special flight to celebrate their own 50 years of marriage.
On the morning of the concert they took off in a small plane to see the Hordaland region where the band is based from the air, with the Eikanger connection maintained by the pilot Adrian Gjendemsjø, the son of two players who played under Howard on one of his first trips to the band.