Report & Results: 2015 French National Championship

Paris Brass Band retains its title in Lille to book return trip for European in 2016.

Paris Brass Band

In what proved to be a successful 'dry run' for the future hosting by the Confederation Musicale de France of the 2016 European Brass Band Championships, it was Paris Brass Band who toasted a fourth consecutive top section victory long into the night at one of the many welcoming bars near to the Nouveau Si├Ęcle concert hall in Lille.

Outstanding Paris

Directed by Florent Didier, the band that so impressed critics at the 2015 Europeans in Perth, produced a brace of outstanding renditions of the set work, 'REM-scapes' by Thomas Doss and their own choice selection of 'Earthrise' by Nigel Clarke, to once more claim the imposing National Trophy and gain the priceless opportunity to represent the host nation here, on home soil, at the European contest in just over a year's time.

They were however forced to produce their very best playing in doing so, as an inspired former champion and local favourite, Brass Band Nord Pas de Calais, directed by Luc Vertommen, led a neck and neck battle to the finishing line.

Great difficulty

The trio of judges, Jan Van der Roost, Clement Saunier and Christophe Jeanbourguin later revealed to 4BR that they had in fact had great difficulty separating the rivals — with Paris topping their set work marks, and Calais having the edge with their own choice selection of Peter Graham's new work, 'Angels and Demons'.

'The single point margin (96 to 95) doesn't quite reflect just how close we felt the bands were matched," Jan Van der Roost said.

Clement Saunier agreed: "The differences were very small over the two disciplines — and this was as close as we could make it with our marks. These were outstanding bands giving superb performances — with Paris taking the title because of the extra brilliance of their set work."

Christophe Jeanbourguin added: "The musicianship on display and the quality of the direction was excellent. It was playing that left a great impression with us all — and gave us a very difficult decision to make."

Emerging line up

Paris will now join Black Dyke, who also enjoyed a 'dry run' concert appearance here, in the emerging line-up of bands for the EuroFestival in 2016 in a venue, that although still requiring some finishing touches in construction, will provide a wonderful stage for Europe's elite bands to perform on.

That is now something Paris Brass Band MD, Florent Didier is certainly looking forward to as he later told 4BR.

"That has been the aim for us this weekend," he said. "To represent France at the first European event in our country will be a great honour."

Brass band maturity

He also added that he felt his band was also improving what he called their 'brass band maturity' — especially with its ensemble sound.

"That is something we have worked on since our appearance in Perth last year. We always wish to develop our musicality — our brass band maturity — and enhancing the warmth, contrast and depth of our ensemble sound is so important to do that."

Made us better

He was also delighted to have been able to work on two superb compositions for the contest.

"There is so much texture and colour to balance in 'REM-scapes' and so much detail, excitement and passion in 'Earthrise'. We have enjoyed working on both pieces as they have made us a better band."

How much better will now be seen in Bergen in a few weeks time, as Paris has been invited to perform at the Norwegian National Championship Gala Concert at the Greighallen, whilst Didier is also one of the judges for the contest.

"Norway has so many brilliant bands, so we are all looking forward to performing there," he said. "It is a wonderful invitation and opportunity to for both the band and myself to find out more about their brass band culture."

Sponsors support

With French brass banding now mimicking the growth Norway enjoyed in its early days of National Championship development, the future here looks to be based on a firm foundation, with sponsors such as Besson and others taking a keen supportive role.

For the time being though, Paris can already start their preparations for the European Championship in Freiburg in May, with their appearance in Lille the following year also secured in the most impressive fashion.

Section titles

With the battle between Paris and Nord Pas de Calais providing an exciting climax to two days of excellent competitive action, there was also plenty of quality music making to enjoy in the other sections.

Je Suis BBD

Brass Band du Conservatoire de Douai, directed by Olivier Degardin claimed the Excellence Division title with two confidently produced performance of the set work, 'Diversions on a Bass Theme' by George Lloyd and their own choice selection of 'On the Shoulders of Giants'.

The band certainly enjoyed their rather unexpected win with a wonderful celebration in the hall — unfurling a banner with the words 'Je Suis BBD!' as the players hugged each other.

Brass Band Brassage ended just a point behind in second place thanks to a well worked performance of their own choice selection of 'Sounds' by John Golland, with Exobrass in third — with their MD Dylan Corlay taking to the stage on crutches to conduct from a bar stool seat following a recent badminton accident.

Close Accords

The closest battle for title success came in the First Division, where Brass Band Accords, conducted by Cedric Rossero, pipped rivals Brass Band Champagne by just half a point.

The judges remarked that it was another very difficult decision for them to make after both bands gave fine renditions of the set work, 'The Saga of Haakon the Good' and their own choice selections of 'Journey into Freedom' and 'Galaxies' respectively.

Local success for Gorgue

There could have been no more popular winner all weekend than Brass Band de la Gorgue in the Second Division.

Directed by Nord Pas de Calais euphonium player Remi Leconte, they produced a controlled performance of the set work, 'Sinfonietta No 1' by Johan de Meij, and a free flowing edition of their own choice of 'Music for a Festival' to claim the title by a point from Brass Band des Pays de la Loire, with Brass Band de Champs sur Marne in third.

Growing grass roots

With the championship boasting 17 bands this year (more than on show at the recent Belgian National Championships), there were real signs of long term grass roots banding development in the Third Division.

Four recently formed bands also took to the stage to show their understanding of traditional 'English' brass band values, with a quartet of musical renditions of the set work, 'English Folk Song Suite' by Ralph Vaughan Williams alongside their own choice selections.

In the end it was the impressive Brass Band de l'Oise that emerged triumphant under their MD William Thebaudeau, thanks to the addition of a colourful performance of their own choice selection, 'Lord Tullamore' by Carl Wittrock.

A couple of points behind came runner-up, Brass Band l'Artois, with Le Ch't Brass in third.

With the CMF learning a great deal about the potential pitfalls in putting on a major brass band contest in Lille, there will be much to look forward to when the European Championships come here in May 2016 — including a French representative in Paris Brass Band that on the type of form shown here on the weekend, could well be a major challenger for the title itself.

Iwan Fox

That has been the aim for us this weekend. To represent France at the first European event in our country will be a great honourParis Brass Band MD, Florent Didier


Championship 'Honneur' Division:
Set Work: REM-scape (Thomas Doss) & Own Choice
Adjudicators: Jan Van der Roost, Clement Saunier, Christophe Jeanbourguin

1. Paris Brass Band (Florent Didier): 96pts
2. Brass Band Nord Pas de Calais (Luc Vertommen): 95pts

Excellence Division:
Set Work: Diversions on a Bass Theme (George Lloyd) & Own Choice
Adjudicators: Jan Van der Roost, Clement Saunier, Christophe Jeanbourguin

1. Brass Band du Conservatoire de Douai (Olivier Degardin): 87pts
2. Brass Band Brassage (Mathias Chartin): 86pts
3. Exobrass (Dylan Corlay): 85pts
4. Brass Band de Lyon (Pierre-Andrien Theo): 83pts
5. Brass Band des Hauts de Flandres (Luigi Pacicco): 81pts

First Division:
Set Work: The Saga of Haakon the Good (Philip Sparke) & Own Choice
Adjudicators: Jan Van der Roost, Clement Saunier, Christophe Jeanbourguin

1. Brass Band Accords (Cedric Rossero): 84pts
2. Brass Band de Champagne (Manuel Haussy): 83.5pts

Second Division:
Set Work: Sinfonietta No 1. (Johan de Meij)
Adjudicators: Jan Van der Roost, Clement Saunier, Christophe Jeanbourguin

1. Brass Band de La Gorgue (Remi Leconte): 84pts
2. Brass Band des Pays de la Loire (Nicolas Leudiere): 83pts
3. Brass Band de Champ sur Marne (Philippe Legris): 80pts
4. Brass Band Concordia (Herve Priem): 68pts

Third Division:
Set Work: English Folk Songs Suite (Ralph Vaughan Williams arr. Frank Wright) & Own Choice
Adjudicators: Jan Van der Roost, Clement Saunier, Christophe Jeanbourguin

1. Brass Band de l'Oise (William Thebaudeau-Muller): 88pts
2. Brass Band de l'Artois (Olivier Sergent): 86pts
3. Le Ch't Brass (Audrey Lovelace-Vasseur): 81pts
4. Brass Band de Roncq (Francis Billet): 79pts

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