Eight years of patient commitment to long term planning secured the ultimate domestic reward in Bergen on the weekend, as Stavanger finally regained the Norwegian National Championship title.
It will be the first time since 2007 their name will be engraved on the huge National Trophy, following two days of dramatic Elite Division competition at the Grieghallen, which saw an engrossing battle emerge between Stavanger, Manger and defending champion Eikanger.
Directed by Allan Withington, victory also gave Stavanger a domestic ‘double’ for the first time since 2004, as they added a ninth National title to their recent Siddis Entertainment success.
The win will also see them return to the European Championships in Lille next year for the first time since 2008, with their coffers filled with the 65,000 Krone prize package.
No wonder Allan Withington smiled in celebration then as he received congratulations from players, supporters and rivals alike.
“It’s a victory that has taken a huge amount of commitment from everyone,” he told 4BR as he added a third National title success to the brace won with the band from the nation’s oil capital in 2002 and 2007.
“We took the decision some years ago that we needed to take a long term approach to developing a new generation of our own players, and it’s been fully justified by this result.
Those young musicians have matured brilliantly over the past few years and have shown so much dedication and commitment — helped enormously by the support of the older players in the band.
Now they are all enjoying the fruits of that hard work — the American National Championship, a hat-trick of Siddis titles, and now this deserved National success. I’m so delighted and proud of them all.”
One of the maturing young players Allan talked about certainly gave her all in the winning cause, as trombonist Karianne Flatene Nilsen took the ‘Best Soloist’ award for her outstanding contribution.
As delighted players and supporters took turns to have their picture taken with the newly acquired trophy, the stark numerical reality of just how close the contest had been was still to be seen projected onto the Grieghallen stage backdrop.
There it showed Stavanger’s single average-point victory had been built on leading the set work discipline on Edward Gregson’s ‘Of Distant Memories’, a point ahead of Eikanger, whilst gaining a crucial second place finish, just a point behind Manger, on their own choice selection of Oliver Waespi’s ‘Audivi Media Nocte’.
“I thought we couldn’t have done anything more,” Allan added. “Every band had their moments of unease on the test piece, but I was thrilled by the way we played and then delivered yet again on the Waespi.”
It proved to be just enough, as Manger delivered a scorching performance (aided by their prize winning trombone section) under Philip Harper on ‘Perihelion: Closer to the Sun’, to very nearly recover their lost ground from the set work, whilst Eikanger also fell tantalisingly short as they sought a record fifth successive title success.
Their hegemony came to end under Prof David King as a controlled performance of the set work which saw them end second on the Friday was followed by an incident packed ‘Audivi’ to come third the following day.
However, despite principal cornet Dave Morton displaying a remarkably cool head as his third slide fell out from his instrument halfway through his extended fast paced solo lines, it was not the deciding factor in their first National defeat since 2010: Stavanger’s victory was fully deserved.
With the traditional Elite heavyweights pulling clear of the field once more (you have to go back to 2000 when one of them didn’t win), there was an equally impressive fight for the remaining top six places.
However, it was noted that once again the best Norwegian bands still find great difficulty in understanding the approach required to unlock ‘traditional’ brass band musical style — with every rendition of Gregson’s ‘Of Distant Memories’ etched with unforced errors.
In the end, Dr Robert Childs inspired two fine performances from Oslo Brass to come fourth, with Bjorsvik Brass also benefitting from the directional input of their MD Andreas Hanson as they certainly enjoyed themselves in ending fifth.
A solid Krohnengen took sixth, although such was the overall quality of the contest that even cracking own choice selections from Molde, Jaren, Kleppe and Ila were not enough to push them into the prizes.
There was a wonderful 20th anniversary present delivered by Garry Cutt to Oslofjord Brass, as they claimed their first National title success since 2000 with a performance of ‘St Magnus’ described by the judge’s in their written remarks as ‘fabulous’, ‘fantastic’, and containing ‘remarkable’ soloists.
In a contest that once again showed the increasing strength in depth of Norwegian banding, it gave them the narrowest of 0.5 point winning margins over rivals Askoy Brass, who produced a cultured rendition of ‘Sounds’, under Reid Gilje, with Tertnes Brass, directed by Gary Peterson, coming third with a powerful rendition of ‘Music of the Spheres’.
The victory also gave Garry Cutt his second First Division title success since 2011 — and it was one he thoroughly enjoyed securing.
“I’ve had a great time working with the band once again,” he told 4BR. “It was an ambitious choice with ‘St Magnus’, but the amount of work they put in enabled me to work on other elements of the piece.
I really enjoy working with bands with that commitment and attitude, led by people such as Band Manager, Raghnild Mork, who has been at the heart of Oslofjord Brass since its inception.
To be able to help them secure a National victory on their 20th anniversary made it a little bit more special.”
With a host of strong performances from the 12 contenders for the 40,000 Krone first prize, Oslofjord claimed victory as the last band to take to the stage (their xylophone player taking the ‘Best Soloist’ award), with the remaining top six places going to strong performances from Hasle Brass, Sandefjord Brass Symposium and Tomra Brass, who also took the ‘Best Percussion’ award.
A well crafted performance of ensemble and individual flair on ‘Paganini Variations’ enabled Musikkorpset Gjallarhorn to claim a fourth Second Division title under the baton of Jacob Vilhelm Larsen.
In a contest that varied somewhat overall in quality, it gave them a single point victory over rivals Brottum Brass, conducted by Stian E Svendsen, who produced the early marker on ‘Five Blooms in a Welsh Garden’ (aided by their ‘Best Soloist’ euphonium).
However, that performance was immediately topped by Gjallahorn, who followed on stage, thanks to a rendition of Wilby’s classic work that was enhanced by some virtuosic ‘Best Section’ tuba playing.
With rivals falling by the wayside through a combination of misplaced eagerness and over ambition, it was left to Adger Brass under Ola Balstad, to claim the final podium slot with their rendition of ‘Tallis Variations’, whilst their remaining top six places went to Tromso Brass, Haukas Musiklag and Radoy Brass.
4BR managed to catch up with the winning MD before the announcement of the results, and even then he was confident that his band could do well.
“I was very pleased at how they played,” he said. “They wanted to show just how hard they have been working on such a difficult piece, and I think they did just that. I couldn’t have asked anything more of them.”
The more intimate surroundings of the Peer Gynt Suite provided an ideal setting for an enjoyable Third Division competition, which was eventually won by Folleso Musikklag, directed by Oddvar Nostdal.
Their performance of Bertrand Moren’s colourful pen portrait of the Pharaoh Ramases saw them claim their first ever Third Division National title, and give their euphonium the ‘Best Soloist’ prize, as they beat off the determined ‘Kingdom of Dragons’ challenge of Bergen Brass Band, with Laksevag Musikkforening’s ‘Tallis Variations’ in third.
Once again there was much to enjoy (as well as wince on occasions) with the ambitious selections on show — with Gjesdal Brass, Manger Old Stars (whose euphs and baritones took the ‘Best Section’ award) and Stangaland filling the remaining top six places with their renditions of ‘Trittico’, ‘Cry of the Mountain’ and ‘Pantheon’ respectively.
There was a ‘double first’ National title success to celebrate in the Fourth Division as Melvin White led Tysvaer Brass to victory with a well worked performance of ‘Tallis Variations’.
Despite notching up victories at every level during his long conducting career, the win gave Melvin his first ever National title — although he modestly told 4BR that all the credit should go to his young band.
“I’ve had a wonderful time working with them,” he said. “The way in which they approach their music making is so refreshing, and I’m delighted to be able to help them to their first NM victory to add to their recent Siddis successes.”
With a number of well chosen works on show from the 15 competitors, the judges later told 4BR that the overall standard was very good, although in their opinion Tysvaer were just a cut above the rest. The band’s soprano player returned from her studies in Manchester to pick up ‘Best Soloist’ prize.
Melvin added: “The band still has a strong connection to their local school where they rehearse and where they help develop a number of their young players, so this result will give them yet another boost.”
In the end Tysvaer ended up two points clear of Borge’s bold ‘The Saga of Haakon the Good’, (thanks to their prize winning ‘Best Section’ tubas), with Bjorvika’s ambitious choice of ‘Montage’ in third.
The remaining top six places were taken by Valdres Brass, Frei Hornmusikk and Grenland Brass.
The ever expanding foundation of Norwegian banding saw 15 rivals take to the stage in the Peer Gynt Suite on the Friday, with Filadelfia Orchestra Hornokester Drammen’s fine rendition of ‘Aspects of Praise’ by Williams Himes giving them a ‘decisive victory’ according to the judges.
Speaking to 4BR after the results, Irene Anda told 4BR that their performance under the baton of Jan Arne Stavik Karlsen was a clear winner thanks to the excellent control and quality of brass banding basics.
“It was a decisive victory,” Irene said. “Where others didn’t quite have control of all the basic requirements, their lyrical approach to the music certainly did. It was a clear winner and a very good performance.”
Sotra Brass had earlier given the judges a good marker off the number 1 draw with their bold take on Philip Sparke’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, to eventually come runner-up, with Floro following them on stage to end third with an equally bold take on ‘Labour & Love’.
However, with Filadelfia’s ‘Best Soloist’ euphonium and ‘Best Section’ horns/baritones and euphoniums also claiming awards, there was no doubt where the title was eventually heading, although there were performances of merit from top six finishers Randaberg Musikkorps, Skeie Brass and Rosendal Musikklag.
Well run event
With a record number of entrants, television and media coverage, and a packed gala concert featuring Paris Brass Band, the NMF organisers will once again be pleased with an event that continues to grow and develop.
And with a welcome absence of wholesale ‘player imports’, new works, constructive dialogue between bands and the NMF body, and yet more competitors taking part at grass roots level, Norwegian banding is fast approaching its 40th birthday with a long term desire to secure its future -much like its new champion band.
Now they are all enjoying the fruits of that hard work — the American National Championship, a hat-trick of Siddis titles, and now this deserved National success. I’m so delighted and proud of them allAllan Withington
Set Work: Florent Didier, Hakon Berge, Tijmen Botma
Own Choice: Preben Nørgaard Christensen, Dávur Juul Magnussen, Jens Larsen
Set Work/Own Choice = Total
1. Stavanger Brass Band (Allan Withington): 94/96 = 95
2. Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag (Prof David King): 93/95 = 94*
3. Manger Musikklag (Philip Harper): 91/97 = 94
4. Oslo Brass Band (Dr Robert Childs): 92.5/89 = 90.75
5. Bjørsvik Brass (Andreas Hanson): 90/90 = 90*
6. Krohnengen Brass Band (Harald Eikaas): 89/91 = 90
7. Molde Brass Band (Russell Gray): 87/92 = 89.5
8. Jaren Hornmusikkforening (Howard Evans): 88/90.5 = 89.25
9. Kleppe Musikklag (John Philip Hannevik): 85/93 = 89
10. Ila Brass Band (Thomas Rimul): 86/88 = 87
*Set work takes precedence in event of a tie
Best Soloist: Karianne Flatene Nilsen (Stavanger) — trombone
Best Section: Manger Musikklag (Trombones)
Adjudicators: Håkon Berge, Tijmen Botma
1. Oslofjord Brass (Garry Cutt) — 96
2. Askøy Brass Band (Reid Gilje) — 95.5
3. Tertnes Brass (Gary Peterson) — 93.5
4. Hasle Brass (Robert Solberg Nilsen) — 92
5. Sandefjord Brass Symposium (Jon Terje Svendsen) — 91
6. Tomra Brass Band (Nick Ost) — 90
7. Sola Brass Band (Ian Porthouse) — 89
8. Tertnes Amatorkorps Band (Bengt Florvåg) — 88
9. Oster Brass (Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen) — 87
10. Flesland Musikklag (Bjørn Breistein) — 86
11. Ørskog Brass (Arnfinn Dalhaug) — 85
12. Sorum Musikklag (Henrik Dagestad-Dalhaug) — 84
Best Soloist: Oslofjord Brass (Xylophone)
Best Percussion: Tomra Brass
Adjudicators: Dávur Juul Magnussen, Erling Myrseth
1. Musikkorpset Gjallarhorn (Jacob Vilhelm Larsen) — 93
2. Brøttum Brass (Stian E. Svendsen) — 92
3. Adger Brass (Ola Balstad) — 91
4. Tromso Brass (Bjørn Breistein) — 90
5. Haukås Musikklag (Jan Egil Jørgensen) — 89.5
6. Radøy Brass (Magnus Brandseth) — 89
7. Jølster Musikklag (Stian E. Svendsen) — 88
8. Trondheim Politis Brass Band (Espen Andersen) — 87
9. Sagvåg Musikklag (Yngve Nikolaisen) — 86.5
10. Fjell Brass (Egil Magnussen) — 86
11. Tysnes Musikklag (Yngve Nikolaisen) — 85
12. Rong Brass (Thor-Arne Pedersen) — 84
13. Alexander Brass Band (Clive Zwanswiniski) — 83
Best Soloist: Brottum Brass (Euphonium)
Best Section: Musikkorpset Gjallahorn (Tubas)
Adjudicators: Arvid Anthun, Jens T Larsen
1. Follesø Musikklag (Oddvar Nøstdal) — 93
2. Bergen Brass Band (Sturle Berntsen) — 92
3. Laksevåg Musikkforening (Helge Haukås) — 91
4. Gjesdal Brass Band (Jonas Skartveit Rogne) — 90
5. Manger Old Star Brass (Knut Emil Mjøs) — 89
6. Stangaland Brass (Rasmus Kærsgaard) — 88
7. Gjovik Bybrass (Christian Tenfjord) — 87
8. Fla Musikkorps (Odd Steinar Mørkved) — 86.5
9. Lindas Brass (Henrik Juul-Pedersen) — 86
10. Fræna Musikkorps (Stijn Berbé) — 85.5
11. Langhus Brass (Ray Farr) — 85
12. Flora Bremanger Brass Band (Philip William Goodwin) — 84
13. Lismarka / Mesnali Brass (Andres Halla) — 83
14. Skui Brass Band (Thor-Willy Karlsen) — 82
15. Hordvik Musikklag (Patrik Randefalk) — 81
Best Soloist: Follesø Musikklag (Euphonium)
Best Section: Manger Old Stars (Euphoniums & Baritones)
Adjudicators: Trond Elnes, Erling Myrseth
1. Tysvær Brass (Melvin White) — 93
2. Borge Brass Band (Oddvar Nøstdal) — 91
3. Bjørvika Brass Band (Robert Solberg Nilsen) — 90
4. Valdres Brass (Morten Fagerjord) — 89
5. Frei Hornmusikk (Stein Åge Sørlie) — 88
6. Grenland Brass (Arild Ovrum) 87.5
7. Lyshornet Brass (Øyvind Nikolaisen) — 87
8. Indre Torungen Brass Ensemble (Lars-Bjørnar Strengenes) — 86
9. IMI Brass (Per-Erik Petersen) — 85.5
10. Salhus Musikklag (Svein Henrik Giske) — 85
11. Nes Musikkforening (Thorbjørn Lunde) — 84
12. Stavanger Kommunes Korps (Morten Øvrebekk) — 83.5
13. Brumundal Brass (Per Kristian Ø. Syversen) — 83
14. Hetlevik Musikklag (Asbjørn Hauge) — 82.5
15. Moen Musikkforening (Ole Kristian Egge) — 82
Best Soloist: Tysvaer Brass (Soprano cornet)
Best Section: Borge Brass (Tubas)
Adjucitators: Preben Nørgaard Christensen, Irene Anda
1. Filadelfia Orchestra Hornorkester Drammen (Jan Arne Stavik Karlsen) -95
2. Sotra Brass (Thor-Arne Pedersen) — 93
3. Floro Hornmusikk (Torgeir Halvorsen) — 92
4. Randaberg Musikkorps (Tarjei Gilbrant) — 91
5. Skeie Brass (Nigel Fielding) — 90
6. Rosendal Musikklag (Paul Hughes) — 89
7. Lillehammer Brass (Per Kristian Ø. Syversen) — 88
8. Seim Musikklag (Asbjørn Hauge) — 87
9. Holmestrand Ungdomskorps (Svend Erik Andersen) — 86
10. Musikkorpset Heimdal (Kristan Thulin) — 85
11. Bertnes Brass (Børre Birkland) — 84
12. Haus Musikklag (Eirik Tysse) — 83
13. Saksumdal Musikkforening (Andres Halla) — 82
14. Eikelandsfjorden Musikklag (Tommy-Renè Stordal) — 81
15. Ålvik Musikklag (Torbjørn Dagestad jr) — 80
Best Soloist: Filadelfia Orchestra Hornorkester (Euphonium)
Best Section: Filadelfia Orchestra Hornorkester (Horn/Baritone/Euphonium)